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Writing good ad copy

     
5:36 pm on Sep 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Anyone have any good online resources for learning to write good ad copy? My interest is to hone descriptions to create an interest to buy or click through while avoiding unsubstantiated hype. My desire is to be able to express how a product, service, or information source is the answer to the problem the searcher is trying to solve. There are so many poor descriptions out there, I want to capitalize on Brett's advice via Ness to "write a killer description".

Thanks --
Jim

5:53 pm on Sept 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Jim, try this one [useit.com] for a start
10:13 pm on Sept 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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>Anyone have any good online resources for learning to write good ad copy?
>"write a killer description"

I think the best resource is the SE results themselves, run a few searches and see what attracts you. As important is the use of the title to attract the "eye" to your listing, then you can use the description to draw the click.

10:20 pm on Sept 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Thanks guys. I have been surprised to see the lack of good marketing in descriptions and titles. I don't do much looking at results (a weakness I know) but those I have checked are very poor. Even checking Goto where you would think the quality would be higher is still relatively unattractive. This seems like a huge area of growth in the internet marketplace.
10:30 pm on Sept 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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JamesR, when written 'to catch an eye' on the return page, I pay more attention to the Title and Url. And here's a character that I KNOW brings in the clicks; ">" ...so much so that editors will almost always edit it out.
11:09 pm on Sept 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Sorry RC, I don't quite follow. I have never seen that character anywhere and can't understand why it would produce clicks (maybe something deeply embedded in our psyche that character triggers ;))?
11:17 pm on Sept 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

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>something deeply embedded
I think it's part that and part the 'white space' that surrounds this character when it's in a title.

Directories let it in (sometimes).

5:07 am on Sept 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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FLAVAH WORDS
These are my ace in the hole. You know what most descriptions, heck most COPY, reads like. It's corporate speak, dry as dust, no spark at all. When you want eyeballs, you can't imitate the crowd. You got to have FLAVAH! Some flash, some style.

I've found that using one unique word at the beginning of your description pulls in the clicks. The word should be commonly known, short, but not bled dry by overuse.

Good "flavah words" will vary with the topic of the site, but most of all they should be just a little unexpected. Some examples I've had success in descriptions this year are: "Elegant" "Savvy" "Spunky"

Words that have the less frequently used letters in them (V-K-J-X-Q-Z) are also good at jumping off the monitor.

STUDY THE MASTERS
I find that magazine covers are a great source of inspiration. Those writers must do a very similar job of grabbing attention to what we must do in our titles and descriptions. Next time you're in line at the supermarket...

CODE BLUE
If the overall shape of the letters resembles an off-color word, that helps too. For instance, depending what font the word "flick" is displayed in, it can be very adult! Words ending in "...uck" all seem to be eye-magnets.

K-I-S-S
One other tip on all copy -- if you're not familiar with Strunk and White's "Elements of Style", get a copy. If you have it, blow the dust off and give it 3 minutes a day. This book was advising good web copy principles before even the Arpanet was created. It's been my best buddy for 40 years.

5:46 am on Sept 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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geez, tedster... great post, but now my tidbit sure does look skimpy!
4:29 pm on Sept 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Strunk and White! Never would I have thought to see that name on this board. The book was my nemesis in Frosh. Comp, but I do still have a beat up copy, it is a great little tool.
6:12 pm on Sept 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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One of the best ad copy, advertising books is "Tested
Advertising Methods" by John Caples.

Go to your library or get a copy for about $5.00
at half.com

6:39 pm on Sept 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Reynolds, and welcome to WmW.
10:38 pm on Sept 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Caples! Thats' a nice call, Reynolds. You're talking one of the great gods in the copy writer's pantheon.

Any copy writer who works in a field where results are actually TESTED knows the difference between copy that sells and so-called "creative". I venture to say that over 50% of the dough spent on copy today is wasted on poorly done "image" campaigns and other such nonsense. Art, maybe. Commerce, no way.

Direct mail resources are a treasure trove of information about how to create killer web sites. For instance, the trade magazine "Direct" is a great resource, and free subscriptions are easy to get. I read every issue cover to cover (www.directmag.com [directmag.com]).

