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10 Things That Make You Hate Your Web Copy

Wondering why your marketing writing never lives up to your expectations? There are a number of common mistakes I see small businesses make across their web copy and content. Read on to see if any of them seem familiar.

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1. Your web copy is awkward to read.

Good writing is powerful. Good writing grabs you by the shoulders and pins you in place, making it effortless to focus on the topic at hand. Lackluster writing just…doesn’t. And one of the reasons that your content might fall flat is if it’s awkward to read. 

You know what I’m talking about. Writing that doesn’t flow well, that trips over itself, or that’s too long. Run-on sentences practically force your eyes to skip over them like you’re playing leapfrog. Writing that’s overly intellectual can do the same thing online. If your blog reads like a term paper, people are going to struggle to absorb your meaning. 

And it’s not because people are stupid, either. It’s because SEO rankings and readability reward language that’s more easily understood, and it’s because there are thousands, millions, billions of other websites fighting to catch your reader’s attention, too. But likewise, if your writing feels awkward and self-conscious, even if it’s easy to read, people are going to click away and they may never come back.

2. Your web copy is stiff and formal.

There’s a time and a place for formal writing, like term papers and legal contracts. (Also great places to use your overly intellectual language, smarty pants.) But most people don’t love reading writing that’s so heavy and serious. Especially not online. When we’re browsing blogs, social media and email newsletters, we want people to talk to us like we’re having a conversation. Talk to me like a friend, not a colleague. 

Another variation of this is writing that uses too much unnecessary jargon. Now, using specialized terms is fine if they’re necessary to your topic. You can’t write about skincare without getting into silicones and BHAs, and you can’t write about low-carb diets without referencing net carbs and erythritol. Some big words may be vital to your subject matter.

But what I’m talking about is using insider lingo to explain topics that really don’t need it. For example, in advertising (and lots of other businesses, I’m sure), someone might say, “Hey, we need to regroup to chat about our ROI on the ad buy and review site metrics to come up with a solve.” Which is just a horrible way of saying, “Let’s find a time to meet to talk about how our site and ads are performing, and how we can come up with ways to optimize them.” 

If you can’t explain a topic in a way that’s easily understood, you shouldn’t be writing about it.

3. You're using words you don't typically use (or maybe even understand).

This one is for my fellow elder Millennials and Gen X readers: we’re not supposed to use slang the teenagers are using now. I’m not saying you can’t, but I am saying that if you get it wrong – and you will – we’re going to come across like we’re a little clueless and trying way too hard. If you have to ask your kids (or just A Kid) what it means, leave it alone. 

You don’t have to try so hard to be relatable. People will read what you have to say because you know what you’re talking about, not because you’re using all the buzziest words in pop culture.

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The world needs your perspective on the things you care about.

4. Your web copy is too general.

One mistake I’ve seen other people make a lot is not digging into details about their topic. Especially if the topic covers some emotional territory. In my last job, we had real people write articles about their RV trips. One of the biggest things many RV owners had in common was that a major life event made them rethink their priorities. They got laid off. Their dad died. They had health issues that made them realize they needed to take advantage of life now. 

And often, in the sections of these articles where they were talking about that challenge, they’d skim over the tough parts. All it did was make the writing a little less engaging. Because if you’re telling a story of growth and triumph, we need to see the part where you were struggling and unsure. It makes the payoff so much more powerful. 

Same thing for other writing you may do in your business. Maybe your product descriptions don’t mention the critical details customers are looking for. Maybe your emails are too sales-y and don’t focus enough about what buyers will gain. 

When you skimp on the details, you’re wasting an opportunity to connect with your reader. All business is about relationships, at the end of the day. Don’t waste that opportunity.

5. You hate writing short web copy...

…Like headlines, social media ads, or scripts for short videos. And it shows. Most people have no problem getting a message across when they have unlimited space. I love to cover off on every little nuance and point of view when I’m writing. 

But when you have space constraints, like 125 characters for a Facebook ad or 30 seconds for a product video, every character counts. And that can be really intimidating. So if you find writing short copy harder than long copy, let me assure you that everyone finds it harder. Learning how to write well with limited real estate is a valuable skill. 

