Tag Archive | "Copy"

3 ad copy mistakes keeping you from paid search success

Although Google provides data on keywords, bids and other aspects of your paid search campaigns, it tends to leave us hanging when it comes to ad copy.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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3 Ways Marketing Automation Can Mess Up Perfectly Good Copy (and How to Fix Them)

Pretty much every online business on the planet uses marketing automation in one way or another. Honestly, it would be…

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Get a Lot Better at Writing Persuasive Copy: Copyblogger’s Brand-New Copywriting Course is Open

Last week, one of our very dear community members, Hashim Warren, said something I loved about our new persuasive copywriting…

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Spark Your Next Breakthrough Copy Insight with Systematic Listening

I enjoyed Nick’s post yesterday about some copywriting techniques that work … until they don’t. And I’m glad he spoke…

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A New Free Resource and an Empathetic Approach to Copy

Coming out of the intensity of our annual Certification launch, the Copyblogger team this week has been all about refocusing…

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Marketing 101: Copywriting vs. Copy Editing vs. Content Writing

Here’s a quick guide to help you differentiate between similar roles and find the person with the skill sets you need for your websites, blogs, print ads, direct mail letters, brochures, product spec sheets, catalogs, etc.
MarketingSherpa Blog

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Bing Ads Editor now supports custom ad copy for native ads on MSN.com

Bing’s latest version of its desktop editor tool, Bing Ads Editor 11.2, supports custom copy development for native ads. Instead of creating one ad to be served in search and native ad placements, advertisers can now create ads specific to native placements on MSN.com in bulk using the tool….

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Does Your Copy Pass the ‘Forehead Slap’ Test?

how to craft compelling copy

One of the most repeated rules of writing compelling copy is to stress benefits, not features.

In other words, identify the underlying benefit that each feature of a product or service provides to the prospect, because that’s what will prompt the purchase.

This is one rule that always applies, except when it doesn’t.

We’ll look at the exceptions in a bit.

Fake benefits

The idea of highlighting benefits over features seems simple. But it’s often tough to do in practice.

Writers often end up with fake benefits instead.

Direct response copywriter Clayton Makepeace asserts that fake benefits will kill sales copy, so you have to be on the lookout for them in your writing. He uses this headline as an example:

Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!

That sounds pretty beneficial, doesn’t it? In reality, there’s not a single real benefit in the headline.

True benefits

Makepeace advises to apply his patented “forehead slap” test to see if your copy truly contains a benefit for the reader. In other words, have you ever woken up from a deep sleep, slapped yourself in the forehead, and exclaimed “Man … I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!”

I think not. So getting someone to pull out their wallet to buy that so-called “benefit” will be difficult at best.

Here’s how Makepeace identifies the real benefit hidden in that headline:

“Nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes.”

A high-risk person will want to avoid the terrible effects of diabetes. That is the true benefit that the example product offers.

How to extract true benefits

So, how do you successfully extract true benefits from features? Here’s a four-step process that works:

  1. Make a list of every feature of your product or service.
  2. Ask yourself why each feature is included in the first place.
  3. Take the “why” and ask “how” does this connect with the prospect’s desires?
  4. Get to the absolute root of what’s in it for the prospect at an emotional level.

Let’s look at a product feature for a fictional “read later” app.


“Contains an artificial intelligence algorithm.”

Why it’s there:

“Adds greater utility by adapting and customizing the user’s information experience.”

What’s in it for them:

“Keeps the data you need the most at the forefront when you’re in a hurry.”

Emotional root:

“Stay up-to-date on the things that add value to your life and career, without getting stressed out from information overload.”

Getting to the emotional root is crucial for effective consumer sales. But what about B2B prospects?

When features work

When selling to businesses or highly technical people, features alone can sometimes do the trick. Overtly pandering to emotions will only annoy them.

