Professional Advertising Copywriting
Back from a nice week in Devon, doing nothing except walk on the moors and lazing about. Couple of calls to the office – “Anything good happening?” “Well, it’s good you aren’t here” – and that’s about it. Didn’t even bother to travel 30 miles to take up the offer of a free lunch at Cornwall’s most famous seafood restaurant though, as this was compensation for a lunch I had there last year that pole axed me for three days with food poisoning, my non-attendance wasn’t 100% sloth related.
Arrived to find an article – “How to Write a Job Ad” – left open on my desk (rather pointedly, I thought) which was vaguely thought provoking, though things like “most are full of corporate puff and management-speak…fail to give detailed information…generally don’t get the people you want” were a bit too sweeping for me (and I hate all sweeping statements).
Copy can be quite emotive, not least because it’s the one area of advertising that anyone can do – we don’t all know the media, we can’t all design, but we can all write – so we all bring our own opinions/pet hates to it. For example, there’s lots of things I don’t like; from “previous” experience (isn’t all experience in the past or previous?), “staff” as opposed to “employees” (I use a staff to round up sheep. Well, I would if I had sheep. And if I had a staff), “meticulous” attention to detail (you either have attention to detail or you don’t). None of these are likely to alter the response to an ad (which probably should be the test of whether any copy change is necessary in an ideal world) but I will still try and amend any of these, every chance I get, so the ad is done “my way”. To be honest, I can get a bit precious about my personal copy conventions (aka “he’s off on one again”), so much so that we actually have a little list of them that we refer to – hey, at least it ensures consistency. Though I like to think some of them achieve more than that – isn’t “attractive” salary a better sell than the rather dull “competitive”, isn’t “you” rather more personal than “the successful candidate”, isn’t “we thank all candidates in advance for their interest and would appreciate all replies by xxx” warmer than “closing date xxx”?
Anyway, back to the article where, after the ritual slaughter of almost the entire industry’s copy (“banal” was another description used), the authors laid out their modestly titled “Seven Golden Rules”, based on psychological research, to get to the people you want – “who are so busy being successful in their current job that they don’t have the time or inclination to read the recruitment section”. Ignoring the fatal flaw in this argument (if these successful people are too busy to read the recruitment section you could write an ad that could outsell the entire “Harry Potter” phenomenon and it still wouldn’t work, would it?), their rules were:
1. Be bold about job title, salary and location
2. Spell out what you want
3. Describe the job in detail
4. Use questions
5. Tell a story about why you are advertising the job but keep it real
6. Make applying easy
7. Fly your flag – put your logo in the ad.
On the face of it nothing much new there, although it was a shame that their own example of good copy for a sales position “you’ll be called in to clients when the door of opportunity has been opened, to provide the technical detail to close the deal” seemed to include the type of management-type speak they abhor and was too wordy – the one thing all clients dislike – because, for example, “you’ll use your technical knowledge to turn qualified leads into sales” says pretty much the same. In over 50% less words.
The idea of using questions (4) and telling stories, while keeping it real (5) are well known advertising techniques which, research shows, do boost response (questions involve the reader and make the process two way, while people do read stories). But I can’t think of many examples where questions can be, or are, used meaningfully in recruitment (interestingly, the authors don’t provide any examples) apart from the ubiquitous “interested?” just before the response details. Which, incidentally, is another of my pet hates – because if they aren’t interested, I’d like to know what they are doing reading the ad through to the end. Perhaps ploughing through ads of no interest is their sad hobby or something?
As for telling stories about why you are advertising the job, I have two issues. One, I’m not entirely sure that, if candidates see jobs advertised that they really want, they give a fig why it’s become available. And two, as a Golden Rule, it has the severe limitation that jobs only become available for a very limited number of publishable reasons – mainly growth or replacement (and, with the latter, you can’t, for example, advertise that you need a new FD because the last one was a total twonk), so I’m not sure how ad after ad repeating one version or another of these reasons enhances response to any of them.
Their other point about telling stories is that “recruitment sections read as if failure never happens so you should stand out of the crowd by talking about your failures as well as your success”. Hmmm. I can’t recall the world’s number one brand – Coca Cola – advertising much about the effects of all that sugar on your teeth (If any, of course – Legal Editor). I’m all for truth (or tooth. Ho! Ho!) in advertising but, in recruitment, think this should be limited to facts – which I’d have as a Golden Rule – and a description of the challenges or opportunities. Talking about your problems because “chances are, you want people who can handle problems. And good people want a job they can get their teeth (what’s this new dental fixation?) into, not one where the problems are all solved” isn’t particularly logical or realistic; I’d be interested to see if the authors could sell this “warts ‘n all” approach to any client, anywhere.
