4 Copywriting Oversights That Kill Conversions Before They Begin (And How You Can Avoid Them)

Every business needs to resonate with its target audience.

Get it right, and you’re honing your craft and getting better at what you do. At the same time, you reap the benefits.

  • The problem is that this only happens in a perfect case scenario.
  • People make mistakes while running their businesses all the time, especially when it comes to copywriting.
  • Even worse, getting something wrong in copy could have disastrous results on conversions and business success.

This brings up the big point: if your prospects aren’t converting, you need to reconsider your copy. The words you write always have an impact — for better or worse.

The first thing you should do is remember that your target audience dictates everything. After all, a group of 50-year-old lawyers isn’t the same as a group of 35-year-old construction workers. 

If you try to write for lawyers and construction workers at the same time, you might as well not bother trying to sell to either of them. It’s not even because the construction workers or lawyers can’t understand what you’re saying. It’s because the copy and the offer itself won’t resonate with at least half of them.

Instead, your words should help the target audience understand their specific pain points and problems. The copy should offer them a realistic, simple solution which will drive up your sales.

So how do you manage that while avoiding pitfalls, common mistakes, and undetailed briefs?

Let’s dive a little deeper into that. In this article, we’ll determine which copywriting oversights kill conversions and what you can do to prevent these issues in the first place.


Copywriting Oversight That Kills Conversions Before They Begin #1: Not Resonating With The Target Audience 

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

Research, listening, and observation will help you write copy that converts. Take these steps, and the words you choose should move people in the directions you want them to go.

You don’t have to become a rocket scientist to be able to write compelling copy that’ll get their attention. You will need to read some of what they read, observe what they say and how they say it. Speaking to one or two of them could also give you a lot of insight.

You should also consider many other aspects when building a picture of your audience. Everything from their educational level to their feelings about religion can help you find the right words to drive the point home. 

If your copy doesn’t resonate with your target audience, it might be missing integral information. For example, you can’t do without a unique selling proposition or an evocative, emotional pull. Consider both of these things early in the briefing process if you want a higher conversion rate.  

See, poorly written copy doesn't only convert or sell your product. People don't buy a product or service if the language in the offer appears forced, unclear, unemotional, or unimportant. That’s why you should edit and weigh your word choices. Have others read the language you’re choosing — more than once. 

If your copy reads like it was written for English 201 in college, it’s off track. Sales copy shouldn’t be dull, and it’s a waste of time to write copy if it doesn’t compel anyone to buy.

The goal of copywriting is to get people to act. You’re using words to signal what's for sale (a solution to the audience's problem) and why they should buy it now. Creating that urgency leads to more and faster sales of your product or services.

Learn how to do better audience research with the help of this article.

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

Copywriting Oversight That Kills Conversions Before They Begin #2: Expecting Perfection

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

Even the most experienced writers and business owners aren’t perfect. Successful copywriters juggle several projects at once and that can lead to “not seeing the forest for the trees.” Then they can end up overlooking glaring missteps. One of the most frequent issues is writing copy that relies on industry-specific jargon.

Almost every fruit seller will understand the meaning of “Don’t let brown spots destroy your wares.” However, if you’re also selling to people who sell all sorts of groceries, they might not understand.

So steer clear of most jargon, even if you’re reasonably sure that your target audience will get the message.

People don’t buy things they don’t understand. They also don’t develop relationships with people who make them feel stupid. It’s easy to avoid that by getting rid of technical terms and overly-specific language. 


Copywriting Oversight That Kills Conversions Before They Begin #3: Not Prioritizing The Simple Stuff 

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

Every writer has their own pet peeves when it comes to writing. Some writers can’t stand misplaced quotation marks and apostrophes. Others hate run-on sentences. Some even seem like they’ll break out in hives when people make mistakes like using “affect” for “effect.” 

There are also plenty of common mistakes that copywriters and advertisers point to. These include things such as the derisive term “fashion singular.” That’s something you might have seen if you’ve visited a clothing store in recent years. 

The proper way to refer to a pair of trousers isn’t “pant,” but fashion writers and sign makers have a habit of referring to them like that. If someone tries to sell you a new “pant,” you might roll your eyes back into your head and go buy somewhere else.  

Granted, with that example, millions of fashion-conscious types might not raise an eyebrow. Even if that’s true, alienating even five percent of your intended demographic could lose you thousands of dollars in sales. The losses could be in the millions if you sell something like yachts.

