Begin with the Blurb | 2 | WebReference

Begin with the Blurb | 2

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Begin with the Blurb

Get personal

According to marketing wisdom, the most powerful word in the English language is "free." It's overused, yes, but for a reason. Nothing catches the roving eye quicker than a word that promises a direct benefit.

Some of the most popular marketing words and terms include "fast," "easy," "convenient," "best," "sexy," "sale-priced," "quick," "fun," "hilarious," "instantly," "save time," "powerful," "save money" and "most popular." Basically, any term that describes the you that appears in your daydreams is a marketing keyword.

These terms might strike you as cliches and you might feel it's cheap to use them. My advice: Feel free to rework them but please don't ignore them. Learn from them. The more prominent these terms are within your tease, the better your chances.

Good

Members Save!
Take 10% off every online purchase with Buyer's Advantage.

Bad

Join today!
Save on every purchase you make with Buyer's Advantage.

Ugly

Try Buyer's Advantage!
It's a great deal for you. Click here to find out more.

An aside: Words and terms like "read how...," "learn more about...," "check out..." or "find out about..." are OK. Sometimes they're even necessary. But why not simply state the promise's reward? "Lose weight," not "read about losing weight." "Save money," not "learn more about saving money." You get the idea.

Say it clearly

We all like clever headlines and blurbs, and wit is always appreciated. But not at the expense of clear communication. Puns, alliteration and pop-cultural allusions should never obscure your blurb's simple promise. The tone of your blurb is of course decided by your site's audience, but believe me - you can never go wrong with clarity.

See which blurb below catches your attention and makes the promise ring. Me? I like the last one. You might think it dull, but experience has told me it's the one most likely to be clicked.

Money for nothin'!
And the tips are free! See who's livin' large locally - you might be surprised.

Be sage and gauge your wage
Tell us what you're pulling in and we'll tell you what other people are pulling in with the Salary Survey.

Do you earn what you're worth?
See how your pay compares to your neighbors' with the Salary Survey.

Less is more. Sometimes much more.

Which blurb below has more punch? Both are fine; one is finer.

Be All That You Can Be - Today!
Our new 15-minute workout gives you the toned and healthy body you've always wanted, in no time at all! Click to find out how.

Get Fit the Easy Way
Look your best in 15 minutes or less. Here's how.

One more thing: Some people will insist you use directives like "click here" while others will tell you to never use them. Be wise and let the context decide. "Click here" is fine for banner ads and the like; some users might not be able to tell a linked graphic from a static graphic. But if your blurb is plain text and contains copy that is clearly hot, avoid "click here." It sucks up space you can use for more compelling copy; more importantly, it has nothing to do with the promise you're pushing.

Conclusion

There's a saying in the theater: "Ninety percent of a production's success is in the casting." In other words, a play's success or failure is determined long before opening night and no amount of rehearsals will change this. Web content works the same way.

When you develop your content before you write the blurb, your content is often OK'd before it contains a real user benefit, is developed without a unified direction, and is forever unclicked and therefore unseen. Pretty darn sad. Let a solid, short, to-the-point blurb be your casting director and your content will be the smash you always hoped it would be.

# # #

Bill Cook is a freelance Web consultant living and working in New York City. Previous to his consulting gig, Bill was a senior producer with Vividot.com, SmartMoney.com and Cox Interactive Media. He can be contacted via his Web site, billcook.com, or via e-mail at mailto:bill@billcook.com

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Created: April 20, 2001
Revised: April 20, 2001

URL: http://webreference.com/internet/writing/headlines/blurbs/