Is poor copy killing your website?

Poor copy can cripple even the most slickest looking website. While a brilliant design and excellent functionality are essential for attracting prospects, copy is essential for building trust. It makes people feel confident enough to make that purchase or send that enquiry.

So why is there so much crap copy about? We look at the most common web copywriting pitfalls and how you can avoid them.

It took five minutes to write

Some businesses spend months of tweaking the design of their website. Then, when it comes to the copy, they cobble together content in five minutes for the sake of getting the website done and meeting a deadline.

While print copy is carefully put together and proofread way before time, web copy is not treated with the same care. This usually occurs when businesses doesn't 'get' online and prioritise traditional media over digital. The only way to avoid this is to not do it. Don't see the copy as a separate entity from the rest of the design. Get working on the copy sooner and it will inform and influence the overall design for a stronger website.

It's been reviewed and edited by everyone in the company

Then, of course you get the opposite approach. Large corporations can be overly cautious and have everyone from the caretaker to the CEO review the copy. Being meticulous is a great thing, but involving too many people creates flabby, untargeted copy. A lengthy approval process can also make it difficult to update the copy - something vital for achieving a lively and effective web presence. Implement a lean and effective approval process and that copy run by select, but relevant people who can make a proper contribution.

It's been copied from the company brochure

Some companies will shell out loads for an expensive copywriter to handle their latest brochure or printed communications. They figure they may as well just use this copy again for their website.

Research from the Nielsen Norman group found that people on average spend 10-20 seconds on a page and read as little as 20% of the text. This is because people read differently online, skimming the text rather than going over it sentence by sentence. Web copy therefore needs to be radically different to other types or writing. Sentences need to be shorter, sub-headings need to be used, and important phrases needs to be highlighted. All efforts must be taken to ensure the reader gets the most amount of information in the least amount of time. Simply duplicating lovingly created long copy from your latest brochure doesn't work.

No SEO

Cobbling something together or pasting in copy from somewhere else means you aren't thinking about search engine optimisation. Your copy needs to appeal to search engines if the website is going to have visitors at all.

In some ways this isn't difficult - the key to writing SEO-friendly copy is writing people friendly copy. Use sub-headings, bold important keyphrases, go for relevant titles and heading rather than funny ones, keep sentences short and ensure there is plenty of white space. Search engines want to show good content.  Copy that suits viewers reading needs increases your likelihood of appearing in searches.

It's cliché or cringeworthy

This happens when people think they know about web copy. They know they need to stand out and grab attention, but the go about it in the wrong way. This usually results in cliché-ridden copy or something completely bizarre and unrelatable. Take this example from the AgencyW**k Tumblr - a great source from cringeworthy copy.

Be creative, be different, but also be relatable. A good rule of thumb for web copy is to write how you speak. Treat it more like writing a speech or a presentation than writing a brochure. This will ensure your copy feels natural.