As with any skill that’s hard to master, copywriting lends itself to simple mistakes, no matter your level of experience.

In this blog, we look at ten classic copywriting mistakes that are all-too-easy to make, but which can turn hard work into wasted effort.

Mistake 1: Doing it yourself (unless you’re a copywriter)

Ask any web design company what one of their main pet hates is, and it’s likely to revolve around copywriting. Not the process itself – more the insistence on behalf of clients that they’ll do it themselves.

Invariably, this results in a project that takes far longer than expected and a website that simply doesn’t read well.

The desire to write copy yourself for a business website should only be undertaken if you’re an experienced copywriter – plain and simple.

How to fix it
If you’re not experienced in the field of copywriting, hire someone who is – before it’s too late.

Mistake 2: Believing every ‘best practice’

Best practices are certainly useful, but when it comes to something as fast-moving and creative as the field of copywriting, it pays to be cautious with any advice you’re given.

For example, you might be told that people ‘never read below the fold’, or that a certain word count is guaranteed to get you X sales.

Unless such advice is based on experience relevant to your market, don’t follow it blindly.

How to fix it
Use best practices as guidelines or starting points – not the be-all, end-all. Often, it’s best to go with a gut instinct.

Mistake 3: Not testing your ‘final’ product

Once you’ve written, proof-read and asked someone else to proofread your web copy, the job isn’t done.

The real test comes when the words you’ve written for your website land in front of a much wider audience. For this reason, you need to treat your ‘final’ copy as a version that still needs testing.

How to fix it
Monitor the analytics of your web pages closely – particularly for those that have only recently been published. High bounce rates and low conversions probably point to copy that needs further tweaks.

Mistake 4: Forgetting to backup your statements

You can’t claim to be the best in your field at a particular skill or have a product that knocks all others into a cocked hat if you don’t have something to evidence your words.

People aren’t easily fooled and will look for trust signals when reading your website.

How to fix it
Use trust signals such as customer case studies, reviews, statistics from reputable sources and trust icons to back up every claim you make in your website’s copy.

Mistake 5: Forgetting about scanability

If ‘scanability’ is a word that means little to you, you’re going to have a hard time putting together web copy with which people will engage.

Few of the visitors to your website will read every single sentence. Instead, they’ll look for what matters the most to them, and if they’re met with acres of text that can’t be easily scanned or searched with the naked eye, they’ll probably move on elsewhere.

How to fix it
Choose the right size font (one that is big enough to read), write in short paragraphs (three sentences max) and make judicious use of lists and bullet points.

Mistake 6: Focusing too much on design

How many times have you come across a web page that reads poorly but looks immaculate?

It’s irritating, isn’t it? And, frustratingly, there’s no need for it, either.

The reason such web pages exist is because the authors spend far too much time on the design. Every paragraph, image and list of bullet points appears to be perfectly constructed, because they’re designed to fit around a specific design.

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A web page that looks great won’t necessarily sell anything – remember that.

How to fix it
Work from a wireframe for your web design, but don’t start the copy there. Instead, write it elsewhere (i.e. in your favourite word processor) and make the design fit once you have stellar words.

Mistake 7: Using language you favour

A crucial role of copywriting is to paint a clear persona of the business in question.

If you’re tasked with writing those words, you might fall into the common trap of relying on language, words and phrases that you favour.

In other words, the website will turn into an extended version of you, rather than that of the company, and as a result, it’ll fail to do the job intended (i.e. sell your products and services!).

How to fix it
Before you write any copy for your website, spend time working on the business persona.

Think about how you want the company to come across and set firmly in mind a ‘character’ that best illustrates that persona.

Whenever you write copy for a webpage from that moment on, put yourself in the shoes of the character you’ve developed and write in their style.

Mistake 8: Talking entirely about yourself

A significant part of a business website is telling the story of the company in question.

Unfortunately, this leads far too many businesses down the treacherous path of talking incessantly about themselves.

The problem here is that visitors to the website won’t give two hoots about a detailed history of the business. They may take a passing interest in the team behind the products, but what they really want to know is what’s in it for them.

Your web copy should talk directly to the visitors in a way that benefits them – always.

How to fix it
Write your About Us page and leave it at that. Use every other page on your website to indulge in the solutions you have that answer the questions your audience has.

Mistake 9: Forgetting to conduct thorough research

Writing web copy for your website is rather exciting. And, for this reason, people often jump into it without conducting adequate research.

Invariably, this results in a website that is inaccurate, full of irrelevant information and of no use to the business’s target market.

How to fix it
Before writing a single sentence, make sure you conduct plenty of research. Look deeply at your intended audience and ensure you know everything about your products’ features and benefits.

Mistake 10: Only talking about features

We nodded to this in mistake 9, but it seems sensible to end on this note, because it might just be the most common copywriting mistake made today.

Most of us have experienced this; we’ll find a website that appears to offer a solution we’re looking for, but after several minutes of trawling through product pages, we simply can’t work out if it’s worth pressing the ‘buy’ button.

The reason for this is nearly always because the copywriter has focused solely on the features of the product, rather than it’s benefits.

It does X, Y and Z… but what do X, Y and Z do for me? Why would I use feature Y? Will feature Z make a meaningful, measurable difference to my day?

‘Features vs benefits’ may be marketing 101, but it’s surprising how often this most basic of marketing principles is ignored.

How to fix it
Every time you describe a feature of your product, combine it with the benefit offered. If there isn’t one, do you really need to mention it at all on the website? Probably not.

Wrapping up

You’ll rarely get a piece of copy right first time, and even the most experienced in the field continue to make the mistakes above.

To limit your exposure to such errors, keep this post handy, and run through the list above whenever you’re about to write some new words for your website.