Writing For The Web: Is It You?


February 19, 2006

Right after I graduated from college, I worked at a magazine. One day, the executive editor came down to my office and pointed out a particularly ugly ad in the magazine. It was a direct response ad (“Call this 1-800 number for your….” etc.)

“We run this ad every month,” he said, “It’s awful. Please call the company and tell them that we’ll redesign it at no charge.”

So I called.

“Thank you for your offer,” the company representative said. “We know it’s ugly. We don’t like it either. But this ad outpulls every other test ad we’ve ever run.” Wow, was I impressed.

Contrast this to a conversation I had just last week. A customer asked me to create her Google AdWords campaign, but wanted to review the ads before they ran. “I don’t like them,” she said, “The way those ads are written — they just don’t sound like me.”

Well, she’s the customer, so I didn’t reply (something that email has made easy to do), but I sure did wonder if she wasn’t interested in making money or not. As long as the ad is ethical and clear, who cares if the tone is not that of the CEO?

Companies have multiple goals when they write for the web, as I pointed out in my last post on writing for the web. I’m also not saying that you should always choose the copy that outpulls — after all, maybe the test that loses the copy competition pulls a customer who has a longer lifetime value. Or maybe it does a better job of positioning your company in your niche. But if you’re going to choose less than optimal copy, be sure you know why you’re making that choice.

Robbin Steif, CEO