There are plenty of pitfalls and common mistakes you can make in copywriting.
These mistakes can steer prospects clear of your business. They're issues that, if you're not aware of them, can make or break your business.
That's why it's important to:
Plenty of these mistakes seem obvious and you might have them handled already. But some of them are a little trickier and are easy to miss, even when you're aware of them.
The upside is that these mistakes are all easy to identify and make sense when you look at them. They're logical when you understand the fundamentals of copywriting and resolving these problems can do a lot for your copy.
With that out of the way, let's look at 20 customer-repellent copywriting mistakes (and how to fix them).
One of your most powerful copywriting weapons is the ability to write in a conversational tone. Conversational writing produces a higher response than formal copy because it appears genuine and authentic. It feels like someone is really using conversation instead of stilted formal dialogue.
Copywriting is all about persuasion and sales, but you can only expect sales if your copy is relatable. And there's nothing more relatable than conversational language that your audience uses.
The important part is to distinguish between "conversation" and "conversational." Your copy needs to flow and sound natural, like a conversation, but it can't sound like an actual conversation because people make mistakes when they speak.
You want it to sound casual and flow well. But not too casual, otherwise it can look unprofessional. To get a better idea of what good conversational copy looks like, imagine how you could incorporate phrases like these:
To make it easy, you can read your copy out loud or put it into a text-to-speech tool. Then go from there and edit as needed, making things flow better and sound more natural.
Learn more on how to use conversational copywriting in this article.
As far as writing goes, this is a unique facet. Since copywriting uses emotion and speaks to a reader, it has to connect. With the wrong tone, there could be an immediate disconnect with your audience.
That's because your audience is aware of branding and consistency. If you can't keep a consistent tone, they'll notice. They may not even know why they object to it, but it won't sit right with them. It'll seem out of place and they'll question why the piece is so different from everything else you've written.
The tone you develop should also cater to your specific audience. Aside from the fact that it could sound inconsistent, it might not reach them in the same way, regardless.
Because of that, it's crucial to study previous copy and content and write yours to match. It has to sound like the same person wrote everything if there are multiple authors. If not, match their tone.
You know what you want to say. You've probably spent countless hours crafting your words; polishing them until they shine like diamonds.
And then… crickets.
No one wants to read it. It's boring. Your message fell flat, and you don't understand why.
Well, copywriting works through the use of emotion and psychology. If you can't nail that, you can't connect with your audience.
And your audience won't trust you if you can't form that connection, meaning you won't see conversions.
Copywriting uses emotion to make an impact. You need to relive moments that brought you extreme emotions or changes in life. Then you need to think about how that can translate for your audience.
Some emotions you might try to tap into are:
You can use any emotion in your copy, but negative emotions work particularly well. You can also use positive emotions, illustrating how good things could be with your offer. The key idea is to use one of these emotions to carry your copy to a single point or theme.
Learn how to craft compelling emotional hooks in your copy here.
Have you noticed how most businesses these days are trying to put out more relatable copy? This is a huge shift from just a few years ago when it wasn't necessary.
What's the reason for the shift? Simple: consumers are tired of being marketed to and having their time wasted. If your ads aren't relatable, they will be ignored or worse… laughed at. Under no circumstance do you want a potential customer to laugh at your ads or feel insulted. So what does it take to be relatable?
Think about Amazon. You're usually buying from them when it's something you need, so you're comparing features because that's all they usually provide. With any offer, though, features don't cut it. They mean nothing unless you can pair them with a benefit.
Understand why someone might want your offer. There's more to it than specifications. There's an emotional connection to tap into. By doing that, you can get a better idea of who your audience is and what they want.
What your audience wants is to see how a product or service can do something specific for them. They could want to look cool or feel healthy or streamline their business. Whatever it is, get in their heads and think about what their genuine desires are.
What do you think of when you hear the word "assume"?
You probably have an image of someone assuming that something is true without evidence or proof. Maybe this should be obvious, but just to make sure… here's a good example:
"I assume that nobody wants to read my pet peeve rant."
Wow. That's an assumption if I've ever heard one. See what happens when you assume things?
Still, it’s easy to assume things all the time. It’s how we understand, or make sense, of the world a lot of the time.
