When it comes to your online writing, there are a few mistakes you just don’t want to make. From disorganized structure to spelling and grammar mistakes, some things will sink your copy faster than the Titanic.
Online copywriting is a learned skill; that’s why you should know what not to avoid just as much as what you should do. And some critical errors WILL cost you money—whether that’s conversion, visitor amounts, or higher bounce rates.
Here’s our key list.
25 Horrible, No-Good Errors to Avoid Making in Online Writing That Will Cost You Money
Avoid these 25 major content errors in order to create online copy you’ll be proud of.
1. An unclear objective
Imagine trying to drive to Florida if you didn’t even know which side of the country it was on. You’d likely wander around aimlessly until you (or your fellow passengers) got frustrated and gave up. In life as in writing, it’s impossible to wind up where you want to be if you don’t know where you’re going. With this in mind, it’s imperative to define an objective for your writing and ensure that each word of each sentence of each post is working to achieve it. This provides a quality experience for your readers and helps you create a valuable piece of content for your brand.
2. No defined target audiences
Just like it’s impossible to figure out where you’re going without a clear end address, it’s impossible to write valuable, productive content to a particular group if you don’t know who you’re speaking to. Defining a target audience is one of the most important aspects of online content creation. In addition to allowing you to hone your voice and come up with interesting and valuable topics, your target audience also helps inform your writing and allows you to gauge your success therein.
3. Online writing without a purpose
What do you want this piece of article/blog post/Facebook update to do? Is it mean to educate your audience? Drive them to purchase something? Drive them to click on something?
Remember WHERE (platform) it’s for, and WHO (audience type) it’s for. (For a guide on content lengths, check out our infographic.)
No matter what the purpose of your writing may be, it’s important to move toward it with a single-minded focus throughout your writing. In addition to helping you structure your content, ensuring that you’re writing with the goal you want your readers to take in mind can help you ensure you’re getting the conversions you deserve.
4. Unclear organization (burying the lead)
If your readers can’t determine what’s important and what’s not within your copy, you’re sunk. Because of this, it’s imperative to ensure that the biggest ideas, topics, or takeaways in your content get a front-and-center seat. Be sure to break these thoughts up and outline them further with headings, subheadings, lists, and bullet points.
5. Lengthy, unbroken body content
While long-form content is all well and good, one continuous stream of content (Jack Kerouac’s On the Road style) isn’t. While stream-of-consciousness writing may have worked for some literary gurus, it doesn’t work for web copy. When you overwhelm people with too much information and not enough punctuation, paragraph breaks, or subheaders, they’re likely to stop reading immediately. Avoid this by breaking your body content into small chunks. This makes it easier to read, which has the potential to increase your conversions and traffic hugely.
Nobody likes jargon. Unless you’re speaking to a very high-level audience (writing a medical paper, for example) stick to using language that everyone can understand. Jargon is alienating, and not a great way to get people engaged with your content. Avoid it for higher conversions and more interest in your online copywriting.
7. Lack of credibility
If you’re going to make a significant claim in your online writing, back it up. Readers are smart, and there are more than enough ways that they can out your phony claims or ill-researched topics. Avoid destroying your credibility and your reputation in one fell swoop by taking the time to research everything and fact check it before you publish your content. Doing this can help you avoid credibility missteps and ensure that you’re always providing quality, valuable content to your readers.
8. Distracting links
While link building is an important trick of the trade, there are ways to use links incorrectly that often detract from your online writing. One of the most common mistakes people make with links is to use too many of them in content, creating a distracting environment that doesn’t allow readers to focus on your writing or ideas. Avoid this by using links sparingly and embedding links to sources and relevant ideas in anchor text. This provides value for the reader without becoming overwhelming.
9.Too many bells and whistles
Just like too many links can distract your readers, so can too many images, ads, popups, or social sharing buttons. Avoid frustrating your readers and killing your page’s load time by paring your site and content down to only what is actually needed. This ensures a good user experience and keeps your site streamlined and functional, which allows the attention to funnel naturally to your content.
10.Relying too much on short and sweet
While short content has its place in the world of online writing, multiple sources have found that long-form content converts better. This is particularly the case in cases of involved topics or in-depth discussions about niche news or developments. While long-form content (often defined as content longer than 1,000 words) typically takes more time and thought to create, it can help you build your presence online and establish yourself as a leader in your industry.
11. Being too casual
While you want to incorporate a certain level of approachability into your writing, getting too relaxed can quickly turn readers off. There’s a fine line between friendly and approachable and downright unprofessional and crossing the latter will land you in hot water with your readers. To avoid this, be conversational where it’s appropriate but be sure that you’re not ever sacrificing professionalism for fun. That’s no way to help your online copywriting succeed.
