Most of us are not copywriters, nor do we have the time to master that skill.
But we do, as online marketers need ads!
So how can talentless wannabe copywriters like ourselves write effective ad copy that will actually work?
Fret not! There are some simple rules that believe it or not makes the whole process actually kinda easy!
All Ads Are Not Created Equal
First, best to know that ads have two different purposes.
1. Awareness or brand advertising. This is usually performed by advertising agencies for larger businesses.
The purpose of this type of advertising is to keep a brand in people’s minds so that when it comes time to make a purchase your brand is the first one they will think of. Through constant reminder and familiarity, your customer will come to prefer your brand over others. So, the intent is not to encourage a prospect to make a purchase, or perform an action, immediately. For this we use direct response advertising.
2. Direct-response advertising aims to encourage a prospect to perform an action of some kind; phone us, fill out a contact form, sign up to your newsletter, visit our website, buy a product.
The Internet is a perfect platform for direct-response advertising, as we can track an ad campaigns success by monitoring prospect actions after they have seen an ad. For example, do they click it?
So while a brand advertisement wants to impress you, a direct-response ad wants to sell to you.
It is critical when writing ad copy to keep these differences in mind, so as to keep your copy focused around the key objectives of your advertising campaign and its desired outcomes, guaranteeing as much as possible a successful outcome.
The Key Elements of an Ad
So with that out of the way, let’s talk about the structure of an ad.
Your ad will have a headline, which will serve to arouse readers interest in your ad and the product or service you are promoting.
Your ad must have an offer that you are selling (duh!)
This offer must be relevant and enticing enough to prompt your reader to respond to your ‘call to action’.
Your call to action is the desired outcome of your ad or what you want your prospect to do when they read it.
1. Planning Your Ad: The Brief
Now to the tricky stuff!
In order to find the key elements to attract reader attention in an ad, you need to plan out the ad and all of the key elements of your offering which will be used in creating the ad copy.
If it is your own business and your own product or service you are advertising, then you will at least have a reasonable idea about each of your business and the key attributes of your offer.
You will likely also have a reasonably good idea of the benefits of your product or service. If you are writing copy for another businesses products or services you will need to do some research.
An ad brief will help. An ad brief should outline the objectives of your advertising campaign, your intended target audience, your call to action – what it is that you want them to do when they read your ad.
At this point you should also identify any constraints you may have on your ad production – deadlines, word count, and design restrictions (use of images/graphics, their byte size).
For whatever product or service that you intend to promote, you also need to identify clearly the key features, and the corresponding benefits provided by them.
This should include why someone would choose your offer over other similar offers from elsewhere.
At this point, identifying any relevant keywords would be very helpful. You can use the Google Keyword Tool or tools such as Keyword Spy for this. It is be worthwhile looking at what keywords you competitors use as well. Look at their brochures, whitepapers, blog posts, websites and any PPC ads that you are aware of.
2. Get Writing! Get Creative!
The even trickier stuff comes next!
After you have laid out your advertising brief, you will not succeed in producing an ad if you do not begin writing.
To get your brain working, just begin typing anything. ANYTHING! This is what some novel writers do when they’re stuck and it works well when writing ad copy too! Write a first draft. This will increase your writing speed and creativity.
Avoid writing, then revising and correcting your draft. Instead, write and edit later, with the aim of increasing your creativity, not your correctness.
If you get stuck on some word or phrase, just leave a space or pad out with X’s so that you can come back and replace them later.
After your first draft is finished, you can do some corrections. Perhaps highlighting some key phrases that you have written and which give a flavour of your product or service will help.
This can provide the outline of a structure for your ad if it is a long format ad, e.g. a sales page rather than a short ad (e.g. PPC).
Ad writing is a creative process and sometimes you will get stuck for ideas. We will look briefly at how to get started writing in a moment, but we can also think about how to structure your ad so that you can think of it less creatively. This will make it easier for ou to write your ad. The creativity can come later on.
You need to ask what it is about your product or service that is useful to your prospect! You can use how your offering provides solutions to a customer problem, or testimonials from other customers to give yourself some structure when writing longer ad copy.