It's easy to group people into categories. It seems like it makes sense, especially when deciding how to market to specific people.
But you can't assume everyone is the same, though.
You might have a buyer persona laid out, but that doesn't mean every customer will fit into that box. So account for every type of person who might want your offer.
It's not that you'll sell to every single person, but you can't push away potential customers by assuming something about them. So, words like "maybe" and "if" are very effective in copywriting. If a statement applies to somebody, they glaze over them, but if not, they won't feel you're assuming who they are.
Your copywriting should be accessible to a wide audience. If your target demographic is composed of other business professionals, you may be tempted to use industry-specific jargon in your writing—but this can backfire on you if your readership isn't familiar with Jargon.
Your goal is not only to inform the reader, but also to entice them into reading more by explaining your points in an entertaining way. And, you know, buying your products.
Avoid the perils of jargon-heavy copywriting by avoiding words with multiple meanings. Jargon is often hard to understand. Words that have alternate definitions, or are slang for non-technical concepts, can end up confusing your readers if you aren't careful.
When you use too much technical language, some readers might end up feeling lost or confused.
You want to show that you know what you're talking about, but explain it in a way that your audience understands. The main idea is to simplify complex ideas so your target audience can digest them.
That doesn't mean to pander, but be aware of where they're at as far as understanding. Your audience's experience levels may vary, so tailor your copy to be readable by anyone who wants what you're offering.
Credibility is key for any business. It's not as big of a deal for McDonald's or Starbucks, but it's crucial in a smaller business. Especially in a niche market, you want to prove that you know what you're doing.
To build credibility, give undeniable proof, and make things clear so anyone can understand what your business does. To make your copy clear, it's a good idea to get as specific as possible and give as many details as you can.
To give proof that you can deliver on your promises, you can focus more on the social aspect of things. Testimonials are great because your audience gets confirmation from their peers, whom they trust more than a business.
Trust logos at the top of the page are also effective because they help associate you with legitimate brands.
Case studies can also work well, but not in every industry. For instance, they work really well in the copywriting industry because they allow me to dissect the before and after with every client. How their page conversions changed, how their click-thru rates increased, etc.
You can use just about anything that relates to what you've successfully done in the past. Awards are one of the best methods to demonstrate your credibility, but there's not always a prestigious award for a specific industry. Data and statistics are reliable, and every business has some metric they can use.
When you're trying to sell something, specifics reign king. People want to know exactly what you're offering, what your offer does, and how it does so.
One of the best ways to make sure you're being specific enough is to start with a solid outline. It can help you see individual points and sections in a clearer light. When you can see your points laid out like that, you can identify what needs work.
It might take more time upfront, but it's a lot easier to scan through than a first draft. Your copy should do a few things well:
It's easy to get hung up on all the features of your product. After all, people have to understand what you do. They have to know how your product or service impacts them.
So if you spend too much time describing how many reporting charts your business intelligence tool has (...57) and not enough explaining how much time that will save your users (...2 days per month), it's not going to win you any customers.
And the same goes for every feature of your product. So don't focus on features when copywriting, focus on the benefits instead.
For example, it doesn't matter how many email templates you have (...75). What matters is that your customers can send perfect emails every time (...no more embarrassing typos or formatting mistakes).
Here’s another example: Say you're selling bananas. Well, for someone concerned about health, the benefit would be the vitamin and mineral content.
You might sell to someone who's more worried about convenience, though, where the benefit is how portable and convenient bananas are. The way you spin the benefit depends on your target audience and on what they want.
In other words, it's not about what you do; it's about what you make possible. And by focusing on the benefits of your product, you'll have a much better chance of convincing people to buy.
When you're talking about a feature, translate it into a benefit. A benefit that relates to your audience. Because a feature does nothing, so illustrate what that feature can do for the buyer.
Here's a tip that's easy to apply but incredibly effective. Your call to action needs to be short and direct if you want it to be effective.
We all know you should end your copy with a strong call to action, but what does this actually mean? It means you need to tell the reader exactly what you want them to do.
The trick is making it enticing and direct. Nothing too boring and dry, but also nothing too elaborate and long. It’s a careful balance, but worth it.
Let’s put it into perspective, though. Even if the rest of your copy is interesting and immaculate, it's wasted with a poor call to action. After all, if you can't compel your audience to make a purchase, what are you doing?
