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10 Common Copywriting Mistakes

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It has been said that copy writing is an art. There tends to be a bit of a mystique about it, like no one can write copy except a copywriter. While it does indeed help to have a skillful copywriter close to hand, you can soon learn to write your own copy saving you precious money. Bear in mind the fundamentals and don’t make any of the following 10 most common copywriting mistakes.

#1 – One big mistake is talking about you instead of them. Yes, you do need to tell your story and give them some background as to why they should listen to you, but it shouldn’t start out that way. The headline, the hook, are about the reader and his/her problems, so talk about that. They have pain, frustrations, issues, and you want to acknowledge that in your copywriting.

#2 – Another mistake is not having a traffic-pulling headline. What makes a headline good? It’s about the words, the promise, the hook. Arguably, it’s not as much about the font, the color, and the size of the headline. Study what makes a good headline – the words you need to use – and don’t waste a lot of time at this point about which color headline might get more views. Keep a swipe file of good headlines you can draw inspiration from.

#3 – It happens often, you get so wrapped up in writing the words you don’t give a thought to keywords. We’ve been programmed to use keywords in blog content and article marketing but we forget, or don’t realize, that keyword placement in copy is important too.

#4 – Repeat after me, bullet points are for benefits. Don’t make them about the features of the product. ABC might do XYZ but those are features. The benefit would be about how that helps the customer. Will it save them time, make them more money, help them run a 10K or lose weight? Remember… What’s In It For Them? How will this make their life better?

#5 – Some marketers get caught up in trying to figure out how long copy should be. If they get it in their minds that it should be longish, then they write and write to fill up the space. In reality, the copy should be only as long as you need it to be, no more. Cut out the unnecessary words!

#6 – Some writers of copy are not trying to selling the correct thing. Are you selling the product? That’s your end goal certainly, but that’s not really what your copy is selling. You’re selling the dreams, the tropical vacations, the size 4 bikini body, the romance, and their own success story.

#7 – In an attempt to make copywriting easier for the masses, some marketers have come up with templates. This should just be a starting place. The template gives you the basics and it’s up to you to make your copy unique. Resist the urge to be cookie cutter.

#8 – Mistake #8 is not speaking in different mediums. Not all people like to get their sales page in the same way so have something for everyone. Not just the written word, but use graphics, podcast, and video.

#9 – Have you ever visited a sales page and couldn’t figure out what the product actually is? Is it coaching, videos, an ebook, a combo, or what? Be clear on exactly what they get with purchase.

#10 – Last on this list is no clear call to action. You have to ask for the sale. It might be crystal clear in your mind that you want them to buy, but be sure to tell them.

These are ten common mistakes that can make copy less successful than desired. The best advice is to learn all you can about copywriting… from successful copywriters. Then practice and practice and don’t forget to get feedback.

About the author: Paper Free Invoices started out as a small blog for my invoicing software business Paper Free Billing but has morphed into something much more useful. I’ve really enjoyed reading the guest articles and speaking with guest publishers so much so I’m always looking for talented bloggers to contribute. If you have any questions or feedback on this article, please find your voice in the comment section, we will try to answer every genuine comment!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • oivas

    Hey Steve,

    All this is so true. In fact, I cannot agree more with you on point number 1. Many writers just start writing about themselves rather than the audience. This works in case of training or for that matter when the author is well-known. For example, if Jeffrey Archer is speaking about writing, he can very well give his personal experience and people will follow.

    However, writers yet to reach that stage should keep it simple and address the readers’ problems. Thanks for the post!

    • Thanks for the feedback Oivas – appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  • hannahyuga

    This is an eye-opener article. I did not know much about the art of writing the right way so as to attract the reader until I have read this. I definitely agree when you said that the headline must be about the reader and not about the writer and that the write up should be about outcomes more than stories. In fact, whenever I read articles on line, I get hooked up to articles whose headings tell how I can succeed and how much I can succeed in a certain area of my life.

  • nicola

    thanks a lot for the tips I will ensure I pay attention to the tips provided

  • I would say that most of my articles suffer from No. 2, not having a traffic pulling headline even though they are very nicely written and other not so well written articles beat me in the search page ranking. Great article, I have learned a lot.