Some people also use the “food singular.” One example is referring to a serving of french fries as “a fry.” In today’s internet-savvy, hyper-connected world, only a small percentage of people might feel alienated by that. 

Still, I wouldn’t want to bet my business on the idea that it’s a small percentage. Would you? The bottom line is that sloppy word choice and grammatical mistakes affect your credibility. Credibility and trust are crucial if you’re trying to get readers to convert.

In no particular order, here are a few other examples of mistakes that should never get past you:   

  • Using the wrong words (think “they’re, there, or their,” and “loose/lose”) will make you look inept. Try taking a step away from your copy and come back to it with fresh eyes. Then you’ll have a better chance of spotting these unprofessional mistakes. 
  • Unnecessary apostrophes will sink your call to action in a heartbeat. For example, you should never write “banana’s” if you only want to pluralize the word. That won’t inspire much confidence in discerning readers.
  • Relying too much on technology can result in bad copy. Spellcheck and grammar check are great, but they won’t catch everything. There’s a reason human editors and writers are still employed.
  • Keep context and recent history in mind. Recently, a well-known company sent out an email that said, “Congratulations, you survived the Boston Marathon!” Considering the history of the marathon, it’s safe to say that wasn’t the emotional pull they intended.
  • Be cautious with adverbs. They’re redundant or nonsensical. For example, “She screamed loudly.” As opposed to many other people who screamed quietly? They don't all have to go, but you should be aware when using adverbs.
  • Beware of long paragraphs and walls of text, even if you’re writing about a complicated topic. There’s a reason why the catchphrase “TL;DR” (too long, didn’t read) is a thing. There’s also a reason we say, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” 
  • Avoid gender or cultural stereotypes, even when you think they’ll resonate with your target audience. For example, men and women handle childcare and change diapers. To assume otherwise isn’t just a mistake — it could end your business if you come across as discriminatory. 
  • Be cautious with snarky, almost passive-aggressive pop-ups. If the visitor doesn’t want to take you up on your offer, that’s their prerogative. Any tongue-in-cheek language could seem rude at that point.

Using language like “No thanks, I’d rather miss out and be a loser” in your pop-up checkboxes doesn’t create the connection every business needs to be successful.

  • Steer clear of crutches. Everyone has a few that they tend to use. Those crutches might be a few words or phrases, but they can also be punctuation habits. Try having someone else read your copy and they might bring those crutches to your attention.

Imagine someone who has a sordid affair with the em dash (—), even though they’ve been told not to use them on every piece of writing. 

They claim that they like the rhythm the em dash provides. What they don’t realize is overloading copy with the dashes makes the reader focus on them. Instead, the reader should always focus on the message of the copy.

Other crutches can be words thrown in to make a sentence or paragraph longer, otherwise known as fluff. Things like “Everyone knows that” or “As we’re all aware” don’t need to be included. If everyone knows, there’s no need to point it out.

  • Don’t assume that typos don’t affect the bottom line. For example, imagine an online company that sells a particular garment (and not much else). Well, imagine if that garment’s name was misspelled in a few places.

Sales would be down because readers wouldn’t trust the business. If they noticed and fixed it, their sales might increase by a respectable amount. So remember, the copy you use and the clarity and correctness of it is everything. 

Learn how to effectively proofread and self-edit your copy with the help of this article.


Copywriting Oversight That Kills Conversions Before They Begin #4: Plagiarizing

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

Don’t plagiarize your copy, ever. There’s nothing new under the sun, but even so, you need to be cautious about word choice. You can’t argue that it was just a coincidence that 30% of your copy is identical to someone else’s. Sometimes nobody will notice if they rewrite someone’s copy. That’s still plagiarism. 

Not only is plagiarizing bad form, which will give you a bad reputation, but it’s also a crime. Plagiarism can even be punishable by up to $50,000 and up to one year in jail. It’s more difficult than ever before to get away with stealing other people’s work, so don’t even try.

It can be tempting for any writer to try to rephrase someone else’s work when time is tight. Deadlines loom, content still isn’t what it needs to be, and that’s where the danger lies. 

Many writers have been caught by an editor checking their work for originality. All an editor has to do is use one of the many online anti-plagiarism tools that are available. 

Nothing is 100% foolproof but the fact remains that plagiarism will be discovered. Freelance workers are at the most risk as they’re unlikely to get much work after such an occurrence. If you haven’t guessed, editors aren’t known to be tolerant toward plagiarists. 


