7 Copywriting Faux Pas to Avoid

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Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Good copywriting can be difficult, so it's all too common to see the occasional error. Here are seven of the biggest mistakes marketers need to avoid.

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7 Copywriting Faux Pas to Avoid

Great copy can be a huge marketing asset. It can engage an audience, call customers to action and improve a brand's awareness and reputation. However, most marketers have had to deal with copywriters who make mistakes from time to time.

Often these are easily fixable and not serious. However, there are some copywriting faux pas that are difficult to catch and can seriously harm the performance of your website. Here are five of the most egregious that you should always watch out for.

Weak headlines

The headline is the first thing users will see before reading any copy or content, so it needs to be strong.

"A weak headline will cause the reader to pass over your content until they reach something that does grab their attention." - Lori Dickey, inbound marketing specialist with Precision Marketing Group
 

It's easy to miss a weak headline in your copy. You should try to make sure that the ones you write are fewer than 60 characters long and contain attention-grabbing keywords. Think of how an audience would be captivated by the headline and want to read on, and phrase it accordingly.

Overselling your product/service

Often, the purpose of copy is to sell something or to convince an audience that your product or service is worth paying for. However, doing this too obviously can immediately turn an audience off. The very last thing you want to do is start off any piece of copy with anything that comes across as a sales pitch.

Ryan Healy - the most referred direct response copywriter on the internet - says you should "talk about anything that will capture your prospect’s attention" and draw them into your work. People don't read copy to be sold something, they read it in order to answer a question or solve a problem, or merely to add value to their day. This is what your copy should reflect.

Setting unrealistic expectations

Phrases such as "you won't believe…" and "...will change your life" have made their way into a lot of headlines recently. However, while promising certain results from your content is a good way to get people to look at an article, it is a terrible way to get people to engage with your content and your brand.

Copywriting firm Stratton Craig recommends that you:

"keep in mind that your target audience is a group of intelligent people who are not easily fooled with ridiculous promises."

 

If you claim you will answer a question with your content but don't, it will frustrate your audience and they will dismiss your brand.

Writing articles that are too short or too long

Different audiences respond well to different types of content. You might have more success with short, fun pieces than you would with long form articles. However, you might be surprised at which your audience responds best to.

This is why Kissmetrics recommends testing your copy; try distributing two different versions of an article (one long, one short) and see which one performs better. This will give you proof of what your audience responds best to, enabling you to tailor your copy to fit their sensibilities.

Ignoring SEO

You don’t have to be a search engine optimization (SEO) expert to benefit from some of its most common tactics. For example, the most basic aspect of SEO is keywords. You need to think about what terms your users might put into a search engine in order to find your business, then use them in your copy. This is something Google’s Keyword Planner can help with.

You should include these keywords in your article’s title (as long as they’re relevant to the content) to enable search engines to understand what you’ve written about and put your site in front of the right people. You should also make sure in-article headings are tagged, using H1 and H2 tags. Google’s John Mueller has admitted these play a large part in how high webpages are ranked.

No calls-to-action

What do you want your users to do once they’ve finished reading your copy? Should they be downloading a white paper, reading another blog post or getting in touch with a consultant? Whatever the case, they’re much more likely to do so if you tell them to by using a call-to-action (CTA).

This can be as simple as a hyperlink to another page on your site, but the language you use must be direct. Tell your audience what you want them to do and ideally provide them with a good reason to do so. It’s a good idea to include multiple CTAs within your content, with HubSpot’s best practice being to include three.

Failing to split test your web copy

Split testing - also called A/B testing - is the practice of providing 50% of users with a webpage and 50% with a slightly different version of it, then measuring to see which performs better. It’s an essential way to see what appeals to your audience, with marketing guru Neil Patel pointing out that it can increase conversion rates and help you understand your audience better.

The key is to not change too much about the two versions of your copy. For example, if you only change one word in the headline, you’ll be able to see the kind of language your audience prefers. If you also change the image, the font and half of the copy, you won’t be able to work out which alteration caused the better performance and you’ll have learned little.

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