You know what’s hard?
Getting started is the often the hardest part of anything.
– Going to the gym…
– Launching a new business…
– Being the first person at a snack table to start demolishing the tower of cheese cubes
(just kidding… I do not have a problem with that).
Starting a new piece of copy can be just as difficult (as the gym… not the cheese mongering)
ESPECIALLY when it’s a seemingly ‘more approachable’ piece of copy like an advertorial.
Sometimes having the mental expectation that it’s EASIER to write advertorials than it is to write a huge behemoth sales page can make it even HARDER to get started.
If the questions I’ve been getting about my process for writing advertorials are any indication…. I’m not the only one who thinks so.
A fellow copywriter recently asked about my process for how I approach writing advertorials.
From first concept, to the final piece – what are the steps in between that help me generate and flesh out dozens of ideas for a single offer?
While my writing “process” itself mostly involves a lot of mental self-flogging and an obscene amount of staring blankly into the fridge…. I DO follow a general procedure for getting started on new advertorial projects.
Here’s how I approach writing new advertorials and push past that starting-new-stuff mental block:
8 Steps To Writing A New Advertorial
Step 1 – Gather and organize the project details
Before you write ANYTHING, you need to get clear on what you’re actually writing about.
Otherwise you’ll end up with a discombobulated mess that sounds like you’re spouting couch-side philosophy after smoking a doobie.
So step 1 is to gather the details about the offer, what problem it’s solving for people, and who those people are.
Get clear on what you’re selling, who it’s for, what it claims to do, and what benefit it’s providing to people.
You know…. all the stuff you need to write a piece of sales copy.
This is where you’ll do your initial research into the product, the market, and the audience.
So find out what people are saying about this offer (good and bad) and pay attention to the language and words they use.
Step 2 – Plan the structure and format of the page
Once you’ve gathered the details about the offer you’re promoting and the market you’re promoting it to, then you can decide the best structure or format for this piece.
To do this, you need to consider WHERE the piece is being published.
Is it a blog?
Is it the homepage of a website?
Is it a magazine?
What is the physical layout of the page going to be?
Most of the time you’re writing in a blog format.
But if this is going on someone’s homepage or in printed publication, then you need to consider the layout and structure of the page.
For example, homepages don’t usually have one giant block of content, right? Most have divided sections, banners, or structured blocks of content.
Usually, we’re writing advertorials in a blog-style format. So that’s what we’ll use here as our example.
Assuming it’s a blog, now you need to decide – how do you want to structure this piece.
What style of blog will it be?
Will it be a listicle – where you list different products, facts, bust a bunch of myths, etc?
Or is it a news article / editorial piece? This style is informational and helps the reader discover something new.
Maybe it’s an educational, “how to” style piece? In this format you teach the reader how to do something specific.
Or a comparison piece where you pitt several products against each other?
There are so many different types of advertorials, but these are some of the most common.
To choose the style of your advertorial, think about what would be most appropriate for WHERE you’re publishing the piece for the audience that will read it.
What kind of article would you naturally find on this website?
For example, if the purpose of your website is to sell a “make money online” course, then should you write a listicle reviewing other courses that also teach you how to make money online?
Answer: Probably not.
It’s too obvious that the article is be biased toward the course being sold on the same website.
The reader is going to ask, “Why would you talk about competing courses on your site?”
Naturally, this doesn’t make sense. So don’t expect anyone to believe you’re objective if you’re publishing the advertorial on the same site where you’re selling your course. People aren’t stupid.
A more appropriate format might be a news-style article that tells your ‘rags to riches’ journey which led you to creating this course. Dollar Shave Club uses this angle all the time when they write articles, like ” How one man is disrupting a $13 billion razor industry”
You could also write a case-study story about one of the students who found great success from the course. That’s something that you’d normally find on a website selling a course.
Just remember – choosing the format will change the way you approach your writing, so before you put anything on paper, you need to choose what TYPE of article you’re writing.
There’s no single, right answer, but you want to consider where the piece will be published and who it’s for. That will help you determine the best structure for your advertorial.
Step 3 – Outline your sales message
After I’ve chosen the structure and style of your advertorial, then I outline the entire piece of copy.
Notice how we’re on step 3 and we haven’t written a single word?
That’s because sometimes you need to set stuff up for your brain and make it easy to write.
… Or at least I do. “Now Rachel” and “Future Rachel” are constantly trying to trick each other into doing things
This is especially true when writing multiple advertorials about the same offer. It’s common to test different angles and hooks to see which resonate best with your audience.
Outlining is the most important step for me.
It’s more important than the writing itself, and I spend a lot of time outlining my advertorial before I even think about writing it.
I always think of my brain as having 2 modes.
The “strategic mode” – the planning mode – and the “creative mode.”
And for me at least – those modes cannot operate at the same time.
In fact, I don’t even expect them to operate on the same day!
Think of it as functional personality disorder.
So the strategic brain is the one that does all the thinking up front, which is what happens when you’re creating your outline.
In your outline you want to plan out the structure, the format, the topic and subtopics that needs to be covered. You need to plan the placement of any SEO keywords if you’re writing for organic traffic. All the stuff that the creative brain doesn’t want to think about when it’s spinning wild tales.
Here’s how I go into “strategic mode” and outline my piece.
