Writing Online Copy, Text and Content

I’m writing this blog post from a beautiful location in South Mumbai thats almost like paradise. Its a club that I am a member of thats located in the southern most tip of Mumbai. I cannot post any photographs as photography is restricted here. The club has a golf course, amazing sea side walk, a small house / hut located near the sea, lots of greenery, palm trees and exotic plants. This is paradise! I’m coming here almost after 6 months, and I’ve realized that I have facilities that many people will envy. Its a highly invgorating atmosphere here… so quiet, breezy, light music playing in the background … and pleny of good food and amazing tea!

I promise to come back here more often… even escape from office for a few hours with my Internet connected laptop.

Now, here’s the blog post… its a blast from the past – that I thought many would like to read.

Writing Online Copy, Text and Content

Entire books can be written on this topic. I will cover the basic areas only here – stressing on the main aspects. Before I begin, you should know that writing copy online is not the same as writing copy for offline media. In the online world users and readers are more educated and have control to jump from link to link – and they always interacting with the content you provide them with.

Nothing is leisurely about online communication. Whatever it be – chat rooms, surfing or searching for information – the user has a forefinger placed on the mouse. Click! Gone.

Two important unique rules you should keep in mind are –

1. The medium is geared for speed.

2. The medium is solidly one-to-one

While writing you must realize that the initial task at hand is to get the attention of your prospect. This must be done even before you try to sell them something. I will provide you with a few guidelines and important points. You should go through them carefully, and try to apply them when you write your copy.

Some of the things I talk about are common to both online as well as offline writing – and some are unique only to online writing. I will begin by first talking about the common things that must be followed while writing ad copy in general, be it offline or online.

Copywriting is Selling

There is absolutely no point in creating a very cool ad or sales pitch which wins several accolades and awards, if you cannot get your message to make sales! That is the primary purpose of your pitch – TO MAKE SALES! You are not looking for name recognition or image-appeal. You are looking for income. Your message is your sales-force. Many big ad agencies create cool ads which don’t sell. This explains the sad state of advertising today.

Study your prospect

Before you write a single word, you must study your prospect target and learn more about them – what are their passions? their dreams? the fears? their objections? their likes and dislikes?

Then and only then, should you proceed to write your copy.

Develop a USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

To create a USP, you need to state what makes you, or your product, or service stand out from others who are selling the same product or service. This is the very basis of your sales message. You may have noticed several companies selling TVs – but each with different USPs. One says “Surround sound home theatre speaker system included”, another says “Flat Screen TV”, another “full screen width visible”, another “auto channel-to-channel sound adjustment technology”, and yet another says “advance color correction intelligence”. These are all USPs, and you must also have one that makes you stand out from your competition. Your USP could even be your price or guarantee.

Success or failure?

There can be only one judge of your advertisement or sales letter. And that judge is your customer! If they buy from it and you achieve your intention – then its a good ad, if it doesn’t achieve what you intended it to, then its NOT.

11 Techniques to increase response

+ learn and study the English language very well!

The design and layout of your advertisement accounts for only 20% of its effectiveness. The rest is your actual message – i.e. what you say to the prospect.

In the real world – regardless of your race, sex, color, clothing, or appearance, nothing speaks as much about you as a person than your ability to communicate clearly. The same is true with regard to copywriting. You must write in clear English – free of grammatical and spelling errors.

+ use a very easy-to-read writing style!

Don’t use big words. Follow the rule – KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple Silly. Down to earth writing is more enjoyable and entertaining than complex technical jargon with big words. Be personal, keep your sentences short, your paragraphs short, and keep the tone of your voice focused.

And remember, its OK to start your sentences with “And”, “But”, “If”, “Therefore” or “Or”. These conjunctions can be used to shorten your sentences and connect them.

As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your sentences under 10 words. This will increase your reader’s retention. The style you use should be personal (not professional), and should sound as though your reader’s friend is sitting in front of them and talking to them. Keep the tone and talk as though you are a friend of the reader and are sitting in front of them face to face.

+ Stress your benefits!

This is very important. Your message must bring out or state the benefits the reader will get in buying your product or service. Remember – features don’t sell – benefits do!!!

Here is an example – People don’t want to buy a weight loss book or program… they don’t want to lose weight… People want to be skinny!

Another example – No one wants to buy a new car… Everyone wants to own a new car!
They want to drive through curvy roads with the breeze in their hair! They want to feel the warmth of the sun coming through the sundeck on them!

If you focus on the ultimate benefits that a prospect customer will get – you can increase your response by over 100%.

+ Write as an expert writer would!

