A Guide to Copywriting ‘Dos’ & ‘Don’ts’
The meaning of the term “copywriting” has evolved significantly over the last couple of decades. Today, the phrase can best be defined as the act of creating text for marketing and advertising purposes. Naturally, this means that a copywriter is an individual responsible for creating such content.
Copywriters have a wide range of specialties and skill set diversities. Some copywriters specialize in crafting blogs and descriptive articles. Others focus on marketing materials, press releases, and other forms.
Businesses have invested immeasurable resources attempting to create captivating copy by hiring the best copywriters they can find. Despite these efforts, the internet is jam-packed with bad copywriting examples. It’s also filled with plenty of good copywriting examples, including what some writers are calling the best headline ever written.
Many people can tell the difference between great copy and hastily written word salad. But can you differentiate between good copywriting examples and content that is simply “not bad”? If you’re not so sure, then this guide is for you.
Publishing copy that subtly misses its mark while masquerading as digestible content is a great way to shoot yourself in the foot. Sure, consumers might power through mediocre copy, but will they genuinely be entertained, educated, or motivated to action? Probably not. Instead, they’ll likely leave the page feeling indifferent towards your brand, company, and product.
To help you spot great copy, we’ve compiled this list of 5 bad copywriting examples. Some examples are subtly bad, whereas others are downright abysmal and potentially even illegal. We’ll follow that up with five killer examples of eye-catching copywriting that you should use instead of those “meh” samples listed in the first segment.
Before we dive in, check out this infographic to get a visual refresher on the copywriting process that in house teams or copywriting agencies can follow.
Why Is Good Copywriting Important?
Before we get into the good, the bad, and the ugly copywriting examples, let’s examine why it’s so important to create great content.
First and foremost, publishing quality content is integral to the success of your marketing strategy. Over half (56%) of marketers say that blogging and other copywriting is effective, and 10% state that it offers the best return on investment (ROI) for their business.
Additionally, good copywriting is essential for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. If you want to climb the rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs) and make your site more visible, you need to fill your site with copywriting content. However, not just any content will do. For optimal results, you need well-written content that is authoritative and utilizes the right keywords in strategic ways.
Good copywriting is also critical to your ability to nurture a positive brand image and develop trust with consumers. If consumers believe they can turn to your website for well-composed, informative, and factual information regarding your areas of expertise, they will continue to visit your site. And, they will likely refer others to your content as well.
Good vs. Not Bad
As you will see in the bad and good copywriting examples sections, most lackluster content is not glaringly horrendous. Instead, much of it is simply “not bad.”
Content that is “not bad” should never be confused with good copywriting. When creating copy, you should always have a clear goal in mind. If the content does not accomplish that goal while simultaneously encapsulating your brand voice and style, it cannot be considered good.
When reviewing copy, it can be very easy to confuse “not bad” and “good” content. Therefore, it is vital that you create a detailed brand and style guide. This guide should outline your company’s brand voice, its tone, your target audience, and the purpose of each piece of content. The style guide will serve as a roadmap of sorts when writers are generating copy.
This way, you can compare content to the principles outlined in the style guide. If the copy does not embody your brand and those principles, it is not inherently good. At best, it is serviceable, and at worst, it can alienate your target audience.
How Negative Emotions Can Affect Your Brand
It’s no secret that making purchasing decisions is an emotional process, especially in the business-to-consumer sphere (B2C). Business-to-business (B2B) purchasing processes are much more data-driven. However, B2B decision makers are by no means immune to the influence of various emotional triggers when deciding whether to purchase a product. The chart below illustrates these seven triggers perfectly.
Source: Business 2 Community
You will notice that five of the seven purchasing triggers outlined in the above chart are positive. When creating copywriting, organizations should strive to foster these feelings while proactively avoiding the two negative ones, fear and guilt.
But a third negative emotion can have a profound impact on a brand’s ability to connect with its target audience. This emotion is distrust.
Consumers are inherently distrustful of advertising content. If you market a piece of content as educational or informative but simply use it to advertise your products and services, you will magnify these feelings of distrust. Even previously loyal consumers might unsubscribe from your content or find another brand to purchase products from. Talk about throwing all your hard work down the drain.
