What is the purpose of the ad?
The purpose of a classified ad is simply to get the reader to take the next logical step. In most cases,
you will want the reader to click to your web site. Your site may provide reams of information, or perhaps
you prefer a lead generation approach that asks the reader for their contact details before you reveal
Either way, your ad has one job and one job only. That job is to SELL THE CLICK.
If the reader doesn’t click on your ad NOW, you will have lost an opportunity to make a sale. You have
about seven words and three seconds to get their attention or the ballgame’s over!
They won’t read it twice.
That’s why, as you will see, the headline is so very important.
One important factor to remember is that the purpose of your ad should rarely be to sell the
Trying to sell your product using a small ad (compared to the words one can use on a website) is called
one-step marketing. One-step marketing is most effective for products where there is already a
perceived value and you have some competitive edge, like price.
For example, let s say you sell Michelin tires. In addition, let s say you have the best price ever on
Michelin tires. Even Wal-Mart can t touch your price. Under this scenario, it would make sense to write an
ad that touts your low price since you only want to reach people who want to buy Michelin tires.
Taking people who respond to your ad directly to an order page, instead of a sales page, would work
because they don t need to be sold on the tires. They just need to order.
Over the years, it has been proven that a two-step process works best for most products, and that a
two-step process works very well on the Internet. Most of the ads you’ve responded to are probably
using a two-step method.
Using a two-step method you use the ad to create an interest (or curiosity) about your product, then
take the reader to your website where your web copy makes the sale. That s why we say that the job of
the ad is to sell the click. All that matters is that the person clicks to your website. If they click, your
ad did its job!
Now that you know something about the two methods of writing ads, let s look at the mechanics of how
to write a great ad.
The Three Elements of a Great Ad
A great ad contains three essential elements. While they are to be thought of as separate elements, it is when they flow together that you create a great ad.
Best of all, you can often mix and match these three elements from your most successful ads to create a
The three parts of a great ad are…
1. The Headline
2. The Body
3. The Call to Action
You have about seven words, or three seconds, to get people to stop scanning and read your ad. Once
they pass it up, they won’t come back and read it. In light of this, your headline must grab attention
while being honest to the rest of your ad.
NOTE: Some people use sensational headlines with no relationship to their offer in order to grab
attention. We don’t recommend this approach because integrity is what sells best long term. Why tell
them you lack integrity with the first words they ever read from you?
One example is the word free. If you really do offer valuable, free information there s nothing wrong with
saying so. But if you consider the copy on your website to be that free information, as opposed to a free
eBook for example, you will create disappointment in the mind of your reader if you use the word free.
Be accurate and specific, especially when creating expectation and you can t go wrong!
Here are some ideas to help you write a great headline.
Help them immediately understand your offer.
Begin each sentence with an action word.
Use words like NOW, YOU, MONEY, or FEEL.
Show your sense of humor.
Use all caps in the headline only.
Ask a question.
Psychologists tell us there are only two things that motivate people to action. Those two are fear of
loss and promise of gain. Whether these are the only two or not, they are certainly powerful and should
be part of every headline. Appealing to ego also works well.
People love to be the first on the block to own a new invention yet hate to take risks. Consider your audience before you choose how to motivate them.
Remember, the headline is the ad for your ad. You are using those 5 to 7 words only to sell the reader
on reading the rest of the ad.
To help you get a feel for what a great headline looks like, consider these samples. Each of these
headlines has stood the test of time. Many of them have been partly responsible for the sale of literally
millions of dollars worth of products.
The Secret of Making People Like You
Do You Make These Mistakes In English?
You Can Laugh At Money Worries – If You Follow This Simple Plan
When Doctors “Feel Rotten” This Is What They Do
How I Improved My Memory In One Evening
Often A Bridesmaid, Never A Bride
The Most Expensive Mistake Of Your Life
Do you see how each of these proven headlines is brief yet makes you want to know more? Creating
curiosity is perhaps the best headline writing technique.
Start a Swap File
One last tip before we move on. Almost all professional copywriters use what is called a swap file .
Sometimes called a swipe file , this file is simply a collection of headlines that you find over time as
you read web copy, classified ads, ezine ads and more.
