Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Sugarman’

Tips for Editing Professional Website Content

June 21, 2021

Before you start editing website content, review the following:

  1. All the notes collected in the client interview process
  2. The client’s existing website(s)
  3. The client’s Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Yelp reviews and any other any information you have about them

If you’re editing a page on a topic you’re not fully conversant in, take the time to do your own research before you start. Remember: As editor, you’re the last line of defense. 

Style Tips

Use contractions and a friendly tone to make the content flow as smoothly as possible. As Joseph Sugarman notes in The Copywriter’s Handbook, reading copy out loud is a great way to discover the version that sounds best.

For example:

That’s the way we like it. 

Flows better than:

That is the way we like to do things around here.

Never scold the reader. And don’t begin sentences with the words “you should.”

For example:

Brushing and flossing every day will protect your smile from tooth decay and gum disease.

Sounds a lot friendlier and less ominous than:

If you don’t brush your teeth, they’re gonna fall out. 

Don’t use highfalutin words. You don’t impress potential customers when you use words they don’t understand. In fact, it leads them to conclude that you just aren’t smart enough to say what you mean in plain English. And words like utilize, therefore and however make you sound snooty, putting distance between you and the reader, so use them sparingly.

Phrases like our goal is or we aim to should be omitted because they imply an incomplete action.

That’s why:

We’ll give you a smile you’ll want to share with friends.

Is more direct and convincing than:

Our aim is to give you a smile that you’ll want to share with friends. 

When describing the client’s services, use the active voice as much as you can. 

Instead of saying:

Clear images of your teeth and the hard and soft structures that support them will be generated using advanced diagnostic equipment.

Put your client in command by saying:

Using our advanced diagnostic equipment, Dr. Gonzales will generate clear images of your teeth and the hard and soft structures that support them.

Control/F Is Your Friend

When editing website content, you can use the Control/F keyboard shortcut to avoid the repetition of catch phrases that your writers like to use such as our veneers will make your smile shine like new.

You’ll also want to be careful about overusing common words and phrases. For example, there’s a limited number of ways to express cause and effect, such as since, therefore, this leads to, due to, consequently, that’s why, so, for this reason and because. The Control/F keyboard shortcut can be really helpful for prevent using one of these constructions too many times.

Consider the Connotations of the Words You Choose

Connotations are the feelings that a word evokes in addition to its official dictionary definition.

For example, the words cheap and inexpensive mean roughly the same thing, but they have very different connotations.

It’s more effective to say that Dr. Smith provides outstanding care than it is to say Dr. Smith provides outstanding treatment because the word care has all sorts of warm and fuzzy connotations

And don’t use words with negative connotations to assert a positive value. Legendary copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis used to get really annoyed whenever he read copy that suggested a product would “drastically improve your life.”

Drastic is full of negative connotations — Instead, say This product will dramatically improve your life?

Two Quick SEO Tips

For SEO purposes, look for opportunities to add internal links whenever you feel it will enhance the User Experience (UX). This gives Google a better understanding about the structure of your website.

We know that the Google bots reward good grammar with higher rankings. That’s why you’ll want to follow the writing standards that your organization adheres to, such as AP format or your in-house writing guide(s). 

Using Headlines, Bullets and Bold Text

A solid wall of text is intimidating. Make your writing more inviting by using bullets and headlines to break it up into more palatable bites. This is especially important for improving mobile optimization. Research shows that the overwhelming majority of readers will read the headlines, bullets and bolded text first, so you want to make them stand out.

It’s essential to take your time when editing headlines. Use them to clearly explain how you’re going to solve the reader’s problem. In other words, sell the benefit in the headlinesas much as you can.

Weak Headline The Benefits of Veneers

Strong Headline — Veneers: Get a Beautiful New Smile in Just Two Visits

Remember to be specific. Tell the reader how you will make their life better by saving them time, saving them money, making them look better, making them feel better, or making other people want to be like them.

Bullet lists are extremely effective for highlighting the benefits that you’re trying to sell. But remember: the longer you make your bullets, the less effective they become.

You can also use bolding sparingly to highlight important points and for terms that will be new to the reader such as osseointegration.

Improving Workflow

If anything is unclear, or if you need additional information from the writer or the client, post a note in your Project Management Tool (i.e., Trello, ClickUp, Mondays). You’ll also want to @ the writer, the project manager and anyone else on your team who’s involved in the project.

Questions you might want to ask when editing content for a dentist’s website include:

  • When was the practice founded?
  • Is Dr. Yu the only dentist at the practice who performs implant surgery?
  • Is Dr. Swartz involved in any activities that benefit the local community?

Make Your Client the Star

The Meet Our Client page on websites that promote local professionals such as dentists, lawyers or contractors should be among the most highly ranked pages on the site.

When editing your client’s bio, put the most compelling or appealing information first. Don’t start off by writing about their credentials and educational background. You can save that for later. Begin with something more endearing, such as a personal story about why they chose their profession.

Effective CTAs

You don’t have to wait until the end of the document for your CTA. And it’s perfectly ok to have two or more CTAs on the same page. 

Always include a button with the CTA.

Put the client’s phone number in the CTA text, making it easier for mobile customers to call. 

If the client features any special offers such as a free consultation, make sure to mention it in the headline that introduces the CTA.

by Richard W. Bray

Applying Joseph Sugarman’s Copywriting Tips to Content Writing

April 24, 2017

Copywriting usually means putting the right words together in the right order to get people to pay money for something.

But sometimes copywriting means saying the right things to get people to feel good about your client.

