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How to Write Effective Online Classified Ads

It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of classified ads.  I am able to pull in a large volume of traffic for a wide variety of affiliate offers using low cost classified ads.  For the purpose of this article I’m referring to BackPage online classifieds, but most of this information will hold true for other online and print classifieds as well. 

One important benefit of BackPage Classifieds is that you aren’t limited to a few lines of text.  You can include expanded information about your offering, photographs, hyperlinks, testimonials, phone numbers and whatever else you think is relevant. 

How to Write Classified Ads that Sell

Used properly, classified ads are hard to beat.  The beauty of this type of advertising is that visitors are already interested in some aspect of the ad category.  For example, you can be reasonably sure that someone visiting the “Business Opportunities” category of classifieds is interested in self employment.  This is high quality, prequalified traffic from people that are very likely ready to buy, or at least ready for more information.

Browsing through the classifieds you’ll see the vast majority of ads are horrid.  Let’s cover some basics that will help set your ad above the rest.

Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.  A classified ad with misspellings and grammatical errors will quickly erode confidence in your offer.  Remember that first impressions count.  Make your first impression professional and trustworthy.  

AIDA Advertising Model

Back when I was first learning how to write copy for web sites, I learned about the AIDA advertising model, a system that has served me well.   It’s a simple acronym that lays out a simple structure for virtually any online offering.

A – Attention
I – Interest
D – Desire
 A – Action

(A) Get their attention.  Starting with the ad headline, you must grab the attention of people scanning the classifieds.  Your ad will be among many others so make it stand out.  Give them a reason to click through and read your ad copy.   

(I) Get them interested. Once you’ve got their attention you must gain their interest. Expand on the Headline in the first few words and sentences in your ad.  Get them interested in learning more.

(D) Build their desire.  You can build desire by showing the benefits of your offer.  Focus on the positive benefits for the visitor and this will build their desire.

(A) Motivate them to action.  This is the step where you get your visitor to click on a link or make a phone call.  You must clearly identify your call to action and make it completely obvious even at a quick glance. 

 Writing Classified Headlines

Writing a great classified ad headline is part science and part art.   Because it is the single most important part of your ad, you should spend the time to craft a compelling headline that makes readers want to know more. 

Your headline should be easy to read.  I recommend avoiding excessive use of special characters.   It is ok to use all capital letters for a headline, if that is allowable.  BackPage limits capitalization in headlines but you can still capitalize keywords in the headline.  Use that to your advantage to make certain keywords stand out.

Here is a list of keywords that you may want to include in your ad;

Free, new, how to, now, announcing, introducing, introductory, challenge, wanted, advice, the truth about, just arrived, important, sensational, amazing, remarkable, bargain, last chance, hurry, love, magic, easy, offer

This is just a partial list of compelling keyword you may want to have in your headline.  Don’t forget to include category specific keywords for your particular niche market. 

Look at the classifieds and scroll down the list of ad headlines.  Which ones make you want to stop and read more?  Why?  What keywords did they use?  Experiment with your headlines.  Try different keywords and different placements within your headlines. 

Writing Classified Ads: The Body Text

Before you even start writing your body text, you should understand what you want from readers.  You probably will not close a sale in a classified ad.  Most likely you’ll want them to click through to one of your affiliate offers or visit your web site for more information, or perhaps to make a phone call for more information. 

Your goal is to generate interest in your offer and build desire for more information.  Pique their interest by providing benefits.  Give them a glimpse of how their life will be better with your product or service.  Remember that the reader cares only about themself.  They don’t care about you or your company so focus on their needs and the benefits to them. 

Whenever possible it is a good idea to include elements to enhance the emotional impact of your ad.  Some examples would include photos, screenshots, testimonials, references and newspaper headlines.  Perhaps most important of these is the photograph.  The old overused adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is quite true here.  Including a photo that illustrates your offer’s benefits is a great way to increase a reader’s interest and desire.  For example, a beautiful woman with a great smile might be te perfect photo to show for a classified ad you’re running to promote a teeth whitening system.

Call to Action: Your ad must include a clear call to action.  Make sure it’s clearly identifiable and easy to find.  Think about where the eye tracks on a page (left to right for most people).  The best location for a call to action may be on the right side of the page and certainly viewable without scrolling down the page.  Use words like click here, call now, sign up, visit, hurry, supplies are limited, get your free sample, etc. 

Test  Marketing Your Classified Ads

Before you go lay out a pile of money on a national ad campaign it’s prudent to do some test marketing.   I usually run a new ad in about 10 selected cities for a sampling prior to a full scale launch.  Here are some cities you might want to consider for your test marketing on BackPage;

Kansas City
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
New York
Oklahoma City
St. Louis
Toronto (if you’re marketing in Canada)

In Conclusion

Online classifieds are a great way to advertise your products or services effectively and inexpensively.  Your job as an online advertiser is to get their attention with a compelling headline, get them interested in your offer, build their desire for more information and get them to take action.  A little test marketing will help you refine your ads prior to spending your ad money on large national campaigns.  With just a little practice you’ll be creating profitable classified ads. 

 Get Started: Create Your Free BackPage Classifieds Account Today

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  • Leigh Ann Kristiansen · March 9, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Less is more with classified advertising. Give the reader just enough information to spark interest for them to call and learn more. You can close the deal over the phone, in person or online depending on the means of responding!

  • Kwasi Kisiedu · July 22, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Great article! You’ve made my job a whole lot easier.

  • MFC · April 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Great article, I learned some really great tips!

  • Nepali classifieds · March 3, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Really, Beautiful articles.. i love the way of writing… and knew some core concepts of classified ads.

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