Direct marketing already has fifty years of data built up in testing their marketing methods, and all that testing makes direct marketers some of the sharpest commercial users of the internet. About two years ago I worked on the website for the biggest direct advertising house on the East Coast. These guys changed my sense of the web forever.

This gives me an idea for description meta tags that I never thought of trying, but it should work. Direct marketers know that questions are attention grabbers. Why not start a description with a question?

8:49 pm on Nov 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Magazines live and die on the rack, based on the "headline copy" on their covers. Study them. ;)
9:01 pm on Nov 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Yes, I've noticed that magazines really know what words grab their target reader's attention. For example, women's mags often focus on words like "him", "intimate", "beauty". Men's mags on "sex", "power", "money". Tabloids on "bizarre", "secret", "untold" -- plus the never ending flavor-of-the-month celebrity names.

These guys have been in keyword business for a long time and really are inside their market's head.

3:57 am on Nov 26, 2000 (gmt 0)

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<<It's been my best buddy for 40 years. >>
Thanks Tedster, its nice to know that I am not the only older "whatever I am" out here.
I have "The Elements of Style" and "Tested Advertising Methods" on order.
I am looking forward to the enlightenment.
11:23 am on Nov 26, 2000 (gmt 0)

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Hi

Thanks for great input, allready on my way to the bookstore :)

One good book, dealing with semiotics, codes, signs and signification is John Fiske "Introduction to communication studies".

Especially if you write descriptions for "sub cultures" or as an european SEO, write descriptions (in english) for differnt local markets.

Cognition of words differs a lot based on the context, ie. in the ongoing presidental election "show" the words "government" "justice" "peoples voice" will have differnt meanings depending on wheter you're a democrat or a republican.

Tedsters question strategy allso works for me, likewise surprices and "turning things upside down" is a good approach: "Corrupt a pure orange juice" (vodka add)

6:49 pm on Apr 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

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It's time to drag this thread out from under the pile.

I read this a few weeks ago and have started to use some of the things I've read here - they seem to be working!

(I've only been tracking results for a week, so I don't want to jump to conclusions. I'll update in a month or so)

I've changed a number of titles and descriptions for various keywords at GoTo.
-I've made my descriptions active.
-I'm wrting about benefits
-Using a few 'flavah' words. Thanks, Tedster.
-I've used some different characters, also. Thanks, rcjordan.

Not only do they seem to be working, I'm thoroughly enjoying writing them, as well.

Thanks to everyone who contributed here.

One more thing. I've use this ~ character in a few titles, I think it may be a good one. example-

Disney World ~ Mickey Mouse ~

7:18 pm on Apr 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Ah, yes, the tilde. Thanks for that observation Mona. I agree with you, it has its own flavah!
7:46 pm on Apr 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

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I like the tilde alot and use it to accent text in the body of the page such as
~click here [webmasterworld.com]~
but I don't use it in title tags and urls, I vaguely recall spiders not indexing urls with tildes in them and expanded that to include titles as a precaution.]
~~~~~~~~
3:45 pm on May 1, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Here is a great report for about $20 that i bought. It has helped me quite a bit.

[myws.sitesell.com...]

It is called make your words sell.

And no - I am not an affiliate.

5:32 pm on May 1, 2001 (gmt 0)

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Off topic.
Oil said
>I vaguely recall spiders not indexing urls with tildes...

Currently, I have some tilde pages, created for testing purposes, that have sat in various databases, without a problem. AV, Google, Ink.

typophile

9:38 pm on May 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

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>You know what most descriptions, heck most COPY, reads like. It's corporate speak, dry as dust, no spark at all...

Reminds me of the Dilbert mission statement randomizer. Don't use 'utilize' when you just mean 'use'.

12:53 am on May 10, 2001 (gmt 0)

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In the middle of a site rebuild here... Glad this thread floated back up to the top! I've left all my <heads> blank while I work on the layout... so I'll definitely have to go to town on the descriptions. I'll stop back here and let everyone know what the results are looking like when everything goes live (and gets indexed... so it could be a while;) )

I've also found, in lieu of dusting off Strunk & White... the AP Style Guide is invaluable for headline/title and short paragraph construction. Newspapers have the same 'gotta sell off the rack' pressure that magazines do... and the AP guide is *the* reference for newspaper conventions.

 

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