Begin with the Blurb | WebReference

Begin with the Blurb

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Begin with the Blurb

By Bill Cook ( bill@billcook.com )

You see them all over the Web. Some call them teases, others just call them linked text. Me, I call them blurbs. They usually look something like this:

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Blurbs are those short pieces of linked text you put on a home page or an index page to drive traffic to content within your site. Usually a blurb is written only after the content it's pointing to is already finished; too often, it's written in a few minutes, almost as an afterthought.

Big mistake. Because when you write your blurb before you start developing content - whether it be text, tools, apps or graphics you're actually vetting, editing, focusing and supporting that content all at once with a minimum of time and effort.

Good Blurbs and Bad Blurbs

Here's what a good blurb does:

Bad blurbs, by contrast, are long, don't promise the user a clear benefit, and speak to users in an inappropriate voice. And they therefore don't get clicked.

Bad blurbs are sometimes unavoidable. Why? Because bad blurbs often reflect the same lack of focus and organization within the content itself. When you sit down to write a blurb for a finished piece of content...

By contrast, a good blurb is easily written because its matching content has a clear purpose, delivers a specific benefit and speaks to its intended audience in a voice that's appropriate.

In this sense, a blurb is a diagnostic tool; it can tell you whether your content works or not. So why wait until the content is finished before you find this out? Just remember this: Before you create any content for your Web site, write the blurb; before you buy any content, demand that whoever is creating the content submits a blurb first.

Putting Blurbs to Work

Blurbs can be useful in four ways:

Blurb-Writing Tips

So now you know to create your blurb before your content. But how do you actually write the darn thing? Here are some tips. Your blurb won't necessarily have all of these ingredients, but a good one will have at least one or two of them.

Make a promise

Remember this: Most people constantly operate in "so what?" mode. To break through this shell of "so what?," let your users know right away that your content addresses their specific interests. How? Make sure your blurb contains a promise.

A blurb with a specific promise with real value will get a click. The promise doesn't need to be overt, but it needs to be there. Take a look at the following blurbs:

TV's "Survivor"
It's the most popular show on television.

"Survivor"
News Click here to read about all things "Survivor"!

"Survivor"
News We know who got the boot this week. Do you?

The first blurb is a good example of how information itself is not persuasive. It's a statement, not a promise. The second blurb is better, but its promise is vague (and that exclamation point isn't fooling anyone).

The third blurb is best. The promise is clear - "click here and we'll tell you which sucker is heading home."

A question is always better than a superfluous exclamation point, by the way. They call these things "teases" for a reason. A real promise creates real suspense, and a real blurb promises a real reward.

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

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