Posted by

Barking up the Wrong Tree – 3 Common Web Copy Mistakes

So many potential sales from expensively acquired traffic fall through when the customer arrives on the landing page because the copy has not been conceived or written with the primary objective of converting this coveted traffic into sales and profit. Here are three of the most common examples of missed opportunities that I have repeatedly encountered over the years.

Since starting my digital agency over 15 years ago, we have written web copy and sales texts both for websites that we have designed and built, as well as for existing websites that need adapting.

Writing sales copy is an integral part of helping my clients make more money from their websites and, for this reason, I find myself taking this part of the online marketing programme very personally. It’s also the part of the online marketing mix that I really love.

Keep the Sale in Mind

So many businesses invest so much time and money into the mechanics (whether through SEO, PPC or any other technique) of driving traffic to their websites, only to lose potential sales when the customer arrives on the landing page because the copy has not been conceived or written with the primary objective of converting this coveted traffic into sales and profit.

In today’s online environment, where traffic generation is such an expensive exercise – this common oversight is a costly mistake.

There are countless “how to” articles about how to sell your product and your services, but I wanted to share with you from my own experience, three of the most common examples of missed opportunities that I have repeatedly encountered over the years.

The objective of good #webcopy should be to convert your hard-earned traffic into sales. Click To Tweet


Mistake 1: Selling the Wrong “What”

Understanding what your customer really wants is almost a cliché when it comes to any salesmanship advice, but let me show you a common scenario that I have seen many times (and still do!), where not adhering to this mantra has lost many a holiday company many sales.

In the travel industry, many tour operators’ and travel agents’ websites categorise their landing pages by destination. For example, people searching for a ski holiday in La Tania will find the La Tania ski holidays listed on the La Tania page.

However, more often than not, the text on these pages, will wax lyrical about La Tania and about skiing. It is a classic case of preaching to the converted. If your potential customers go to Google and type in Skiing in La Tania, then it is safe to assume that they are looking to go skiing in La Tania.  So you don’t need to sell the destination or the sport to them.

What your web copy should be selling is the reason why that customer should choose to go skiing in La Tania with your company rather than one of your competitors.

But this does not apply only to La Tania or only to the travel industry. It applies to every industry sector.

To take an example from another industry, if you are a specialist in reinforced concrete pouring for the building industry (yes this is a client of ours), don’t waste your valuable sales copy space telling your readers why reinforced concrete is better, is stronger, is more durable and is more grey than regular concrete. Instead, why not tell them how expert you are at mixing reinforced concrete for different projects; how professional your pouring techniques are; all about your ability to provide cost effective and bespoke solutions (always my favourite USPs); about your superb industry credentials; and how you always deliver on time and on budget.

Tour Operators: sell your company or product, not your destination in your #webcopy! Click To Tweet


Mistake 2: Selling the Wrong “Why”

Another common error I see across all industries is that of not understanding why people should be interested or tempted to buy a product or service.

One example is that of the hotel industry.  When selling a hotel to a potential customer I am always amazed at how many hotel websites talk about how many rooms the hotel has, how many restaurants they have, if they provide a kettle or a television, etc, etc.

I am sure that a kettle is good for those who want to make their own coffee instead of sipping a latte with their morning paper at a charming cafe in the town centre, but the kettle is probably not high on the average hotel shopper’s bucket list.

When it comes to the holiday and hospitality industries, I believe that people are buying a dream of a better experience away from the reality of their lives. Seth Godin wrote a wonderful book called “All Marketers are Liars”. He started the book with something like “l lied. Marketers are not liars. They are superb storytellers and people choose to believe their stories.”

As holiday customers we want to hear about how we will feel in the spacious or luxurious or charming rooms, how we will be able to relax in the comfortable bed after a long day absorbing all the city’s sights and sounds, or, if we are on honeymoon, we want to be told how the romantic hotel experience will make our honeymoon perfect.

Likewise, if we are business travellers, we want to be told how comfortable our rooms will be, how the efficient fibre optic infrastructure is designed exclusively to help us stay in touch with our office and on top of our business, how the beds are ergonomically designed to give us the best night’s sleep so that we will be fresh and alert for that important presentation the next day, etc.

In my experience, when writing copy for a product or service, focusing more on the “why” and talking more about how the customer wants to feel or what the customer wants to achieve or do with the product can be extremely profitable.


Mistake 3: Too Much Selling

The last issue I wish to address in this article is that of not really understanding the internet as a mode of doing business and how to write copy for it in the most profitable manner.

Some businesses thrive online by offering a wide range of products and enabling their customers to “buy now” with minimal human involvement.  So, for example, if you are looking for a book online, you don’t really need too much advice, if any. All you are probably looking for is a supplier that has that book in stock and who can deliver it properly at the right price. There might be one or two additional parameters that you include in your purchasing decision but, in essence, most customers would be happy to simply purchase without needing the input of any of the company’s expertise or any human intervention.

However, there are many industries where the internet is the point of discovery and the website should really be nothing more than the starting point for a real conversation with a real person.

When it comes to copywriting for the latter set of industries, we need to remember that the objective of the website is not to complete the sale but to provide just enough information to persuade the customer to initiate the real conversation that will allow the sales team to start to build the relationship that will generate the sale offline.

For this reason, contrary to what I see most of the time, I would suggest a lot less copy.  In short (excuse the pun) I would suggest providing enough information to make the potential customer want to find out more.

We find that the copywriting briefs from our clients whose customers respond most positively to this “less is more” copy concept to be the most challenging. Brevity without excluding the essence or the important facts is an art form in itself.

Frank Orman discusses the 3 most common #webcopy mistakes made by website owners. Click To Tweet


These are 3 issues that I encounter most regularly – there are many more toe-curling errors that I have come across, so if you would like to find out more about the copy solutions we’ve conceived for our clients or advice related to the text on your own site, feel free to contact me and my team.


Enter your email and get our latest posts direct to your inbox: