7 Common Business Website Copywriting Mistakes

October 12, 2015By
Marketing Fundamentals

Websites can be really confusing and the culprit is often the copy.

This is the Each week I look at business websites for the Blog Analysis series.

There certainly are companies with great websites.

Then there are others that have a few issues when it comes to copy on the site.

I’ve been around more than a few website design projects. They can get long and frustrating. Timelines often get extended and things can get rushed toward the end.

And something, perhaps the most important thing, that often gets overlooked is the copywriting.

Here are some of the most common copywriting mistakes I see on business websites.

1. Homepage Headline Confusion

This is the biggest issue with websites. And it’s not always an easy one to fix. I’ve tried to deal with it numerous times with my own websites.

The issue is when you arrive on a business website for the first time and you can’t figure out what the heck the company does.

Go visit a few websites and see for yourself. It can be really difficult just to figure out what the company does or what they offer their target customers.

It’s not easy to say what you do in a few words. I think that’s where the biggest stumble comes from.

A good way to test this is to have a few people look at your website homepage. See if they can tell you what you do after just a second or two of looking at the site.

You want people to instantly know what you do. This realization allows them to move further into the page and the site knowing what the main concern is.

It’s like a classic fast food sign that has the company’s name and the words “Burgers & Shakes”. You instantly know what the place offers.

2. Abbreviations & Acronyms

Abbreviations and acronyms are another little pet peeve of mine.

But again it’s tricky because when you’re involved so much in your own industry you’re going to use these all the time without even thinking about it.

I know I still do this with blogging.

This is not to say that your target customers won’t know what you’re talking about. Some will, but it’s usually the safe play to spell out what you’re talking about.

3. Industry Speak, Insider Language

Building on the last one is industry speak or insider language. I did this a lot in the shoe industry. I could mention something like “loafers” or something lesser known and people had no idea.

“You mean like slip-ons?”

People can have different words for things. The trick is finding the most popular term and use that the most often.

4. Non-Branded Title Tag

This one is a small one, but I think it’s overlooked a little too often. Most companies get it right, but others I see missing it.

Put your brand name in the title tag.

I like to start with the name of the company, but the other option would be to describe what you do followed by your company name.

For example:

XYZ Co. – Widgets To Improve Your Life

or

Widgets To Improve Your Life by XYZ Co.

Too often I’ll see companies focus too much on the keyword they want to target that they don’t even include their brand name in the title tag. This means that whenever your homepage shows up in search results or in other places where the link is shared that your name is not appearing.

That’s a lost branding opportunity and it can be confusing for people that search for and expect to see your brand name.

5. Unanswered Common Questions

This one is pretty general, but it gets to the idea that your website is your digital salesperson. That’s really how it works and that’s the goal of your website. You want the site to sell your services to potential customers.

In order for your website to accomplish that goal you need to give it all the content that your salespeople have in real life. That includes the answers to all the common questions your customers ask as they move their way to becoming a customer.

You don’t have to answer every single possible question, but you for sure want to cover the most common questions.

The first question is one we already touched on: What do you do?

From there think about the questions you get in person and answer those on the website:

How do you do it?

Who are you?

What does the process work?

How much does it cost?

6. Wrong Call-To-Action, Next Steps

Another one I also see I guess gets more into conversion and calls-to-action, but I think it still qualifies as a copywriting problem. CTAs (oops, calls-to-action) almost always include some kind of text.

If someone is on your homepage they’re already pretty far into your sales process. Someone that visits your homepage has likely gotten there in a few ways:

First, they’ve searched for a specific term related to your services. They know they want a service like yours. They don’t know if they’ll choose you, but they know they want the service. That’s a big step.

Second, they’ve seen an ad for your company that probably mentioned what you provide. Again, they want what you provide.

Third, they were referred to your site from someone they know and trust. Once again, they know they want your service.

When someone knows that they want your service you don’t want the top call-to-action on your homepage to ask them to signup for a newsletter or something like that. You would be moving them backward in the sales process.

Go back again to your sales process and apply it to your website always moving the customer from one stage of the cycle to the next in the proper order.

It usually looks something like this:

Homepage -> Services Page -> Contact Page

or

Homepage -> Case Studies -> About Page -> Services Page -> Contact Page

7. Competing Calls-To-Action

We’ll build off the previous mistake for the final mistake in this list.

Have you ever walked into the store to buy something like potato chips only to stand there for 10 minutes trying to decide what you want. The issue is too many options.

Options are good for things in life, but sometimes we just want to be told what to do.

Many businesses have multiple options and services or whatever, but usually there is one service the business prefers. That should be the primary call-to-action. It should stand out the most.

Other calls-to-action should be secondary. You don’t want them hidden, but you don’t want them to distract. They’re there if people are looking for them, but they don’t distract from the most common or wanted path.

Conclusion

There are two ways to avoid these copywriting issues.

First, if you’re starting a new website project go into it with the idea that you need to have the copywriting done before any design work is done. Look at your sales cycle and create copy that allows your website to be a digital salesperson taking visitors through the sales process. The copy will help guide the design.

Second, you can audit the copy you have on your existing site. Again, go through the sales cycle and provide your website with the tools it needs to answer questions that your potential customers will have.

Go through that process and your business website should convert better, which is the second most important aspect of online marketing after getting traffic to your site.