Think about what your offer does for your audience. To be specific, the benefit it provides and how that benefit can make their lives easier or better. Or how much worse or how much harder their lives would be without it.
For example: "Learn how to make an extra $2400/mo with your first 12 months."
This is a great CTA because it’s clear, beneficial, and just long enough without going overboard. You want them to learn how to do something, and that something is extremely beneficial to them. It’s enticing.
Basically, the call to action should reflect what a prospect wants. Not only that, but it should also compel them to take action right now instead of later.
Notice in the example above, there’s a time frame: “first 12 months.” The incentive is to learn something new to generate $2400/mo sooner than later.
Implying scarcity, a limited time offer, or anything that could push someone to act sooner also works the same way.
But if all of that fails (it won’t, but options don’t hurt anyone), sweeten the deal with free bonuses. Think free books, articles, listicles, video content, etc.
Write stronger CTAs with the help of this article.
It's easy to fall into the trap of writing for yourself. After all, you know what you're writing about and what appeals to you. The issue is that you're not usually in the same stage of awareness as your audience.
Your audience will always differ from you in at least one way. That's why you have to remember who you're writing for and throw your preferences and biases out the window. Think about a single person, your most ideal customer, and write for them. It's easier said than done, but it really helps.
Also, there's a bit of a catch.
Writing what you think they want is one thing, but writing what you know they want is another. If all you do is stick to general demographic information, you’re going to get stuck in a generic tone and messaging.
At the end of the day, it’s all about going beyond the demographics. How does Jill differ from Bill? And is Jill actually the one spending the most on your brand? Those findings are going to reveal so much more valuable content than just surface-level demographics.
Once you find the deeper-level information, make sure your content is relatable to them. It needs to be about their pain points because that's what they're looking for.
For instance, maybe you’re selling financial software, like an app that tracks expenses. Bill is a free-spirit trying to become more organized, but Jill? She’s a Type-A. She’s much more inclined to convert because she needs tools that help her optimize her entire life, including her finances.
So even if you think you know your target audience, keep in mind that they're human and everyone can be different. If you're not actively tailoring your content to them, they won't engage.
Every writer has their own style and habits, and that's normal. That can also mean your writing gets stale to readers.
Yes, the wording that you use has worked in the past, but that might not always be the case. Break that habit and start trying to diversify.
Use language that you don't always immediately think of and try to make a note of words you use all the time. There are plenty of words that you can use, so move out of your comfort zone and start using them.
Here's an example: if you're writing a blog post, you might find yourself relying on the same language and words to describe certain things. You could use 'buy' or 'purchase' instead of 'buy', say.
And at times, that's good! There is no point in using ten different words when only one will do—that's just unnecessary and means you're not being concise.
However, if you use the same word or phrase time and time again, then it might be worth trying out some alternatives. You can break up those words with another one because it will make your writing flow better and sound less repetitive. It'll also make sure that the writing you put out is varied and interesting.
Try to vary the words you use in your articles or blog posts, but don't go overboard. The best thing about language is that it's always evolving, so try to keep up.
Don't let yourself become a creature of habit with the words you choose for your writing.
Nuance goes a long way in copywriting. The goal is to convince your audience you want to help them, not just that you want to take their money.
Of course, every business is about making money, and customers know this. That means that you need to explain to them how you can solve their problems. But do it in a gentle, empathetic way instead of trying to sell your product as the only possible solution.
Consider this example:
"Do you want to grow your business and make more money? You obviously do, otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. This eBook will show you how."
Now compare that with:
"You work hard to make your business a success. We want to help you make it easier."
The first approach is too direct and comes across as pushy. The second makes the reader feel like they’re being taken advantage of.
Ask yourself what your product does or offers to people that makes their life easier or better? Why should your audience want it? Understand what they want and appeal to that, rather than say that your offer is good and hope that it's good enough.
Be aware of when you're going over the top. Get to know your audience and you will see that most people don’t like to be the subject of heavy pitches.
A weak headline can look different depending on what type of copy you're writing. For example, a headline for a Facebook ad is much more limited to characters than a headline for a landing page.
Know what works best for each and if there are any general rules to follow for each. Remember, different tactics yield better conversions on different platforms, so do some research.
