We all know that well-written best copy is one of the most highly
effective methods of getting people's attention and attracting
them to your product or service... but the importance of this
fact is often overlooked.
A lot of people don't even realize that things like their
navigation menus, links, or even their newsletter subscription
offers ARE best copy and require careful consideration.
Ironically, this kind of copy is One Of The Most Valuable Tools You Have. Think about your...
- Classified ads
- Newsletter subscription offers
- Navigation menus
- Links ("click here," "buy now")
This sort of best copy is typically asking people to take some
sort of action that is vital to your business: Visit your
web site, Request details, Subscribe to your newsletter,
Click through, Buy the product... which is why it requires
so much more attention than it tends to receive.
Of course it's more difficult to get your message across
when you have limited space, but best copy is The Glue That
Holds Your Marketing Campaign Together.
And if every button on your menu, every ad, every link isn't
as compelling and effective as it can be, you're not going to
get the results you're hoping for, be it more sales, more
subscriptions, more referrals, etc...
So I'm going to show you Four Hard And Fast Rules of
copywriting that must be followed in even the shortest of
best copy to guarantee you always make the most profitable use of
the little space you have.
Hard And Fast Rule #1: You Must Emphasize Benefits, Not Features
I know, I know, you've heard this one before. But I so often
see copy -- short and long -- that neglects to even MENTION
how the features of a product or service will benefit customers
that I'm guessing a good number of you aren't sure what this
So let me clarify for you...
- A Feature is one of the components or functions of your
product or service. For example, if your toothbrushes come
packaged with glow-in-the-dark toothpaste, that's a feature
-- not a benefit.
- A Benefit is something your product or service will do
for your buyer to somehow offer a solution to a problem.
So if your toothbrushes that come with glow-in-the-dark
toothpaste make stubborn kids thrilled to brush their teeth
before they go to bed, then you've got yourself a benefit!
Are you following me? An online real estate agent advertising
"real-time mortgage calculations" is advertising a feature of
her site; however, if she writes, "Avoid wasting time haggling
at the bank with my real-time mortgage calculator," then she's
advertising a benefit.
Emphasizing benefits is the number-one most overlooked rule
of best copywriting, and this lack of emphasis is one of the
top reasons advertising falls flat.
Short copy is no exception -- and you don't need a lot
of room to do it right. Let's take a look at a short
If you posted an ad that read:
Real estate on the Internet.
Plenty of listings.
Shop at your convenience.
...you probably wouldn't get the greatest response. The ad is
brief and to the point, but it lacks clarity.
First of all, what kind of property is being advertised?
Are the listings for commercial buildings or family homes?
What part of the world does the ad refer to? How many listings
is "plenty"? How do we get to see these listings? And, most
important, how does this service benefit me?
There is a vague reference to the benefit of "convenience"
in this ad -- but it's not really explained. Let's dress it
up a bit:
Take a personal tour of 375+ of Seattle's
hottest, most affordable Single-Family Homes
Skip the hassles of house hunting when you search
our huge online database of single-family homes:
- 375+ homes with pictures, video tours, and
- Search by price, location, number of bedrooms,
number of bathrooms, and more!
- Get local school reports, neighborhood
information, and mortgage calculations!
To begin searching our online database of Seattle's
hottest, most affordable family homes -- without
leaving your computer -- visit: SeattleFamilyHomes.com
This version expands on the benefit of convenience and details the different ways this convenience offers Solutions to the house-hunter's problems. So the benefits we're clarifying for the reader are:
- House hunting is a hassle and now you can avoid it.
- Physically going to see 375 homes would be practically
impossible but you can easily do it online.
- You can search the database by very specific criteria to
effortlessly find exactly what you want.
- Plus you'll get free reports that detail all the information
you'll want to know about a new home and neighborhood that
you wouldn't get even if you went there in person.
Also note that this ad targets a specific niche: single-
family home buyers in the Seattle area. Targeting your
advertising is the only way to get your benefits in front
of your best potential customers, as we'll discover in the
Hard And Fast Rule #2: You Must Write To A Targeted Audinence
The fact is, your product or service is just not going to
appeal to everyone. And if you try to market it to everyone,
you'll wind up with far fewer sales than if you choose a
select group to direct your best copy to.