Bad Copywriting Examples
While the internet is laden with many different bad copywriting examples, we decided to focus on five general mishaps that can have serious repercussions for your brand. The five bad copywriting examples we chose include the following:
1. Headline Typos
How long do you think you have to make a great first impression on consumers? It has to be at least a few seconds, right? Try again. According to Oberlo, people begin forming opinions about your website in just 0.05 seconds.
While much of that opinion will be based on the visual appearance of your site, consumers will also be looking at the headline of your article. If you follow this bad copywriting example and have a headline that contains typos, you have just thrown all your credibility out the window.
For example, do you think you’d stick around reading an article with the title “Making a Grate First Impression Matters”? Probably not.
Although readers might forgive one or two small typographical errors in the body of your copy, they will have a tough time looking past a big glaring mishap at the very top of your content.
2. Factual Errors
Few things destroy your credibility more than factual errors. These days, consumers have the ability to fact-check anything in seconds by doing a quick search. If your copy contains false information or inadvertent factual errors, consumers are bound to find out.
It’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily limited to simply stating something that isn’t true. For example, if you quote gun violence statistics that are 10 years old, this is a clear oversight that can be construed as intentionally misleading readers, which is a horrible look for a brand. You can improve this by ensuring you are quoting up-to-date, verified research.
Finally, as a good rule of thumb, you should stick with generalizations whenever possible. If you are going to start rattling off facts, make sure that you have the data or citations to back them up. Verifying the accuracy of so-called facts is particularly important if you are working with freelance copywriters, as not all of them are skilled researchers.
3. False Claims
Chances are, you raised your eyebrows when we hinted at illegal copywriting earlier. How could copywriting, no matter how bad it is, be illegal? Well, making false claims in your content can easily cross the line from dishonest to illegal.
Certain fields, such as the medical profession, are very closely regulated when it comes to the type of claims they can make when publishing content. For example, guaranteeing the results of a certain treatment without proper medical research and field studies is a particularly dangerous line to cross.
A style guide will help you avoid this, especially when using freelancers. Style guides should outline dos and don’ts for copywriters so that they know precisely what sort of claims they can make. All content should be stringently reviewed by editors as well.
Plagiarism is one of the most serious types of bad copywriting examples on our list. If your website publishes plagiarized content, you can lose any trust you have built with your audience base. Falsely passing off the work of others as original content can also open your company up to serious civil liability, even if you had no knowledge that the plagiarism occurred.
Fortunately, avoiding plagiarism has become quite easy as long as you do your due diligence. Running all work through a plagiarism checker will reveal if any content is unoriginal.
5. Ambiguous CTAs
A call to action (CTA) is one of the most important components of copy. While they do not have to be expressly “salesy,” they should provide the reader with clear instructions. Ambiguous CTAs can leave readers unsure of what you want them to do next. If you crafted great content that left a reader ready to take action and you failed to include a clear CTA, that motivation may quickly wane.
Further, you should be prepared to be confidently firm. For example, “if you want to learn more, please contact us” is a very weak CTA. Rather, “contact us today to learn more” is a strong, compelling CTA that will succeed far more often.
It’s important to have a well-defined goal in mind when creating each piece of content. If your goal is to encourage readers to view other blogs, a simple CTA like “Explore our other articles” will suffice. When you are attempting to draw consumers deeper down the sales funnel, more direct CTAs would be more appropriate.
Good Copywriting Examples
So what do we do with “not bad” copy? Well, let’s turn it into something your brand can be proud of.
1. Error-Free, Captivating Headlines
While conducting a thorough proofread before publishing content might seem like a no-brainer, simply writing an error-friendly headline is not enough. Remember, “not bad” does not equate to “good.”
An example of an error-free but lackluster headline is “A Guide to Creating Great Copy.” The example is free from typographical errors and accurately conveys the subject matter of the article. But it doesn’t really grab an audience’s attention.
Instead, you should use a title like “How to Wow Your Audiences with Eye-Catching Copy.” This title conveys the topic while also enticing the reader to check out the article.
