Common Mistakes that Suck the Life Out of Your Website Copy

On May 3, 2010, wrote:

Internet marketing gurus have said over and over that “content is king” – but some people seem to think that in order to be crowned as royalty one only needs to dress up their website with blocks of text here and there. This isn’t the case. The content and copy on your website may be a product of good writing, but it’s important to recognize that good writing doesn’t necessarily translate to a better, more engaging website.

So be vigilant not just of what you write for your website, but also of how you present it to your readers and visitors. Avoid these common mistakes that suck the life out of your website copy.

Website design makes the text hard to read

Colorized text. A diverse range of font types and sizes. Embossed letters and sentences with shadow or “blinking” effects. They’re all pretty tempting, and all those colorful text editing tools on the dashboard don’t make it easier for us to resist. But when it comes to formatting your website copy, abide by the most important rule: readability. Go for a high-contrast color scheme (light background, dark text) that makes it easier for people to read your copy. Pick one or two highly readable typefaces and don’t succumb to the temptation of using different wacky font styles that change after every post. Make the size large enough to read. If you want to emphasize a particular word or phrase, don’t go Las Vegas city lights on your text. Just make it bold, italicized, or underlined. The simpler, the better.

A welcome line that says, “Welcome to my homepage”

We’ve all been guilty of this. It might have worked in 1996, but nowadays, you’ve got to come up with something more engaging and less trite in order to catch the attention of visitors who’ve just arrived at your online personal real estate. Get straight to the point. Or try teasing visitors with a witty one- or two-liner that makes them want to read on. A slogan is nice, but it would be better if you craft something specifically as a headlining message.

Too much jargon

People are busy, and they won’t bother waiting for what you have to say when it’s taking you too long to say it. So avoid jargon. Visitors will actually appreciate it if you’re more obvious, and if you use powerful examples to get your message across. On the other hand, don’t hype yourself up too much. Limit your use of words like “amazing”, “incredible”, “hurry”, “unbelievable”, and other superlatives that make you sound too good to believe.

Text that reads like spam

If you’re focused on generating higher search rankings for your site, you might have employed SEO techniques, like the use certain keywords and phrases. But don’t overdo your optimization efforts. Otherwise you run the risk of sounding like a spammer. Write your website copy so that it’s readable not only to search engines, but also to actual human beings. Also, avoid punctuation tricks like ending sentences with three exclamation points. Anyway, there’d be no need for those if you’re confident you’ve written compelling enough copy.

Filling out white, empty spaces with clutter

You may find that your webpage – despite all the elements you’ve placed on it – will have a bit of white space. Don’t feel too uncomfortable with it. Web design usually affects web copy, and too much text put together might make your visitors feel that your website is cluttered. Where possible, break blocks of text with headings and subheadings, or use simple techniques like bullets and numbering. Callouts and sidebars can also help make your website copy more readable and easier to scan.

Lack of focus and strategy

Every word of your website copy should serve the purpose of engaging your visitors. Don’t talk about yourself, your company, or your brand without a clear, compelling offer of what you can do for the audience. Many companies and businesses also make the mistake of not having a clear focus or strategy – and thus they fail to connect. To make sure you don’t follow their suit, create a prospect profile and determine who exactly you’re going to be writing to. Know what they like and what their needs are. Then – through your website copy – talk to them in a personal, authentic voice about the value of your offer. Also, if possible, repeat your strongest point at least two to three times to make it clear to your visitors and readers what exactly makes you stand out.

Not testing

To make sure that your website copy is as effective as it can be, test it. With split tests you’ll know whether the copy changes you’re making are actually helpful or harmful to your site. A tool like the Google Website Optimizer, for example, is pretty useful in helping you increase traffic and improve conversion rates, all while finding the best content alternatives for you.


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One response to “Common Mistakes that Suck the Life Out of Your Website Copy”

  1. Becky says:

    Great points, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now, if I can only talk my client out of the light gray text…

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