Creating your own swap file is easy. Start a word processing document you can open with a moment s
notice. Then when you notice a headline that catches your attention, make a copy and put it in the file.
Then when you need a great headline, use the headlines you collected as idea starters. We would
never recommend that you copy a headline word for word, but using a great headline, like the ones
above, to stimulate your thinking will help you write your greatest headlines quickly and easily.
The Body Copy
The body of the ad is the place to sell them on why they should click through. The key to writing
great body copy is benefits.
People who read your ads will care about one thing what s in it for them!
The more your ad tells them, very clearly, what they will get from your product or service, the more they
will click on your ad and buy your products!
Does your offer help them save time? Tell them that. Does it help them make more money? Tell them!
What benefit will they get by making that click? What return on their investment of time will they
receive by going to your site or getting your email? If you don’t answer that question, you won’t properly
set up the next step, called the call to action.
Here’s an easy formula to decide what to put in the body of your ad.
List all the features of your product or service then, next to them, list the benefits of those features. You
must write at least one benefit for each feature, or don’t use that feature. People buy what your product or
service will do for them, not only what it will do.
Our software will help automate your daily tasks (feature), which means you will have more free time.
(Benefit) (They’re buying free time, not automation.)
The key step in writing great body copy is to list all the benefits that your product or service offers and
choose the top two or three to place in the body of the ad. Remember to write them as benefit
statements using action words.
One challenge with short ads is that they don’t offer you much room. This means you will have to trim,
trim and trim again. Here’s an easy way to do that.
Write your ad with no concern to how many words you use. Strike through or delete unnecessary words.
Remember that you can use fragments in ads. Short sentences are OK. Get the point?
Now count your words. If you are way off count, limit yourself to one benefit instead of two. Keep working
until you have a powerful ad that clearly states benefits that people want.
When you finish you should have about three to five lines of text that clearly state what benefit you
can expect to receive from the product or service being promoted.\
The Call to Action
This is a critical part of the ad. Don t skimp on paying attention to how you ask someone to take
At first blush, it seems like a simple click here will do. And that s where many online marketers make their
mistake. Their headline creates curiosity. Their body copy lists the benefits people want. But their call to
action leaves the reader with the feeling that they are about to be cheated or conned, and that spells
disaster for any ad.
The person reading your ad decides at this moment whether or not to click through, so saying the right
thing is vital. What this means to you is that you must keep the call to action simple and make it the
next logical step. It’s often good to add a qualifier to the call to action by asking a question which can be
answered by clicking.
Such a question (using the example above) might be…
Want to save time today? Click the link below.
Or you could write it like this
Click the link below to save time today!
Where possible add an action word that convinces the reader to take action now.
HOT TIP: The best formula for writing a compelling call to action statement is to restate the main benefit.
Let s say that your product is one that saves time for the customer. In your body copy, you tied saving
time (the feature) to spending more time with the family (the benefit). A call to action statement like Click
here to begin spending more time with your family today! would work well.
As with every aspect of online marketing, testing is the key to success. Each element of your ad, the
headline, body copy, and call to action, deserve a thorough test. Once you find a great headline, use it
with several different sounding ads to see which pulls the best result.
Of course, it s vital that you use an ad tracker to determine which ads pull the best results.
Using the simple techniques above you should be able to fashion an ad that works well and produces
consistent profits. As with all advertising, you must test, test and test again to know what works.
One more quick list. Once you have your ad written, be sure and do the following. We do this with every
ad we run and it has saved us time and embarrassment. We hope it does the same for you.
Pay close attention to capitalization and punctuation.
Use a spell checker but don’t trust it completely. Proof read your ad!
Format your ad to 65 character hard return.
Turn off word wrapping when you write your ad.
Email the ad to yourself to see how it will look.
Click on each link yourself to make sure they work.
PROOF READ several times.
Have someone else read your ad.
That’s it. Now you know the basics of writing a great ad. Armed with this knowledge you are
free to search the web for great products to sell, write a killer ad, and make do the work of
sending highly targeted traffic to any site you choose to promote.
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