So once you've defined your target market, you need to turn
your attention toward making sure your best copy addresses them
For example, let's look at pay-per-click advertising. Let's
say you bid 17 cents per click in Overture.com for the key
phrase "single-family homes." Because you pay every time
someone clicks through this link, whether they purchase from
you or not, you want to make sure that your ad carefully
Targets Your Best Potential Customers.
Given that you're targeting single-family home buyers in the
Seattle area, you'd want to make sure your ad includes this
vital piece of information. That way, you can be sure you
won't waste money on people searching for single-family
homes in San Diego!
And if you bid 41 cents per click for the key phrase
"Seattle homes," you'd want to make sure to write an ad
that clearly states that your site features single-family
homes... so you don't waste your advertising dollars on
condo-seekers or recreational property buyers.
By writing a separate ad for each of your keywords that
carefully targets your market, you'll ensure that you
Attract The Most Buyers For The Least Cost.
Of course, if you're writing best copy for banner ads, your
approach will need to be a bit different. Whether you're:
1. Purchasing blocks of impressions (i.e. you pay a set
dollar amount for your banner to be displayed 1,000...
10,000... etc... times on other web sites), OR
2. Participating in a banner exchange (i.e. you're trading
banner impressions with a network of other site owners)
...you've paid for your advertising up front, so you'll
want to do everything you can to attract viewers' attention
and persuade them to click through to your site. And this
means you'll want your ad copy to be a bit more general, to
ensure it attracts the Highest Number of click-throughs.
The title of the above classified ad would make a great
"Take a Personal Tour of 375+ of Seattle's Hottest,
Most Affordable Single-Family Homes! Click here now..."
...You're targeting your best potential customers! But you
might also try testing banners with more general best copy that
read something like this:
"Search HUGE online database of 375+ Seattle Dream Homes
and skip the house-hunting headaches! Click here now..."
The first ad is going to Attract The Most Qualified Audience
-- those people who are looking for a single-family home in
Seattle for a reasonable price.
The second version, however, will attract a slightly broader
audience. Still in Seattle and still looking for homes, this
group is not necessarily looking for a single-family dwelling,
and they're not necessarily worried about price. They're just
checking out homes in the Seattle area and they're attracted
by the size and convenience of the online database.
While the first ad may Generate A Higher Visitor-To-Sale
Conversion Rate (the percentage of people clicking through
who then sign up for the service) because it is more specific,
the second ad will probably solicit more click-throughs in
total, because it has a more general appeal.
You'd have to test to see which version would pull the most
Hard And Fast Rule #3: You Must Include A Call To Action
Okay, easy enough. BUY NOW! There's a call to action.
But hold on a minute. If it were that simple, everyone
marketing online would be rich, and every online shopper
would have to move into a bigger home to accommodate all
that happily purchased stuff.
There are two very important things that you must include in
your call to action:
1. You must determine exactly what action you want people
to take, and
2. You must provide a reason why people should take that
Isn't Buy Now exactly the action you want? Not necessarily.
Think about what exactly it is that you are trying to do.
Are you trying to generate leads? Do you want people to sign
up for your free newsletter? Are you trying to attract a
specific audience and hoping to convert as many of those
people as possible into sales?
It is important to understand that All best copy, if possible,
should contain a call to action that clearly identifies what
action is desired. I can't emphasize this enough.
Think about the buttons on your site menu. Each one is a
call to action! And they are all very important! If they're
not as direct as possible, telling visitors specifically
what to do, they will be useless.
For example, if you have a button that is labeled "sales,"
you are doing nothing but confusing your visitors, leaving
them guessing whether you are referring to product sales
(i.e., online ordering), products that are on sale (i.e.,
specials or discounts), or maybe the opportunity to sell
your product (i.e., merchandising opportunities).
But your visitors won't guess for long -- why would they
bother? They'll just leave your site.
If you change the button copy from "sales" to "order
online," you are now asking viewers to take an action -- to
order your product. This clarifies the purpose of the button
and tells the viewer what to do to get your product.
Another example: instead of writing "E-mail," you could ask
your viewers to "Contact Us" -- again, you're asking your
visitors to take a specific action!
Of course, you will not always be able to include a call to
action in every button; you won't always have the space.
Your best bet in this case is to be As Clear As Possible.