    • Thanks for your feedback Carl – one thing to note is that copywriting is a iterative process, sometimes the title can take the longest time to write!

      • oivas

        Hey Carlalexander,

        I agree with you on this one. I do write good article but the title lets me down. I have learned from my mistakes and now keep changing my titles based on Google keyword research and my own experience of how well the article seems to be doing..

        So, like Steve mentions, it indeed is an iterative process and I have found decent success in the recent past.

  • Phyllis Moore

    These are great tips and serve to highlight how and why copywriting is the art of persuasion, not of description.

    I think # 4 is especially important. Features are just a description of a product/service that the prospect does not have and he or she will not necessarily feel an emotional connection when reading such descriptions. It’s up to the copywriter to reach out to that prospect and demonstrate to him or her how much this product/service will change his or her circumstances for the better.

    This leads right in to what is stressed with # 6 — the importance of selling the dream, not the product/service.

    • Thanks very much Phyllis – Sell the Sizzle not the Steak!

    • oivas

      Hello Phyllis,

      You put it out so well! It indeed is the case with most people, not only while writing but also while selling. I know this because I have been there and done that.

      People get carried away by their own products or services, so much so that they forget the benefits that the customer gets. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Nicola

    this is very helpful to me , due to the fact that i am able to follow the tips.

  • MoBowen

    Hi Steve… The main headline is highly important. But just as important – sub-heads. Sub-heads are essential for people who are skimming your sales copy – which is what most site visitors do anyway. If you do your sub-heads the right way, readers can get the ‘short story’ about whatever you’re selling and be more enticed to read the entire sales letter.

    I know when I come to a sales page I scan the headline first. If it looks interesting, I scan the sub-heads looking for the price. If it’s within my spendable range, I scroll back up for the bullet points. Then I go through everything else.

    (You know you buy a lot of stuff online when you’ve got a formula for reading sales copy!)

    • Very true, thanks very much for posting your valuable advice!

      Yeah if you have a formula for dealing with long form sales pages, then you buy too many products, or hang out at the Warrior Forum too much ;)

    • Phyllis Moore

      I can relate to this strategy. I find that skimming through the sub-headlines on those sales pages saves me a lot of time as some of those pages are rather long!

      You are right, the sub-heads are extremely important and copywriters can and should use them to their advantage.

      This brings to mind the point raised in #8 — not using a variety of media. Copywriters must take into account that not everyone likes to read long sales pages. Video, images, audio and other multimedia are very important. There are people who will watch a video before they will read a sales page or who will look at photos and/or graphics. I’m actually the opposite — I’d rather skim the long page, as it saves time. But for others, a persuasive video and/or images and illustrations will have a greater impact.

      Ideally, I think it’s best to have the videos and graphics interspersed with the sales copy, but certainly a video right at the top, to attract interest.

  • These are some good tips. It is nice to have a little refresher once in a while.

    I also like to use sub headings, especially if I can work in the keyword.

    One thing not on the list, but I am guilty of, is not proofreading my work. Yeah, spell check is awesome but it can only go so far. You still need to read over what you have written.

    I am TERRIBLE about this! When I am hitting a deadline and I am tired, all I want to do is finish the stinking article and shut off my computer. But those extra few minutes I take to proof my work has actually saved me several times from embarrassing mistakes and needless rewrites.

    And the times I have blown off proofing my work, well, let’s just say I have often regretted it.

    Great article! Keep ‘em coming!

  • Scottf14

    You made several excellent points here! The part about bullet lists being for benefits was especially good to read. I see this happen in a lot of copy that clients want me to write. I try to explain this very point to them but them want what they want. The client is always right, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be, “more right” if they would just listen.

    • Phyllis Moore

      Scottf14, I agree about the bullet points. It’s not surprising though that your clients may not understand this. There are catalogs and brochures which may list benefits of a product and that’s appropriate.

      But copywriting is not expository writing, it is more like storytelling. A copywriter is taking the prospective customers on a journey of discovery so that they will have an understanding of how their lives and/or businesses will change for the better.

      After all, the end goal is to guide those prospects towards making the appropriate and logical decision…as in # 10 detailed in the article, the call to action!