1. Too much text
Including too much copy throughout your site can result in it being unpalatably text-heavy. Users are unlikely to read long pieces of copy when they are browsing your home page or service pages, so keep them reasonably short and to the point to increase the chance of potential customers staying on your site and proceeding to making an enquiry or purchase.
This said, long informative articles that consist of entirely original, unique content can have SEO value and be well-regarded by search engines for their authorativeness in responding to particular questions, but where you do include such articles, ensure they are balanced out with pictures and calls to action. Such pages are more likely to be visited by people looking for information such as students and others undertaking involved factual research, so bounce rates are likely to be high and conversion rates to custom low.
2. Information overload
If you have a business website, then your primary aim from it is likely to be sales. Marketing copy is a fine balancing act to get right, but as a general rule you need enough to attract organic traffic and enough to sell, but not so much that you distract people from purchase or confuse them with complex or conflicting considerations
Pictures of products tend to speak very well by themselves. Alongside these, include only important information, and remember you can spread this information out across your site where it is most relevant. Imagine the user’s journey and what information they would be looking for as they navigate through the website.
3. Forgetting SEO
With all your copy, keep SEO in mind as you are writing it. Think about which keywords to use in both headings and body text, the search intent of the user, and how understandable your copy actually is. Steer clear of jargon, make your copy easy to read and relatable, and check that your headings on a page actually identify what the page is designed to tell people about.
If you are writing headings or title tags for products or services pages, it becomes especially important to select those that are most directly relevant to what it is you are trying to sell, and that you could expect people looking to buy them to search for.
On traditional broadcast media advertising, where advertisers have a captive listening audience already delivered to them, you will often notice a focus on mood and lifestyle imagery, and perhaps popular expressions, slogans and catch-phrases that convey a feeling but are essentially platitudes with little inherent meaning. While those formulae may be a proven success in broadcast advertising, they are doomed to failure on the web, where there’s a significant disadvantage in headings that contain popular expressions or platitudes but that don’t describe the purpose of the page, because they will stop relevant traffic reaching you from search engines.
4. Unclear messaging
As well as making your copy understandable, ensure that your main messaging is consistent and clear throughout. Inconsistencies here will mean that your message becomes diluted and the user has no idea of what you are actually trying to get across.
A related issue to beware of is internal inconsistency in the styling of copy. Where you edit an existing article or web-page to provide new information, you should be mindful of the impact that this may have on the flow of information on the page as a whole. It needs to work as a linear journey in the development of awareness and thinking for the user, so go back and check that it does!
5. Copying others
This is a big no-no. Don’t take copy and content from other sites. Search engines are always on the lookout for this, and it can have a very negative impact if you are found out. It’s generally just very bad practice; and if you lift content verbatim without permission, it is also illegal and could put you at risk of lawsuits.
While there is no copyright on ideas or headings, websites that copy text from elsewhere on the web, even if this is done with minor adaptations to wording in an attempt to avoid claims of breach of copyright, signal to the discerning user, as well to search engines, that they have nothing original to tell people, and that therefore there is no point in even reading them. They can suggest low intelligence and a lack of creative drive and entrepreneurial initiative on the part of the businesses they represent. So avoid the temptation, and if you outsource your copywriting, check that anyone writing copy for you is not doing this either!
6. No calls-to-action
It is good practice to indicate to the web user suggested next page destinations in their journey through your website. So think about what you would like them to do. Which page should they navigate to next to logically follow up on what they have just read? Should they be moving on to a product or service page, or to another information resource?
By all means give them more than one choice if you think there might be appropriate alternatives depending on the user, but whatever destination or destinations you have in mind, without a clear instruction in the form of a call-to-action and accompanying link to get there, your user may lose interest and move on to another site. So do your best to ensure that you keep their attention with an enticing call to action (CTA).
7. Incorrect information
Whether the purpose of your page is discussion of a factual topic, or imparting information about a product or service, make sure that you have your facts right, because if you make a mistake and readers in the know recognise it as such, that will immediately undermine the credibility of your website and business.
If the reader is none the wiser, then incorrect information can be misleading and lead to confusion – all the more so if information on your site contradicts itself. If your readers have a confusing experience from the information on your site, it will lose their credulity and confidence, and they are unlikely to return.
There is also a distinct risk that mistakes made in advertising products or services could lead to claims against your business in the event of a subsequent purchase, on grounds of misrepresentation under the Trades Description Act of 1968, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008), or other applicable legislation. So check and check again!
8. Spelling errors
Always check the spelling, punctuation and grammar of your copy. Even small mistakes in these areas may lead to users associating your site with a lack of professionalism and care, which may then be reflected on your business or brand.
If spelling, grammar and punctuation are not your strong suit (which is absolutely fine – we all have different areas of skill and ability), outsource copy-editing to someone you recognise as being really good at writing and abiding by its formal conventions. The result will then be more polished and less likely to give a bad impression to your readers with a high standard of language.
9. Too many keywords
Don’t fall victim to the lure of keyword-stuffing. Not only will cramming too many keywords into one piece of copy lead to unnatural-sounding text that makes for a fairly boring and uninspiring read for the user, but also search engines are now wise to this, and it could have a negative impact on visibility.
You may have seen examples of keyword stuffing in web pages designed to attract people searching for particular phrases. Often the same phrases are repeated again and again in different combinations on a page, but the resulting copy sounds forced and robotic and is simply horrible to read. An example, from a page designed to sell Web Design services to businesses in London, might read:
Welcome to Web Design London Limited! Are you a London business looking for an update to your web design in London and improvements to your London SEO reach? For all your web design London and SEO London needs, trust Web Design London Limited, the King of Web Design London agencies!
That probably sounds like an absurd pastiche, but many real-world examples come horrifyingly close. Would you want to do business with a company that puts little effort into writing engaging and informative copy for its customers?
10. Long sales copy
Keep any overtly sales-oriented copy to a minimum. Rather than adopting a pushy approach of getting your customer to buy your product or use your service, explain to them the value it may add and the problem to looks to solve for them. Always keep in mind what you can do for the customer.
Long-style sales pages promising a strictly time-limited 50% discount that expires within 48 hours on a completely unreasonably high RRP may score some impulse purchases, but they are also likely to be a major turn-off to typical discerning and worldly-wise consumers. Be more subtle, and stay transparent and honest to earn consumers' long-term trust.
At GWS, we know the importance of effective copywriting and how shortcomings in it could negatively impact your business or brand. If you would like some advice or help on your own web content and copy and how it could be improved, or a complete refresh, get in touch or explore the Content Marketing and Digital Copywriting services we provide.