On this blog, we frequently debate really cool copywriting examples – brilliant texts, inspired billboards, creative concepts transmitted in a swift, but impactful manner. Even more, the internet is filled with introductory articles that teach you how to write better, either brought to you by yours truly or other copywriters/content writers/freelance writers.
No one says the above is not relevant or good to know. However, I believe it is equally important to talk about the „Don’t-s” of copywriting, about what you should avoid if you want to be taken seriously as a writer or professional in your niche.
Here’s a list of the most frequent online copywriting mistakes that I’ve noticed in my career and how to avoid them. Let’s begin...
Online copywriting mistakes - don't do them, seriously
#1 Not separating text blocks
You may think it’s a simple layout or design mistake but, fundamentally, it’s the content guy/gal’s fault is they deliver such monstrosity.
A defining trait of online copywriting is delivering the message in a concise manner. We’re referring to sales copy, texts meant to persuade. Therefore, you should aim for content that’s easily digestible and well structured, to bear in mind that people spend, on average, less than a minute on a single web page.
You can give Ogilvy a run for his money, but no one will be patient enough to read such huge chunks of text, instead they’ll lose interest halfway through and you can’t blame anyone for that. Remember that you want readers to stay as long as possible on your website, especially if the end goal is sales – sometimes less is more.
#2 Using vague, imprecise, redundant or repetitive phrasing
When we talk about common online copywriting mistakes, we must also mention phrasing errors.
I’m not only talking about the classic grammar mistakes, commas or other fine tuning writing things, but also phrasing that literally doesn’t say anything, that seems to want to impress only for the sake of impressing without achieving its goal – persuasion, sales, engagement. Nothing. Nada.
Let me give you an example from Apple who is supposed to be a giant, in all understandings of the word. You’d think they’d have a kickass copywriter but...not really.
The word „great” is used to describe both something positive, as well as something negative. Moreover, the whole copywriting is nothing but false praise for the company...given by the company.
#3 Making it all about you
Point nr. 3 is slightly related to point nr. 2.
One of the most frequent online copywriting mistakes, perhaps the most frequent one is self-praise, focusing too much on YOURSELF, on what YOU offer instead of focusing on the end benefits of THE CUSTOMER, if he chooses you, if being the keyword here.
Many companies and independent individuals are so self-indulgent and arrogant in their texts. Their viewpoint is that the product or service offered is so damn good they don’t even need to persuade anyone, so they make no effort towards it.
Therefore, their website copy or product descriptions become pure praise – „our company is the best”, „we offer the best thing” without first creating customer interest.
An unwritten copywriting rule goes a little something like this – for every US you use, you must compensate using YOU at least twice. A good ratio, to my mind, would be 1 to 2 or 1 to 3.
What do I mean by that? Addressing the client directly is a lot more important than rehashing irrelevant company statistics or other nonsense. The client doesn’t care how much you sold, how big your company is or how great your products are.
The client seeks something to answer his needs first, he wants to feel like he’s involved in what you sell or support, you want him to develop an interest for your niche, to see a symbolic or functional benefit of buying from you over someone else.
#4 Over-using cliches
We all want to attract more customers and sell more, to make our product, services or even messages reach a broader and more diverse audience.
Unfortunately, however, the biggest trap here is to exaggerate, therefore obtaining the opposite effect.
Any copywriting manual will tell you that there’s a time and place for cliches and/or speaking in the highest terms such as „cheap and good’, „buy now”, „3 for the price of 2”, „superior quality”, „innovation”, „new”, „amazing”, „wonderful” etc.
You’re most definitely familiar with such examples and you’re probably sick of them, too. Why? I’ll tell you why – because they have been overused by brands in the last years and lost their meaning and weight in the mind of the customer.
Such words currently hold close to zero meaning, they are amateur marketing as long as they are not proven, backed-up or validated by evidence.
In other words, if you claim to offer superior quality, the client should be given tangible proof - nature-friendly, green materials, quality certifications, conformity certifications etc. Otherwise, it’s like saying you’re a surgeon without any actual proven medical practice.
Furthermore, cliches are effective to the public, it is true, I won’t lie to you but, again, only in certain limits.
There’s a fine line in advertising between lies and persuasion. Which is why, one of the most frequent online copywriting mistakes is this – SAYING that you’re good instead of SHOWING that you’re good.
I’d rather go for this, instead, anyday:
#5 Not being careful how you address sensitive issues
There are a lot of links between advertising, politics, religion, feminism, gender identity, sexuality and social issues. In fact, some of the most powerful ads and campaigns that we know dealt with such issues - Always – Like a Girl, Dove – Real Beauty etc.
It is exactly why, as a copywriter, regardless of writing ad copy or website copy or even a radio script, you must maintain a tactful approach and self-awareness, especially when delving into such delicate issues, never let personal opinion affect the manner in which you structure a particular message
Perhaps the most important advice I can give you is never use blanket statements or definitive terms such as „all women want” or „people are poor because..” or „the role of the family is to...”
For starters, you don’t have the authority to make such claims. Secondly, no matter how well-intended you are, a message that relates to political topics, treated in a not-so-inspired or even offensive manner can alienate the precise segment of the audience that you’re trying to attract.
So you’ll understand me better, here’s the most telling example of what not to do that I could find:
These are just some of the most common online copywriting mistakes that I’ve seen in my career.
I hope you found the above helpful so that you won’t repeat the same mistakes but instead come up with inspired and impactful texts everyday.
What other mistakes have you noticed in persuasive website texts, ad copy or social media copy? Let me know down below!
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