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10 Copywriting Mistakes That Dilute & Weaken Your Messaging



10 Copywriting Mistakes That Dilute & Weaken Your Messaging

You only get one shot at a first impression.

This is never more true than with copywriting, where you have just seconds to get your point across and convince the reader to take action.

No one’s coming back later to be convinced the second time around.

And they aren’t reaching out to ask you to clarify what you really meant, either.

Putting weak-sauce copy out into the world is a waste of the time and energy you put into creating it.

Worse, it can be counterproductive and instill a negative image of your brand in the reader.

We don’t want that.

So use this column as a checklist as you review your next landing page, email newsletter, or another piece of copy.

Avoid these common copywriting mistakes to strengthen your messaging and inspire conversions.

1. Making Word Soup

Jargon, buzzwords, island, and industry lingo are painful for anyone who is not you to read.

Consider that 21% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate; that is, their reading skills are considered inadequate for completing daily living and employment tasks such as reading labels, menus – and websites.

(Don’t get smug, Canada.)

Even those with high literacy skills get annoyed by unnecessarily complex language.

If I have to get out the dictionary or consult an industry wiki to figure out what you’re talking about, we’re probably done right there.

Wherever your audience, you could be unintentionally alienating a sizable swath of prospects by being too wordy.

WebFX has a free Flesch-Kincaid readability testing tool you can use to make sure you aren’t writing over the heads of your audience.

2. Writing From The Wrong Perspective

I liken this copywriting mistake to being that guy at the party no one wants to get stuck engaging because he talks about himself the whole time.

Great copywriting incorporates two very important things:

  • What the writer wants to say.
  • What the reader wants to hear.

You absolutely need to know the product or service inside and out.

But you’re completely missing the mark if what the business wants to say about it isn’t tempered with a healthy dose of what the reader wants to know.

Pourri, the makers of Poo-Pourri, not only creates hilarious commercials but writes stellar copy, too.

They could have simply said, “Enjoy the fresh, clean scent of citrus,” and that would have been an accurate description of what’s on offer here.

But no, they went and cleverly made me visualize myself sipping delicious brew in the sunshine, surrounded by fresh laundry (that someone else is magically coming along to fold and put away for me).

Screenshot from, April 2022.

Great copywriting brings that user perspective that triggers that type of emotional reaction.

3. Sharing A Laundry List Of Benefits

Yes, it’s essential that you make the benefits of your product or service clear.

But you’re missing the mark if you’re just reciting them off with no consideration for what each one means to the reader.

It has eight adjustable blades!

Who cares? How are eight blades better than six?

Isn’t eight blades kind of excessive?

Give the end benefits context with copy that speaks directly to the user’s needs.

Its eight adjustable blades make quick work of chopping and dicing, saving you precious prep time.

Awesome, I like to save time and hate chopping. Take my money.

4. Regurgitating The Product Description

This works in the same way as the above.

Don’t just tell me what the feature is. Tell me why that matters to me.

Assuming it’s well-written, the product description does a fine job of laying out the product materials, colors, size, and other specs.

So don’t waste valuable copy telling me all of that over again.

I already know your course covers these 12 different topics.

Copywriting for a landing page, ecommerce store, etc. needs to go further and help me understand the difference that knowledge is going to make in my life.

5. Using Emotional Triggers For Evil

I’ve never been a fan of using negative emotional reactions as a sales tool.

Sure, it can be incredibly effective to tap into a person’s fear of losing their home to sell a payday loan, or make them feel uncertain about their body image to move a beauty product.

But while creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) can move the product, it’s not the basis for a healthy ongoing customer relationship.

Women’s swimsuit descriptions are ripe for the FUD style of copywriting. You could focus on the features that will hide my bulk, mask my stomach pooch, and camouflage my flaws.

That style of copywriting does sell.

But you know what’s more compelling and makes me love the brand?

Copy like this:

Summersalt copywriting exampleScreenshot from Summersalt, April 2022.

Instead of making the reader feel terrible about their body, Summersalt focuses on the fun adventures I’m about to have in this swimsuit.

Seriously… take my money.

6. Using Passive vs. Active Voice

This one is a personal pet peeve.

Once you learn to recognize passive voice, I promise it’ll drive you bananas, too.

