Saturday, September 20, 2008

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs & Copywriting

"It's the benefits, not the features, idiot!!" Benfits, Benefits, Benefits! - It's drilled into us, copywriters.

But does this really hold good in Third World economies like India? Even in case of B2C, eg., a car - people here get sold on features, not benefits. This is even more true for B2B products/services given the scarcity of resources in such economies.

Could the answer be in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? Third World economies typically are at the bottom of the hierarchy - Physiological - Food/Clothing/Shelter.

Western countries on the other hand, are already way up the hierarchy - Esteem and Self Actualization - where prospects would be in search of benefits to satisfy their 'wants.'

Prospects in Third World economies being at the bottom of the hierarchy, have 'needs' to be satisfied and therefore would search for 'features' in products/services.

Comments are invited on my mini hypothesis:)

Noel Gama

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Solving Client's Biggest Problem

Solve Your Client’s Biggest Problem … Writing One “Page” of Copy
by Rebecca Matter

There are thousands of companies that share a common problem …

Their website is nowhere to be found when a potential customer searches the Internet for a product or service similar to the one they offer.

Not only that … they don’t have the knowledge or expertise to fix that “invisible” problem.

They know it involves changing their website, but they’re not sure how. They’ve heard of search engine optimization (SEO), but the whole idea of it seems confusing and a bit overwhelming.

So instead of making changes to their website in order to get lots of free search traffic, they decide to pay for their site traffic by using pay-per-click (PPC) ads … or they do nothing at all.

Or they think SEO means jamming a bunch of keywords into their Web pages, and they make the problem worse. (Indeed, one of the reasons the PPC industry has grown so much over the past few years is the general lack of knowledge about SEO copywriting. But don’t worry, we’ll tackle PPC next.)

And although running PPC ads might make sense in some situations, optimizing a website using SEO techniques should be done regardless.

For copywriters who can advise and provide their clients with a solution to this problem, the payoff is extremely lucrative.

I’ll tell you exactly how lucrative in a minute, but first let’s take a quick look at what SEO copywriters do …

In a nutshell, the SEO copywriter’s job is to increase the ranking of his client’s website in Google’s (or another search engine’s) “organic” search results. If you’re not familiar with the term “organic” as it applies to search results, let me explain …

There are two ways a web page can appear on a search engine’s results page. One way is if the search engine places it there because the site owner is paying for it with a PPC ad.

[Note: If you are unfamiliar with PPC ads, go to Google and do a search for the phrase “running shoes.” Just under the blue bar, you’ll see two headings labeled “sponsored links.” And directly underneath them, you’ll find the PPC ads.]

A second way is when the search engine deems a Web page relevant for a specific keyword or phrase being searched. Because search results like these are not paid for, and show up on the results page naturally, they’re often referred to as “organic.”

The SEO copywriter’s main job is to improve their client’s organic search results. This is done by strategically modifying the copy to include specific keywords or phrases.

This article appears courtesy of The Golden Thread, an e-letter from AWAI that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on how to build your freelance copywriting business. For a free subscription, visit

Monday, April 21, 2008

Between the Pen and the Sale, are the Words… Take my Word for it!

Until very recently, the typical corporate Home page was merely the cyber version of the visiting card and at best, an hastily conceived company brochure floating around in cyberspace, waiting to be ‘found’ by surfers ‘passing by.’ A simple query on would show the dismal ranking of such sites that merely took the bricks and mortar concept of ‘location, location, location…’ to the web.

However, on the internet, it’s all about ‘information, information, information.’ Nobody is ‘passing by.’ People go to the internet in search of information using keywords on search engines (SE) like Google. ‘Information’ may or may not be found in the ‘content’ the site provides – very rarely do searchers look for photographs and graphics. Think… when you go online, what do you do most? Does it come as a surprise that while you complain that reading on a computer screen is not easy on your eyes, you do spend most of your time reading text? And when ‘reading’ a magazine offline, you do prefer to look at the pictures first, don’t you? Like you, potential customers do take a second look at glossy corporate brochures and the pictures in them, but research shows that on the internet, most people look for the ‘text’ part of ‘content.’ And I am not even talking about an irritant called flash animation, which happens to be the favourite of many web designers!