Another thing which can help with writing copy is starting a timer and writing for a set amount of time and not stopping before the timer goes off.
3. Address Your Audience
To really engage with prospects or customers, you need to make them part of your copy. You can do this by following these guidelines:
Try to empathise with your targets situation. Ask yourself, what challenges do they face during their day? What do they really care about?
Talk about benefits of your offering to your prospects, not the features.
Talk about how your product, or service, will make their life
Less risky / safer
Make your ad copy personal.
Use “You” in your copy.
Caveat: In the Futerra study (mentioned later) on marketing and selling environmentally sound products/services, it was found that “You” didn’t work effectively. Instead, in this instance, using collective/inclusive words like “We” and “Us” was more effective for the particular kind of products being sold. See excerpt below:
“‘We’ not ‘You’
Tapping into a sense of cooperation, community or shared interest appeared to resonate more with our focus groups than terms associated with individual or personal behaviours. We searched for sustainability terms that implied mass social action or generated ‘social proof’ to test, but found that most terms encourage atomised individual behaviour. Research consistently shows that we follow the behaviour we see around us rather than making isolated decisions. A terminology of sustainability ‘participation’ rather than ‘atomisation’ is urgently needed.”
Source: Words that sell: How the public talks about sustainability – Futerra
Share stories and experiences from other customers. Use successful outcomes from customers using your products or services. Phrases such as; “Recommended by XXXX”, “As used by XXXX”, “Using XXXX saved my business!” Any positive outcome can be used here.
Use the same language as your customer when writing ad copy. Do not make use of specialised vocabulary that you may be familiar with, but that is not used regularly by your target. Try to use popular terms that are familiar and common sense to your target.
Caveat: Copywriters often make use of sentence fragments, short forms, and acronyms to reduce word count. The trick in doing this is to make sure that your copy still makes sense to your prospects. This can be achieved by using popular words and phrases which are culturally accepted and commonly understood by your target prospects as mentioned earlier.
4. Use Power Selling Words in Your Ad Copy
There are over 1 million words in the modern English language. However, most people only use a few thousand of these in their everyday use of English. You may be even more surprised when you realise that only around five dozen ‘power’ selling words are actually necessary when writing ad copy.
These power words are what successful copywriters use to move their prospects and buyers to take an action step; subscribe to a newsletter, sign up to a website, or blog, or take the first steps to purchase one of their products or services.
A recent report by Futerra on marketing and selling ‘green concepts and technologies’ discovered the following:
“Words matter. They matter a great deal. Words bring ideas alive, make new concepts familiar, and can change the way we see the world. Marketers, journalists and those working in the media are acutely aware of the importance of words. There is a whole industry dedicated to perfecting copy. A PR company can spend days (or weeks, if the client is important enough) pondering a single line of text. In some cases, millions of pounds are spent on market testing one word.”
Source: Words that sell: How the public talks about sustainability – Futerra
List of Power Selling Words
Absolutely | Accomplish | Achieve | Benefit | Best | Clear-cut | Compelling | Convenient | Critical | Dependable | Easy/Easily | Ensure | Exciting | Free | Fun | Guarantee/Guaranteed | Health/Healthy | How-To | Improve/Improved | Instant/Instantly | Love | Money | More | New | Now | Personalized | Power/Powerful | Private | Proven | Quality | Quick/Quickly | Results | Safe/Safely | Save | Secrets | Secure | Shocked/Shocking | Simple | Solution | Step-by-Step | Strong | Top | Uncover | Unique | Unleashed | Unlimited | Unlock | Winning | Yes | You/Your
Some of these words should be integrated throughout your ad copy.
The Importance of Your Headline
Your ad headline is the most important component of your ad. You have only a few seconds to attract your prospects attention.
Research has shown that the headline is responsible for 80%+ of an ads success.
Copywriters commonly spend the largest part of their time working on the ad headline.