From my point of view, a recruitment ad is a little bit like riding down a few floors in an a elevator with your candidate – you only have a few seconds to make a favourable impression – so tone (friendly, personable), facts (turnover details, number of employees rather than “one of the largest”) and having a real selling point for the job are far more important than whittering on about the issues you face, asking questions and telling stories. I’m not that keen on their rule about describing the job in great detail either – a Marketing Manager knows what a Marketing Manager does most of the time without having every single detail spelled out as if for the hard-of-thinking.
Basically I’m still a big fan of the Price Waterhouse 1990’s research into recruitment advertising, just about the only objective work of this kind of which I’m aware. This found that candidates want straightforward adverts, giving facts, cutting out excessive jargon and glossy adjectives. That candidates get irritated by the over-use of words like “dynamic, pro-active, forward thinking, visionary etc”. That they get tired of “motherhood statements that tell us nothing”. That many simply find the text of advertisements hard to believe. And that popular stocking fillers like “growing, challenges, exciting opportunities” are not the winners any cursory glance at any recruitment section would have you believe. Quite the opposite.
They’re in fact seen as evidence of “mass corporate delusion”. Whoops.
Should You Write a Long-Copy Ad or Keep it Short?
Okay, you’re ready to write the ad of a lifetime. The one that will pull like crazy and leave them begging for your product like Somalians for food. So, do you whet their appetite with a short and sweet ad? Or write a long-copy ad that’s stuffed with information?
The 80-20 rule says 80% of the people only read the headline (and maybe a caption, if you have one). But the fact is, readers will read a long-copy ad. One McGraw-Hill study looked at 3,597 ads in 26 business magazines. What they discovered was that ads with 300 or more words were more effective that shorter ads in creating product awareness, inducing action and reinforcing the decision to buy. Another ad for Merrill Lynch crammed 6, 450 words into a single New York Times page. It pulled over 10,000 responses–even without a coupon! The truth is, the reason people read ads has nothing to do with copy length.
“Nobody reads long ads…” and other urban ad legends
People shun too many of today’s ads–long or short–because several misleading myths have stubbornly remained with us. Things like “negative headlines are a downer since people want to feel good when reading your ad.” Or “show the product or they’ll never know what you’re selling.” Then there’s the stuffy axiom, “there’s no place for humor in business advertising. ” Or the ubiquitous saw, “all your ads should look the same, blend in or be swallowed up.” The list goes on and on. Presented with unabashed hubris by the high priests of advertising. The basic fact is, ads really fail for three reasons.
Your ads are all about you
You’re telling customers what you want to hear, not what they want to know. Impressive sounding features are fine to motivate your sales force, but your customer is only interested in one thing: “What’s in it for me?” This offense is particularly egregious in business-to-business advertising, which is infamous for its addiction to phrases like “the XP90 does it all” or “now with Duo-Pentium Processor”–without a hint of what these features do. Also contaminating many of today’s ads are such chest-pounding headlines as “Taking the lead,” “The promise of tomorrow, today,” or “A tradition of quality.” They sound good but say nothing.
Your ads are boring
You’ve got to break the boredom barrier–big time. Many ad gurus say blend in, be one of the pack and survive. No wonder so many ads look alike, proudly showing big pictures of their products, or worse yet, featuring a giant photo of the company’s CEO–usually with a caption that’s been scrubbed clean of originality or compelling information. If you want people to stop and read your ad, you have to make the ad more interesting than the editorials in the publication you’re in. Give them real news, a fresh new way to look at what you’re offering them. Stand out from the crowd. Start trends, don’t follow them. One of the most interesting car ads I ever saw showed the car only sparingly; instead, it featured an animation of a human heart beating furiously to the soundtrack of an accelerating engine. Breakthrough stuff.
Your ads don’t make human contact
They’re not reaching readers on an emotional level. We all want to be liked, appreciated and loved. We want to feel secure in our lives and our jobs. So be a mensch. Create ads that touch the soul. Use an emotional appeal in your visual, headline and copy. Don’t just show a car on the road; show the guy captivating his sweetheart with the car. If your buyers were on the moon, would they care about your car’s styling? No. They’d get an ugly, crawly vehicle that got them from crater to crater. Selling computers to business? Show the guy getting a raise or promotion for selecting your latest model. You’re selling the emotional end result, the human need-based bottom line, not a box, or vehicle with four wheels and an engine.
