Rule #3: You must include a call to action.
Okay, that's 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:
- You must determine exactly what action you want people to take, and
- You must provide a reason why people should take that action.
Isn't "Buy now" exactly the action you want? Not necessarily. Think about what exactly it is that you're 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's important to understand that all 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're all very important. If they're not as direct as possible, telling visitors specifically what to do, they'll be useless.
For example, if you have a button labeled "Sales," you're doing nothing but confusing your visitors, leaving them guessing whether you're 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're now asking visitors to take an action--to order your product. This clarifies the purpose of the button and tells the visitor what to do to get your product. Another example: Instead of writing "E-mail," you could ask visitors to "Contact Us." Again, you're asking visitors to take a specific action.
Of course, you won't 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." So in this case, you'd just want to make sure your 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 to 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. Something like this will win out every time over "Buy now":
|"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 your money back!"|
Rule #4: You must pay attention to layout.
Making the most of your layout is especially important when you're writing short 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 certainly not be the main feature of your webpage, 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.
So let's try to find a happy medium, emphasizing without crowding:
|Subscribe to our FREE "Potato Farmer's" Newsletter|
Subscribe today to the FREE "Potato Farmer's" newsletter, 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 highest profits! 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 expenses while dramatically increasing your annual income!
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Catchy, effective and professional in appearance, this version draws your attention and doesn't distract you from the information it contains once you're there. The ad is clearly laid out and easy to read. The title is underlined and in blue, as is the link. (This is the standard way to handle links, and it lets the viewers know they can link to the sign-up page from either place.) Giving readers two chances to link through to your sign-up will always work better than one.
I've used only subtle formatting tricks to provide emphasis while keeping the ad visually appealing. The title of the newsletter is in quotation marks to give it additional emphasis. 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 the main benefits of the newsletter--reduce your expenses and dramatically increase your annual income--are italicized and strategically placed right before the call to action.
Because the call to action comes at the end of the ad, it is supported by all that came before it. And because it is the last bit of text and it is in blue, the viewer's eye is effectively drawn through the ad after being attracted by the title.
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 a 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 had to format our ad in text, 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
Secrets for selling your crops for the HIGHEST PROFITS!
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 EXPENSES while dramatically INCREASING YOUR ANNUAL INCOME!
Visit http://www.PotatoFarmers.com to subscribe!
Because we don't have the option of hyperlinking the text, effectively highlighting it in blue, I've moved the capitalized "FREE" to the beginning of the title 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). I've capitalized the benefits that were italicized in the HTML version and added a few more benefits to make the ad as eye-catching as possible. The general rule in text is to capitalize whatever you would have bolded or italicized in HTML, but be careful with your use of caps--they're difficult to read if used excessively.
So now that you know the secrets of fitting high-impact copy into small spaces, I'll let you in on another little secret . . . there's a lot more to learn! 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 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.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com as "Writing High-Impact Copy for Your Site."