Deadly Sins of Copywriting
About The Author:Allie Gray Freeland is the Online Marketing Manager at Rasmussen College. In this role, she serves as the content manager for the Rasmussen College Blog. She received a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Minnesota; and has been working in marketing communications for more than five years.
Aside from common misspellings, misplaced commas and poorly modified participles, web copy can be brimming with errors. While most authors are aware of these common grammatical boo-boos, many copywriting errors actually occur at a higher level.
As a copywriter, your job is arguably one of the most important positions in your organization; you are on the frontlines of a messaging battlefield. Your words are often your audience’s first exposure to your company’s brand. Your job as a writer is to articulate a promise while attempting to capture your audience’s attention and the content you are providing has the potential to lure casual readers into devoted, fanatical customers.
Even copywriters are humans, and they—like all mortals—intermittently commit the deadly sins. The following article will uncover the seven deadly sins of copywriting, and offer several tips for mitigation.
Gluttony: Copy-heavy, Unfocused Writing
In the academic world, most students are trained that the higher the word count, the better the paper. Professors can often impress upon their students the mentality that copy excess is the key to an “A” paper. Droves of websites mimic this same nap-inducing copy length. In real life, consumers want fast, pithy and digestible messaging—not extravagant run-on sentences.
According to Market Motive, while in front of text, 79 percent of people are only scanning; they are NOT reading. Therefore, your content should be chock-full of subheads and even bullet points that create more digestible chunks. Your best bet is to create copy that mimics modern-day mental consumption patterns.
Write attention-grabbing and pithy copy. Pilot the reader through the most important facts first, followed by easy-to-read subheads or bullet points, and a nice fat call to action. If you can’t capture the reader’s attention with your message in the first few seconds, they are already onto the next thing.
Tip: Avoid one, superfluous paragraph is extremely hard to read, especially on a computer screen.
Lust, Envy & Pride: Assessing Competition’s Copywriting
These days, many professionals have pride issues. However, there are inherent opportunities for professionals, and copywriters in particular, who can swallow their pride. Don’t lust over your competition’s fantastic website. Mimic, or better yet, build upon what you like.
As long as you are not plagiarizing copy or stealing trademarked ideas, imitation a high-level idea can provide your company fruitful returns.
A great example of this strategy is the current interplay between Google™ and Facebook. Each company is increasingly incorporating the other’s applications and ideas into their own platform. For instance, in response to gchat comes Facebook chat, and so on and so forth.
Tip: Need a resource for competitive analysis? Take a look at Net MBA’s tips for assessing a competitor’s strategy.
Greed: Thinking about the Bottom Line
The modern-day consumer is extremely keen when it comes to marketing and sales; and will object to a certain brand if they feel that its messaging is too “salesy.”
“Salesy” copywriting can amount to the same consumer experience as a shopper being barraged by eight sales attendants at once. Get the point? Just don’t do it. When writing copy, be mindful: create balance by communicating the benefits of your product or service while offering a healthy amount of supporting information.
Perhaps the best way to remember your bottom line is to remember your customer. Who are they? The most successful ad campaigns and websites produce organic and natural messaging by discerning a common trait in their key audience and rolling with it.
Tip: Good copy precedents include well-known news organizations like The Huffington Post or FoxNews.com, who have shaped their copy through deep understanding of their target audience.
Sloth: Lazy Editing
Think your copy has been edited enough? Think again. Your copy should be routed to three or four other people before it goes live. After you read your paper aloud and backwards (seriously, it works)—route your to at least two additional people.
Even the best writer can miss the most mundane mistakes; take it from editor of Regret the Error, Craig Silverman, who has caught errors from many of the world’s most highly regarded news outlets.
Tip: Resources like AP Stylebook’s “Ask the Editor” are perfect (and free) simple copywriting questions.
Wrath: Reactionary Writing
Avoid the wrath of reactionary writing by having a cement-solid content strategy. A good editorial calendar can be the holy grail of copywriting, as it helps insure you are providing audiences with a cohesive, branded message.
Within your editorial calendar, tie in specific themes by week or month. Be sure that each content piece, no matter how large or small, fits the mold. This will allow each page on your site to synergize and speak with each other—ensuring your consumer understands your messaging, is satisfied with your brand, and possibly turns into a converting customer.
For example, when I worked as a copywriter at Meet Minneapolis™, the marketing team created a content strategy for Minneapolis.org organized by month, and centralized around each holiday throughout the year. This plan saved our writing team from wasted time and stress, all while creating a better user experience.
Tip: There are many resources found online for your website’s content strategy, including Savy B2B Writing’s editorial calendar template.
Now that we have demystified the deadly sins of copywriting, take the resources and tips for improving your writing and set sail with your creative copy.