Content writing is copywriting designed specifically for professional websites.

Content writing shares these two major goals with copywriting:

a) getting people to pay money for something
b) getting people to like someone/something better

But medium affects message. In addition to selling the product and the client, content writers must regularly supply a substantial number of words on topics that are useful and interesting to the client’s audience. For example, if the client owns a fitness gym, engaging and informative blogs on health and nutrition should be of interest his customers.

Good content is important to SEO and good SEO brings more visitors and more visitors mean more money for the client. And when visitors stay longer, it’s good for SEO, which means more customers and more money. (Of course, this only applies if you’re selling a product or service people want; not even Don Draper could sell something people don’t want.)

Joseph Sugarman wrote extremely successful advertising copy for a long time. He specialized in direct mail and advertorials, advertisements disguised to look like articles in magazines. It’s not easy to get someone’s attention when she’s sorting through junk mail or reading articles in a good magazine. Sugarman needed to suck his readers into his copy and engage them to the point where they read the entire thing. And then many of them would pick up the phone and call the 800 number where operators are standing by.

Sugarman’s genius is to make his copy extremely compelling from beginning to end.  As any writer can tell you, that’s not an easy thing to do.

People voluntarily seek web content via a link or a search engine.  So content writers don’t need to grab their readers with the same intensity that Sugarman did. But content writers do need to be able to hold their readers, and Sugarman was great at that. Like copywriters, content writers want to hold the reader long enough to garner a sale or at least hold the reader long enough to get his contact information.

Tips from Joseph Sugarman for Content Writers

Here’s some tips from Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywring Handbook which apply to content writers as well as copywriters:

You control the environment. Unlike a store where you spend thousands of dollars to create an environment, you can do it all simply in the copy of your ad or the look of your web site (38).

At the preliminary part of the sale, you must get the prospective reader to start saying yes. In order to do this, you should make statements that are honest and believable (40).

Emotion Principle (66)
a) Every word has an emotion associated with it and tells a story.
b) Every good ad is an emotional outpouring of words, feelings and impressions.
c) You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.

You can create a warm and personal atmosphere when you use words like I, you and me. This will create the feel of a personal form of communication (88).

Use as few commas as you can get away with (106).

Break up your writing with paragraph headings because they make your writing look more inviting so your reader will start the reading process (114).

Never forget that just as a song has a rhythm, so does copy (120). Always listen to the words you write inside your head or even read them aloud if it helps.

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywriting Handbook

January 29, 2011


It’s all about getting her to read the first sentence. And then the next. And the next. Until she finishes the copy and picks up the phone to place her order.

In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, legendary adman Joseph Sugarman explains the art of creating print advertising which will motivate a person “to exchange his or her hard-earned money for a product or service” (5).

Grab and Keep the Reader

Sugarman describes how “the purpose of all the elements in an ad” is “to get you to read the copy” (31). The pictures, layout and headline must pull readers into the ad. Then the words take over.

The first sentence must “really grab and keep” the reader (32). In order to do this, Sugarman advises copywriters to “Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence” (32).

It had to happen.

It’s you against the computer.

It’s easy.

Each of the three brief opening sentences provided by Sugarman is designed to lure the unsuspecting reader down the “slippery slope” of words, ultimately leading him to commit an act of unnecessary consumption.

Once the potential customer has begun her descent, the copy must be compelling enough to “get momentum going and create that buying environment” (114).

A good salesman can decide which strategy to utilize by reading his customer’s face, but a copywriter uses mere words to generate the elements of a showroom inside the reader’s imagination. This process includes anticipating and assuaging all possible objections. Sugarman warns: “Give the readers any excuse not to buy and they won’t buy” (124).

From Me to You

And just like any other salesman, the copywriter’s most important task is to develop a personal relationship with the customer. Although a particular advertisement appears in a magazine that will be read by thousands of readers, it should address potential customers in the same manner one would use speaking to a friend.

It is essential that you write your copy as if you are writing to that single individual. Your copy should be very personal. From me to you. Period (91).

One way copywriters achieve this sense of intimacy is by using the personal pronouns, you, I and me, which “create the feel of a personal form of communication” (88). The word we, however, can make the seller seem large and impersonal. That’s why it’s best to refer to a company and its support staff in an endearing manner: “My team of great engineers is available to help you” (281).

You sell on emotion but you justify a purchase with logic

Human beings are capable of making rational decisions, but decision-making is not a rational process. As poet Theodore Reothke shrewdly noted, “We think by feeling.” And any purchasing decision is fraught with feelings.

As Sugarman explains:

You buy a Mercedes automobile emotionally but you then justify the purchase logically with its technology, safety and resale value (138-9).

How Many Words?

Is there such a thing as too much copy? Not according to Sugarman: “There really is no limit to how long copy should be if you get results” (83). However, space is always finite in newspaper or magazine advertisements. (But space is not restricted with internet ads, which creates many selling opportunities)

But as a general rule brevity is better, and “the goal in writing ad copy is to express the thoughts you want to convey in the most powerful way but with the fewest words” (102 ).

Like a Poet

Like a poet, an effective copywriter needs to understand the emotional connotations of the words she chooses. Also like a poet, she must learn to “edit for rhythm,” in order to create copy that flows mellifluously (104).

You’ll Have to Buy the Book to Get the Rest of the Stories

Like how Sugarman got sales to rise twenty percent by changing a single word in a page of copy (70). Or how he sold a quarter of a million Walkie-Talkies by calling it a Pocket CB.

by Richard W. Bray