Whether you’re a small business owner or a marketing professional, you know how important it is to have a strong online presence. But the thought of starting (or improving) a website can feel daunting at first, especially if you’re not a professional copywriting and/or you’re short on time.
Writing a website isn’t easy, but this resource can help you steer clear of common pitfalls and create awesome copy. Read on to learn nine web copywriting mistakes to avoid:
- Not writing for your audience
- Following every “best practice”
- Focusing on yourself
- Using “fluffy” or confusing language
- Prioritizing features over benefits
- Using large blocks of text
- Ignoring SEO (or keyword stuffing)
- Forgetting a call to action
- Publishing without proofing
1. Not Writing for Your Audience
Sometimes, copywriting mistakes come in the form of writing with language you like, instead of what makes sense to your audience. Your messaging may be too complicated for the reader to understand how you can guide them toward a solution.
When someone lands on your home page and reads the headline, they should be able to answer these questions in eight seconds or less:
- Who are you, and what do you do?
- How can you help me?
- What do I need to do next?
By writing this headline for your best customers, you’ll focus on their needs and help them learn how you can help them make their lives better. The same goes for using clear, strategic headlines and messaging throughout your entire website.
2. Following Every “Best Practice”
Industry guidelines and best practices are useful, but it’s important to take them with a grain of salt. Copywriting is an ever-changing and creative practice, why is why it’s often best to go with your gut instead of treating guidelines as hard-and-fast rules.
For example, you may have heard that a minimum word count is necessary for Google to recognize and rank your website. That may apply to your home page, since most prospects will need to learn more about you before they’re ready to commit.
But your “Contact Us” or “Buy Now” page won’t need to meet an arbitrary word count requirement. In other words, you don’t have to go on and on when a simple headline and contact/purchase form is enough for customers who are ready to do business with you.
3. Focusing on Yourself
Your company’s awards and accolades might be impressive at first, but if you lead with those, the reader will be left asking, “So what?” That’s because customers only care about you when they know you care about them.
It’s okay to talk about yourself on the About Us page, but every other page of your website should focus on solutions that help your audience solve a problem.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Don’t lead with: “Our Google Reviews are all five stars.”
- Instead, try this: “We realize the responsibility that comes with growing a company. We’ll help you follow an effective strategy to increase revenue, filter bad advice, free up time, and eliminate worry.”
The first example dives right into positive reviews, which are helpful trust signals that make it easier for readers to rely on you. The problem is, people need to know you care about their problems and want to help them before they explore your customer success stories or project portfolios.
The second example begins by empathizing with the customer. In our case, that’s small business owners and marketing professionals who are trying to grow their company — which is no easy task!
Once we’ve established that we care about the reader, we can go into details on how we’ll guide them toward the solutions they need (increased revenue, more time, less stress, etc.) with an effective strategy. Then you can share positive reviews and other trust-building facts or accolades.
4. Using “Fluffy” or Confusing Language
If your readers don’t know right off the bat why your company or solution is relevant and valuable to them, they’ll move on to another website. Make sure you’re connecting with your prospects by clearly stating how you can help them.
Something that may get in the way of clarity is using too many adjectives or adverbs. You can get rid of fluffy adverbs like “just,” “really,” and “actually” that don’t add anything to your website copy. If you decide to include a few adjectives and adverbs, use sensory details that add meaning to your content.
Using jargon (industry insider terms) and buzzwords (overused or unoriginal phrases) can also drive readers away — maybe to your competitor’s website. Eliminate these confusing and overused terms, and replace them with clear, original thoughts.
5. Prioritizing Features Over Benefits
Another web copywriting mistake to avoid: Focusing too much on features. It’s hard not to brag when you have an amazing product, but people don’t buy things because of flashy features. They buy products or services that solve problems, help them accomplish goals, and make their lives easier.
Consider how your product or service can benefit someone.
Let’s say you sell ovens with a fast preheating system (a feature). This oven would help a customer feel more relaxed about getting dinner ready on time while making cooking less stressful. The benefits they’d enjoy: feeling more relaxed, less stressed, and happier while cooking. And it would solve the problem of not having dinner ready fast enough —a stressful, frustrating problem we could all do without!
You still can (and should) mention the features of your product or service. With the above example, a fast preheating system is worth noting because it’s a key element to the oven. But every time you showcase a feature, combine it with a benefit the customer will enjoy.
A feature + benefit combination would look something like this: “Our oven comes with a fast preheating system that will help you get dinner ready on time, so cooking will be less stressful and more enjoyable.”
6. Using Large Blocks of Text
Even if you’ve written beautiful copy, most visitors won’t read every single word on your website. People are busy, so they’ll look for a quick solution to their problem. And long paragraphs are hard for them to read (i.e., skim) on a computer or smartphone. If you write in large blocks of text, customers will move on to a more skimmable site.
To avoid this copywriting mistake, limit your paragraphs to about three sentences. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase in a paragraph without creating a new section, you can write it in bold, italic, or a different color that stands out.
Headings, subheadings, and bulleted lists will also help you write copy that’s easy for your readers to skim. And those H1 and H2 tags (Heading 1 and Heading 2) will boost your SEO when you include keywords in a natural way. (More on that in the next section.)
7. Ignoring SEO (or Keyword Stuffing)
You want Google to rank your website so customers can find you online, but you also want to write like a human – not a keyword-stuffing robot. This can be a tough middle ground to achieve, especially if you’re new to search engine optimization (SEO).
To incorporate SEO into your web copy, start by choosing a keyword. This is a term your best customers would likely Google when searching for a solution to their problem. For example, if you needed to find a marketing agency that specialized in working with small businesses, you might search for “small-business marketing agency.”
Next, add the keyword to your SEO title, meta description, and slug. This will help Google recognize that your page is relevant to the customer’s search query. Finally, include your keyword in a few natural-sounding places within your content and subheadings. Doing this will also help Google index and rank your page without you having to keyword-stuff.
8. Forgetting a Call to Action
Writing beautiful website copy won’t be very effective if you don’t compel prospects to take action and work with your company. Once you’ve shown customers who you are, what you do, and how you can help them, don’t forget to tell them how to take the next step and do business with you!
Whether you want prospects to schedule a consultation, buy now, or request a free quote, every page needs a call to action (CTA). This will give your readers the chance to further engage with you if they’re ready to learn more about your service or buy your product.
If you’ve shown that you understand their needs and have what it takes to help them, your prospects will trust you enough to take action. So tell customers exactly what they need to do next by using a clear, direct CTA: buy now, schedule an appointment, and so on.
9. Publishing Without Proofing
When you’ve spent so much time writing and grown fond of what you’ve created, it’s easy to miss errors that are right under your nose. Instead of publishing your web copy right away, take a break and come back to what you’ve written. Try to finish your draft on one day, then edit the next day with fresh eyes and a well-rested mind.
Asking a coworker or your boss to proofread your work (if you have the option) is another great way to fix your copywriting mistakes before publishing. Having an editor who’s less emotionally invested in the piece (i.e., someone who hasn’t written the web copy) increases your chance of catching and correcting spelling or grammatical errors.
By avoiding these nine web copywriting mistakes, you’ll be on your way to creating a clear, strategic website that converts more prospects into customers.
If you’re not sure how to start writing or rewriting your site, you’re not alone. Many marketing professionals and small business owners feel this way, since they don’t have the time to sit down and write themselves. But a marketing agency can guide you with website copywriting that attracts your best customers and helps you grow your business.
Our proven marketing protocol helps companies make more money, free up time, and plan an effective strategy.
Treefrog Marketing is an agency in Lafayette, Indiana focused on small business. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, visit our website and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.