Active voice is direct, actionable, energetic, and clear.

Passive voice… is not.

In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb.

Here’s an example:

Active voice: Professionals appreciate Basecamp’s simplicity.

Passive voice: Basecamp’s simplicity is appreciated by professionals.

Did you catch that? Here’s another one:

Active voice: You can find a new partner today.

Passive voice: A new partner can be found today.

Grammarly Premium is great for catching passive voice and is available as a browser plug-in.

Hemingway App is free if you don’t mind dropping your copy into a browser-based tool.

7. Over- Or Underthinking SEO

Focusing too intently on optimizing your copy for search can make it stilted, awkward, and unnatural to read.

However, failing to consider how people will find your content at all can be just as harmful.

If the copy you’re writing is destined for publication anywhere, you’d like people to be able to discover it via search. It can only benefit you to brush up on current on-page SEO best practices and incorporate those into your work.

But don’t go overboard.

Google is a lot smarter than it used to be. You don’t have to use all the words on your keyword list in just the right places to rank.

Focus on the quality of your writing and being relevant instead.

Casper does a fairly good job of this on its product pages.

Casper copywriting exampleScreenshot from Casper, April 2022

This copywriter managed to work in a lot of relevant keywords – down, pillow, cool, night, fluff, machine washable, softness.

These are all closely knit concepts that make it clear to Google what this page is about.

And yet they’re woven into compelling copy rather than acting as stumbling blocks in otherwise logical sentences.

Be thoughtful in how you use keywords. Be like Casper.

8. Going Absolutely Crazy With Intensifiers

Intensifiers are used to strengthen and emphasize adverbs.

They’re a great tool when used in moderation.

However, overusing intensifiers can make your writing very difficult to read and extremely hyperbolic in nature.

See what I did there? It seems a bit intense to say it would be very difficult to read. And is it really hyperbolic in the extreme?

“Very” is an intensifier that tends to sneak its way into copy too often. Other regular offenders include:

  • Really.
  • Totally.
  • Completely.
  • Absolutely.
  • Exceptionally.
  • Remarkably.
  • Super.
  • So.

Watch for intensifiers and challenge your usage of each one.

9. Using Idioms, Colloquialisms, and Other Obscure Language

Marketer and Minnesotan Angie Schottmuller once challenged me to use the word “cattywampus” in a writing marathon story. She made a pledge, and I had to figure this word out.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a clue what the American slang cattywampus meant if it surfaced in a piece of content.

I wouldn’t expect many Americans to follow along if I suddenly dropped a codswallop, a strop, or the dog’s dinner in here, either.

Colloquialisms are slang and regional phrases that add color and personality to a piece of writing. And that’s great if you’re writing a novel or short story about people in one specific region.

Not so much in business copywriting.

Idioms are similarly confusing phrases that, if taken literally, suggest to the reader that some pretty strange things are happening:

  • It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • Don’t wait until chickens have teeth to get started.
  • It’s time to bite the bullet.
  • Don’t get bent out of shape.
  • It’s not mustard after lunch yet.
  • Some brands are a lot of noise and no walnuts.

These are common in small pockets of the world.

But for the vast majority of readers, they result in confusion.

10. Forgetting The CTA

Don’t leave me hanging… tell me where we’re going next!

Every piece of copy needs at least one call to action to give the reader the easiest possible path to the desired next step.

It’s not always making the sale, either. You could be trying to drive them to download a lead generator, sign up for an email list, or read another more focused piece of content.

Some pages have multiple CTAs. Anywhere you identify a logical next step for your audience, give them the option.

It doesn’t have to be all “Buy now” and “Click here,” either. Get creative with your CTAs.

I like what Baileys is doing here:

Baileys copywriting exampleScreenshot from Baileys Canada, April 2022

Yes, please.

And that’s it! There are no earth-shattering secrets here – just good habits to develop as you make it part of your editing routine to weed out these common copywriting mistakes.

Your readers and conversion rates will thank you.

More resources:

Featured image: Shutterstock/Nata Shilo com

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No Algorithmic Actions For Site Reputation Abuse Yet




Looking up at an angle at the Google sign on the Head Office for Canada

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has confirmed that the search engine hasn’t launched algorithmic actions targeting site reputation abuse.