Also, you want to avoid using punctuation as much as possible, because it will waste characters. Make sure to keep your headlines brief and straight to the point.
You don't want anything that might confuse the reader or make them hesitate to click on what you're offering.
Avoid words like "help", "guide" and "learn" unless absolutely necessary, because they aren't attention-grabbing. And putting the reader's needs before your needs ("How to ____") is more likely to get people interested in doing what you're offering than "____ how".
In general, make your headlines interesting and make sure they do one of these things:
Also, try to use words that grab attention, shock, or surprise, often using adjectives, questions, and ellipses. If your headline doesn't use complete statements and specific wording to illustrate a real benefit, it won't be effective.
Overall, there are three things your headlines must do no matter what. Your headlines have to be specific, not just for readers but for SEO purposes. If people can't tell what you're writing about right off the bat, then they won't keep reading. If your SEO ranking is low, fewer people will even get the chance to read.
You should also make complete statements. Whatever idea you're trying to get across has to be clearly stated in full in your headlines. If not, again, readers might not be clear on what you're leading into.
This can lead to them losing interest before they get past the headline.
Finally, your headlines have to convey a benefit. Not just any benefit, a real, proven benefit. If there's nothing in it for the reader, they probably won't be very interested. Even if your copy is great, the reader has to be able to gain from whatever you're writing.
Copywriting requires specific formatting. When you're trying to make a sale, you're usually trying to do it in the quickest way possible. At the very least, your writing should hold a reader's attention while they get closer and closer to making a purchase.
Using headers, sub-headers, and bold text also makes things a lot easier to read. That means you'll be able to grab and hold your reader's attention.
On top of that, you want to keep big blocks of text from appearing on your page. Keep it between 3-5 sentences per paragraph.
That said, I'm not saying you can't have extensive articles either. Just make sure there isn't a great deal of content in any one place on your site or in an email marketing campaign.
Your writing has to break up the text to be visually interesting and scannable. Include images, graphics, and/or video with spacing to break things up.
Copywriting requires specific formatting. When you're trying to make a sale, you're usually trying to do it in the quickest way possible. At the very least, your writing should hold a reader's attention while they get closer and closer to making a purchase.
Excellent copy should be easy to follow and make a simple point. You might have a few wonderful narratives that you think tie into each other. Even if they do, you'll end up doing more harm than good by using over one in a single piece.
One story is more than enough if you tell it right and adding more into the mix detracts from the meaning. To avoid this, choose the narrative that's the best fit. Once you do that, make it interesting however you see fit, which depends on what you're writing and its purpose.
If you can focus on one narrative and drive it home, you'll have much more luck lifting conversions. Copy should have one clear theme, and multiple narratives only muddy that theme.
If you find yourself getting distracted by side notes, take some time out of the process and come back to it with fresh eyes. You'll be able to tell if something is more important than the other and cut out any unnecessary information.
If you're struggling to keep your focus, write down several things that are related to the topic of the piece. This will help you narrow them down into one main point so you can create a focused piece of copy.
Don't know how to use direct response copywriting? This article can help you.
There's not much worse than a liar, and that's how you can come off if you make a claim with no proof. Any claim, no matter how small, has to have some proof behind it.
Claims without proof seem to imply your product is so good, you don't need any evidence to back it up. It's almost like you think people are stupid, or gullible. You wouldn't want people thinking that about yourself, would you?
Proof of claims is what makes the difference between sounding trustworthy and seeming like a quack, or worse, a liar.
For example, "Our product will make you rich" is a claim that's hard to prove. It's much better when it's proven using something like, "You'll double your money in six months - guaranteed."
Not only are you now providing proof for your claims, but you're highlighting the results of using your product or service.
What's the moral of the story? Don't make claims without proof in your copywriting. It doesn't matter how big or small, always provide evidence to back up what you're saying. This will make you come across as trustworthy and believable, helping your conversions.
Instead, make your offer look as good as possible by adding statistics, charts, testimonials, or anything else that can prove your claims. If you can't find anything to back it up, don't include that claim.
If you want to say that your bananas are better than the competitors', tell exactly how they're better. Are they 35% bigger? Do they contain 20% more potassium? Whatever it is, you need to provide proof that your audience can't call into question.
