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10 Copywriting Mistakes That Dilute & Weaken Your Messaging

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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 Pourri.com, 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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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023

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5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Conclusion

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An “Awesome Idea”

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An "Awesome Idea"

Google’s John Mueller discussed heading elements with a member of the SEO community where he affirmed the usefulness of using hierarchical structure when using heading elements.

Background Context to What Mueller Said

Heading elements <H1> – <H6> are supposed to be used to indicate what a section of a webpage is about.

Furthermore the heading elements have a ranking order, with the <H1> being the highest rank of importance and the <H6> being the lowest level of importance.

The heading element purpose is to label what a section of content is about.

HTML specifications allow the use of multiple <H1> elements. So, technically, using more than one <H1> is perfectly valid.

Section 4.3.11 of the official HTML specifications states:

“h1–h6 elements have a heading level, which is given by the number in the element’s name.

If a document has one or more headings, at least a single heading within the outline should have a heading level of 1.”

Nevertheless, using more than on <H1> is not considered a best practice.

The Mozilla developer reference page about the use of headings recommends:

“The <h1> to <h6> HTML elements represent six levels of section headings. <h1> is the highest section level and <h6> is the lowest.

…Avoid using multiple <h1> elements on one page

While using multiple <h1> elements on one page is allowed by the HTML standard (as long as they are not nested), this is not considered a best practice. A page should generally have a single <h1> element that describes the content of the page (similar to the document’s <title> element).”

John Mueller has previously said that it doesn’t matter if a webpage uses one <H1> or five <H1> headings.

The point of his statement is that the level of the heading isn’t as important as how they are used, with the best practice being the use of  headings for indicating what a section of content is about.

What Mueller Said on Twitter

A member of the SEO community was joking around and gently ribbed Mueller about using more than one H1.

He tweeted:

The SEO followed up by sharing how he preferred using the best practices for heading elements by using only one <H1>, to denote what the page is about and then using the rest of the headings in order of rank, give a webpage a hierarchical structure.

A Hierarchical structure communicates sections of a webpage and any subsections within each section.

He tweeted:

“I’m too traditional with header elements. (HTML 4 for Life! lol)

I’d still recommend using just one H1 element on a page.

I patiently go back to pages to implement header hierarchy for fun.”

John Mueller tweeted his approval in response:

“I think that’s an awesome idea & a great practice.

Header hierarchy is not just useful to Google, it’s also important for accessibility.

(Google still has to deal with whatever weird things people throw up on the web, but being thoughtful in your work always makes sense.)”

Hierarchical Page Structure

In the early days of SEO, <H1> used to be counted as an important ranking factor, one that was more important than an <H2>.

So, back then, one always put their most important keywords in the <H1> in order to signal to Google that the page was relevant for that keyword.

H1 used to have more ranking power so it was essential to use the <H1> to help rankings.

Google’s algorithm was using keywords as a way to “guess” what a webpage was about.

Keywords in the anchor text, keywords in the title tag and keywords in the <H1> helped Google guess what a page was relevant for.

But nowadays, Google doesn’t have to guess.

It is able to understand what sections of a webpage are about, and consequently, what the entire webpage is about.

Despite those advances, many SEOs still believe that using an <H1> is some kind of magic ranking factor.

Headings are no longer about shouting what keyword you want to rank for.

The role of heading elements are now about telling search engines what a section of content is about.

Each section of a content is generally about something specific.

Heading tags make it easier for search engines to know what a page is about.

And that helps them rank the page for the topic.

And according to the official HTML specifications, that’s technically the proper way to use heading elements.

Lastly, Mueller mentioned a quality of the heading element as a way to better communicate for accessibility reasons, like for people who use screen readers.

The official HTML specifications say:

“Descriptive headings are especially helpful for users who have disabilities that make reading slow and for people with limited short-term memory.

These people benefit when section titles make it possible to predict what each section contains.”

So thank you John Mueller for calling attention to the benefits of using headings with a hierarchical structure, for calling attention to how hierarchical structure is useful for Google and for accessibility.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported its fourth straight quarter of declining profits.

It made $76 billion in sales over the past three months, but it wasn’t enough to meet Wall Street’s expectations.

Google’s revenue was down 9% compared to last year, and its biggest business, Google Search, saw a 1% drop in revenue. Even YouTube’s advertising sales fell by nearly 8%.

Alphabet has decided to cut its workforce by 12,000 and expects to spend between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion on employee severance costs.

This latest earnings report shows tech giants like Google are facing challenges in the current digital advertising landscape.

But Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, believes that the company’s long-term investments in AI will be a key factor in its future success.

In a press release, Pichai says he expects major AI advancements to be soon revealed in Google search and other areas:

“Our long-term investments in deep computer science make us extremely well-positioned as AI reaches an inflection point, and I’m excited by the AI-driven leaps we’re about to unveil in Search and beyond. There’s also great momentum in Cloud, YouTube subscriptions, and our Pixel devices. We’re on an important journey to re-engineer our cost structure in a durable way and to build financially sustainable, vibrant, growing businesses across Alphabet.”

Alphabet’s CFO, Ruth Porat, reported that their Q4 consolidated revenues were $76 billion, a 1% increase from the previous year. The full year 2022 saw revenues of $283 billion, a 10% increase.

Going forward, Alphabet is changing how it reports on its AI activities.

DeepMind, which used to be reported under “Other Bets,” will now be reported as part of Alphabet’s corporate costs to reflect its increasing integration with Google Services and Google Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Marketing Professionals?

It’s important to stay updated on the latest developments in the tech industry and how they may affect advertising strategies.

Google’s declining profits and decreased revenue in their search and YouTube platforms are reminders that the digital advertising landscape is constantly evolving, and companies must adapt to keep up.

Marketers should consider diversifying their advertising efforts across multiple platforms to minimize the impact of market swings.

Additionally, Google’s focus on AI and its integration with Google Services and Cloud is something to keep an eye on.

As AI advances, it may offer new opportunities for marketers to target and engage with their audience effectively.

By staying informed on the latest tech advancements, marketers can stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these opportunities.

Despite Google’s recent financial setbacks, the tech giant is still a major player in the digital advertising landscape, and its investments in AI show its commitment to continued growth and innovation.


Featured Image: Sergio Photone/Shutterstock

Source: Alphabet



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