Simple Long Copy Advice

The other day I was speaking with my friend Ray Justice regarding long copy. For those that don’t know, copy is any words and text used in written material. When it comes to copy there always seems to be a raging debate about the length of copy. In my conversation with Ray we debated the pluses and minuses of long copy.

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David Ogilvy's "Secret Weapon" for Advertising Success

In a continuation of this week’s Ogilvy feature I’ve dug up the following video.  Instead of pontificating on Ogilvy’s best advice, I thought it best to let the man speak for himself. The video above is at least 30+ years old,  yet Ogilvy’s advice is timeless.  He built his ultra successful agency, Ogilvy & Mather, on direct response marketing.  He considered direct response marketing his “first love and secret weapon.”

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$1.48 Billion of Marketing and Advertising Advice ...

One of my marketing mentors, Eben Pagan, talks about delivering massive value when engaging your prospect.  Eben is also a very big fan of David Ogilvy. Way back when, Ogilvy created an ad that was full of some of his best insight on advertising. Ogilvy gave away FREE advertising secrets that cost his firm $4.9 million dollars to learn.

What follows below, (if implemented) can take you business/event to a completely new level ...


Ogilvy_ad_small

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Promotional Headlines for Your Event Marketing

Over the years I’ve seen numerous advertisements, posters, and billboards promoting various events.  They've run the gamut from very simple, just a headline and a call to action, to overly detail oriented, trying to fit in every possible piece of information into a small space.

The first place people usually start reading advertisements is from the top down.  A strong relevant headline is one of the oldest advertising techniques to capture a reader’s attention. If you do manage to come up with a really great headline, you can use it across multiple forms of advertising.

What Your Headline Needs to Do
Knowing your target market will greatly assist you in writing powerful headlines. If you’re going to write a headline to promote your event, make sure it really resonates with your target market. It needs to be in a language that your target market understands and in a way that evokes an emotional response.

Recently, I found some information that can assist you in writing better headlines for your event.  In a copywriting course presented by Bob Bly, he outlines what he calls the 4 “U’s.” You ask yourself a series of four simple questions that pertain to your headline. Then rate each question on a 1 – 4 scale.  One being the worst, Four being the best. You want to strive to get 4s across the board. 

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Does Your Headline Grab Their Undivided Attention?

What’s one of the most powerful marketing elements in print?  I humbly present to you the “Headline.” Over the year’s I’ve done a decent amount of research on the importance of headline writing and the impact it can have on your marketing. Headlines might be more powerful than the visual elements for a piece of print or online advertising.

The Power of Headlines

It's been shown that 70-75% of the reason that a person chooses to read a magazine article or newspaper article is based solely on the headline. Many magazines are sold by virtue of headlines on the front cover. Next time you’re in front of a magazine rake pickup your favorite magazine and look at the cover. In almost every case the cover of the magazine is inundated with article headlines from that issue.

How does this apply to your event advertising?

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Get Your Audience Involved Through Their Emotions

Last week I had the opportunity to do some brain storming with a new client. They were looking to create a promotion for their fitness center.  In my client's case the operative ad concepts were "pizza" and "fitness." My client was starting a new promotion with a local pizza company.  The headline of the ad was "Worried Your Pizza with End Up Here?" with several arrows pointing to a female cartoon figure's derriere. 

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Words with Pizzazz and Razzle Dazzle . . .

During a recent visit to a local shopping mall I ran across this intriguing advertisement:
Flavor-Infused All Beef Delicacy Complemented by a Hand-Crafted Golden Brown Crust.” That is one heck of a way to describe a plan old corn dog.  A few moments later I thought to myself “I wonder if the advertisement would actually entice anyone.” 50 feet later I had my answer, there was a gentleman consuming a “Flavor-Infused All Beef Delicacy.”

Words make a world of difference in how consumers interpret your product or service online.  Aside from the actual copy itself, which is tremendously important, two places everyone should pay close attention to are headlines and link titles. Headlines and link titles represent your first salvo of user enticement.

Are you hooking your reader's interest?

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The Most Powerful Form of Online Advertising (Part II)

The Most Powerful Form of Online Advertising ... continued ...

Creating Traffic
Compelling high quality content drives traffic to web sites and can encourage users to return on a regular basis. Two facets of traffic generation are high quality content and search engine optimization.

High quality content can come in the written form of articles, e-zines, ebooks, and white papers.  Dr. Joe Vitale brings up the following as it pertains to online articles, "write articles that answer problems and distribute them online. This builds credibility and if they're truly useful people will make them viral.” Successful people online produce high quality content on a regular basis. Publishing content three to five times a week is one of the simplest ways to get better rankings in the search engines.

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The Most Powerful Form of Online Advertising (Part I)

Copywriting_event_marketingWhat is the most powerful form of online advertising? The previous question challenges almost every business owner or event organizer with a web site. 

Most Internet marketers would respond with any or all of the following suggestions: SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Banner Ads, Video, and plenty more. A compelling argument could be made for any of the items previously listed as being the best form of online advertising. 

