Do you ever read a blog post and cringe? “I don’t know how they missed that,” you think. “It’s such an obvious mistake!”
The truth is, we all suffer from copywriting blind spots. We’re so close to our own writing that it’s hard to see the mistakes.
It’s important to get a handle on your blind spots, and do it fast. We may not see these boo-boos, but our readers will. Depending on the severity of the mistake, it can cost us (or our clients) readers or even sales.
Here are the most common blind spots that I see:
– The content doesn’t include any keyphrases. Sure, it’s good to “write naturally.” But that also means you’ll still need to conduct keyphrase research and place those keyphrases (and related synonyms) in the content. I still see copywriters guessing at what keyphrases are relevant to the page … with disastrous results.
– The content includes too many keyphrases. New SEO copywriters typically make this mistake. Your best way to check for keyphrase overuse is to read your copy out loud. You’ll be able to hear where you’ve overloaded your keyphrase usage and editing will be a snap.
– Ignoring the Title. Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Rather than [keyword] | [keyword] | [keyword], why not write something clickable and compelling instead?
– Focusing on “us” “we” and “our company.” The key is to tell prospective readers what’s in it for them. If your copy is peppered with company-centered content, rewrite it so it focuses more on the reader.
– Odd sentence fragments. Sure, using the occasional sentence fragment can be a cool copywriting technique. But only if you know how to use it well. Don’t write sentence fragments unless you are very sure you can pull them off.
– Repeating concepts. Ever talk to someone who says the same thing in five different ways? It drives you nuts, doesn’t it? It’s the same with your content writing. If you’ve said something once, you typically don’t need to repeat yourself.
– The subheads don’t make sense. The purpose of the subhead is to give the reader a preview of the following paragraph. If you write a subheadline about “saving money,” but the following paragraph is about “saving time,” you’ve created a copywriting disconnect.
– There are no subheads. Subheadlines allow readers to quick-scan your writing and decide if they want to go deeper. Plus, if your readers are on a mobile device, subheadlines make your content easier to read. Don’t forget about them.
– The subheadlines are benefit-free. If you are writing sales pages, benefit-rich subheadlines help your prospect quick-scan the page and immediately understand how you can help them.
– Hyperlinking the keyphrase every single time. Yes, once upon a time, this technique was OK (within reason.) Now, you’ll be walking a fine spam line if you do it. Mix up your hyperlink usage and only use them where they’ll make sense to the reader.
– Writing too much content. It’s important to ruthlessly edit yourself (or have someone else edit for you.) If you take 750 words when you could have used 500, you’ll lose the reader.
– Forgetting the call-to-action. Every page should have a call-to-action (for instance, reading another article, making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter). Don’t forget to tell the reader what you’d like them to do. If you don’t ask for it, they probably won’t do it.
– Writing endless, scrolling copy. There’s a lot of truth to TL;DR (too long; didn’t read.) If you tend to write long-form content all the time, ask yourself if you could split up the content into separate pages. Especially if the content is sales content.
– Writing “too short” content. Brevity is not always a good thing, especially if your copy doesn’t fully say what you need. If you find yourself writing 50-word product descriptions that are “just the facts,” consider if you need to beef up your content.
– Discussing features, not benefits. People don’t care about your state-of-the-art technology. What they want to know is how will your product or service help them. Features are nice, but benefit statements are what sell.
– Writing long, scrolling paragraphs. Long paragraphs are overwhelming and hard to read. When in doubt, split up your paragraphs into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks. Your readers will thank you for it.
– Ignoring your customer persona. How your copy sounds and how it’s written depends on your customer persona document. You’d write different content for a self-described “computer nerd,” than you would for a self-described “club-going player.” The more specific your content, the better your sales.
– Repeating words. If you’ve already used a word in a sentence, don’t repeat it in the same paragraph. Repeating the same word looks repetitive, and readers will catch the fact that you’re repeating the same words repetitively. :)
– Fluffy claims. Be careful of saying things like “everyone loves this product.” There’s not a product on this earth that is universally loved by “everyone.” Fluffy claims will trip the readers B.S. meters and they’ll unconsciously distrust everything else they read from you. Instead, use specifics (like percentages) whenever possible.
And the top writing blind spot to avoid?
-Boring copy. Content doesn’t have to be boring (and yes, I’m looking at you, B2B companies!) After all, one of the easy ways you can differentiate your company is with customer-centered, engaging content. If your content doesn’t sing, it’s time to add some zing!
What copywriting blind spots would you add?
Photo thanks: Nimish Gogri