The saying goes that everyone’s a critic, but it could easily be said that everyone’s a writer. It is, after all, something that we all do each day. Whether it’s emailing, texting, social media-ing or simply compiling a shopping list, writing is something that we’re all fairly well capable of.
Copywriting and being a website content writer, however, requires a slightly more subtle approach than other kinds of writing. Specifically, it needs to be the kind of writing which does a successful job of convincing website visitors to become website customers.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a shortlist of five common mistakes in website copywriting that can spell imminent doom – or missed sales and customers, if you prefer…
Not speaking the right language
No, I’m not suggesting that website content writers occasionally lapse into speaking French when writing for an English audience. I’m referring to copywriting which fails to describe products and solutions in the way that their audience understands them.
Let me explain.
Let’s imagine you’re a mechanic… The very best mechanic the world has ever seen, in fact. You can quote manufacturer numbers and oil grades with the same ease Einstein could recite the four times table.
You decide that your website should reflect your expertise. To this end, you spend hours creating articles that showcase your technical brilliance and describe in exacting detail how you overcame challenges.
Now, let’s imagine that someone has gone out to their car one morning and it isn’t starting. They’re turning the key with frenzy and not getting so much as a grunt from the engine in response.
Between huffs and puffs they bring out their phone and Google “mechanics near me”.
Disaster strikes and they immediately find the website of one of your biggest competitors and give them a call.
Why did this happen?
It’s simple – your competitor’s website is written for people who aren’t car experts. In place of technical jargon, it features examples of digital copywriting that can be understood by even the most inexperienced drivers and makes it clear that this is the business to call if you ever find your car isn’t working.
Not only does speaking the language of your customers improve conversion rates by resonating with them, it also stands a better chance of ranking well in Google. This is because the search engine does a great job of understanding which websites best answer the questions that users are asking.
Ultimately, a big mistake in digital copywriting is the failure to address your customers’ questions and problems in a language they feel familiar with.
Using an AI
For many years, science fiction has prophesied a future which is fully automated and maintained by artificial intelligence.
With tools like Chat GPT becoming widely accessible, it seems that HG Wells and Frank Herbert may well have been on to something.
Though it may be tempting to simply ask Chat GPT to “write 1,000 words of content on why my business is the best one in town” and be done with it, AI cannot be faithfully depended upon to produce the kind of copywriting you need to rank well in Google and convert your audience into customers.
There are a few reasons why this approach should be avoided. The first is that AI – at least for now – cannot reliably produce content that is unique to your brand. In other words, it will produce copy that is generic and distinctly non-human. You know, the kind of copy that doesn’t engage or sell it to its reader. Of course, ChatGPT and other AI tools are fantastic for researching topics and inspiring some article titles, but they shouldn’t be mistaken for a writing tool.
Google is also getting pretty good – and will only get better – at detecting the use of AI by website content writers and studies prove that the search engine is not particularly fond of it. This is entirely understandable when you consider that AI-generated copy often contains inaccuracies and is proof that a website isn’t involving humans with genuine expertise when producing its content.
Having conducted a handful of experiments, it’s also clear that the output of asking Chat GPT to create an engaging strapline is never less than super cheesy.
In short, have humans, not robots, do the copywriting.
Following the rules
Reportedly, Picasso once claimed that budding painters should “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
The same can be said of copywriters, kinda.
Now, I’m not saying that writers should reject the concept of adjectives, nouns and verbs. But rather that they shouldn’t feel constrained by common wisdom at the cost of conversions.
Take product descriptions as a good example. Countless SEO experts will tell you that a product description must sit at around four hundred words in length if it has any hope of ranking well in Google.
But what if you’re selling paperclips?
Is it really likely that anyone – even the biggest paperclip enthusiast in the world – has the appetite to read that much content about a humble paperclip? Or put another way: would it be better to read four hundred words on a paperclip, or a series of creative blogs about the various uses of paperclips?
Both websites would satisfy the need for rich content, but one would be infinitely more enjoyable to engage with.
Altogether, digital copywriters should seek to put the user first and feel confident enough to break the rules whenever common sense presents a better alternative.
Not having a clear goal in mind
Earlier on in this piece, I mentioned how we all write in one way or another throughout our days. What’s more, whenever we do this, we have a goal in mind – even if we don’t recognise it as such.
Consider, for example, how even our most basic text messages communicate a clear meaning. Maybe it’s the answer to a question, perhaps it’s the sharing of an opinion, or it might just be a piece of wit designed to make the recipient laugh. Often, this meaning – or goal – isn’t something we consciously think about, but it’s there nonetheless.
When copywriting, we have to be conscious of our goals.
The failure to have a clear goal in mind – whether it’s “convince the user to buy our product” or “convince the user to give us a call” – leads to rambling that ultimately does nothing to move the needle.
To dodge this particular pitfall, it is essential to only put pen to paper once a clear and measurable goal has been established. In the copywriting industry, we refer to this as the “rule of one” as it’s helpful to have a clear focus that doesn’t lead you down too many rabbit holes that your reader is unlikely to want to follow you down.
Not speaking with an expert
Ok, so I might be a little biased when it comes to describing this as a pitfall, but I think it certainly is fair to suggest that it’s a little risky to write copy without speaking to an expert first.
It’s a bit like trying to fix an electrical fault without having an experienced electrician take a look at the wiring. Sure, things might look good on the surface to the untrained eye, but that knowledgeable set of extra eyes will ensure that everything is in sound working order.
Mapping this analogy to copywriting, you may find that you’re lacking in convincing calls-to-action, that you’re missing a great opportunity to capitalise on large search volumes relating to your business, as well as many other subtle adjustments that could make all the difference.
To find out how I can work alongside your business to create compelling and conversion-friendly digital copy, be sure to get in touch today.