Yet there is one fundamental which is the root of almost every form of online advertising, the ability to write compelling copy or copywriting. Copywriting is the distinct discipline of being able to compel people to action through the use of the written word. Copywriting should not be confused with Copyrighting, or protecting one's intellectually property. Whenever you advertise, carefully consider the words you're using. 

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Finer Typography Points

As a follow up to last week’s post Watch Your Typography, I came across an article getting into research around the use of typefaces and readability. The article points to research conducted by the Wichita State University Software Usability Research Laboratory.  The research provided given some scientific insight into user interaction with type.

Check this out ...

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Watch Your Typography

Have you ever misinterpreted something that should have been completely obvious?  Earlier today I was out for a meal with my friend Mike.  When it comes to typography Mike, the graphic designer, is always one to take notice of the finer details.  Graphic designers have a unique perspective when it comes to anything involving design. After quickly taking notice of something unusual, Mike asked me to read an ad from the placemat in front of me. It was a great lesson in the art of typography. 

"With great power there must also come great responsibility" said Uncle Ben to Peter Parker. The analogy can be used for how type is displayed.  Anyone can completely change the meaning or feel of a group of words just by using a different type of placement, font, or style.

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Web Copy Argument: Short or Long?

Opposite Sides of the Fence
How many times have you visited a web site and found the text to be long winded? There is a fine line between long winded copy and compelling copy.  This subject area is one place where direct marketing principals and usability somewhat conflict with one another.  Each discipline has its advantages and you can use both to your advantage. 

The Web Usability Argument
From a usability standpoint you should try to keep your copy as short and concise as possible.  Make sure that the copy is easy to get through for the user.  Use bullet points and short simple sentences.  That’s always been good standards from the web usability world.  Years ago, when I first came across some of the long copy web sites it was easy to point out all the usability issues.  A few years later I’m left questioning some of my own standards.

The Direct Marketing Argument
As a result of first hand experience, I've seen the virtues of long copy.  It goes against some usability standards, specifically those that call upon web site owners to keep their copy short and to the point.
It’s difficult to argue against results.  One person I know has a long copy web site and he’s doing tremendously well.  He is one of many whom I’ve studied.  How can you argue against long copy if helps you build an email database of over 40,000 opt-in email addresses and over a hundred thousand dollars in revenue in a few short years?

Another fun Dan Kennedy example to drive home the point …
”I was once having lunch with a client of mine and with a guy who was trying to sell my client on joining a new advertising co-op. The co-op guy spent ten minutes criticizing my client’s current ad, telling him it was too cluttered, had too much copy, and so on. When he finally shut up, my client innocently responded: Well, maybe you’re right. It only pulls an eight-times return on investment.”

Source: Kennedy, The Ultimate Marketing Plan

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The Content King of the Internet

How many times have you heard the old cliché “Content is King” on the Internet?  A majority of content is in the form of text.  Users can’t do much on a page that doesn’t contain words.  “Click Here, Buy Now, Play, etc.” are just a few examples. Text is the simplest yet most powerful asset to any web site.  Contrary to what some people may tell you, words are still the foundation of online communication. Are you making the most of the words you use?

“The Internet Will Make Libraries Obsolete”
Years ago a number of people predicted doom and gloom for the book industry as the Internet grew in popularity.  They said libraries would go dark and bookstores would be a thing of the past. Better content would be available online.  Online you have a full range of multimedia, from music to online videos. A book is just a bunch of words and maybe some pictures. Contrary to some predictions both bookstores and libraries are thriving.  In fact, one could argue libraries and bookstores have become more popular as a result of the Internet. It comes back to words. Today you can download digital versions of a number of popular books.  But, when is the last time you read a digital novel?

Words Are Still Extremely Popular and Very Profitable

Some of the most popular sites on the Internet are primary text based.  News web sites and Blogs are just two examples. If all the videos, sounds, and pictures were taken away would users stop visiting a news web site?

Several companies are cashing in on text.  An Adwords advertisement is probably the most unassuming piece of adverting on the face of the Earth.  But Google makes billions of dollars annually from just text.

The power of the pen has been replaced with the keystroke.  Yet it’s still black and white to the user.  The power of words isn’t going to fade any time soon. Those who can craft compelling copy stand a much better chance of online success.

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Keep Your Text Columns Narrow

Today I ran across a few web pages with wide text columns.  The experience reemphasized a simple usability principal anyone can follow. It is in your best interest to keep text columns on your web site narrow.

Wide Text Columns
Imagine reading a newspaper in which the text column ran the entire width of the page. A full width column would make newspaper reading extremely difficult.  Now imagine the same scenario on your computer screen.  Our eyes already get tired much easier from reading off a computer screen.  Wide online columns are difficult to read.

Higher Resolutions and More Information
With screen resolutions getting higher and more monitors becoming wide screen the challenge is going to be presenting information effectively. There are a number of web sites that are designed for screen widths of 1024 pixels and higher.  How much information can you display onscreen at one time before a user gets lost?  In the coming years it will be interesting to see if users can keep up with the trend of higher resolution designs.

