Top 15 Mistakes Copywriters Need to Avoid
No matter how good you are and what field you work in, mistakes are inevitable, and copywriting is no exception. Especially when you are just starting out, you are bound to make and repeat some common mistakes. God knows I messed up and made mistakes in my time. When it comes to copywriters, it’s not as much about one obvious error you make, but about continued behaviors or techniques that are hurting your shot at greatness and which you need to avoid. So, let’s jump right into it and take a look at what mistakes you might be doing, but should avoid.
This one is a trap many have fallen into; shorter articles means they are more likely to be read and shared by people, right? That’s exactly what I thought when I first started, but you know what? Shockingly, I was wrong. Believe it or not, people are actually much more likely to share a long piece. In fact, it goes even further: the longer the article is, the more it gets shared. In a world where we are constantly beaten over the head with the notion that people’s attention spans are shortening and disappearing completely, this is definitely surprising news, but take it at face value and cut it out with the lazy, two-paragraph “articles”.
How many times have you been told about how important it is for your writing to provide value to the reader? I can personally recall at least three separate occasions when I pointed it out. And that is because value stands at the core of quality copywriting that gets read and shared. Not sure how to accomplish that? Let’s see:
- Think about what the reader is looking for and make sure to include it in your writing
- List all the features and benefits of a product you are writing about
- Include secrets, or little-known facts
- Make sure that by the end of the article, your reader has learned something they didn’t know before; your goal is for them to take something away from your writing
One of the most important aspects of copywriting is the way it resonates with the reader. That implies that you should do your best to maintain a friendly tone that allows the reader to relate and connect with you. However, too many young copywriters, in an attempt to appear professional and gain authority, adopt a tone that is far too impersonal and distant. That doesn’t impress the reader; on the contrary – it turns them off. So, if you want to make sure they come back to read your other articles, you have to work on your tone and get personal.
I know I’m going to strike a chord with this one, because by far, the biggest problem copywriters are confronted with is their own lack of motivation and tendency to procrastinate. That’s right, you are your own worst enemy, and that is harming you and the quality of your work. You may think that your procrastination is not obvious in your completed work, but you can definitely tell – the rushed writing, the grammar mistakes, the ideas that are not taken to their natural end and not explored fully, the “unfinished” feel of the piece… these are all tell-tale signs of a copywriter who worked on their piece last-minute.
Lack of proofreading
I cannot stress enough how incredibly important proofreading is. No, really – proofreading is just as important as the writing itself, and you know why? Unless the text is in pristine form, its excellent writing, provocative ideas and overall message will get lost in the annoyance and distraction caused by grammar errors and other mistakes.
Driving the hard sell
There is nothing more unattractive than reading something that is a blatantly obvious sales pitch. The hard sell is annoying, insulting, and a major turn-off for anyone. There are better ways to promote a product than to shove it in people’s faces with outrageous lies attached.
Example: “This product is the best you will ever see in your life!!! There is nothing better for your needs. Buy this CHEAP product now and it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Don’t waste any time, do it NOW!”
That level of desperation is just embarrassing, particularly when the product you are promoting is something trivial or unnecessary, like a carrot peeler or something, you know? Don’t be a car salesman.
A good headline is essential for any type of content because it’s what attracts readers. But so many copywriters overlook its importance and opt, instead, for the lame, basic, boring headlines that advertise an article that no one wants to read. What sounds better, “New Car Launches of 2016”, or “Take A Look At The 5 Hottest Car Launches of 2016”? The examples are endless and if you’re one of those writers who slack off on the headlines, you know it. Stop actively driving your readers away, because that’s just bad for business.
Lack of emotion
Do you know what makes for extraordinary writing, including copy? Emotion. That’s what it all comes down to – appealing to the sensibilities of your readers and managing to stir something up in their hearts. If you pay attention, you will see that the most successful advertisements and products are the ones that relate to the consumers’ emotions. Using nostalgia, love, family, memories, etc. Failing to establish this connection means that your words will not “hit” your readers in the same way and thus, will not have the same impact.
Missing the point
We are all guilty of rambling from time to time, and any writer can find themselves going on a tangent sometimes. The problem appears when you ramble so much, that you completely miss the point you were supposed to make in your article. Now, when you’re writing for your own blog or whatever, it’s not as bad, but when you’re writing for a client, but omit the most important part… let’s just say I don’t recommend it.
10. Unnecessary flowery writing
If you think that “good” writing is the over-embellished, pretentious-sounding kind that is breaking at the seams because one uses too many similes and metaphors, you are sorely mistaken. Especially in copywriting, there is no room for that kind of nonsense. Your job is to get straight to the point and use your space in a smart way, to drive sales. One metaphor is welcome, especially if you use it to drive a point home; using your article to show off how many failed metaphors you can come up with is not okay.
Failing to check your facts
Let me guess – you like using numbers, years, statistics, figures, etc. in your writing because you read somewhere that it makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about. That’s true; but you know what makes you sound like an idiot? Failing to actually check your facts, or pulling them out of thin air. Rather than make up some numbers, don’t include them at all.
Uninformed, vague content
Allow me to share a story from my humble beginnings as a copywriter. When I was assigned a topic I didn’t particularly care for, or which was outside my area of expertise, instead of taking the time to do the proper research, I would just churn out some vague-sounding, generic content that would be tangentially on topic, but which would ultimately fail to cover what the client wanted. I’ll let you guess how well that went.
It didn’t go well. Trust me, you’re not fooling anyone with vague nonsense and no one wants to be treated like they’re too stupid to catch on – neither clients nor readers.
This is a mistake that most (yes, you’ve read that correctly, most) copywriters make these days. Whether of their own volition or because they are forced by their bosses, it seems that all writers are publishing content that, judging by the title, promises some shocking piece of information. However, when you click through to read the actual article, you discover that the title was entirely misleading and the information advertised is nowhere to be found. You’ve been tricked. That rotten feeling you have, like you’ve been cheated? Yeah, that’s how readers feel when you pull stuff like this on them, and they won’t come back.
Lack of a selling point
How do you convince someone to continue reading? You have to give them something in exchange, or a reason to keep with it until the end. Especially when you are presenting or advertising a product or service, what you need is a selling point. Remember the value we were talking about just now? This is it, right there; unless there is a selling point, how do you expect to make a sale?
Copy that is difficult to read
This is more of an editing problem, but hey, editing is still an integral part of copywriting. No matter how good your actual content is, no one is going to notice if the article itself is difficult to read! Here are some of the most annoying aspects that make reading harder than it should be:
- Bad grammar
- Complicated sentence structure
- Run-on or otherwise overly long sentences
- Lack of proper spacing
- Bad layout (no paragraphs, etc.)
- Small or otherwise illegible font