First I outline the headlines. I often put placeholders like “Headline 2” or “Main Offer Headline” so I don’t go too deep into creative brain and jarr myself out of the planning process.
Then I create writing prompts for myself underneath those headlines.
I ask questions and give myself orders about what to write, and how to write it.
I do this just like I would if I was outlining the piece for another writer.
For example, I might write, “tell a short story about the product came to be” or, “make sure to connect to the main pain point here.”
I treat my creative brain as if it was a completely different person.
That way, when I sit down to write, I don’t get bogged down by all the structural details. Instead I can just write and tell stories, which takes a different type of thinking and brain-space.
I learned this years ago when I ran a successful copywriting agency. This is the exact process I used to get inexperienced, newbie writers to produce high-performance sales copy quickly.
Since I did all the planning and thinking for them, it was easy for them to sit down, follow instructions, and pump out high-quality content that was designed to get readers to take action.
Using this system, some writers were able to produce 10-15 advertorials per week.
I also use this process for myself. This way I can treat “writing Rachel” as a separate entity from “planning and strategy Rachel” since the two tasks require different skill sets and mental modes.
So to set my “writer self” up for success, I create in-depth outlines.
I even color code them so I don’t have to think about which words are part of the outline, and what sections I’m supposed to write.
– Blue is for the writing prompts and outline instructions
– Red is stuff that is really important or must be included
– Green is stuff that came from another source and needs to be rewritten in my own words
– Finally, when sit down to write, I write in black.
This way, I know my first draft is finished when I’ve gone through and addressed all the colors, and there’s only black left on the page.
Step 4 – Writing the ‘Messy First Draft’
Now that we’ve made things easy for our “writing brain” we can begin writing our first draft.
This draft is messy, it doesn’t look good. It may not even make sense.
In fact, it should probably be called ‘The Zero Draft’ because it’s really just about getting all the important info on the page.
Here we’re going through our outline and addressing all the writer’s prompts we created for ourselves.
Sometimes this first draft is just a brain dump of thoughts, or even random sentences that prove a point or express an idea.
I don’t worry about “good writing” in this first draft.
The whole goal of this first draft is to go through the outline I created, and write something that addresses every single headline and prompt in that outline.
You’ll weave it all together and create the flow of the piece in the second draft.
Step 5 – Writing the second draft
In this second draft I take the mess that I created in the first draft, and start rearranging sentences so they flow logically and smoothly. I also write transitional sentences in between sections to make the piece flow better.
This is where I start weaving the piece together to make something that is easy to read, and makes logical sense.
This is also where I start to improve the language and writing itself…
… choosing better words or painting a word picture instead of just flatly describing what I need to say to get the information across.
By the end of this second draft, I should have something that – while not perfect – at least makes sense and could be published on a blog somewhere if someone just wanted a piece of content.
Step 6 – Editing and Optimizing
After I have a comprehensive draft that’s readable and flows well, I go through and edit.
Here I check for grammar, spelling, and readability.
I also go back through my project specs and make sure that all the critical information was covered.
Sometimes you miss things as you move from outline to first draft, so you want to make sure nothing gets left out.
This is also where I would optimize the headlines and content for SEO keywords if needed – making sure important keywords were in the headlines, and making sure we don’t use the keyword too many times on the page. (this is called keyword density)
SEO optimization is a whole ‘notha process with a bunch of checkboxes to tick off. It’s important if you want to generate long-term traction over time by building up organic search rankings.
If SEO optimization is something you’d like to learn more about, then leave a comment below a and tell me so I can create a different post about it.
But if you’re running paid traffic, or driving readers from another website or email list, then don’t worry about optimizing for keywords. Just focus on proofreading and fixing up the grammar, spelling, sentence structure.
The goal is to make your piece flow smoothly so it’s easy to read.
Step 7 – Final read through
By now you’ve got a solid piece of copy, and you want to do a final read-through.
I do this step twice.
First I read through and see if there is anything my eyes pick out, like weird punctuation marks or typos.
Then I read it out loud and make sure the sentences sound right and flow together smoothly.
This will help you catch any weird transitions or jarring ends to certain sections or paragraphs.
It should read like someone is reading a story on the news, or telling a story in a book. It should flow nicely and not feel stilted.
So this final readthrough is just to make sure the piece feels good, both inside your head and out loud.
Step 8 – Pray (Just kidding… it’s “Test”)
We can research, and study, and practice ’til the cows come home…. but ultimately… we need to actually test the damn thing to see if it works.
The truth is, when it comes to copy (and most marketing) – NO ONE knows what’s going to work for sure.
Every single product, audience, niche, industry, and traffic source is completely different. So the only way to find out “what works” is to test different approaches and then analyze the data.
We can make an educated guess based on experience and past testing, but there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to marketing.
This is why we often create multiple advertorials with different angles, hooks, and structures for the same campaign.
Hopefully, having a system like this in place will make that easier for you…
… or at least…
… make it easier to get started.
Want my templates and procedures for writing advertorials?
I’m building out a full system of training, templates, and real-life examples to help business owners produce the same high-performance advertorials.
I call it the “Plug ‘N Play Pre-Sale Copy System”
This is the same system that I used to build a 6-figure copy agency and train my team of writers to write across dozens of niches for hundreds of websites.
If this is something you’re interested in, click here to get on the waiting list.