Admit it, you’ve been there.
You come up with a marvellous bit of copy and proudly deliver it to the publisher, expecting marvellous results.You proudly pat yourself on the back. “This one is going to be a homerun.”
And then, nothing. Crickets. Your copy converts like happy hour on a Tuesday morning.
We often forget that great copy is more than the written words on the page. The foundation for copy success starts way before you even open your text editor.
And that’s where even the most experienced copywriters make conversion-killing mistakes.
Thankfully, these mistakes are easy to spot and fix, once you know what you’re looking for.
Most conversion killers in copy aren’t technical in nature. You can write a perfectly decent sales page just by using a free copywriting template you can find on the interwebs.
To turn decent copy into great copy, we need to improve what happens before and after the writing part. Here are seven mistakes even experts make that can destroy your conversions.
1. Don’t price yourself too low
One of the biggest conversion killers is underselling yourself. Surprised? Let me explain.
Your primary goal as a copywriter is to provide value for your client, and you should charge accordingly.
- Competing on price. You’ll always be undercharged by that guy on Upwork.
- Charging per written word. Every project is different, and great copywriting is often about writing the bare minimum to get maximum results.
- Deal hunters or window shoppers. The value of your service doesn’t change.
The moment you start doubting your rates, your writing turns from valuable asset into a commodity. You become a human typewriter, a robot.
How to fix it: Work with clients who see your value. Then you can focus on writing content that connects with the desired readers.
2. Avoid writing copy for a poor product
Gary Bencivenga once said, “Copywriters are a lot like jockeys. They’re only as good as the horse that they’re on.”
In other words, if you’re writing for a bad product or campaign, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Note, that an unfinished product is not always bad. Proof of concepts and MVPs are good enough to base a business on, if there’s an established demand.
The problem comes when your client doesn’t know who their target market is. Their product might not have a market at all.
At best, you’re left guessing about what to write on your copy, which makes writing a huge headache and leads to questionable results. At worst, you’re writing copy to a non-existing audience, which leads to no conversions at all.
How to fix it: Vet your clients carefully. Do they know their target audience? You can also work with your client to improve their product.
3. Call and interview your customers
Most copywriters scour through forums, blog comments and surveys for user experiences, trying to get an idea of who their audience is, and then write content they think this audience will find compelling.
It’s a fine method, but it isn’t great. Essentially you’re always two steps away from what the customer is actually thinking.
Even if your message is essentially the same, it can sound alien. Like running a translation through google translate – it’s just … not the same thing.
To truly replicate your reader’s voice, you need to first hear their unedited honest words.
You do this by directly speaking with your customer.
How to fix it: Get on the phone or Skype with someone from your audience. Drill into their frustrations. Ask enough questions to get them emotional. Record the conversation. Then use their exact words on your page.
4. Write copy before design
Copy comes first. Design comes second.
Take a look at this landing page from IMPACT Branding.
It’s a minimal and simple design, but it’s obvious what you’re getting and what you need to do to get it.
Now compare it with this beautiful portfolio page from Mikiya Kobayashi.
It does a great job of showing off beautiful stuff, but I have no idea who this guy is, what he can do for me, and how I can contact him. You can imagine which page has better conversions.
You might think these are extreme examples, but as you see from this case study by Thrive Themes, overdesign is incredibly common.
How to fix it: Write copy first, then create a design that serves the copy.
5. Don’t stumble on your own cleverness
We know you’re the smartest person in the room. We know you can deliver lyrics like John Cena delivers a right hook.
But we don’t CARE.
We all love to show off our writing skills and metaphorical masterfulness, but it should never get in the way of the message.
Don’t get me wrong. I love silly jokes and references, but it should never get in the way of clarity. The content should always be readable without understanding the joke.
Feel free to experiment with humour and cleverness, but always focus on clarity first.
How to fix it: Focus on writing clear and simple content first. Being too clever risks distracting and losing your reader.
6. Back up your claims with examples
You know what’s more effective than telling people about a pink magic dragon living in your garage?
Actually showing people a pink magic dragon living in your garage.
This goes double for your copy. Writing about the magnificence of your product without providing proof is a great way to get readers rolling their eyes.
The best and easiest way to boost authority and provide proof is with practical examples and specific user testimonials.
Examples breathe life into your content by making abstract concepts concrete. Readers can visualize your ideas playing out in their own life.
You’re showing that your product can cash the checks you’re writing.
How to fix it: Show a testimonial from someone using and benefitting from your product. Quote facts and statistics. Create a case study and show the results.
7. Don’t say much when less will do
This final point was going to be about editing and removing useless content, but I cut it out.
How to fix it: Remove EVERYTHING that isn’t essential to your message. Simplify the rest.
Over to you
Now you know some of the mistakes that cause your conversions to tank, and what steps you can take to fix them.
Remember that copywriting isn’t all about punching words onto a page. It goes much deeper.
Have you made any of these mistakes? Leave a comment below!
Jay loves red wine and Monty Python-references. When he isn’t waxing lyrical for a guest post, he helps marketing writers turn drafts into diamonds at Copywriting Maverick.