Don’t be lazy. Put the message up front.

A niche but much-in-demand skill in video advertising at the moment is to summarise a message in 5 seconds flat, so that a mini-advert can show in full before the viewer can click ‘skip ad’. However, extracting the core message is a technique that the best copywriters have known forever. They understand that many people are going to make a decision whether to continue reading after no more than a dozen words, so it’s critical for any content to capture the main message in whatever their eyes alight on first.

Take a look at a random page on your website. If you have just one sentence to summarise the message the page is trying to convey, is it what’s in the headline? I’d bet it isn’t.

I’m looking at a product page on a client’s website now. It’s fairly dense, with text and a diagram, so the first impression I get before reading anything is that the page may be worth my while. That’s good, so I read the headline. It says ‘Blue Widgets’. That’s all. Now subconsciously I have to make the decision: “Is this page – which looks like it’s going to be hard work – going to tell me what I wanted to know?” That headline didn’t help …so already the page is at risk of losing me.

It turns out the message of the page was: “We sell blue widgets for loads of different applications to loads of people, so it’s likely we can help you, and here’s how to find out.” For the most valuable page visitors of all, that’s exactly what they wanted to read – so why wasn’t it what they saw at first glance? Sure, getting that into a headline is a challenge, but at least make an effort.