Advertorial is a word that is formed from two different words; “advertisement” and “editorial.”
It’s a more subtle form of advertisement that takes an editorial form, and it usually adopts the style of the platform on which it’s being used. And that’s the distinguishing factor between advertorials and traditional advertisements.
Advertorials have been used as a form of advertisement from way back, especially on print publications. They are similar to their TV counterpart; infomercials.
Basically, the essence (of the evolution) of advertorials is to find a way around the defense humans naturally beef up at their instinct’s warning that they are about to get sold. Marketers thought it wise to take advantage of man’s love for free information, and give out sales copy packaged in form of valuable content they are already used to.
As corny as advertorials might seem, they actually work so well.
I once wrote an advertorial that was published on Linda Ikeji’s blog, and it gave my client, a Christian magazine, 830% increase in email subscribers and 67% increase in new website sessions. And that’s what inspired this post.
In whatever format they’re found, advertorials have a single purpose: making the reader take a specific action.
Here are the basic steps to writing an advertorial that sells, especially online:
12 Steps to a Winning Advertorial
1. Study the platform. Whether it’s a blog or a website or an online magazine, it’s just the right thing to do; study the platform on which you want to host your advert.
Do they have any policies or guidelines for advertising or for sponsored posts? Are they going to mark your copy as an ad? Is there a word limit? Is there a particular style adverts must follow? If not, what’s the usual style readers are used to? (Remember the essence of advertorials is for it to look exactly like the usual blog posts.)
Answering these questions and more will help you know what works best on the platform you choose to place your advertorials on – and also help you conform to advertising policies.
2. Study your target audience (or prospect). Study your target audience; the readers of the website you intend to advertise on. Go to the comments section and other places they hang out and learn about them. Know what they want, what moves them to action. Exchange emails with a few readers if you can.
This is the biggest and most important step in any form of copywriting. You’d be amazed by the results you’ll get from your efforts.
3. Study your product too well. This applies more to hired writers. You must endeavor to know the product so much; in fact, try to know it more than the owner, if possible.
This step gives writers untold advantages when trying to write to promote anything. Study the product inside-out, and you might find this little thing that will blow your prospect away; study competing products too, and you might just find that little thing that makes your product unique/stand out from the competition…and boom, you got yourself a winning gold nugget!
4. Determine what about your product would interest your prospect. If you follow the last two steps well (study your prospect and your product), you shouldn’t have any problem determining the “big idea” that will get your target audience wowed, or nodding in agreement, or get his curiosity juices flowing.
It’s only when you get this right that your sponsored post will do well.
5. Come up with a powerful headline. This is the most copy of your advertorial, just like any other content online.
The one thing you want to avoid is your headline looking anything like an advert. Craft your headline in line with the last step; something great about your product that your audience will immediately connect with, and then give it a news-article twist. If it’s a company you are promoting here, think in the line of your press release headlines.
Headlines that work better here are news headlines, headlines with strong benefits, headlines that arouse curiosity, headlines that ask challenging questions, and so on. A headline that mixes two or more of these is surely a winner.
Note: when you ask a question as headline, be careful not to ask a question that can be easily answered and dismissed by the reader. Such don’t get opened. You don’t want to ask: “Is your Marriage Working?” for example.
6. Start with a lead that gets your readers reading on. Your attention-grabbing headline would surely get your advertorial opened, but it wouldn’t keep your readers reading.
What keeps your prospect glued to your page starts with your lead – your opening paragraph and the next few paragraphs that lead into your body copy.
Let your lead be so good to draw your prospect deeper into your copy. Make it emotional if you would. Then you can rest assured of some good result.
However, ensure your lead naturally flows from your headline, not veering off to a different direction, so your prospect will be sure he landed on the right page.
7. Make your content interesting. Since advertorials are meant to look exactly like an editorial of the host publication in which they are appearing, ensure your ad makes an interesting read that gives enough information about the product or service.
As advertising expert Paul Suggett rightly says, “What separates the real writers from the hacks is the ability to sell whilst entertaining and informing, and that’s something that can take time to master.”
One very good way to make your advertorial win is to tell a good story. Who doesn’t love one? You can do this (and draw your audience in deeper) by using the case study style, where it will involve character, conflict, peak, resolution, etc.
8. Infuse your sales copy cleverly within the post. First, you must give quality to the reader. You must fulfill whatever you promised in your headline and/or lead.
Many people see advertorials as tricky enough, you don’t want to go overboard by actually tricking your audience (with your headline) into opening the post, and then write something else in the body.
Give your reader what he clicked your headline for, then cleverly link that which got his attention to the product (or service) you are promoting. Always remember to talk more in benefits your reader will gain from buying your product, and make the sales copy just a fraction of the entire article. Useful information should surpass sales message.
9. Write for the web (optimize for readability). The topic of readability is a very sensitive one in the web writing world. Humans are now very hard to tie down to a page for even few minutes. Even the most matured men have the attention span of babies online.
For this reason, you must write to the skimmer. Write as if you don’t expect your audience to read your copy at all. Apply proven web writing tips that enhance readability. They can’t be covered in this single article, but here’s a summary of few important ones:
- Write only what’s useful and what the copy can’t do without. This keeps your post as short as possible
- Use short blocks of paragraphs
- Write short sentences
- Use simple, short words more
- Use subheads to divide your posts into sections
- Use number lists and bullet points
- Use special fonts (bold, italics, CAPITALS, underline, etc) but only where necessary, and not too much
- Put your big idea at the beginning and towards the end of the post
- End the copy with a strong call-to-action. Put it in a PS if need be. Because, after your first paragraph, this might be the only other thing your prospect reads
10. Use a strong call-to-action. Sure I’ve written this under ‘readability’, but that’s just to make reading your copy easier.
To make your advertorial succeed, you must craft an effective call-to-action; one that will move your prospect into taking your desired action.
There’s no use going clever or impressive here. Simply state whatever you want the reader to do next in clear terms; e.g., “Click here to get your free copy of…”
And as said earlier, put (or repeat) your call-to-action at the end of your article; you don’t want to get your prospect distracted from taking the required action. And then let your call-to-action follow the “rule of one”, as explained next…
- Follow the “rule of one”. Giving humans too many options to choose from naturally gets us confused, or distracted, and we might end up choosing none. Have this in your mind when writing your advertorial (or any other copy) and stick to the rule of one, that is the rule of giving your prospect one strong action to take.
One idea, one strong promise, one call-to-action, etc. You can always use other smaller ideas or promises throughout your copy, but don’t try that with your call-to-action. Give your prospect only one choice here. Don’t say “subscribe to our website”, and then later say “you should also follow us on Facebook and Twitter…”
Remember: the purpose of your advertorial is to make your reader make ONE specific action.
- Add a byline. Adding a byline (author’s name) is a smart move that increases an advertorial’s chance of success in any publication. It gives it the feel of an authored article instead of an ad; and that gets you more trust from the readers.
There you go; the steps necessary to make your “sponsored ads” or “paid advertisement”, or simply; advertorials succeed on any platform, especially online.
Have you tried using advertorials for your business? What’s your experience with them? Kindly share with us in the comments section. And don’t forget to share – there’s love in it!