This clarification addresses speculation within the SEO community that recent traffic drops are related to Google’s previously announced policy update.

Sullivan Says No Update Rolled Out

Lily Ray, an SEO professional, shared a screenshot on Twitter showing a significant drop in traffic for the website Groupon starting on May 6.

Ray suggested this was evidence that Google had begun rolling out algorithmic penalties for sites violating the company’s site reputation abuse policy.

However, Sullivan quickly stepped in, stating:

“We have not gone live with algorithmic actions on site reputation abuse. I well imagine when we do, we’ll be very clear about that. Publishers seeing changes and thinking it’s this — it’s not — results change all the time for all types of reasons.”

Sullivan added that when the actions are rolled out, they will only impact specific content, not entire websites.

This is an important distinction, as it suggests that even if a site has some pages manually penalized, the rest of the domain can rank normally.

Background On Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Earlier this year, Google announced a new policy to combat what it calls “site reputation abuse.”

This refers to situations where third-party content is published on authoritative domains with little oversight or involvement from the host site.

Examples include sponsored posts, advertorials, and partner content that is loosely related to or unrelated to a site’s primary purpose.

Under the new policy, Google is taking manual action against offending pages and plans to incorporate algorithmic detection.

What This Means For Publishers & SEOs

While Google hasn’t launched any algorithmic updates related to site reputation abuse, the manual actions have publishers on high alert.

Those who rely heavily on sponsored content or partner posts to drive traffic should audit their sites and remove any potential policy violations.

Sullivan’s confirmation that algorithmic changes haven’t occurred may provide temporary relief.

Additionally, his statements also serve as a reminder that significant ranking fluctuations can happen at any time due to various factors, not just specific policy rollouts.


Will Google’s future algorithmic actions impact entire websites or specific content?

When Google eventually rolls out algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse, these actions will target specific content rather than the entire website.

This means that if certain pages are found to be in violation, only those pages will be affected, allowing other parts of the site to continue ranking normally.

What should publishers and SEOs do in light of Google’s site reputation abuse policy?

Publishers and SEO professionals should audit their sites to identify and remove any content that may violate Google’s site reputation abuse policy.

This includes sponsored posts and partner content that doesn’t align with the site’s primary purpose. Taking these steps can mitigate the risk of manual penalties from Google.

What is the context of the recent traffic drops seen in the SEO community?

Google claims the recent drops for coupon sites aren’t linked to any algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse. Traffic fluctuations can occur for various reasons and aren’t always linked to a specific algorithm update.

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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric




WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

WP Rocket, the WordPress page speed performance plugin, just announced the release of a new version that will help publishers optimize for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), an important Core Web Vitals metric.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a page speed metric that’s designed to show how fast it takes for a user to perceive that the page is loaded and read to be interacted with. This metric measures the time it takes for the main content elements has fully loaded. This gives an idea of how usable a webpage is. The faster the LCP the better the user experience will be.

WP Rocket 3.16

WP Rocket is a caching plugin that helps a site perform faster. The way page caching generally works is that the website will store frequently accessed webpages and resources so that when someone visits the page the website doesn’t have to fetch the data from the database, which takes time, but instead will serve the webpage from the cache. This is super important when a website has a lot of site visitors because that can use a lot of server resources to fetch and build the same website over and over for every visitor.

The lastest version of WP Rocket (3.16) now contains Automatic LCP optimization, which means that it will optimize the on-page elements from the main content so that they are served first thereby raising the LCP scores and providing a better user experience.

Because it’s automatic there’s really nothing to fiddle around with or fine tune.

According to WP Rocket:

  • Automatic LCP Optimization: Optimizes the Largest Contentful Paint, a critical metric for website speed, automatically enhancing overall PageSpeed scores.
  • Smart Management of Above-the-Fold Images: Automatically detects and prioritizes critical above-the-fold images, loading them immediately to improve user experience and performance metrics.

All new functionalities operate seamlessly in the background, requiring no direct intervention from the user. Upon installing or upgrading to WP Rocket 3.16, these optimizations are automatically enabled, though customization options remain accessible for those who prefer manual control.”

Read the official announcement:

WP Rocket 3.16: Improving LCP and PageSpeed Score Automatically

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide




Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.

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Featured Image: Image by Used with permission.

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