So if you’re struggling with the notion of whether to write a long- or short-copy ad, you can do both and still get results. The key is not length or lack of it, but information, interest and involvement in your customer’s needs. These are the ingredients to creating a successful ad.
The Best Place to Put SEO Copy on Your Web Page
It seems like a funny question to me, but it gets asked a lot. “Where should the SEO copy go on my Web page?” That question gets asked so much because there are several pieces of out-of-date information, rumors and myths with regard to text placement, when writing SEO copy.
For instance, many absolutely swear that the copy has to be as high up on the page as possible for the search engines to find it. Not true. The spiders will find the text regardless of where it is on your page. Others say all your text has to be in one block. Also not true. The spiders will find the text regardless of where it is on your page.
Other statements I’ve heard regarding text placement include:
· Your headline must appear at the very top of the page.
· Copy placed inside tables throws the search engines off.
· Copy must be positioned above the fold to be found by the spiders.
None of these are true. The spiders will find the text regardless of where it is on your page. (Or did I already say that… twice?) This is true in 99.9% of the cases, with only some very rare exceptions.
So where is the best place to put SEO copy on your Web page? Wherever it makes sense to the site visitor!
Spiders will find your text regardless of where it falls on the page. Want proof? Here’s a test. Go to Google and type in any working URL. When the result comes up for that site, click on: “Show Google’s Cache of…” In the box that appears at the top of the next page, click on this option: “This cached page may reference images which are no longer available. Click here for the cached text only.” What do you see?
You see exactly what the search engine sees. If the text appears in this text-only cache, that means Google’s spider can read it and index it.
Put Copy Where It Is Most Beneficial to Your Visitors
Since the engines will find your text regardless of where it falls on the page, your focus should be placed on the site visitor. This is where your focus should always be. The people who have the money come first; the search engines come second. 🙂
If it makes sense for your visitors to see your headline as the first thing on the page, then put it first. If a graphic design element makes more sense, then put that first. If you use photos or other images, include captions so your visitors understand what these photos mean and how they relate to the sales message.
If you have an ecommerce site, create pages for each category of products you offer in order to help guide the visitors’ steps. Then add short copy segments that quickly describe what is offered for each specific product. Even though the copy is scattered all about the page, the engines WILL find it.
When it comes to copy placement on your Web pages, don’t agonize over what the engines want you to do. Give 100% of your consideration to what would be most useful for your visitors and place your copy in those areas. The spiders will find it with no trouble at all.
Useful tips how to make your content sell
Whatever niche of the market you operate in, you should always have direct, convincing and appealing communication with your existing or potential clients. Steadfast and returning customers will undoubtedly judge you by the quality of the products or services that you provide. They might recommend your company to their acquaintances, friends or relatives; yet majority of persons who do not know your company will judge you by the text that you present on your web site, your web content counts. Attracting and convincing content can really perform the miracles. Many of us know that the memorable phrase can influence our decisions, can transform our understating of existing situation and induce us to take some actions. Copywriting does the same; in a nutshell copywriting is a written message, text or content that promotes your business and induces your customers to purchase the products or services that you provide. Professionally written copywriting transforms a casual visitor into a steadfast client.
How does it work? It works by technique that includes memorable content intriguing headlines and easy-to read yet convincing texts, by developing web content. In today’s rapid word it is indispensable to grab the attention of a person immediately once he has visited your site. Remember that the majority of your potential clients skip through rather than read all your text. Nevertheless, not every text will do, what is appropriate for one person, can be wrong for another and visa versa. The content must target your audience- group of individuals who are really interested in your products and services; therefore copywriting and marketing should go hand in hand in order to achieve the best possible results.
It imperative for every copywriter to write the content based on research of the market the company operates in. The typical marketing research for copywriter should contain the following information: Detailed information on the market (the trend on the market, saturation of it and etc); Information on the major competitors of the company (what tactics do they use, how they advertise their products and services); Information on your potential (the preference of your potential customers, what products and services they would like to purchase). Once you have found out this information you can start develop and write copywriting. However, one should remember that this is a complex process and it might be advisable to give some professionals to complete this task especially if this is the first time you get down to it. Once this task has been completed you might try to use this copywriting copy in the writing of your future copywriting messages.