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 identify them and make sure you're not making these mistakes in your copywriting. 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).
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:
I get it.
So, here's the story...
Let's backtrack a bit...
I couldn't believe it.
But then, something changed.
Something changed, though.
It wasn't always this way, though.
Wow, just wow.
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.
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, it's important that you can match their tone.
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:
Desire (to be something)
Desire (to have something)
Desire (to experience something)
Fear (of missing out)
Fear (of danger)
Fear (of not living up to an expectation
Fear (of losing something)
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.
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.
It's easy to group people into categories. It seems like it makes sense, especially when deciding how to market to specific people. You can't assume everyone is the same, though.
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.
You want to show that you know your stuff. That's how you establish some trust and credibility, right? Well, to a certain extent. 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 a 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.
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:
Focus on one topic for each section (your writing should be led by one specific point)
Use imagery to spark imagination (evoke imagery to engage the reader)
Use pattern interrupts (be unpredictable and keep the reader interested)
Answer questions, not ask them (asking some questions is fine, but you're mainly here to answer them)
Explain details, not try to let the reader figure things out (you should be providing details so the reader isn't left unsure)
Use few pronouns (pronouns can make writing unclear, be specific with what you're referencing)
Speak to one person, not a group (the reader needs to feel like you're writing for them and them only, otherwise it's impersonal)
Features define a product, sure. Unfortunately, they say nothing about what it does or how it can help your audience.
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.
For example: Say you're selling bananas. Well, for someone who's 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 what they want.
Even if the rest of your copy is interesting and immaculate, it's wasted with a poor call to action. 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.
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. Imply scarcity, a limited time offer, or anything that could push someone to act sooner. When all else fails, sweeten the deal with free bonuses.
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.
The thing is, 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.
You know a bit about your audience and why they're interested in your offer. If you didn't understand your audience, you'd have no hope of connecting with them. Take that a step further, though, and look at how your audience differs from you.
They might not be as interested in the technical aspects of your offer, or they might want to know the exact specifications. Either way, they may not need to know the same information that applies to you.
Every writer has their own style and their own 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 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.
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.
What does your product or offer do 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.
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 on 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.
In general, make your headlines interesting and make sure they do one of these things:
Reinforce your prospect's desire for your product.
Extend their image of where and when your product satisfies that desire.
Introduce new proof, details, and documentation of how well your product satisfies that desire.
Announce a new mechanism that meets that desire even better.
Announce a new mechanism that eliminates a former limitation.
Change the image or the mechanism of that product to remove it from the competition.
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 must 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.
Walls of text don't work in copywriting, ever. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course, you want to make your offer look as good as possible but you can't make things up. You'd do well to include any 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.
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.
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. Don't forget to use all the tools at your disposal. One of the best tools a writer can use is the browser extension Grammarly. It checks your writing in real-time and gives suggestions for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
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.
So, a good outline is so important, so you don't get ahead of yourself and you can get an idea of what your first draft will look like. In your outline, you also want to go into as much detail as possible with evidence, bullet points, and anything else at your disposal.
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.
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