Write your message as though you were an ace reporter, commissioned to write a complimentary article on your product or service.

Write about your fabulous product, what it is, what it does, how it works and what others think about it. You could write your message as though it were an article – “editorialized copy”. That way it reads as though it is an article – and the credibility issue skyrockets. Note that this can be applied to work only with certain products and services.

+ Your Headline is the most important part!

David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy and Mather (O&M), one of the greatest advertising men who ever lived, reports that five times as many people read the headlines than as read the ad copy. Therefore, if your don’t write an effective headline – you are wasting 80% of your money. I strongly suggest you brainstorm and write down at least 25 different headlines for any sales pitch. Also, remember to include your benefits of your product or service in the headline!

I have extracted 29 headline formulas from John Caples book – Tested Advertising Methods below. Read them and keep them in mind while writing your headlines. Here they are –

1. Begin your headline with the word “Announcing”

2. Use words that have an announcement quality.

3. Begin your headline with the word “News”

4. Begin your headline with the word “Now”

5. Begin your headlines with the words “At last”

6. Put a date into your headline.

7. Write your headline in news style.

8. Feature the price in your headline.

9. Feature a reduced price.

10. Feature a special merchandising offer.

11. Feature and easy payment plan.

12. Feature a free offer.

13. Offer information of value.

14. Tell a story.

15. Begin your headline with the words “How to”.

16. Begin your headline with the words “How”.

17. Begin your headline with the words “Why”.

18. Begin your headline with the words “Which”.

19. Begin your headline with the words “Who else?”.

20. Begin your headline with the words “Wanted”.

21. Begin your headline with the words “This”.

22. Begin your headline with the words “Advice”.

23. Use a testimonial-style headline.

24. Offer the reader a test.

25. Use a one-word headline.

26. Use a two-word headline.

27. Warn the reader to delay buying.

28. Let the manufacturer speak directly to the reader.

29. Address your headline to a specific group or type of person.

I strongly recommend that you get a copy of John Caples book – Tested Advertising Methods.

+ Use testimonials if you can – properly!

Don’t use phony, unrealistic testimonials, or unauthorized ones. Never use just the person’s initials – use their full name. If the person owns a business – use the name of their business also. Not having a testimonial is better than having a poor one.

+ Poor copy cannot be made better by good design!

Keep these points in mind while writing / designing –

a. Use proper font. Courier is best for a sales letter. Times Roman for an advertisement.

b. If you put your headline in “quotes” , your readership will go up by 10% to 15%

c. Dropping the first letter of the first paragraph will increase your readership by 10%. By dropping I mean making the first letter big.

d. your column width must be the same as the editorial papers column width.

e. Try to disguise your ad to look like an article. People love news. The more newsier your ad looks – the better!

f. Your ad should look sharp!

g. Use proper indentation, so everything but the first line is square.

h. Spend time going through other people’s ads and sales letters. See what works for them. Look at successful ones that are appearing again and again! (the reason that they are appearing again and again is because they are working!).

i. The longer you make your guarantee / return period – the better results you will get – and the fewer returns will be made. This sounds contradictory, but as a matter of fact – if you give someone a very long time to return the product for a full refund – there will be more chances that the person will buy and keep your product. Short money back periods, force the consumer to return your product back fast.

+ Try and create a “high perceived value” for your product or service

For example if you have a Business CD for entrepreneurs that costs you about $1 to produce – you can increase its value to as much as $300 by creating a “need” for the CD. If your sales letter talks about how much money the reader will save and how much money they will make – then he perceived value of your CD can be as much as $300!

Another Example –

Question: When is a gallon of petrol worth $100, worth more?
Answer: When you are driving in the mountains and are caught in a blizzard and your petrol runs out, and the nearest petrol station is 10 miles away!

so, make sure that your service or products are perceived as that gallon of petrol!

+ Prices that end with “7” work better than those that end with “.95” for prices more than $10

Try to price things at $227 or $377

+ In many cases – pictures, graphics and illustrations will reduce your response rate!

This doesn’t sound right, but its true. Usually a graphic takes the focus away from the message. But if you use a “proper” or “relevant” graphic it will not.

Writing Emails

Email is the most effective way to get your website noticed and your message out to Internet surfers. With average click through rates between 5% to 15% it far out-performs Banner Ads which give average click through rates of 0.5% (half a percent).

I will briefly cover some important aspects that you should keep in mind while composing emails to your customers / prospects.

1. Subject of the Email

This is a very important aspect of your email. Make sure you have a catchy subject, and if you can use the recipients name in it, do it!