Your headline must summarise your ad message usually the benefit(s) and/or advantage(s) of your product or service. Notice I didn’t say feature(s)! Your headline must cause your prospect to become interested in your ad, so that they read and think further about it. Depending on the ad format that you are writing for, you have between one and four short lines to encapsulate your headline message.
It has been shown that up to five times as many people read an ad headline as will actually read the ad. So, you must get across the primary benefit your prospect will get by performing your required action (see the earlier section on focusing on one prospect action).
You will need to write multiple headlines before you settle on a final headline. Your final headline should be ‘unique’, that is it should only be relevant for your particular combination of product, service and target market and no other. It should be very ‘specific’, very focused, and definitely not vague. Your headline should provide something ‘useful’ to your prospect (for example, some information, a proposed solution to a problem, or appealing financially). There should be a sense of urgency about your headline’s message (time-limited) requiring action immediately on behalf of your prospect!
Just as I mentioned earlier about the main body of your ad, there are a number of words that can be used in your ad header to increase prospect interest in your ad.
To gain prospects attention, start your ad headline with some of the following words:
Introducing | Announcing | New | Now | At Last | How To
How | Why | Which | Who Else
Wanted | This | Because | If | Advice
You can evoke different emotions and responses using these words:
Create Curiosity – Breaking News | Wow | Exposed | Surprising
Create Exclusivity – Secret | Hidden | Never | Limited
Create Urgency – Now | Direct | Fast | Results
Create Reassurance – Easy | Simple | Lifetime | Safe
Desire to save – Bonus | Cheap | Discount | Bargain
Connect to Deep Emotions Love | Passion | Success | Hate | Alone | Guilty
Other things which can be very effective when included in a headline are:
Putting a date in your headline
Writing your headline in a news style
Featuring the price in your headline
Featuring reduced price
Featuring a special merchandising offer
Featuring an easy payment plan
Featuring a free offer
Offering information of value
Telling a story
Beginning your headline with the words “How To”
Using a testimonial style headline
Offering the reader a test
Warning the reader to delay buying
Letting the advertiser speak directly to the reader
Addressing your headline to a specific group or person
Asking a question
Offering benefits through facts and figures
Your headline must get the attention of your prospects with the benefits, possibilities and solutions provided by your offering.
5. Your Offer & Call To Action
You don’t need to discount all the time to sell your product or service. You can ensure your offer is attractive to your prospects by making it relevant to your target audience, their business or personal life, or even the season of the year.
Your offering could have high value to your prospect, but low cost to you to produce, for example, a report on increasing their monthly income, or generating a sideline income. Your offer could be made irresistible. For example, you might include setup and/or training with a piece of software or hardware, or free hosting for the first year with a new website.
Make it easy for your prospect to respond to your offer. Don’t overdo fields on forms, just ask for the basics. Maybe offer a free trial for a month, or three, with just basic information (name, email) required to begin the trial.
With some thought and a little imagination, you should nearly always be able to avoid discounting your products and services.
Your Call to Action: Focus on One Thing
In order to get your prospects/customers to do something for you, you need to tell them what you want them to do next within your copywriting. Otherwise they are unlikely to do it!
You must ensure that your call-to-action mentions the advantages or benefits gained by obeying your call. It should be clear and easy to understand what you want them to do. Use verbs (implies action) to tell them what to do (Join Now! Click Here! Download Your Report Here | Now)
You need to ask yourself what is the one thing you want your reader to do when they read your ad?
Visit a store and buy your product, or phone up to buy your service (e.g. car/home insurance)?
Choose your product/service rather than a competitor’s?
Associate certain emotions with the product/brand name?
Visit a Web site and register or sign up for a newsletter?
Become a social media follower?
Let their friends, family and colleagues know about you?
Remember your product/service name?
Scan a QR Code to take advantage of a discount?
Recognise you as an expert in your field (through whitepapers etc…)?
Form a positive impression of your product/service so that when they come to make a purchase decision they will think of your brand and products first?
“This is the key to successful advertising; focusing relentlessly, exclusively, and without distraction on the one thing that you want the reader to think or do, and then write your ad copy to accomplish that one specific objective.”