2. Factually Accurate “Wow” Statistics
When creating content, it may be tempting to fill your copy with various statistics. This tactic can be effective as long as the statistics are relevant, interesting, and factually accurate.
As stated earlier, you want to avoid invoking negative emotions with your content. But this good content example is an exception to the rule. In the early stages of an article, as you are trying to demonstrate the value of your product or service, listing a negative statistic can spur a reader to action.
For instance, let’s say that you offer drain cleaning services and want readers to take advantage of them. You can list the average cost of repairing water damage caused by backed-up drains.
Later in the article, when you write your CTA, that service that you are advertising will seem much more appealing. Consumers will be more open to spending a couple hundred dollars on the service than thousands in repairs.
3. Truthful Claims
Copy does not need to be laden with facts and statistical data to be good. Simply making broad, truthful claims can be enough to demonstrate your expertise and the benefits of your products.
For example, you could post testimonials and user reviews. After all, social proof in the form of feedback from past and current clients is usually better received than advertising content.
4. Original Content
It is your responsibility to ensure that any content published on your site is free from plagiarism, even if you are working with a freelancer. While there are plenty of talented freelancers out there, there are also a few unscrupulous characters out there looking to make a quick buck.
Due to the unpredictable nature of hiring freelancers, many businesses partner with freelance writing agencies. These firms have their own editorial teams, quality control protocols, and plagiarism-prevention strategies.
5. Clear and Appropriate CTAs
If you are going to invest the time and effort necessary to craft exceptional content, make sure that you close it out with a CTA. A great CTA includes clear instructions and is appropriate based on the goal and tone of the content.
Blogs that are meant to nurture audience members at the top of the sales funnel should include gentler CTAs like “Sign up for our e-newsletter” or “Check back weekly for new articles.” However, content directed at the bottom of funnel readers can be more forward and use verbiage such as “Contact us today for a free consultation” or “Sign up for a free trial.”
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
If you avoid the bad copywriting examples outlined above and use good alternatives, you will be well on your way to creating excellent content. However, it’s important to be aware of some common mistakes that have the potential for disastrous results.
Being Too Salesy
If you set out with the goal of creating informational content, stay on course. Do not insert shameless self-promotional sidebars in the midst of your articles. Doing so not only destroys the flow of your article, but it can cause readers to tune out or leave the page altogether.
Copy that claims to be educational or entertaining but quickly transforms into an ad is some of the worst kind of content. Consumers expect to read salesy content when on your landing and service pages, but not on your blogs.
Using the Wrong Tone of Voice
When creating content, do not think of the copy’s tone as “right” or “wrong.” Instead, consider whether it aligns with your brand voice and company values.
If your organization is a law firm whose value proposition centers around professionalism and conciseness, your audience will not be very receptive to fluff-filled, whimsical content. Conversely, businesses that are known for light-heartedness and creativity should not create highly regimented and rigid copy.
When reviewing a piece, ask yourself, “Does this copy convey the values, beliefs, and voice of our brand?” If so, then you are on the right track. If not, then the writer lost sight of your brand voice during the content creation process.
Same Content, Different Platform
When showcasing your content, you should use a multi-channel approach. For instance, post teasers about your content on your company’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. These posts should include a link to the copy and a brief caption that summarizes what topics it covers.
However, what you should not do is publish duplicate posts on each site. The more egregious version of this is publishing the same blog article on different websites. For example, you should not publish an article on your site and on another website as a guest post. If you want to cover the same topics on each post, generate two distinct but similar pieces of copy.
Copywriting Tips and Hints
We wanted to round things out with a rapid-fire list of copywriting tips and hints that you can use to elevate the quality of content that you produce. When writing copy, we suggest that you:
Set a clear goal for the piece (educate, inform, nurture leads)
Focus on people first and Google rankings second
Stay on topic
Identify a problem and solve it with copy
When you prepare to generate a piece of copy, leverage these tips and be wary of those bad copywriting examples. Doing so will help you create copy that inspires, captivates, educates, informs, and drives conversions.
While these tips can certainly lay the foundation for quality copy, mastering the art of turning a phrase requires skill, practice, and trial and error. If you want to avoid that learning curve and harness the power of exceptional copywriting, book a consultation with AOU Creative today.