Take These Steps To Keep The Conversions Coming

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

One of the many things to bear in mind when writing copy is how people like to be treated with respect. If you write to them like they’re idiots, they won’t feel moved to spend money with you. So you should evaluate your copy for its tone. What you think is lighthearted can read to others as being disrespectful.


Be Consistent With Your Copy and Visual Branding

If one week your copy says you sell “widgets,” and the next week you say that you sell “apps,” your branding is less effective. Many firms deal with this by developing an official style and branding guide. In other words, they create a written set of directions about how to represent the company.

You shouldn’t assume your company is too small to worry about something like this. Smaller companies need to develop their brand in the same way as large companies. 

Don’t believe it? Ask yourself which company is affiliated with the color brown. They became known in tandem with that color through consistency. 


Don’t Ignore the Need to Create, Cultivate, and Nurture Connections

Your target audience doesn’t need to fall in love with you or even like you. What they do need is to feel a connection to you and the company you represent. Without that, they won’t convert into customers that’ll return time and again. Keep in mind, a regular customer could be the most valuable customer of all. 

So how do people create and cultivate a connection? By knowing what the other party values and engaging with those values. Every person values something. They crave connection, engagement, and acceptance. 

When writing copy, you have to know your target audience well and be able to produce content that’ll strike a chord with readers. Getting that right isn’t always easy to do but it’s critical if you want the copy to do its job. Try to put yourself in that reader’s shoes and think about what they want to see and read.

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

Be Specific, Not a Jack of All Trades

You have to build connections and have copy that moves the needle and gets people to take notice. Your copy can’t be aimed at your 90-year-old birdwatching grandma and your 16-year-old rock-climbing sister. Instead, assess your target audience and see if your copy is the kind of thing that’ll make them take notice.

Age isn’t the most important demographic marker, but it’s a good place to start. Look at the way other marketers have aimed at the demographic you’re targeting. What did they do well? Do you see anything they could have done better?

Compare and contrast with your own copy. Are you clear about the message and the target audience? What are you asking that audience to do? Make sure that comes across in clear language. 

Here's how you can make your copy hyper-specific to improve conversions.


Simplify, Simplify, and Then Simplify Some More

Some of the most memorable advertising campaigns and copy choices are actually the simplest and shortest of all. 

For example, if you were old enough to watch USA television in the early 1980s, you’d have seen the famous “Where’s the Beef?” commercials. They simplified their message down to three words, and it passed into common language. People started using the phrase to ask, “What’s the real substance here?”

There’s also the well-known “Got Milk?” campaign that started in 1993. They simplified the ad down to two words, and the results were so good that they continue to run it. It was first developed for the California Milk Processor Board and was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers.


Good Copy Sets You Apart From The Competition

4 copywriting oversights that kill conversions before they begin (and how you can avoid them)

You need well-written, well-thought-out, well-edited copy to hit home with your target audience. Too bad that kind of copy doesn’t grow on trees. That’s why there’s so much clutter that communicators have to cut through.

Try to be mindful of the fact that you’re not always the target audience. Your audience might know much more or much less than you do about your business and offer. For example, they could be much younger or much older. Figure out who you’re trying to communicate with, and everything else follows.

Your copy has to be clear about who it speaks to. Know what the audience wants, needs, or will do to make something happen. If you don't know who you’re talking to, you can't communicate well.

The only way to find your audience is to determine your ideal customer, figure out who’s reading your copy, and research your buyers. Ignoring this process is one of the biggest copywriting mistakes that can kill conversion.

Good copywriting is also like writing poetry or short stories in a sense. Every word serves a purpose and works together to make the point clear. 

Even though copywriting requires attention to detail, thought, and research, you don’t need to get too serious. Being humorous has its advantages.

There are many examples, but one effective ad involved an attractive woman in a white dress. The ad had to do with a somewhat new technical development in broadcasting resolution. 

The actress comes in and, with confidence, says something like, “1080p? I don’t know what it is… but I WANT it.” That’s a clever, memorable way to get the point across that you don’t have to know everything about the technology to desire it or to decide to buy it. 

The commercial no doubt sold many subscriptions to the service or the hardware to use it. Why? Well, the message was clear and it made an impact on the right audience.

You can do the same and you should give yourself the advantage that excellent copy brings to the table. 


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About Daniel Doan

Daniel is a proven Neuro-Response copywriter with over a decade of expertise bridging the gap between what your company wants to say and what your customers actually want to read.

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