But there’s more… the text people are searching for must not only be informational in nature – people are not interested in pages of self-praise. The thing uppermost in the surfer’s mind is, WIIFM (what’s in it for me) i.e., ‘benefits, benefits, benefits,’ not merely, ‘features, features, features.’

These visitors who arrive on the landing pages of sites as a result of typing in specific keywords, are prospects, a percentage of which may turn into leads when they click on the 'More Info' button.

But don’t take my word for it – not just yet. Let’s put it to the test. Type in your favourite keyword into Google and look up the results page – your site may not be listed at No.1… not on the first page or even through to page 10. But we take comfort from the fact that none of our known competitors figures on these pages as well. But wait… we find another type of competitor – cyber competitors and in our line of business! And, we’ve just discovered that our Home page is another marketplace with tremendous potential.

Here’s where keyword research comes to the fore in SE optimization (SEO) and SEO-copywriting. Word Tracker is my favourite keyword research tool, which throws up hundreds of keywords from a few seed words. These keywords, if sprinkled in the text of web pages, make it easier for 'spiders' to find them. As the song goes, ‘it’s only words…’ – or to be more specific, ‘keywords,’ that are vital to humans as well as the SEs. The battle of words is fought on Home turf (pun not intended) and the winner takes it all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Left-side Rule

Why It's Critical to Let Your Web Visitors Know They've Come to the Right Place

People don't look at Web pages the same way they look at print pages. If I pick up People magazine, I look at the photos first and then the captions. That's not what happens on the Web. On the Web, people don't look at photos first unless it's a glamour-related site. On a regular site, they read the headline first. Why? Because they're driven by a purpose and they want to know if they've come to the right place. So they read the headline and they will either think, "Oh, okay, this isn't what I thought it was going to be," and they'll leave. Or the headline will say to them, "Yes, you're in the right place," and they'll keep reading.

That brings me to this …

Improve Your Copywriting Skills

Use the "Left-Side" Rule to Make Your Web Copy Easy to Scan

One of the biggest challenges for an online copywriter is to create a page of copy that can be scanned easily. More specifically, you need to write and design Web pages that enable people to find the information they want – and the information YOU want them to find – with a quick glance.

What's the big deal?

The big deal is that people don't view and read Web pages the same way that they scan printed materials.First of all, their attitude is different. Web users are goal-oriented. They know what they are looking for. They know what they want. And it's your job to let people know that they came to the right place.

Also, Web readers are a lot more impatient than print readers. They are in a hurry. They are unforgiving. Visualize yourself as a typical website visitor – someone interested in, say, kayaking. Picture yourself picking up a kayaking magazine. You kick back and start flipping through the pages. You are relaxed. You take your time. Some articles will really interest you. Others won't. That's okay. The magazine has your complete attention. There's no urgency. If you put the magazine down on a side table while you answer the door or walk the dog, it will be there waiting for you when you get back.

Now let's say you read an article about some cool kayak storage racks. Your kayak is taking up way too much room on the floor in the garage, so you want to hang it on the wall. Suddenly, you have a very specific interest. You want to find out where you can buy a "kayak storage rack." You also want to check out the different racks available and their prices. So you head over to your computer and open Google or some other search engine. You type in the phrase "kayak storage racks."

Now let's stop for a moment. You may wonder whether I'm painting an accurate picture here. The short answer is yes. While people don't always look for stuff online after reading a magazine, they very frequently use the major search engines to find and research things they are interested in buying. The fact that people use search engines changes everything. Because to use a search engine, you have to enter a search phrase. You have to think about what you are looking for and think of a phrase that will (you hope) take you to a relevant page on a website. As soon as someone types in the phrase "kayak storage racks," they have framed the boundaries of their interest and attention.