Copywriting is nothing like any other form of writing. Brevity is the name of the game, and you want to get your point across in as few words as possible.
Because long sentences distract from your message and make it difficult for people to understand what's going on. With so much information being thrown around all the time, people want the exact information they need when they need it most.
The less hassle and fuss, the better.
This is why you will see a lot of short sentences in copywriting, as they pack a punch, but don't lose your audience.
If you struggle with keeping your content concise, try using a tool like Hemingway App. This tool will grade your content based on its readability, so you can edit your copy until the grade is better.
Traditionally, you don't want to go above a 5th grade (no, really) reading level. Anything above that signals that you have too many lengthy, potentially complex sentences.
Remember, you're not trying to show off your vocabulary or impress anyone with technical writing. Instead, you want to get rid of any adjectives or descriptions that add nothing to the meaning of whatever you're offering.
You can also break up and rewrite lengthy sentences. Most of the time you'll find that you can get the same message across in fewer words.
Any decent writer has a solid grasp of grammar and spelling. The thing is, everyone makes mistakes, especially when you're writing and racing to meet deadlines all the time. That makes it easy to miss things when you've been working on the same piece for a while.
There's no need to freak out just yet because there are plenty of tools that can help you find and fix errors. For spell-checking, try using the mighty Google Docs, or Grammarly. These tools check your writing in real-time and give suggestions for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Just don't assume these tools will catch everything. After all, if your copy is filled with phrases like "advertising packages," Google might not know what you're trying to say.
That's why editing is so important because without it you'll make some mistakes you glaze over. It's fine to get all the words down in one sweeping motion, but you can't expect perfection without looking at your work again.
The recommended solution is to wait a bit after you finish your first draft, then edit. This helps you to have fresh eyes so you can identify the mistakes you might have missed before.
It's good to get into a flow when writing and keep at it until you have your first draft done. What's not good is when you finish that first draft and end up overhauling the entire piece.
A common cause of that is the realization that your message ends up unclear. The components are there, but the way you put them together doesn't make your overlying point very clear.
That's why your starting point should always be these three questions: "What is my message?", "Who is my target audience?" and, what I'm going to focus on here, "Is my messaging clear?"
Take a look at the following example. Let's say this is an article about how you can improve your sleep by winding down 2 hours before bed. Let's say you start with:
"Not using your iPad or iPhone late into the night is boring, but by winding down without distracting apps, media content, or blue light, you'll vastly improve your sleep."
What do you think? Do you get what they're saying here? Would you feel like clicking on the article to know more if this was an ad in a magazine?
If your answer to the first question is no, make sure you clean up your writing and rephrase it. Let's try this:
"A good, old-fashioned reading habit will help you improve your sleep quality night after night."
That makes the message a lot clearer. It also clarifies that it's about improving your sleep quality. And that's a good thing because it means you're offering relief from the issue at hand (sleeping troubles).
In general, you should make sure your customers can understand what your business offers from the get-go. That way, they won't have to read through all of your copy before figuring out if they find it useful or not.
Sometimes, even when your message is clear, you want to get more specific for your target audience. Maybe you've written something like "Get better sleep by eliminating all screens from the bedroom" and realize that it doesn't quite cut it when talking to your average, tech-addicted reader.
That's why it's also important that your message is relevant for the people reading it. Think about things like their age, gender or situation.
This article will help you how to copyedit and tweak your copywriting for higher conversions.
Think your copywriting is a standalone copywriter that only needs to sell the benefits of your products to potential customers? Think again. Your copywriters should also be making sure that it's not misleading, even if by accident.
This is crucial for copywriting because copywriters are often tasked with selling a product without being able to reveal its flaws. If copywriters do this, it's considered false or misleading advertising.
It can even lead to legal action against your company if someone finds out they've been deceived by copywriting about an important aspect of the product.
That's not to say copywriting is free of the need to perform research. If copywriters are writing about claims that haven't been tested, copywriters must ensure they're not misleading consumers about these unproven claims.
But copywriting must also avoid making any absolute claims without proof because this can be misleading as well.
While copywriting might sometimes lead copywriters into gray areas, copywriters must do their best to make sure they're doing no harm unless absolutely necessary.