A succulent next to a little porcelain sign that says, Write without fear. Edit without mercy.
Good advice.

6. Your writing is full of errorrs.

If your writing is full of spelling errors, copy and paste errors, formatting errors, etc., it can pull people out of the moment. Once they lose focus on what they’re reading, it’s easy for their eyes to wander away, and you’ve lost them. 

Just think about how many times you open a new app on your phone in the middle of reading an email or a news article. (If you don’t do this, and you have perfect focus and attention, that’s great. I beg you to feel superior in private.) And if someone navigates away from your page or post, there’s a 90% chance they’re never going to finish it. 

Your best bet is to ensure you don’t have errors to begin with. It’s a distraction, it tanks your credibility, and it shows that you didn’t take the time to review your own work.

7. You have no idea if your web copy is working.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to running a successful business. It can be hard to determine which elements are the most important, and which elements could use some improvement. If, for example, you’re a blogger, you should know which of your posts is most successful and why. You should know which newsletters have been most successful. Or which of your products sell the best. And you should know which blog, email, and product is performing the worst, because between the best and the worst, there’s a ton of information to help you optimize your writing and your business. 

Secret marketing hack: Show people your pets. People go bonkers for pets.

8. You don't enjoy writing about your subject.

When someone’s just going through the motions, it’s pretty clear to the rest of us. If you sit down to write about a certain topic, and feel like you’d rather pull out your own molars, you’re not going to do your best writing. You have to figure out a way to enjoy what you’re doing. Find out how to get excited about your subject by finding a new way in or a detail that’s interesting. Because NOBODY is going to enjoy your writing more than you do. If you approach it like drudgery, writing something you don’t really care about, why would anyone read it?

Search engines prioritize high-quality content. Just going through the motions and churning out a crappy blog, article or site page isn’t going to help you in the long run. Take time to figure out why you hate it, and work to fix it.

9. You're too critical of yourself when you're writing.

There’s not a writer in the world who hasn’t battled that little critical voice in their brain that tells them their writing is crap. The worst is hearing that voice when you’re typing mid-sentence, and letting it convince you to walk away from what you’re doing. Maybe you think you can come back to it, or it will be easier to start tomorrow. (It’s never easier to start tomorrow. The writer’s block demon takes no vacations.) 

If you can’t do something perfectly, or at least really well, you don’t like doing it. And didn’t you mean to put in a load of laundry earlier? As long as you’re up, you may as well make a cup of tea. Oh, and you meant to call your doctor for a prescription refill… My kitchen is never cleaner than when I’m avoiding a hard task. 

Even when it’s not easy, you owe it to yourself to find little tricks to work through it. To tune out that critical voice. To get a rough draft down even if every word feels like wringing out a dry sponge.

10. You're stealing web copy from other sites or creators.

Every so often, I read someone online complaining about how a competitor business copies their ideas, covers the same topics right after they’ve covered it, or worse – has lifted entire pages of copy off their site and put it on their own

If you’ve ever done this, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Yeah, you might save some time in the moment, and feel giddy that you’re getting away with something. But this isn’t a matter of ethics or morality. This is illegal. 

Stealing could cost you more than you think.

I have a friend who’s taking someone to small claims court right now for an issue related to creative property. I cannot begin to tell you the glee with which our friend group has been using our most obscure Google search skills to help track down the woman she needed to serve. If you think you’re hard to find, think again. I dare you to do a quick search for yourself. For $2, someone can have your home address, the names of all your relatives, your cup size and your genome sequence. 

In case that’s not harrowing enough, if someone decides to sue you for copyright infringement and plagiarism, when you lose, you may also have to pay all of their legal fees, in addition to your own. 

How much is that copy/paste job worth to you? 


There is a way to use other people’s work for inspiration, and I can tell you how. 

In fact, I can tell you how to overcome each and every challenge listed above, and all you have to do is download my free guide, 10 Ways to Write Electric Marketing Content, from a Six-Figure Copywriter. 

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Hi, I'm Lana.

I’ve spent 16 years in advertising, and now I’m using that knowledge to help creatives grow their own small businesses. Will that include you this year? 

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