Besides, unlike consumers (who mostly “want” things rather than “need” them), business and tech buyers often truly need a solution to a problem or a tool to complete a task. When a feature is fairly well-known and expected from your audience, you don’t need to sell it.

However, with innovative features, you still need to move the prospect down the four-step path. While the phrase “contains an artificial intelligence algorithm” may be enough to get the tech-savvy reader salivating, he’ll still want to know how it works and what it does for him.

The “What’s in it for me?” aspect remains crucial.

For business buyers, you’re stressing “bottom line” benefits from innovative features. If you can demonstrate that the prospect will be a hero because your CRM product will save her company $ 120,000 a year compared to the current choice, you’ve got an excellent shot.

While that may seem like a no-brainer purchase to you, you’ll still need to strongly support the promised benefit with a detailed explanation of how the features actually deliver.

Remember, change can be scary to the business buyer, because it’s their job or small business on the line if the product disappoints.

Sell with benefits, support with features

We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are.

Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify after the fact with logic. So, first help create the emotional desire, then aid the rationalization process with features and hard data so that the wallet actually emerges.

Are you a writer who wants to become a Certified Content Marketer?

Inside our Content Marketer Certification program, we’ve got a lot more for writers.

We designed this program to help writers make the most of their careers — to help them position themselves and their offerings, so that they can build profitable freelance writing businesses.

And we’re opening the program soon. Drop your email address below and you’ll be the first to hear about it.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on February 19, 2014.

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Big Bums, Scuffles, and How to Craft Copy Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Write

dare to say what the others won't

Your biggest copy opportunity is this: your competitors are chickens.

They’re scared of saying something that gets noticed.

They’re scared of writing copy that sounds and looks different from what everyone else is publishing.

They’re terrified of stringing together line after line of notice-me copy that’s actually sticky enough to make visitors do a double-take. To stop bored eyes from rolling along aimlessly. To make busy people pause and take notice.

But what if taking a chance on unexpected copy could bring in, say, 124 percent more clicks? Or 26 percent more leads?

Can you tell these services apart from each other?

Have a look at the following copy from a handful of different sites trying to match people with clothes they’ll love wearing:

Images via truefit.com, dressipi.com, and fitbay.com.

Images via truefit.com, dressipi.com, and fitbay.com.

Based on the copy alone, can you tell those services apart from each other?

Do you know which one to choose, and why?

Do any of them make you want to switch from your current method of clothes shopping to their method? To go through the work of creating an account, filling in whatever as-yet-unseen massive forms they’ve got, and giving up all sorts of personal information along the way?

Now take a look below, and see if you notice anything different:

Images via truefit.com, dressipi.com, and fitbay.com.

Images via truefit.com, dressipi.com, and fitbay.com.

Did you see that?

The copy on the middle page uses words like “bum” and “boobs” in the headline. Here they are, side by side, for your comparing pleasure:

We A/B tested the Control and Variation B — and I’ll give you the results of that copy experiment in a second. But first things first.

What on earth compelled us to write a headline beginning with “Big bum?”

For starters, we knew we wanted to say something different. Period. This test was actually part of a bigger group of tests I did with Jen Havice called, “The Risky Copy Experiments.”

We wrote the headline for Variation B based entirely on the language used by the target audience, which is women who struggle to find clothes for their body types.

We pored over discussions in forums for plus-size women, and we found something that probably won’t surprise you: they talk about their bodies using real words, like “bum” and “boobs.” Because they’re human.

So, if our audience talks about themselves in a certain way, what is the risk for us talking to them using the same words?

We didn’t absolutely know the risk — and the whole point of the experiment was to push the envelope — so we tested it.

Plus, we replaced that tragically invisible “Sign up now” button copy with value-focused button copy: “Show me outfits I’ll love.”

The Control copy wasn’t taking risks or trying to be visible. Variation B’s copy was.

The result of our test? Variation B saw 124 percent more visitors click to sign up, with 99.9 percent confidence. The riskier, stickier copy was better for the business.