12. Failing to give a “why”
If you’re asking readers to do something – sign up or make a purchase, for example – it’s important to give them a reason. In one study conducted in the 1970s, a team of psychologists sought out to learn more about how people interact with language. They decided to use cutting in line as a test. What they discovered was that, when they asked to cut in line without a reason for doing so, 60% of people said yes. When the psychologists gave a reason for their need to cut in line, however, 90% of people said yes. This just goes to show why letting people in on your thought process and value proposition is so important.
13. Being too negative
Did you know that it’s possible to write from a positive point of view, even if your topic is negative? While negative issues are unavoidable, focusing too much on what people shouldn’t do or how X, Y, or Z will bring harm can bum a reader out. Instead of adopting a negative tone of voice in your writing, consider flipping your perspective to focus, instead, on how a reader can avoid an adverse outcome and why they should do to make their business, website, life, or skills better. This positive outlook can make all the difference with readers.
14. Writing for yourself only
Don’t get me wrong here: you should love what you write. But if you’re writing for yourself and only yourself, you’re missing out on the opportunity to be helpful and valuable for your readers. As you polish your online copywriting, you’ll need to learn to strike a balance between writing for your purposes and writing to your target audience. While your writing should solve the problems you have struggled with, it should also speak to your audience in a voice they can relate to.
15. Being overly sales-y
The era of excessively sales-y content died with Don Draper and, today, consumers want intelligent, valuable, exciting online writing that helps them gather information and make decisions. If you abandon that goal for being too pushy or trying to jam your sales message down your customers’ throats, you’ll quickly find yourself without any readers and with a conversion rate you don’t like to look at.
16. Letting your meta material crash and burn
If you’re plugging away in the world of online copy without any concern for meta content or tags, you’re missing out. Meta tags and meta descriptions are an important part of great online copy and mastering them is one of the best ways to give yourself an SEO boost and help your content feature prominently. As a general rule, meta titles should be 65 characters or fewer and meta descriptions should be less than 155 characters.
17. Being too long-winded
Again, while long-form content is your friend, it’s still important to be succinct and to the point. If you ramble, you’re going to lose attention. If you take four paragraphs to explain a concept that could be done in a sentence, you’re going to lose attention. Avoid this by being brief and to the point. Don’t ever give in to the temptation of filler writing just because. If what you’re writing doesn’t have value or a purpose, it doesn’t belong. Be militant about this and readers will appreciate your writing that much more.
18. Not asking for anything from your readers
While you don’t want to be overly sales-y, you do need to ask for something in return from the people who are reading your content. Chances are, people who come across your material are connecting with it. They want more, they want to interact with your brand, and they want to take their relationship with you to the next level. Because of this, it’s important to use powerful, well written CTAs to ask your readers to do something. It doesn’t matter if that something is to click, subscribe, purchase, or download – when you craft a quality CTA that asks for something in return, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the results.
19. Not paying enough attention to headlines
While 80% of people read headlines, only 20% read body copy. In light of that, it’s clear that if you’re not spending the time needed on your headlines, you’re missing out on large levels of traffic that could be clicking through your content. Learning to write great headlines is a craft, but when you master it, you allow yourself to provide more value to your readers and earn more traffic for your site.
20. Sloppy writing
Sloppy writing may be the crème de la crème of online copywriting sins. In addition to making your readers feel like you don’t care about your content, sloppy writing also damages your reputation and makes it impossible to communicate your points efficiently. Use a service like Grammarly to check your online content for grammar and spelling errors before you click publish. This simple step can go a long way toward improving your writing as a whole.
21. Making simple ideas complex and vice versa
Many writers believe that the ability to write a simple idea in a complex way is a mark of achievement. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. While it’s all well and good to be able to use high-level language, it’s important to remember that being overly complex isn’t an attractive trait in an online copywriter. Stick to simple concepts and communicate them in simple ways. It’s the best way to win readers.
22. Not using power words
If you want people to respond to and connect with your copy, you’ll need to start using power words within it. Power words like strong, “Right now” verbs drive people to action and can help increase the conversion rate of your web content dramatically.
23. Not using enough numbers
Numbers are convincing and important for online copy. This is why headlines that advertise lists (“10 Ways to Improve Your Online Copywriting”) stick better than headlines without lists or numbers. To help readers connect with your material and engage with your content, be sure to use numbers wherever and whenever you can.
24. Not using social media to distribute your content
Once you’ve slaved over that well-crafted blog post, it’s time to publicize it. If you’re not using social media to do this, you’re missing out. Be sure to advertise your new web content on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for maximum conversions.
25. Inconsistent writing schedule
Even if your online writing is top-notch perfect, people aren’t going to find you if you don’t post on a regular basis. Having a consistent content schedule is one of the best and most efficient ways to gain followers, establish yourself as an authority, and build a reputation online.
While online copywriting is a learned skill, these 25 mistakes can cost you big in the world of web content. By being careful to avoid them, it’s easy to ensure that your web copy performs well and engages your readers.
Do you know of any common online copy mistakes to be aware of? Let us know in the comments!