It is essential that you understand this.

As soon as someone types in a search phrase, that person becomes tightly focused in the way they scan the search results and then scan the pages on the sites they arrive at. Remember, when you were picking up that magazine about kayaks, your mind was open. You were a passive recipient of information about kayaking. You were in the hands of the magazine's editors. As a passive observer, you opened the magazine to find out what was inside. When you go to the Web, the experience is utterly different. As a site visitor, you are not passive, you are active. You are in control. You are the boss. You know exactly what you are looking for. You are task-oriented. And in this case, your self-assigned task is to find some kayak storage racks. You read through the titles to the listings on the Google search results page and click on a link that looks promising. In this case, that link will probably include the phrase "kayak storage racks."

You then arrive at a page within a website. Probably not the home page. Probably some internal page. And your brain is now programmed for one task only – to find kayak storage racks. You scan the page for text and images that will confirm you are in the right place. This will take you about 2 seconds. If you don't see an immediate match for "kayak storage racks," you will hit the back button. That may sound brutal. But this is what happens. Now that you understand that, let's say you've been hired to write a page about kayak storage racks.

But you're a print copywriter, and you have no experience writing for the Web. So you might write the first draft of the page headline something like: "Free up your floor space by hanging your kayak from the walls or ceiling." You're stating the benefit of the racks right at the beginning. Just they way I was taught – and the way you're learning now. But that isn't how I would write the headline for the Web.

I'd write it more like this: "Kayak Storage Racks – for wall or ceiling. Save 22% + free shipping." Why? Because I know that my reader's brain is tightly focused on a very specific task and phrase. In fact, I have probably written 20 different pages about storage racks, each of them with its headline optimized for a particular search term. Whatever the term, get it at the beginning of the headline. Because the first three or four words of your headline will get a lot more attention than the last three.

Don't believe me? Well, thousands of heatmap studies, which track a Web user's eye movements, have confirmed this time and time again. In fact, whatever your key message is, make sure you place the words and phrases you use to describe it as close to the left margin of the main column as possible. When people scan a Web page, their eye movement and the vast majority of their attention is very tightly tied to that left side. And the further people look down a page, the less they will look at anything that is not close to the left side.

What does this mean?

It means that my key phrases and benefits will be written at the beginning of every heading, subhead, and link. Don't assume people will read the whole subhead. They will probably just scan the first three or four words. Don't waste space with generic terms. That is to say, if you want to highlight your free shipping offer, don't write a subhead like this: "Order your space-saving kayak rack today and get free shipping." Write it more like this: "Free shipping with your kayak rack if you order today."
Everything that matters should come at the beginning of all your scannable textyou're your headline, subheads, links, and captions.

(BTW – why did I add the discount and free shipping offer to my headline? Because online shoppers are comparison shoppers. They'll find what they want on your site, and then see if they can find the same thing cheaper elsewhere. So you want to do all you can to keep them on your page … and get them to buy from your page.)

There is a lot more to say about creating scannable Web copy, but the "left-side" rule should be enough to get you started.

– Nick Usborne

This article appears courtesy of The Golden Thread, an e-letter form AWAI that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on how to build your freelance copywriting business. For a free subscription, visit

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Culture Wise INDIA

My book, "Culture Wise India: The Essential Guide to Culture, Customs & Business Etiquette" is now listed on

Culture Wise India is essential reading for anyone planning to visit or live in India, whether for business or pleasure, for a few days holiday or a lifetime. It is guaranteed to help newcomers avoid cultural and social gaffes; make friends and influence people; and enhance their understanding of India and the Indian people. Printed in full color.

Product Details
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Survival Books, Ltd. (July 25, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1905303475
ISBN-13: 978-1905303472

Here's the link:

More on blogging...

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.