May 4, 2015 10 common web copywriting pitfalls to consider

by Natalie Khoo

A copywriter working with their iPad

We all know it’s easy to make mistakes. And even seasoned marketing copywriters fall into the following traps before proofreading their own work.

Before you publish your next piece online, check your copy against our trusty cheat sheet below.

1. Have I addressed what my reader is looking for/expecting?

Remember that each page on a website should have a clear purpose. Content should mirror the page title or heading it lives under. For example, does your ‘services’ page clearly articulate what you offer? Or does your blog post fulfill exactly what its title says it will? Always bring the copy back to your purpose. It’s easy to get distracted and waffle when you feel there’s a lot to say.

2. Have I used the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ enough?

Writing copy that sells is all about making your reader the hero. Don’t just talk about you – rather, ensure you convey what your reader can achieve should they choose your product/service. Avoid phrases such as ‘We do this…’ and ‘We do that…’ and replace them with ‘You will benefit from…’ or ‘You’ll experience…’ instead.

3. Have I given my SEO keywords context?

You’ve probably considered relevant keywords, but have you put them in context? Pairing them with other complementary keywords or phrases increases your conversion rate. For example, the combination ‘real estate copywriter Melbourne’ is far more likely to rank with better results than ‘copywriter’ alone. Similarly, so is ‘low interest home loan’ than just ‘home loan’.

4. Have I repeated the same adjectives or phrases on the same page?

Creative writing is fun. But when trying to sell a product or service, it can be a challenge describing something without repeating the same root words.

Try to include a range of adjectives in your copy to paint your picture. For example, instead of:

  • Relax and unwind in our relaxing infinity pool”, write
  • “Relax and unwind in our idyllic infinity pool”, or
  • Chill out and unwind in our relaxing infinity pool.”

5. Have I been consistent with formatting, punctuation and spacing?

Overlooking small things such as line breaks and spaces can make extraordinary copy appear careless and sloppy. They key is ensuring whatever you publish is consistent throughout.

Review your entire piece and check that the following (just to name a few!) are uniform:

  • Do I use capitals, sentence case or lower case for each of my headings?
  • Do I use capitals, sentence case or lower case for each of my bullet points?
  • Do I use one space or two spaces after each full stop?
  • Do I use single or double quotation marks to indicate speech?

6. Have I checked if my plurals and singulars are grammatically correct?

This mistake is by far the most common I see when proofreading copy (including my own!). When referring to a company name, be mindful it is singular (I find it helps to think of the company as one entity). In context:

  • “Suncorp offer a range of insurance products” is incorrect.
  • “Suncorp offers a range of insurance products” is correct.

Likewise, any references to the company should also be singular, because you are referring to the organisation itself, not the people behind the organisation.

  • “Suncorp offers insurance. They also offer banking services…” is incorrect.
  • “Suncorp offers insurance. It also offers banking services…” is correct.

Also be careful when using plural words such as team or staff, data or media. For example:

  • “The team (singular) at Suncorp offers insurance” is correct.
  • “The team members (plural) at Suncorp offer insurance” is correct.

7. Have I followed the same sentence structure for lists?

Do your subheadings or bullet points flow seamlessly under your title? Below is an example of a list with suggested improvements.

Original version Why choose us?

  • A 5-step application process.
  • There are no reference checks.
  • You will get a response within 24 hours.
Here, we have a mish-mash of sentences thrown together.
Improved version Why choose us?

  • Breeze through our 5-step application process.
  • Relax knowing there are no reference checks.
  • Receive a response within 24 hours.
I recommend opening with a question, followed by reasons that consistently start with a verb.
Improved version The benefits

  • A 5-step application process.
  • No reference checks.
  • A response within 24 hours.
I recommend opening with a statement, followed by short, sharp tangible items that are directly related to the heading.

8. Have I indicated the H1s and H2s?

When writing copy for the web, indicating headings and subheadings using HTML <H> tags is very useful. This process ensures that your web developer does not lose any formatting or desired emphasis when copying and pasting content from your Word document to website.

You can indicate headings and subheadings two ways. The first is simply by typing the <H> tag reference into Word. For example:

  • <H1>10 common web copywriting pitfalls to consider
  • <H2> Have I addressed what my reader is looking for/expecting?

Alternatively, the second is marking up the styles in Word. To do this, highlight your text, and then select from headings 1, 2 or 3 from the styles editor (accessible via “Format > Style” or the toolbar near the top of your screen).

screen

You might be wondering why these measures are necessary when it is easier to visually indicate headings and subheadings by enlarging font size or bolding text. Unfortunately, this method is not ideal for the web for two reasons:

  1. Web accessibility (those who are vision-impaired and reliant on screenreader technology will not be able to decipher the difference between your headings and paragraph text), and
  2. SEO (correctly marking up the code improves usability, and will therefore improve your ranking).

(Find out more about HTML code, web accessibility and SEO on our blog.)

9. Have I put my apostrophes in the right spot?

I won’t go into the rules around this point – ideally, you should be familiar with them from school. However, if in doubt, simply reference apostrophe rules on the Oxford Dictionaries website. For those who’d like a comprehensive collection of English grammatical rules in hard copy, I highly recommend Wylie’s Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers.

10. Have I completed a spell-check?

Spelling mistakes are easy to make when you’re in a rush. I suggest:

  • always look over your copy with fresh eyes in the morning, and
  • ask someone to peer review your content for you (two sets of eyes are better than one!).

In my experience, it also helps to read your words out loud. You’re less likely to overlook sneaky errors.