You’re probably sitting there, thinking, “is…is my web content weak? Please let it not be so…” Well, I have some good news, and I have some bad news.
The bad news is…it’s likely your copy isn’t great. Copywriting – like any skill – takes years to master.
Don’t despair though, not yet. I have some good news.
You’re here. You’re here because you want to learn. And, like all things, bad copywriting can be remedied with the right answers.
Feel better? Here are a bunch of reasons why your web content sucks – and how you can fix it.
The Marketing Side of Things
1. Gibberish Sales Tone
Are you guilty of using words like ‘innovative’? ‘Forward-thinking?’ Perhaps…wait for it…even ‘synergetic’?
Folks, your readers are human. Speaking to them in a stilted, manipulative sales tone is the quickest shortcut to alienating them as much as possible. Using these vague clichés also indicates you don’t really know what you’re trying to say – at all.
Solution: Try to write conversationally. Imagine your ideal customer as you write your content. Read your content out loud. If it sounds ridiculous, edit it. Here are some great CopyBlogger tips. Always clarify exactly what you’re trying to say.
2. No ‘Call To Action’
Imagine a super-charismatic, informative salesperson gave you this amazing pitch. You’re practically begging them to take your credit card. And then…they just walk away. They cut the conversation short. Where are they going?!
If your content – be it a blog post, web copy, or sales email – has no ‘call to action’, this is what you’re doing to your readers. You’re stopping the conversation.
Solution: Think of your content from your customer’s perspective. They are attracted to your content (adverts, social media, catchy headline), then converted (benefits, testimonials, useful info) and then – finally – encouraged to take action (subscribe! Purchase! Contact!). You get the point. Your customer’s on a journey…walk with them (cringe). Learn more about actionable content from KISSMetrics.
3. You Write For A General Audience
People are often scared of alienating ‘demographics’. What do they do? They use a fearful, ‘catch-all’ method.
E.g. A feminine moisturising product. A catch-all method would look like “Femoisturiser is great for healthy skin for the whole family”.
Okay, okay, no one’s going to buy ‘Femoisturiser’ (another one of my dreams goes ‘poof’). But you get my point. Because of the above ‘scattershot’ approach, the key target audience (women aged 24-46) isn’t being engaged and – even worse – might feel alienated.
Solution: Know who you’re trying to speak to. Be fearless in speaking to them. Engaging with a smaller demographic on a deeper level is invaluable. Learn how to find your target market.
4. You Ain’t Done Your Research
Facts, statistics, information. Dry stuff. And yet, invaluable. Nothing puts your readers off more than unsubstantiated, weak, vague statements and thrown together content.
Solution: Ask the questions ‘Who?’ ‘What?’ ‘Why? And ‘How?’ whenever you write your content. Who is this for? (audience). What is it exactly? (products/services). How will it help your audience? (benefits). Reinforce every claim with information, and use statistics/facts/quotes tactfully to improve your credibility.
5. You Focus On Robots (SEO) Over Humans
The golden era of SEO is over. Now, Google punishes you for stuffing keywords and spamming content. Now, focussing on SEO primarily is not only idiotic (because of said punishments), it also alienates the people that matter – your readers.
Solution: Stop it. Okay, you can use SEO a little. In fact, tactful keywords, well-constructed meta-descriptions and the likes can be really beneficial. Just please…speak like a human, because you’re talking to humans. Here’s some tips.
The Technical Side of Things
6. You Use Weak, Vague Language
Nothing will undermine your credibility like an excess of ‘amazing’! ‘Mind-blowing!’ and ‘awesome!’. Other examples include a reliance on the passive voice and a misuse of adjectives. Vague words like ‘stuff’, ‘things and ‘got’.
Solution: Try to translate these vague, meaningless terms into tangible benefits/values. ‘Mind-blowing device’ might turn into ‘The device that saves 2.5 hours a day’. Write like the great Ernest Hemingway with the Hemingway Editor app.
7. Your Writing is Lengthy/Complex
In the era of the web, long, rambling, complex sentences and paragraphs will result in your readers dropping off like flies (have I mentioned clichés, yet?). People have miniscule attention spans. Your writing needs to adapt to this.
Solution: Cut words that don’t add anything. Keep your sentences short, concise and punchy. Say what you need to say as quickly as possible – then reinforce it with quality, value-oriented content (show them the money!).
8. Lack of Proper Formatting
What will send your readers running to the hills even more? The dreaded wall of text. It’s a terrifying thing.
Truth is, good writers understand the value of aesthetics, form and design. The balance between content and white space. Between words and imagery. A wall of text is insulting to your readers – you don’t even have the time to spare to edit a little.
Solution: Easy - format. Your. Content. Keep paragraphs short. Use a readable font. Use a variety of fonts (paragraph, h2, h3, etc). Break content up with bullets, lists, images and columns – even white space. Here are some more ideas.
9. Your Content Is Too Short
Sometimes, being minimal is a bad thing. It becomes negative when it impairs your reader’s understanding of what you’re trying to say.