For example, it would be difficult to include a call to
action in a button of your navigation menu that leads to
your newsletter back issues. There would not be room to say
"click here now to read our newsletter back issues."
In this case, you'd just want to make sure that your best copy is
clear. Label the button "Newsletter Back Issues" instead of
"More" or "Old Stuff."
Now let's think about your links. Supposing "buy now" is the
action you want... You have to give people a Reason Why they
should buy. Huge, garishly colored words on a screen won't
do the trick; added benefits will.
And in your links, you have a little more room to move. The
call to action should remain the central focus of the link,
but pack in as many benefits as possible around it.
"Click Here Now to claim your 'Golfer's Guide to the Green'
and instantly receive the downloadable video that features
up-close-and-personal interviews with Pro Golfers who reveal
their hottest golfing secrets, guaranteed to improve your game
in 2 weeks or you don't pay!"
...will win out every time over "Buy now."
Hard And Fast Rule #4: You Must Pay Attention To Layout
Making the most of your layout is especially important when
you're writing best copy. The right blend of emphasis and
information is the best way to attract viewers. Don't
underestimate the effectiveness of bolding, italics,
underlining, color, and white space.
But don't overdo it either!
For example, an offer to subscribe to your newsletter must
be Brief, Compelling, And Effective. It will not be the main
feature of your web page or anyone else's, so it must be
attractive enough to grab the attention of a distracted
reader. But it also needs to remain readable and informative,
without a gross misuse of formatting tricks.
If your ad has too much going on in it, it will look
unattractive, unappealing, and unprofessional -- and the
clutter will detract from the meaning of your message.
On the other hand, too little emphasis leaves you in danger
of never catching anyone's eye. If your ad is totally
boring, no one will ever even see it -- and if they somehow
do, they probably won't look at it long enough to find out
what it's about.
Of course, some of the formatting techniques discussed here
are available only to people formatting their ads in HTML.
Obviously, you have more options in HTML and can do pretty
much whatever you like. But in text format, you don't have
the choice of adding color, bold, italics, etc.
You DO, however, have the ability to use characters, spacing,
capitalization, and indentation for effect.
So if we're formatting an ad for a newsletter subscription
in text, we need to try to draw the reader's attention but
not distract them once they're there. With the right blend
of emphasis and information, visual appeal and readability,
it might look like this:
"Free Subscription to 'Potato Farmer's' Newsletter"
Subscribe today and on the first Tuesday of each
month you'll receive tips and strategies from
Industry Leaders who'll reveal...
- Secrets for selling your crops for the
- Tricks for cutting down the time you
spend in the field!
- Cost-effective strategies for Tripling
Your Crop Yield!
- Plus much, much more!
Each issue contains tons of easy-to-implement
techniques, guaranteed to Reduce Your Expences
while dramatically Increasing Your Aannual Income!
Visit http://www.Potato-Farmer.com to subscribe!
Because we don't have the option of using bold, color, or
underlining in the title, I've put the capitalized "FREE"
at the very beginning to attract attention. I've also
enclosed the headline in quotation marks for emphasis,
and put the newsletter title in single quotes (which
should always be used inside double quotes).
The main Features of the newsletter -- what you'll
learn from the experts -- are emphasized by the use of
bullet points and a nice amount of white space. And all the
Benefits of the newsletter are capitalized so that they're
as eye-catching as possible. (Be careful with your use of
caps, however -- too many makes your ad unreadable.)
Last but not least is the call to action, and because it
comes at the end of the ad, it is supported by all the
benefits that came before it.
Now that you know the secrets of fitting high-impact best copy
into small spaces, I'll let you in on another little secret...
there's a lot more to learn!
In fact, this article itself has been an exercise in fitting
tons of information into a relatively small space!
Writing best copy, designing banner ads, writing powerful
classified ads, putting together an effective newsletter
subscription offer... these are all topics that I've devoted
entire lessons (i.e. hundreds of pages)
However, now that you have some of the basics under your
belt, you should be able to Start Making Dramatic
Improvements to your short copy... improvements that will
attract a much bigger response and increased sales! If all
your best copy is written with the rules of benefits, audience,
calls to action, and layout in mind, you simply can't lose.
And remember: no amount of copy is so small that it can be
overlooked... every link, button, banner, and classified ad
is either making or breaking your marketing campaign as we speak!