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by James Perrin on 1st May 2012
You don’t have to search for too long before coming across a website that has been badly written. You know the ones; too much or too little content, mistakes everywhere, and a severe lack of punch. This isn’t helping your website whatsoever, so here’s what you need to focus on to avoid a major copywriting fail.
Before we get into the areas you should focus on, it should be said that this isn’t a rant about websites with poor content. Moreover, it’s a way to showcase areas of copy that are failing, and in doing so they leave the customer with little confidence and faith in your website, and the products and services that you sell. If you’re not convinced, last year we revealed the true cost of typos for online businesses.
With this in mind, you can clearly see that even the smallest of mistakes can have a dramatic effect on how your business is perceived, but more importantly, whether you acquire new customers. So, if this sounds familiar, it might just be worth reading some of the following key areas. Make your copy do the selling for you; otherwise, you’ll be left scratching your head as to why your website simply isn’t making the conversions that it could be.
Spelling, grammar and punctuation
This is the first and most fundamental part of your website copy that you need to consider. Whether you’re rewriting your site, or simply want to go through your existing copy, make sure you check there are no spelling and grammar mistakes, nor any punctuation errors for that matter. Some classic spelling mistakes include the irregular use of ‘to’ and ‘too’, ‘there’ and ‘their’, ‘lose’ and ‘loose’. Then there are the classic punctuation errors such as the irregular use of apostrophises such as ‘it’s’ and ‘its’, and ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. Be sure to have someone read through, and painstakingly check that every line in your website’s copy is error free.
Unnecessary waffle and jargon
Remember that when someone visits your site, they may not necessarily know exactly what you do, so before you go in with the hard-sell, with a load of technical jargon that only your colleagues will understand, be sure to write with your audience in mind. Likewise, when you waffle and skirt around the issue, your audience will get bored. It will waste their time and give them a sure fire reason to leave your site. So you need to find a happy medium. Look to be direct with your copy, but don’t go all guns blazing with clichés, jargon and buzz-words.
Focussing on yourself and not your audience
Copy that isn’t customer focused or user centric will fade pretty quickly. In this sense, instead of constantly saying ‘we’, ‘we at…’, and ‘here we are…’, change the focus towards your customer, and what’s in it for them. For example, ‘you’, ‘you’ll’, ‘you’re’. Whilst you need to sell your products and services, you also need to engage your audience, and this is more achievable if the focus of your attention is actually on your customers, and not how great the company is.
Every single page that you write should have a clear structure and flow to it. Before you begin to write the page, think to yourself, what do I want the reader to think or do as a result of reading this? Telling them how great you are is one thing, but by painting a picture in their head of how your product and service can solve their problems is much more effective.
As a rule of thumb, first, look to introduce the product, service or category page. Then you want to present the reader with a series of problems, issues and circumstances with which they may be familiar. This will get them thinking. Finally, highlight your product or services, and how they will help your customer. Sell the benefits. This is just a basic structure, and won’t work for every single page, as your website could look a tad monotonous should it be applied throughout your site. However, you need to think about implementing a structure, so the reader is kept engaged all the time.
If you don’t end with a call-to-action then you really are wasting you and your customer’s time. With website copy, this is an excellent chance to sell the benefits to them, and once you’ve done that, you want to drive their behaviour. Tell them what to do next and how to take action. Without doing this, you’re simply presenting them with a problem, a general solution and nothing else.
After giving them the solution, look to show them how you’re better than your competitors. Whether that’s based on quality, customer service, pricing or something else such as free deliveries, look to include why your audience should follow on with a conversion. Something like, ‘call us today for your free no-obligation quote’, or ‘contact our friendly team today, and see how we can start saving you money’ are classic examples of effective call-to-actions.
Overuse and underuse of keywords
This is where you need to consider a little bit of SEO. If you’re writing website copy, you’re no doubt aware that you need to include the keywords that people will be searching for when using search engines. If you haven’t thought about this, then it’s certainly time to do so. I have written a blog post about how to best use keywords within your website copy [See: SEO Copywriting: How to Use Keywords in Your Website's Copy].
Effectively, you need to make sure that you use the right amount and right type of keywords on each page of your website’s copy. If you underuse keywords, they simply won’t get picked up by search engines. On the flip side, if you overuse keywords, you’ll be penalised for gaming the system. You need to know where to include them too. So look to use them in headings, as well as near the start and end of each page of copy.
Not split testing your copy
Finally, make sure you know that you’re copy is actually working for you by split testing different versions. This way you’ll know which headline or call-to-action is actually the most effective in terms of delivering traffic, and converting this into sales or leads. Google’s Website Optimizer lets you test your site content, and is an excellent tool to establish whether your content really is working or not.
So, these are just some of the key mistakes that I see all the time when searching around. Unfortunately, it really is the difference between making a sale or not. So, be sure to instill confidence in your customers, and get them converting today by avoiding any of the aforementioned mistakes. There are other issues to watch out for too, so if you have any that you’d like to share, then please feel free to comment below. I look forward to reading some other examples and experiences.
Copywriting via BigStock