Copy has different purposes: direct response (you want readers to act/purchase) or educational (providing the information they need to decide). Regardless of your purpose, writing great copy takes finesse and skill.
There are still several common ways that copywriters ensure that their copy is boring, unclear and ineffective.
1. Not writing conversationally
Conversational tone and wording is key to getting your target audience to read through your content to the very end. If you start off with "purple prose," your bounce rate will be high. What is "purple prose," you ask? Read this article to learn more.
The best way to writing conversationally is to picture one person in your mind who exemplifies your target audience and write to them as if they were your best friend. You wouldn't use flowery, extravagant, polysyllabic words (see the "purple prose" there?) when chatting with a friend over a cuppa. If you use it in your copywriting, your audience will drift away from you.
2. Confusing features with benefits
Let's say your product is a new tech gadget with lightning fast operating speed, several Gigs of storage, and access to all the apps in both the Android and iOS app store. If you focused on just those in your copy, you'd be missing the mark because those are features, not benefits.
Drill down to find the benefits of each feature. Why is lightning fast operating speed beneficial to your target audience? It saves them time while working, right? Drill down even closer. They can spend more time with family and friends and less time on work, or they can take on new clients and make more money. It all depends on what motivates your target audience best, which leads perfectly to our next common error.
3. Failing to connect with your target persona
Not connecting with your target reader is high on the list of the most egregious copywriting sins. You need to walk a mile in their shoes to understand what they need and want most. True empathy for their plight and passion for what they need drive the best copy.
If your client doesn't give you a marketing persona(s), you need to do the research yourself. Hang out where your target audience does in chat rooms and online forums to learn what they fear and desire and how you can best address those fears and desires. Your best copy will come when you are actually one of the target audience members.
4. Failing to use keywords and long-tail keywords
Everyone loves candy, especially search engines. Singular and long-tail keywords are the candy for search engines. If you don't give them with the candy they want, they won't rank your site very high.
Spend time researching keywords. Also, learn how your target audience uses keywords. Lurking in forums will show you how your target audience speaks about keywords, what tone and language they use and what they're most interested in. You'll also learn what your target fears and what he or she wants most.
5. Not using compelling headlines
Readers skim headlines and sub-heads to see if your copy has what they're looking for. Your headlines should compel and engage, and should also tell the story about how your product/service gives what your target audience needs and desires most. If it doesn't, then your headline sucks.
Use concise and punchy headlines to move your readers through your content. If they're engaging enough, your target audience might even read the content below each headline or sub-head. This is true whether you're writing B2C or B2B content.
6. Making grammar, punctuation, and style mistakes
Woe unto him who doth such. Nothing screams amateurish, don't-read-this-crap copy than misspellings, awkward sentence constructions, and technical gaffes. And don't expect your editor to catch it all; busy editors don't have time to fix all your easily found mistakes.
Be proactive with ProWritingAid in your toolkit. A self-editing tool lets you write freely as you draft because you know it will help you clean up your content later. You can be more productive when you write unreservedly "in the flow." And your editor will love your error-free content.
7. Failing to include a Call to Action at the end
Failing to include a Call to Action (CTA) leaves your content dead in the water. Your audience needs to know what to do at the end, so you need to be clear and concise about what it is. If you don't include a CTA, your content will be much less effective.
A great CTA is urgent or time constrained, compelling and easy to do, and contains no risk. Here are some examples:
Simple and to the point, Evernote's CTA is compelling and engaging:
Again, clear and concise, Dropbox's CTA speaks to its amazing benefits:
REI combines urgent and compelling wording:
Focus on avoiding these 7 common mistakes, and your copy won't suck. Whether you're writing blog posts for your website or direct response sales copy for a client, learning what to avoid and what to focus on can make a clear difference in conversion rates, leads generated, and other key performance indicators. It really is about quality over quantity when marketing with content.
What are your worst copywriting mistakes? What do you struggle with most? Let us know in the comments below. Let's compile a comprehensive list of mistakes we should all avoid.