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5 Copywriting Mistakes on Your Website

So many guides, so little time. Trying to navigate the world of best practices for web content can be overwhelming. Besides, there is no such thing as perfect content because words, like other creative mediums, are subjective. However, with that in mind, there are still significant pitfalls that you should try to avoid when writing content. I’ve narrowed it down to 5 things I regularly come across that are detracting from your website.

1. Let’s do the Robot!
To best illustrate this, I suggest you read the following in a monotone (for inspiration, think Twiki of Buck Rogers): “We offer x, y and z products. These can be found on our services page. The prices exclude VAT. Delivery from 5-7 days. For questions please contact us”. Hey, kudos for getting the important info of product, price and delivery out but presenting the information without any personality will not connect with customers (unless they, too, are actually robots). It is important to get the key facts across but try to do so with a little warmth, passion, fun…something! Robots don’t sell. If they did, they’d be making our cappuccinos at Starbucks for us.

2. Wall of Words
Have you ever gone to a web page from a tweet or Facebook link because it was catchy and sounded like really interesting information? Upon visiting the page, however, you’re presented with 10 paragraphs in a row. no sub-headings, no formatting nor any pictures or graphics. You are essentially being asked to run a gauntlet of 800 words without a guide map or points of rest. How many readers actually make it to the end? How many give up from utter mental and visual exhaustion? In this day and age of short-attention spans (guilty as charged!), it’s crucial to give your readers better management of the information you are presenting. Headings, lists, images…these all give the readers a place to catch their breath before moving onto the next section.

3. Uh oh, please don’t “except” you just used the wrong word
Having a proofreader is crucial even for accomplished writers. Living in an age of Twitter and Facebook, plus auto-correct on all of our mobiles, we are used to writing and communicating at lightning speed which breeds some of the silliest mistakes. Their/there, your/you’re, except/accept…these are only a few of the boo-boos that are more common nowadays. It’s always useful to have a second set of eyes read through a piece before publishing it. If you’re a fantastic wordsmith but not known for your grammatical skills, try to ask a couple people to proof the copy before posting. If you don’t, the resulting egg on your face is not only humiliating but directly affects* your job security.
*affects – see what I did there?

4. Trying too hard
If done well, your content should fully describe the benefits of your product or service with easy directions on what action the customer should take to enjoy them too. However, whether from uncontainable excitement and passion or from a pushy attitude, some websites go the way of the long sell and/or the hard sell.

The long sell reads like the script from a game show “…and that’s not all! You will also receive a FREE crock-pot! Yes a free crock-pot with your purchase of this full set of steak knives…but why stop there? Purchase the twenty year warranty and you will receive FREE SHIPPING!” By the end, the once eager customer is so confused and overwhelmed with options, they may bounce right off the page and go straight to e-Bay. Sale lost.

The hard sell tends to be all about the banners, flashing images and links. Thinking the customer might be thick or slow to make decisions, companies use numerous flashing banners all over the page at the same time. This is to make sure the customer can never forget that they should, in fact, make this purchase. Usually gaudy and bright in colour, they practically scream at the top of their lungs:

  • “BUY NOW”
  • “0% Interest free credit for a gazillion years”
  • “This offer expires in 23 seconds!”

Alas, most customers are not thick and are annoyed by the pressure (and the headache which resulted from all those bright, flashing boxes), they bounce right off the page and onto the next Google result.

5. Not trying hard enough
If you’re a South Park fan, then I would best describe this lack of effort as Mr. Mackey-esque: “Our products, are great, mmmkay. Maybe you should consider buying them, mmmkay.” A website might have a great service and have it at a great price. But if it doesn’t clearly tell the customer how they would benefit from it too and include a clear call to action to purchase it themselves, it is missing a critical step. Don’t assume the customer will realise you’re great, you need to tell them (just without the bright banners of the hard sell!)

What do you think, have I missed any key mistakes on my list? What other copy-writing mistakes do websites make?

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