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Copywriting Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid

  • Post category:Marketing
  • Reading time:8 mins read

It seems like everyone is a freelancer these days. This is great and all, except for the world of copywriting. The problem is that even those without a marketable skill have a computer. Since they have a computer they figure they’ll try their hand at copywriting. This is just a recipe for disaster. These “freelancers” think that all they need to do is string a few words together to form sentences. Then tie these sentences together into a paragraph and then combine these paragraphs into an awesome piece of content. This makes it sound like anyone can make a living as a copywriter. This is flat-out wrong. SEO copywriting isn’t about stringing words together. It’s about stringing the right words together and convincing your audience to take action. Anyways, here are six egregious copywriting mistakes that separate the wannabe copywriters from the professionals.

Inadequate Research: A Terrible Copywriting Mistake

There’s a reason why sub-par research is first on my list of copywriting mistakes. If you don’t conduct adequate research and truly understand what your writing, you’re just setting yourself up for total failure.

On that note, you need to research the living daylights out of your topic. I’m not talking about a quick Wikipedia once-over either. You need to genuinely understand your subject matter. So before you think about putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, do some legitimate topic research. Hit the books and surf the web until you develop a firm understanding of what you’re planning to write about.

Copywriting Mistakes-Research

While a shallow Wikipedia probe isn’t enough, you don’t have to be an industry expert either. What I’m trying to get at here is that you just need to understand what you’re going to publish. At the end of the day, you can’t expect people to understand what you’re talking about if you don’t.

This is especially true if you writing anything that relies on technical jargon. While an expert may grasp what you’re getting at, the majority of your audience will be scratching their heads.

Inadequate research is a major copywriting mistake that will send your clients running for the hills if you’re a freelancer. If you’re writing for your own site, then your visitors will bounce off your site in a heartbeat.

Here are a few tips on how to properly research a topic before you begin writing effective content:

  • Research everything before you start writing.
  • Do not rely on a single source for all of your research.
  • Keep researching until you seriously understand what you’re writing about. It also helps to know who you’re writing for and wrap your mind around every fact you plan to reference.

Trusting Your Spellcheck

Far too many novice copywriters trust their spellcheck software more than they should. This is a massive rookie copywriting mistake. Just because your spellchecker doesn’t mark a word as incorrect, doesn’t mean that it is correct.

The majority of word processing programs have a built-in grammar check. However, these programs use an algorithm to identify errors. In case you didn’t know, algorithms aren’t always right. In all honesty, they’re wrong a lot of the time.

A lot of people enjoy making fun of grammar sticklers. However, it is essential that you ignore these haters. Most internet users do pay attention to spelling and grammar on the websites they visit. Furthermore, roughly 50% of users refuse to do business when a site has obvious spelling and grammar errors.

Here are a few tips to spelling and grammar tips that will help you avoid making serious copywriting mistakes:

  • Do not assume that your spellchecker will catch all spelling and grammar errors. Furthermore, don’t always assume that it’s right.
  • If you’re not 100% certain about the spelling of a word – look it up.
  • Proofread, proofread and proofread some more. It is next to impossible to over proofread. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and a blog post could very well be the first impression you make on a potential customer.

Making Simple Things Complex is an Awful Copywriting Mistake

KISS –  keep it simple, stupid.

That being said, simplicity is best. There is no need to overcomplicate your message with fancy words. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 43% of American adults have “basic” or “below basic” literacy skills. While literacy levels may be low, this does not mean that you can slack off when it comes to proper grammar. Most readers know when something isn’t quite right even though they’re not sure why it’s wrong.

It is wise to employ simple language, short sentences, and brief paragraphs. Big words and fancy sentence structures don’t make you sound like a good writer. In reality, it can work against you since the majority of your audience will be scratching their heads.

Instead of writing a graduate school thesis, try doing the following:

  • Simple language is best. If you wouldn’t say it when talking with a friend, don’t use it in your writing.
  • Apply the KISS concept to all of your work.
  • Avoid using high-level words. Remember, just because you know what a word means doesn’t mean that everyone knows what it means.

Preaching from a Soapbox

It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Everything is an opinion unless it is backed by verifiable facts. People can have varying opinions even when they have the exact same data.

That being said, don’t present your opinions as gospel. This is a painful copywriting mistake that far too many copywriters commit on a regular basis.

People may feel like you’re forcing your opinions down their throats. This can get ugly fast, especially if your audience has a weak gag reflex. Even if you have cold hard facts backing up your ideas, don’t preach. Simply present your ideas and let your audience take what they want.

If you present any sort of statistics or facts, make sure that you’re 1,000% right. Your audience will most likely check your claims using a little-known tool called Google Search. It is crazy easy to fact-check these days, so you best be sure whenever you incorporate data or facts in your work.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid preaching:

  • Ensure you have the facts to back up your ideas.
  • Make it wicked clear when something is an opinion and when something is a fact.
  • Cite, or link, your sources when you do use facts.

Overoptimize with your keyword(s)

While including keywords in your content is essential to ranking well,  you need to realize that keyword stuffing is a thing of the past. In fact, any sort of manipulation of keywords is highly frowned upon. In most instances, it will actually harm your SEO rankings.

We all want to attract visitors to our sites and this is important. However, the tricky part is keeping them on your website. In order to keep your audience on your site, you need to have rock-solid content. Your content also needs to be user-friendly and overoptimizing is a major turnoff for most readers. In the most basic sense, overoptimizing takes potentially strong content and transforms it into total gibberish. Nobody likes to read gibberish. Right?

You can avoid overoptimizing your content by doing the following:

  • Remember, it’s not about how often you insert your keywords. Your primary objective is to produce reader-friendly content.
  • Produce content that naturally flows. Forcing keywords into your content stands out like a sore thumb…so just don’t do it.
  • Don’t be afraid to lean on an SEO plugin to help gauge your keyword usage. I’m personally a big fan of the Yoast plugin!

Using Less Than Clear Language

Have you ever re-read a single sentence numerous times and still have no clue what the writer is trying to say? Yea, it’s frustrating. So don’t be that writer. Confusing language makes for a painful experience and that prevents a positive user experience.

Copywriting Mistakes-Confusing Language

Sometimes writers have no clue what the word they use really means. Other times they use the right word, but they misplace it in the sentence. In either case, the meaning of the sentence can do a complete 180-degree turn and totally change the message of the sentence.

Here’s how you can ensure that you write clear and effective content:

  • Make sure you know exactly what every word you use means.
  • Go through your work with a fine-tooth grammar comb so as to avoid any potential confusion.
  • If it doesn’t sound right, it likely isn’t. Rework the potion under question until it flows naturally.

Closing Thoughts

Anyone who has done copywriting for more than a few days knows that it isn’t easy. Furthermore, even the greenest of green copywriters know that it’s far easier to get it wrong than get it right. We’ve touched on a few of the more common copywriting mistakes that even seasoned copywriters make. However, these are only a sliver of the copywriting mistakes pie.

However, if you’re legitimately serious about a career in copywriting and you’re dedicated to becoming the very best copywriter that you can be, then never stop writing…don’t stop asking for feedback either.

Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is a Digital Consultant at Shift Digital. He is also pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

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