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Writing an Advertisement for the Web
Posted on 19 December 2003 07:59 AM
by Jennifer Stewart

One of the things you'll be doing, once you've established a presence on the Web, is writing advertisements for your site.

Each time you list your site on a "Free For All Links" page, a "Free Classifieds" site or with a search engine, you'll be required to enter what is, in fact, an ad. It pays to keep in mind that even though this might be called a "description," it's the first thing people will see about your site—so make sure you direct it to them.

What's In It For Me?

As with all advertising, this is what people are interested in—how your gizmo can improve their life—not the benefits it will bring to humanity or the environment, but "what's in it for me?"

  • Your opening words must tell people how they will benefit from visiting your site.

  • You must also give people a brief idea about the nature of your site—what specific product or service is it selling / what free product or service is it offering / what can people expect to find at your site?

The Heading

On the Web, there isn't time for cute headings—people want information and they want it now! So, you need to let your readers know exactly what you're offering in your heading.

Your heading should be no more than four or five words—the fewer the better. e.g.

    Free Software
    Web Design
    Improve Your Writing
    A Joke a Day
    Learn HTML
    How to Relieve Pain

Words That Appeal

There are a number of words which have been shown to appeal to readers, some of these are:

Free—New—Proven—Secret—Success—Instant—Fast—Simple—How to—Save—Easy—Limited Time Only

Always try to include at least a couple of these words in your ad.

Personal Pronouns

We're all most interested in ourselves, so direct all your comments to you, the reader. Use you, your, yours wherever possible.

Include we, our, ours throughout your ad, but use I, me, mine very sparingly.

Give Us the Facts

  • Don't tell us that we'll make "thousands of dollars" with this scheme, tell us we'll "see a 20 percent increase in sales within the first year"—and we'll be more likely to believe you.

  • Use numbers if possible. "101 Uses for Plastic Shopping Bags" is more likely to gain our attention, than "Things to do with plastic shopping bags."

  • Don't use adjectives and adverbs in your ads—save these for your poetry and love letters. An ad should contain plenty of verbs— you need to convey a sense of action and urgency if you want people to buy from you.

  • Don't be clever if it means some of your readers won't understand your ad—a review of Christopher Isherwood's, "I am a Camera", was "Me no Leica"—which is clever if you happen to know that Leica is a camera.

Organization of Ideas

You should always start with the greatest benefit to the reader:

  • Expected improvements in finances, health, career, romance, appearance, security, self-esteem

  • Removing worry

  • Eliminating unpleasant tasks

  • Reducing physical, mental or physical pain

  • Avoiding risky undertakings

  • Introducing new experiences to overcome boredom

End with an Appeal for Action

Always finish your ad by telling your readers what you want them to do:

  • Click here for more information

  • Act now

  • Only ten remaining vacancies, don't miss out—reply now

  • Forward this to all your friends

  • Order before the end of the month

  • Go to our secure order form


  • Before you launch your ad onto the net, re-read it and check for basic mistakes in spelling, punctuation and expression (we all know how easy it is to read what you meant to write, instead of what's there on the page).

  • Then re-read your ad and check that you've used words that convey benefits to your readers.

  • Pay particular attention to your headline.

Keep Copies

Always keep a copy of your ads—that way, you can just cut and paste, instead of having to re-invent the wheel every time you need to insert a description of your site or place an ad.

Additional sources for effective writing: