March 16th, 2022

10 Common Copywriting Mistakes

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Written by Vincent Perrone

Whether you bungle an amusing anecdote at an elegant dinner party or accidentally interfere with the past through a time paradox and nearly erase your own existence, mistakes happen.

For copywriters, mistakes are a dime a dozen. But what if you didn’t have to make them? Better yet, what if you could unmake them?

It doesn’t take a Delorian with a flux capacitor to figure out where we’re going. This article is your quick list of the 10 most common copywriting mistakes. Read on to see where the rubber meets the road and discover simple tips to avoid these mishaps altogether.

That said, where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

#1 A Lacking Sense of Audience

Copywriting is a two-way street. Not only are you responsible for representing your client, but you also need to speak to your audience.

No matter the audience, you still have the following goals:

  1. Informing readers about the topic
  2. Entertaining them enough to keep them reading
  3. Inspiring them to check out your client

But appealing to TikTok-obsessed teens is definitely different than writing for an audience of wild-haired scientists.

To accomplish your three goals, you’ll need a specific idea of who you’re speaking to. Build your target audience in your head. Consider their age, hobbies, and what brought them to you in the first place. 

With a solid foundation for who you’re talking to, you can craft your message accordingly.

#2 Extended Introductions

Ever heard of the term, “writing yourself in?” For many writers, it’s the process of writing a few sentences (or even paragraphs) before finally finding their footing and beginning the piece in earnest. Knowing where to start can be hard, and too often, copywriters get bogged down in multiple introductions before finally getting to the heart of what they’re writing.

Say you’re writing an article about a new system for delivering vitamins: “Benefits of Liposomal Vitamin C,” for an audience of brainy functional medicine enthusiasts.

Some writers might feel compelled to:

  • Explore recent trends in the health & wellness market
  • Provide a list of foods with Vitamin C
  • Explain the importance of a balanced diet

All these would be a real slog for the reader, as they either already know or likely don’t care about these (mildly interesting but totally unnecessary) facts. Just get to the part where the Vitamin C works better, faster, and stronger!

Quality copy should be like a Huey Lewis and The News record—all killer, no filler.

#3 Unoriginality

SEO Copywriting doesn’t require reinventing the wheel or rewriting the theory of relativity, but it does require some fresh ideas.

Between deadlines and distractions, copywriters can fall into the dreaded trap of unoriginality.

This might take the form of:

  • Minor rewrites of primary sources
  • Repetitive sentence structures
  • Relying on the same stock phrases over and over and over again

Originality can mean upending expectations, adding a little pizazz, or simply sprinkling in unsubtle references to a beloved 80s movie throughout the piece. Your unique perspective and fresh take is a key way to keep readers engaged.

It might seem a little silly in some cases, but it’s all about attracting attention and keeping eyes on the screen.

#4 Missing Details

Much like how the smallest alterations to the past can have massive effects on the future, it's often the tiny details of your piece that make it sing.

Details might include:

  • Specific examples – Real-life applications and in-the-field experiences. Nitty-gritty specificities can bring unimaginable depth to a previously surface-level piece.

  • Helpful data – Too many numbers can confuse or interrupt the flow for readers, but a few carefully placed pieces of data can lend credibility and expertise—so long as they’re properly sourced.

Don’t let your details turn whatever you’re working on into a shaggy dog story. 

Details are glinting little diamonds—minuscule and highly-valuable.

#5 Ineffective Headlines

Big, bold, and actionable, you want your headlines to tell the reader precisely where and what to do. It’s not an order; it’s an informed suggestion from a trusted confidant.

Unfortunately, headlines are too often a place where copywriters get bogged down, either over-explaining or relying on clever puns that aren’t particularly informative.

The results are ineffective headlines like:

  • How You Can Invent Skateboarding While Also Fleeing From The Local Bully
  • Turning On The Largest Amp In The World Without Blowing Out The Speaker
  • The Cheeky Underside of Calvin Klein

Too long, too many clauses, too weird. Craft headlines that cover a topic in as few words as possible. You’ll have plenty of room to expand on the ideas just below.

#6 Overly-Complex Language

Spending a lot of time referencing time circuits, flux capacitors, or gigawatts? While you’ve certainly impressed us, you might have a difficult time connecting with readers who don’t have the same knowledge base.

Maximum readability often means avoiding fancy vocabulary in favor of words and phrases with immediacy. Of course, sometimes you’re dealing with complex topics and complex ideas—time travel perhaps?

In those instances, ensure clarity by:

  • Offering clear definitions of any uncommon terms
  • Providing examples for unfamiliar concepts
  • Clarifying any abbreviations or acronyms alongside the first usage

Jargon’s fun when you’re on the inside, but for the uninitiated, it can feel very heavy.

#7 Missing Call To Action

What does a copywriting agency do all this for? We’re trying to make something happen. Whether you’re working to ensure your parents get together or convincing your reader to try an amazing new hair product, every piece of copy needs a powerful call to action.

You’re laying out a must-have offer and backing it up with the benefits your customers can look forward to. This is where copywriters often trip up.

Instead of hitting their call to action out of the park, they whiff it, forgoing enticing benefits or offering a dry-voiced, “This could be one potential solution to your problems.”

Instead, dazzle your audience with call to action finales like:

  • Visit us today for the opportunity to cut your monthly bill in half and push your internet speeds to the next level.

  • Join a network of over 3 million service providers, and expand your outreach globally.

  • Check out the high school dance—it’s your last chance to ensure you’re not erased from history.

You want your reader to feel compelled to act that very moment, almost as if their life depended on it.

#8 Emotionless

Emotions you say? Do you expect me to bawl like my friend and mentor has been murdered right in front of me by plutonium-dealing terrorists?

Luckily, in copywriting, there’s no need for that.

Instead, consider what emotion you want your readers to feel as they read your work.

A paper company might want copy that leaves their reader feeling inspired or creative, ready to undergo their next project, while a cyber security company might want to leave the audience a bit wary and concerned about the safety of their digital files.

Writing for complex and technical businesses isn’t an excuse for letting your writing dry up like a puddle in the Sonora Desert. 

#9 Claims Without Evidence

If there’s one thing that can quickly cramp up a piece of writing, it’s unsubstantiated claims. If you say your car can break through time and space when it hits 88 miles per hour, you best have the evidence to back it up.

Specific claims in any piece should be linked to a reliable source. Otherwise, you run the risk of saying something inherently wrong or untrue.

So the next time you make statements like…

  • 9/10 mad scientists agree
  • It requires a nuclear reaction to generate 1.21 gigawatts of power
  • The temporal displacement occurred exactly 1:20 AM and zero seconds

…add a source to ensure everyone that you know what you’re talking about. You may be highly confident about your facts and findings, but others may feel the need to investigate for themselves.

#10 Unsatisfactory Editing

Did you know that Back To The Future was originally supposed to star Eric Stoltz? That’s right. No Michael J. Fox—just the kid who was in Mask. After six long and costly weeks of production, the filmmakers realized that Stoltz wasn’t right for the role.

Then they had to start shooting all over again.

Luckily, making changes on the page is significantly less time-consuming. That said, too many writers rush through the editing process, missing out on loose threads to cut, structural problems, and sentences that just don’t work.

When making it through a final pass of your piece, keep these editing ideas in mind:

  • Read it through, slowly
  • Find your flow
  • Avoid passive voice
  • Double-check spelling and grammar
  • Streamline your sentences

“Just make it good,” as an editor once said. But really, editing is a major aspect of the writing process. Don’t let your piece ship out without giving it the proper editorial attention.

Copycat: Stopping Mistakes Before They Happen

Great Scott! We’re done. You’ll never make a mistake again.

Just kidding. To err is human, and while we can’t do much to undo our past mistakes—unless you’re willing to jump around through diverging timelines over the course of three feature films—we can do our best to stop them before they happen.

At Copycat, we think avoiding common copywriting mistakes is the cat’s meow. We’re purrfectly suited for diverse business needs, varied content, and working with your business to craft unforgettable content. If our calculations are correct, you’re certain to find the SEO copywriting services to suit your need at Copycat.

Sources:

OptiMonk. The Formula for High-Converting Headlines. https://www.optimonk.com/copywriting-headline-examples/

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