Remember the Subject is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of your email. If the reader does not connect with it – he will not open your email. And if he doesn’t open your email, they won’t read your email message. The subject line is what gives someone the information to decide if they’re going to open an email or not. If its boring or corporate – you can forget about it. You must become a subject-line master if you are going to become an email copywriter master.

Asking a question in your subject is also a good way to make sure your email is read.

A good subject could improve the readership of your mail by 10 times! So, make the benefit of your service / product appear and make your subject personal if possible. Also read the above paragraph on how to write effective headline message.

2. Keep it simple

People are in a hurry when they read emails and you only have a short time to catch their attention. Start right away with what you are offering. Within the first 2 sentences your offer should be made clear. Then you can go into details.

3. Specify the links

You must specify the call to action that you want your client to take. Providing the link to click on is very important. If your email message is in pure text format (non-HTML), then you must make sure it starts with http:// followed by domain name. If you don’t put the http:// prior to the site address in a text email, then link wont show up as a click-able, and you will miss out on many potential visitors.

4. The ”FREE” word (use it!)

Offer something FREE to your potential visitors. That is the bait to get them to your site. Once they are at your site .. give them a FREE download or something, and capture their emails – so you know which clients are interested in your product. You can then sell them a product after they test-drive your FREE stuff.

5. Have a good catchy signature file

Be as creative as you can!

6. Call for action

You must have the user do something… such as click on a link or contact you in some way. Make sure you have the user act out and do something.

7. Forwarding

Ask your potential clients to forward your email to their friends and relatives – if they think your offer will interest them. This is a very good way to get additional focused traffic to your site.

8. HTML to brighten your mails

HTML is a good way to get ”colored” and grpahically rich emails out. Emails in HTML produce a higher Click through Rate than plain vanilla text emails. However, be careful not to include heavy graphics in your HTML mail. If you plan to use HTML – use simple HTML that gives a neat look to your message / newsletter.

9. Use Caps carefully

Capital letters are seen as “yelling” and “spammy”. Try and limit them as much as possible.

10. Unsubscribe

If it is relevant to your content, you should put a link and message at the end of the email informing people how they can opt-out of your mailings. Word this carefully. Example…

You can be REMOVED from our list by clicking here http://www.xyz.com/removeme.html

OR

If you don’t want to receive mail from us, please send a mail to removeme@xyz.com with subject UNSUBSCRIBE.

11. You could add the following at the end of your message

The information in this email is confidential and may be legally privileged. It is intended solely for the addressee. Access to this email by anyone else is unauthorized. If you are not the intended recipient, any disclosure, copying, distribution or any action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance on it, is prohibited and may be unlawful.

Words that Sell online

Here are some keywords that are catchy and draw the attention of the reader.

absolutely, action, advantage, amazing, attention, awesome, bad, baloney, bang, battle, bazooms, benefit, big, blah, blast, blockbuster, bonanza, bonus, breakthrough, bull, bulletin, buster, cash, chance, chaos, cheap, complimentary, confidential, congratulations, control, cool, coolest, crap, crash, crazy, crock, damn, danger, daring, dead, delightful, devilish, dirty, discover, dynamite, easy, effective, electric, electroni, elite, erotic, exciting, exclusive, exotic, explodes, expose, fast, feast, fire, first, flash, flop, fool, forever, free, , geek, gigantic, gold, gorgeous, grab, great, guaranteed, hate, hello, help, hey, hi, hidden, hilarious, historic, hit, hollywood, horny, hot, huge, hurry, idiot, imagine, immediately, immoral, important, incredible, innocent, inside, intimate, introducing, killer, kinky, kiss, live, look, love, lover, lucky, magic, meet, miracle, mistake, money, moron, mysterious, mystery, naked, nasty, nerd, new, nonsense, notice, now, nude, nuts, ok, oops, opportunity, orgy, outrage, outrageous, passionate, personal, perverted, phony, platinum, pleasure, popcorn, power, powerful, preferred, priority, private, question, ravishing, raw, relief, report, revealing, ridiculous, ripe, rotten, run, scared, schlep, schmuck, screw, secret, sensual, sexy, sizzling, shocking, slap, slash, smart, smash, sophisticated, sos, special, spicy, start, stink, stop, stupid, sucker, surprise, surrender, surviving, sweepstakes, terrific, tongue, tremendous, trick, tripe, uh-oh, uh-huh, uh-uh, unexpurgated, unlimited, urgent, virile, voodoo, want, warning, weird, what, wild, win, winner, wizard, wow, yeah, yep, yes, yummy, zero, zzzzzz .

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