Risky copy is powerful because it breaks patterns

Science says that when you put on your shoes each morning, you do it the same way — but when you go on vacation, you might put on your shoes differently without even realizing it.

Once a pattern or habit changes, everything else can change too.

People become open to suggestion when a pattern is broken. That’s why a hypnotist might shake your hand in an unusual way to put you in a transderivational state. And that’s why the copy “300 pennies for 8 cards … which is a bargain!” sold twice as many cards as “$ 3 for 8 cards” in a study discussed here.

Because while the brain is busy processing a disrupted pattern, our copy actually stands a chance of sinking in.

Now, if you are one of those folks who believes you can’t test risky copy because B2B stands for “boring to boring,” check this out: studies show that the less exciting your product or service is, the more engaging your copy needs to be and the more personality it ought to have.

This 2005 study exposed people to six brands of bottled water (a rather boring product), with five brands possessing one of these five positive, human-like personalities: Sincere, Competent, Excited, Sophist, Rugged.

Researchers found that people were more likely to buy and three times more likely to recall the brands that had a human-like personality, compared to the neutral brand.

But what words should you use to express personality in your copy? I’d posit you should swipe them directly from your customers, as I discuss here, here, and everywhere I can.

Unusual and surprising words engage the brain

In addition, a 2013 study found that the words and phrases that reliably engage the brain, shaking us out of a state of mindless data consumption and compelling deep attention, are the very sort Shakespeare used.

They’re unusual and surprising.

Consider some of the following words Shakespeare is credited with coining or first writing down, with more here:

  • Scuffle
  • Multitudinous
  • Cold-blooded
  • Castigate
  • Clangor
  • Dwindle
  • Sanctimonious

Those are words crafted to be noticed.

As a copywriter, I rarely find myself crackin’ open my old Oxford Shakespeare. After all, single-syllable words meant for a fifth-to sixth-grade reading level are the norm online.

But maybe the likes of Shakespeare ought to inform our word selection. Marshall McLuhan likened the advertiser to the artist, saying both are in the business of grabbing attention:

“The concern of the advertiser is to make an effect. Any painter, any artist, musician sets out to create an effect. He sets a trap to catch someone’s attention.”

Shakespeare and copywriters have at least this in common: we’re all trying to grab attention and keep audiences engaged.

Shakespeare didn’t always hit the mark — risky copy doesn’t, either

The Risky Copy Experiments didn’t result in winners across the board. For every 124 percent lift on one site, there’s a drop on another. Sometimes copy that pushes us out of our comfort zones as marketers also pushes our prospects out of their comfort zones, and they bail on us.

But that’s why we test.

Because we want to grow our businesses. And study after study shows that going out on a limb with personality-filled, unexpected copy can work. Different copy can help you grow your business. You just have to find the right words. And stay on message.

For example, most travelers rank safety as their top consideration when flying, and all major U.S. airlines strive to be safe.

So, if you were going to test riskier copy for an airline, you wouldn’t veer from the safety message; rather, you’d express it in a way that your competitors wouldn’t think or dare to do. And, to be very clear, you’d A/B test it.

Last example

Take a look at the following copy pulled from the home pages of popular rehab centers:

Image via ranchrecovery.com.

Image via ranchrecovery.com.

When a person is at a point where they are considering rehabilitation, do you think they are likely to care to read about a center’s “balanced, congruent, and highly effective blah blah blah” or to learn about its “joint commission accredited OMG I don’t care?”

We thought not. So, as we showed here, we looked online for how addicts, recovering addicts, and their families talk about battling addiction. The words and phrases they use. We stumbled upon this language in a book review on Amazon:

“If you think you need rehab, you do.”

Intrigued by how different that statement sounded from anything we were reading on rehab center websites, we tested it as a headline against the control, “Your addiction ends here.”

Image via beachway.com.

Images via beachway.com.

