I write a lot of web copy.
I’ve been doing it for 20 years now. This means I’ve written for old fixed-width HTML sites, and I saw the mad rush for every company to have a Flash-based site (and then the mad rush to trash it and fire Trevor, the 23 year old “web guru” who recommended it… goodness were those sites terrible.)
I was also there for the keyword spamming years of 2001-2010, when you made sure you told people what you did nine thousand times on the page*
*Looking for bagels in New York? Then visit New York bagel specialist Fat Tony who has all the New York bagels for discerning New Yorkers who want bagels in New York because if you’re shopping for bagels in New York it makes sense to stay in New York, assuming you’re a hungry New Yorker who has a craving for New York style bagels. So make sure you buy your New York bagels here in New York from Fat Tony, a true New Yorker who sells bagels in New York.
Full disclosure: I always tried to steer clients away from that third-grade jibberish. But man, it was a struggle sometimes, because the above actually worked for about 5 minutes, and everyone wanted it. And now I want a bagel…
Besides spammy pages, I’ve also been around for the rise of WordPress and smartphones and responsive websites. Basically, I’ve seen all the trends and tricks and flavors of the month that have come and gone.
So for everyone either starting out and/or writing their own copy, let me present web copy mistakes I still see here in 2020.
Web Copy Mistake – Preaching to the Choir
The internet is a user-driven medium. This means the user chooses where they go. They aren’t on your site by accident – they chose to be there.
Whether they clicked on an ad, a Facebook post, an Instagram pic, an e-mail link, or whatnot, they drove themselves to your site. And they did that because they are interested, at least to a small degree, at what you offer.
Makes sense, right?
So why do many sites try so hard to sell the reader on their industry? Here’s what I mean:
20 years ago, my first copywriting website led off with all the reasons to hire a copywriter. It’s an outside set of eyes, saves you time, you get better writing, etc.
Then one day I realized: people visiting my site weren’t there to buy steak knives. They were there because they already decided they wanted a copywriter. So why was I trying to further sell them on one? Duh…
So I changed my copy and instead told them why Dan Furman was the writer for them. BOOM – right away, a huge difference in conversions.
I realized I was preaching to the choir. I was trying to sell copywriting to an audience that was already sold. I needed to sell ME instead.
Doesn’t seem like that big a deal, right? But things like this are why some sites convert, and some don’t.
This works the same for many, many industries. If you sell shelving, don’t tell people right away that it will give them more space (they already know they need that – they wouldn’t be looking at shelves if they didn’t.) Instead, tell them why your shelves are the best.
If you’re a bookkeeper, don’t tell readers how much time you’ll save them so they can get back to their business. They already know that – that’s why they are looking for a bookkeeper in the first place.
If you’re ever in doubt, think of a restaurant – they never tell you they’re going to solve your hunger problem, right? Instead, they tell you why THEY are the ideal place to book your Friday night dinner.
Listen, selling your industry is fine for a blog post, maybe a benefits page on your site, etc. It has its place. But not front and center.
Take a look at your site and honestly assess if you’re really selling *you*. If you’re not, change that.