People like being sold to as much as babies love spinach puree.
The second they see a blatant ad their knee-jerk reaction is to click that X in the corner and move on to the content they were reading.
Same with babies whose faces twist and turn at the sight of the green, mushy spinach trying to make its way to their mouth.
But just like parents do the choo-choo game that transforms the spoon into a funny train, marketers use advertorials to turn a regular ad into a captivating narrative that’s worth reading.
A good advertorial eliminates the readers’ natural AdBlock and gives them enough value and entertainment to keep their attention locked in all the way through.
What makes a good advertorial GOOD?
In theory, any advertorial that gives the reader REAL value can do the trick.
The “Golden Formula” states that 70% of the content should be editorial (informative, valuable), and only 30% should be promotional. When applied correctly, this rule alone should grab your readers’ attention and keep them interested in your content.
But if you want your advertorial to convert readers into leads… then things get a little more complex.
There’s no cookie-cutter, step-by-step formula that will work for every advertorial you create. However, there are a few DOs and DON’Ts your advertorials should follow to fully serve their purpose.
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of questions you need to ask yourself as you review your advertorials. This simple checklist will help you tweak your content so you convert more readers into ready-to-buy leads.
1. Does the headline spark curiosity?
The headline is there for a single purpose: to get the click. To fulfill that purpose, it needs to make the reader think “I HAVE to know what this is about!”
That’s exactly why Buzzfeed content gets so much attention: all their headlines create a compulsive need to read further.
It’s the same with advertorials.
The headline’s job is NOT to make the actual sale, to summarize the content, or to give away the most precious information.
Its role is to grab attention and make people want to know more.
2. Is it absolutely clear who the advertorial is for?
The best way to make sure your advertorial gets attention from the people you want as customers is to call them out.
Simple as that.
Is it clear from the headline or the intro who this content is for? If it’s for WordPress users, make sure you write “WordPress users” in the headline or intro of your advertorial.
If it’s for startup owners who’ve just received funding, let them know it’s for them.
This way you’ll attract more qualified leads and keep away people who wouldn’t appreciate your content anyway.
3. Does the advertorial follow the Rule of One?
One target audience, one main idea & one goal for each advertorial.
Trying to cover as many audiences as possible or to write about 5 different ideas in the same advertorial will only dilute your impact.
- Multiple targets – maybe one target group will identify with your message. Most likely, the others will not. The ideal user concept therefore becomes meaningless.
- Multiple ideas – multiple ideas will either make it harder for the reader to connect with your product, or the advertorial will be so lengthy that no one will get to the CTA (assuming they have some idea of where the click will take them).
- Multiple goals – people will be uncertain of what they need to do at the end of your advertorial. Should they hit your landing page? Should they follow you on Instagram? Should they check out your blog? Given this many option, they’ll usually take no action at all.
4. Does the advertorial touch on your ideal user’s pain points?
You need to know your readers’ pain points like the back of your hand, and make sure to address them in the advertorial. Don’t be afraid of getting into details and digging deep into their frustrations and failures.
This will help readers identify with your message and feel like you understand their wants, needs, or concerns.
And once they feel understood and valued, they’ll be more likely to take your desired action (and choose your product or service instead of a competitor’s)
5. Are their emotions carefully guided throughout the text?
Good tour guides make you want to pay attention to what you see and hear so you’ll gain more and more interest as the journey progresses.
You want your content to do the same, so your readers will come to trust you enough to do what you ask them – e.g., click on your landing page or sign in for a free trial.
The emotional journey can go something like this:
You touch on specific pain points – they’ll feel understood →
You tell them there’s a solution for their problems – you give them hope →
You show them how your solution can change their lives – they grow interested in what you have to offer
You prove your solution works the way you say it does → they trust you can deliver what you promise
You ask them to check out your product → they’re excited to try your solution
You can adapt this journey according to your purpose, to the market you activate in, and to your target audience. Just make sure that building trust is a key element in your emotional journey.
6. Does the advertorial provide real value to the reader?
Remember the 70% editorial content, 30% promotional content formula?
Apply that to your advertorials and you stand a good chance of offering real value to your target audience.
You can play around with those number, but keep this in mind:
Raise the percentage of editorial content too much, and you may run the risk of your readers losing track of what you want them to do.
Raise the promotional content percentage too high, and you risk entering a “hard-sell” mode that pushes your readers away.
7. Is the promotional part of the advertorial natural and subtle?
If your advertorial offers tons of value, but the promotional part is a blatant ad that breaks the natural flow of the content, people are likely to feel betrayed.
“Order today! You’ll never see this low price again” does not add value. It’s a turnoff.
What you want to do is incorporate promotional content naturally and subtly in your message, so your readers don’t feel manipulated or being sold to.
If you’ve worked so hard to lower their guard, try to make your promo look like a natural extension of the content. This way, it will be perceived as a suggestion and not as a commercial.
8. Is the advertorial believable?
The most important goal of your advertorial is to earn the reader’s trust.
That’s why it’s critical that you make it as believable as possible. Incorporate stats and results, expert estimates & predictions, as well as success stories & testimonials.
If your product has a large user base or it’s used by well-known companies, mention that in your advertorial. Don’t be ashamed of name-dropping: social proof is one of the most convincing arguments you’ve got.
If your product was featured in major publications, make sure your readers know that. They’ll be more likely to try your product if it’s been vetted by publications they trust.
9. Is the advertorial interesting and specific enough for your ideal user?
Specificity is key, but make sure your advertorial is also relevant to your ideal user.
Don’t use vague benefits, general pain points, or unrelatable stories. Get to know your reader’s specific pain points, include stories they can relate to, and list benefits they absolutely need in their lives.
Find out what other solutions they may have tried and what and problems they dealt with. Show them how your solution is different and how it will make their specific problems disappear.
10. Does the promo content in your advertorial match the landing page?
If your advertorial sends the reader on a landing page or your website, you need to make sure you give them exactly what they’re expecting to find.
If your advertorial says that your product will solve a specific problem, address that problem on your landing page.
If your advertorial talks about how the reader’s life will be better, easier, or richer thanks to your product… reinforce the very same message on your landing page.
This will reassure them that they’ve landed in the right place and that your solution is exactly what they were looking for.
This is what the “anatomy” of a good advertorial should look like:
- A headline that sparks curiosity & gets clicked
- Headline & intro that clearly call out your target
- Rule of One: One target, One idea, One goal
- Specific pain points the reader can relate to
- Emotional journey is carefully guided
- Content provides real value to the reader
- Promotional content is natural and subtle
- The information provided is believable
- The content is 100% specific to your target
- Promo content matches that of your landing page
It’s not always easy to write an advertorial that reaches out to the people you want, with the message you want, and then drives them to the action you want them to take.
Even experienced advertorial writers can sometimes miss a key element or two, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have everything perfectly aligned and to the point.
Hopefully, this post will help you stay on track and identify any possible mistakes before putting your advertorial out into the world.
If you want an expert pair of eyes on your content before publishing (or if you want a veteran advertorial specialist to write it for you from scratch), we’re happy to help.
Need advertorials that convert your ideal users?