Copywriting might sell products, but it doesn't mean copywriters should hurt people with deceptive marketing strategies. By following the law and avoiding misrepresenting the product or service in any way, copywriters can protect themselves and their company by staying on the right side of copywriting.
One of the biggest mistakes you could make is writing too much copy.
Of course, you want people to know all about your product. In fact, you feel a moral obligation to be honest and forthright, so it feels downright wrong to write anything too skimpy on details.
The problem is—you can't get away with it. The Internet has turned the old model of consumer-business interaction on its ear, and today's customers are smarter than ever before. They know when you're trying to pull a fast one on them, and they aren't afraid to let their wallets do the talking.
I know it sounds harsh, but you need to face up to this reality: If your copy leaves certain information out or paints a rosier picture than the product deserves, the customer will be on to you in a nano-second...and they won't have any qualms about walking away without buying.
...The best way to avoid this outcome is to keep your copy lean and mean.
Don't try to cram in every piece of information you know about the product, especially if it doesn't directly relate to why people should buy it. Chances are, they already know everything there is to know (or can easily find out) on their own—and anything that doesn't serve to convince them is just dead weight.
Before you hit publish or send, it's a good idea to…
Sprint through your draft quickly to get an overview of what you've written, then come back later with fresh eyes to make sure it makes sense on its own—without your examples and case studies.
Before adding those back in check for spelling and grammar errors. Cut words that aren't doing any work for your message strip out anything wordy or redundant. Your writing should be concise and easy to skim through.
A few things to iron out while editing are:
It might take longer than you want, but editing is the single most important step in the copywriting process. Without it, you’re leaving money on the table.
The bandwagon effect says you are influenced to do (or believe) things because many other people do so as well.
While some people like to be the first to try something new, many want to go with the tried-and-tested products. They like the assurance and sense of safety it gives them.
Give readers more security by highlighting things like testimonials and prominent clients. Show them that there’s nothing to fear.
More importantly, showcase your team, customers, events, social media platforms—anything that shows how many people love your brand. Make it hard to ignore.
Self-doubt eats away at your dreams. It creeps up out of nowhere and just wrecks your day.
Will you really convert? Will people like this product or service? What happens if no one buys anything?
Was this all a huge mistake?
Don’t get me wrong—we all have doubts about one thing or another, including ourselves. We all have bad days too, where nothing seems to go right. The issue is when you start to believe those doubts.
Suddenly, you don’t believe in yourself, so… why should anyone else? Why should they trust you to solve their problems when you don’t even believe that you can?
So make sure you iron out words like “might” and “could” wherever possible. Don’t use self-deprecating humor to “liven the tone.” Anytime you can be 100% confident without tooting your own horn too much, do it.
If you’re not your own best champion, then no one else is going to be either.
As you can see, there are plenty of mistakes that can hurt your copywriting. Some of them are easy to identify, but some of them take a lot more practice to get the hang of.
What's true for all of them is that they can damage your conversion rate, and that's what matters. It's not likely that you're making all of these, but even if you found a few that you can work on then you'll see some better results.
Whether it's basic grammar, understanding of psychology, or formatting, there are a lot of moving parts with copywriting. It's a lot different from any other form of writing, but there's too much potential in copywriting to neglect it.
Hopefully, you have a better idea of what it takes to put together some solid copy. But if not, there's always a conversion copywriter waiting to help. Whether you don't have the time or writing isn't your thing, you don't have to settle for mediocre copy.
P.S. Marketers and B2B business leaders...
If you're looking to improve the performance of your sales pages, emails, or ads... I may be able to move the needle in a big way.
Using my proven “Neuro-Response” copywriting method, I've generated over $2.7 billion in revenue for over 224 of the largest B2B companies in America.
This behavioral-science inspired system taps into lesser-known hidden psychological triggers that target multiple decision-making regions of your prospects’ brains...
In a way that elevates their desire, makes them primed to be more receptive to sales messaging, and gets them to move forward.
Averaging across over 1,124+ projects, my copywriting drives a 55% increase in on-page conversion rates, an 84% increase in quality sales-qualified leads, and a 27% decrease in customer acquisition costs compared to existing controls.
If any of this sounds interesting to you...
Click HERE to learn more and find out if I’m the right fit to help.