A History Lesson

We can look to history to give us a time proven example for column width. Pick up any newspaper and take notice of column width.  Each news story is broken down into narrow columns of text.  Have you ever seen a newspaper where the text column ran the full length of a page?  Narrow columns have been used for hundreds of years.  There is good reason for this. It is far easier for us to read and comprehend text that is in narrow columns.  The same standard can be found in the magazine industry. 

Make it easier for users to read your site, keep your text columns narrow.

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Is Your Text the Right Color?

Everyone should know some fundamentals about online copywriting.  It is a very vast topic area. For today, I'll concentrate on one particular aspect: text color.  There are a plethora of web sites that aren't sticking to basic online text standards:  specifically, text color in relation to background color.

Online Reading Issues
Remember that you put significantly more strain on human eyes when reading text off a computer screen.  Unlike a book, our eye must interpret light coming from the screen. Because of this, you need to keep your text as easy to read as possible.  One of the easiest ways to ensure better readability of your site is by choosing the right text and background colors. Seems logical, right? It's amazing how often people deviate from logic!

Watch Out for RED on Dark Backgrounds
If you are using text on a light colored background, make sure that text has enough contrast.  Use dark text on a light colored background.  The same applies for dark colors.  If you have a dark colored image or web site use light colored text. The more contrast between colors, the easier it is to read.

Red_text_dark_background_2 One particular color to watch out for is red.  My understanding is the color red is difficult for the human eye to detect because of the particular spectrum of light.  (Consider the example to the right.)

Make sure you don't use red colored fonts on dark backgrounds.  Recently we had a client insist on red fonts on a dark background.  (The client's always, right ... right?) In my professional opinion, the client made a poor decision to use red text and it not only dilutes the quality of their site, but it makes it nearly impossible to read.

Always mind your text color. This applies to both online and traditional advertising. Make sure you provide your reader with text that minimizes eye strain and maximizes readability.

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Using 40 Million Dollar Words

Recently, an old web project came up in discussion.  Like any web site you work on, you learn something about a client and their services.  One would think after 25 hours of web development and reviewing a client's thoroughly their copy that I could tell other people about this client. In fact I can tell people what field the client specializes in, but I can't tell you any other details. Their web site copy was so far above my head, that I don't fully understand what services they offer.(My genius has been questioned by a few people - including myself - but still.)

Too many company web sites use "corporate verbiage" or other high end vocabulary for their web copy.  Remember that the user might not always use the same words or phrasing.  Web writing, like your web site, should be clear, concise, and simple.  There is no benefit in writing above the average comprehension of your users. In most cases being a vocabulary scholar confuses users and makes retaining information from your site difficult.   How many sites do you visit regularly because the writing is extraordinary?   I'm guessing not very many, if any at all.  You probably visit sites that provide high quality content.

Your site will keep people coming back if it offers high quality content that is easy to read.  Use a conversational style of writing.  Be informative and interesting at the same time.

Additional Resource:
Lower-Literacy Users

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Proofing your Work On Paper

There I was ... in the beautiful town of Hasselt, Belgium.  If anyone is looking for a nice getaway just east of Brussels, this is the place to go!  In the middle of winter the smell of Belgian waffles fills the streets.   On weekends, people from all over Europe come to Hasselt's wonderful boutiques to shop.

I was in Hasselt to keynote at the European Air Show Council Convention.   After my presentation, I was feeling really good about the information delivered to the delegates.  A British gentleman approached me afterward with a few comments.  He pointed out an error on one of my slides.  My first reaction was, "is this guy joking with me!?!?"  My presentation had been proofed several times. "There couldn't be any mistakes."  But, there was indeed a grammatical error on one of my slides.  It was an embarrassing moment.  I spent weeks preparing my presentation. It had been double, triple, and quadruple checked.  How did I miss such an obvious mistake?

Has something similar ever happened to you?   Or, have you launched a brand new web site, only to have someone email you about a mistake?  It happens far more often than we'd like to admit.

I believe the problem is that too many people try to proof their work on the computer screen.  Our eyes are not optimized to proof materials on a monitor. Computer screens induce significantly more strain on our eyes.

What's the solution?   Proof your articles, web sites, or presentations on paper.  Print a hard copy, grab a pen, and check your work.  I can read something a dozen times on the screen and completely miss a simple mistake.  When I check it on paper, it's much easier to detect errors.

Be sure you build redundancy into your proofing.  After you've completed any corrections, enlist the help of friends.  Send friends an email and let them check over your work.   In many cases, your friends will take some time out of their work to help.  For them, it might be a nice break from their daily routine.  Your friends are looking at your work with a fresh set of eyes.  When you look at something too many times, it becomes routine and you easily miss mistakes.

In conclusion, be sure you review a hard copy version of your work.  After you've completed your review, get some friends to help you double check the work.  In doing so, you can probably save yourself some embarrassment in the future.

Additional Resource:

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