Solution: I like to – first – write a list of everything I need to say. I then create a longer first draft. I then edit this down to the perfect length. Create a checklist of things you want your copy to achieve. Tick them off as you achieve them.
10. Filled With Errors
Please use a spelchecker, seriuosly. Nothing (nothing!) undermines your credibility more than error-ridden content.
Solution: Carefully comb through your content for errors. Sometimes these won’t appear (e.g. flower and flour – these are called homonyms). In this case, you should probably call in your super detail-oriented buddy to help.
The Creative Side of Things
11. Overly Technical
Engineers, scientists, programmers…put down the keyboard. Sometimes – especially if you’re technically-minded – it can be difficult to avoid listing features, facts and statistics. However, this isn’t engaging for your audience.
Solution: Write out your ‘features’ or ‘facts’. Now, list the ‘benefits’ of each alongside. Use these benefits within your copy. You can tactfully use ‘features’ and ‘facts’ for credibility – see Apple for more.
Think of it like this – if you’re being descriptive, you’re adding work for your reader. They have to figure out why this matters to them. If you’re specific, you’re reducing their work. Pretty simple.
Solution: Stop being descriptive. Don’t say “we design websites and stuff”. Say “we create responsive, custom-built websites for your brand”. You get the idea. Make it easy for your audience, and be specific.
13. Too Generic
With the web, competition is ridiculous. Now, it’s even more important to distinguish yourself. Using generic descriptors, soundbites and bland tones simply won’t cut it.
Solution: Take time to develop a brand voice that speaks to your ideal customer. Take time to think about what you’re trying to say. Look at your competitors, and see how you can say it better. Can you add humour? Use interesting, ‘off-the-wall’ phrases? Perhaps you can simply highlight key differentiating factors that work in your favour. Entrepreneur tips for carving out a niche.
14. Not Compatible With Your Brand Voice
From the first email or advert, to your website, through to their interactions with you, your customer is on a journey. You want that process to be smooth and seamless. If your content clashes or contrasts significantly with previous content, at best, it can perturb your reader. At worst, it’ll send them running.
Solution: Look at your content holistically. If you have an established tone of voice, use examples of that (in existing content) as a touch-point in writing your web content. It doesn’t have to be identical…just don’t make awkward switches (e.g. from a quirky, humorous approach to a cold, corporate tone). Here’s how to develop a tone of voice guide.
15. You Write Too Quickly
This one might seem obvious, but – from the amount of websites that appear rushed – it clearly isn’t. There are very few masterpieces - in any context – that were rushed. Your web content matters. Take time with it.
Solution: Slow down. Your website content matters, and your web copy isn’t your latest journal entry. It demands respect, damnit!
16. You ‘Attempt’ To Be Funny
Okay, okay, humorous copy – when executed well – can be brilliant. However, there is nothing more cringe-worthy than try-hard, unfunny writing. In all honesty, writing humorously takes two things – skill, and a profound understanding of your audience.
Solution: Focus on being clear and concise. You can even add a little personality or quirk. If you’re truly set on trying to be ‘funny’, take your time, understand your audience, and get as many perspectives as possible before publishing.
The Mental Side of Things
17. You’re Boring Yourself
‘Industry front-runners’…yawn…’solutions-oriented business consultancy’…yawn. It seems obvious, but if you’re not being entertained by your own writing, your readers won’t, either.
Solution: Drop the industry gibberish. Stay clear and concise. Focus on your core message – and how you can communicate that quickly and confidently and – possibly – in an entertaining manner.
18. You Don’t Know What You’re Trying To Say
A muddled, confused message a muddled confused reader makes (confused?). If you have no idea what you’re trying to say, you won’t say very much at all.
Solution: Simplify. Have 3 take-away messages? Hone it down to one. Always plan out your content before-hand.
19. You Believe Design’s More Important Than Content
Unlike other forms of media, written content is more than a commodity. It’s your brand’s voice. It’s one of the sole methods in which you can speak to your audience.
Solution: Focus on your message – first and foremost. Good design should do one thing – reinforce this. Write your content first, then add the pretty parts later.
20. You’re Writing For You – Not the Customer
The amount of companies that have this issue…it’s unreal. I’ve found that creatives – designers, photographers, artists and the like – are particularly bad for this.
“We invest in our people, love what we do, and we focus on doing great work”.
We, we, we. Yes, the results of such writing truly are wee wee. If you fail to focus on your reader, why should they focus on you?
Solution: With each paragraph, sentence and word, ask yourself – “how is this relevant to my reader’s problems?”. Use direct language to address your readers – ‘you’ and your’. Avoid self-important, vague statements like “we love what we do”. No one or their granny – frankly – cares.
- Focus on the customer's perspective
- Importantly - know your ideal customer
- Write clearly and concisely - cut the sales spiel
- Write like a human, for humans
- Research and carefully craft/edit your copy
- Keep writing, testing and trying!
There you have it! 20 reasons. Remember – writing great content isn’t simple. But with time, thought and practice, it’s definitely achievable. And if it all gets too much – my schedule is open.