The result: Variation B saw more than 400 percent more clicks to sign up and 26 percent more completed lead submissions.

So, what might you gain by testing copy your competitors wouldn’t?

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The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (and How to Beat It)

easy ways to send the trolls away

What makes people almost buy?

What makes them get most of the way there and then drop out of your shopping cart at the last second?

What makes them stare at your landing page, wanting what you have to offer, and yet, ultimately, close the page and move on to something else?

It turns out there’s a hideous troll hiding under the bridge. Every time you get close to making a sale, the troll springs out and scares your prospect away. Get rid of the troll and your copy will start converting better than it ever has before.

The ugly, smelly, dirty, bad-mannered troll is prospect fear.

And it’s sitting there right now, stinking up your landing page and scaring good customers away.

Fear of wasting money

Remember when you were a kid and you went to that rinky-dink carnival that came through town? After eating all the cotton candy you could manage — and throwing it all back up again on the Tilt-a-Whirl — you checked out something called the midway.

Remember that persuasive fellow who convinced you to spend a whole month’s allowance throwing softballs at those damned milk bottles?

It looked so easy. He showed you exactly how to do it. Toss the softball, knock over the milk bottle, win a cool stuffed animal for a prize. Simple.

You spent quarter after quarter trying to do it yourself.

When all your quarters were gone, you got an inkling. It looked easy, but if you were actually standing at the throw line, it was pretty close to impossible. Now the carnival guy had all your money, and you didn’t even have an ugly green plush monkey to show for it.

The troll is born.

Fear of mockery

When the sting of the carnival wore off, you were innocently minding your own business and ran across an ad for a fascinating product called Sea-Monkeys.

They were little people! With tails! They looked pretty awesome on the cover of the package. You begged your parents to get them for you and told everybody you knew. Your little brother. Your best friend. Your entire third-grade class.

This was going to be so cool. The ad said you could even teach them to do tricks. You planned on getting them medicine, vitamins, special formulas, everything they needed to be the happiest pets ever.

You followed the instructions to the letter. You waited breathlessly. You told anyone and everyone how amazing this was going to be.

It turns out Sea-Monkeys are just brine shrimp. In no way do they resemble little people. They resemble fish food, which is what they are.

Your little brother, your best friend, and your entire third-grade class now thought you were an idiot. And they delighted in letting you know that at every opportunity.

The troll gets a little bigger.

Fear of feeling stupid

Every time we’re betrayed by a sleazy salesperson, we toughen up just a little. The troll grows. Our mistrust grows and our inclination to believe shrinks.

And then a content marketer shows up with a helpful article or podcast episode that will solve a problem that’s been really bothering us. Let’s call that content marketer … you.

We want to believe you. We want to get the benefit from what you have to offer. We want to have something — anything — work out the way it was promised.

We would love to be able to trust our own judgment.

But the troll keeps whispering in our ear, with his truly horrendous breath, how stupid we’re going to feel when we fall for that again.

How to kill the troll

Trustworthiness, lots of high-value content, and just plain old decency are your best weapons to combat the troll.

Everything on your site needs to show you can be trusted: Real contact information. Your photograph. Thorough responses to FAQs. Clear, reasonable calls to action.

Every detail matters, including hosting your site on your own domain and publishing content on a consistent schedule. Everything you do needs to build trust and kill the troll.

Unless you sell to 10-year-olds, your prospect has likely been kicked around many times by unscrupulous (or incompetent) businesses. Give the prospect any tiny reason to mistrust you and memories of all those wretched old experiences come back.

There’s an old joke that a second marriage is the triumph of optimism over experience. In fact, that’s exactly what happens every time you make a sale, especially to someone who hasn’t done business with you before.

So, let’s declare war on the trolls.

Prove you’re extraordinarily trustworthy by demonstrating your value, putting your customers first, and keeping your promises.

The troll is tough and hard to kill. But with dedication and commitment, we can chase him off once and for all.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on May 29, 2009.

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