No one is perfect. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
In that spirit, buckle up — because we’re here to teach you about common copy and content mistakes. Ones we’ve made ourselves and ones we’ve noticed during our time in this business.
Ready to learn?
You write a great piece of content, but don’t direct your reader to their next step. Big mistake. As we said in our A-to-Z Bible on Copy and Content, you have to tell your audience what to do next in a call-to-action, or CTA. Map out their journey for them. Don’t leave them guessing.
Adding a CTA is easy. Here’s an example: “Want to learn more? Check out XYZ.” Ta da!
You don’t need to have a long sales pitch at the end of your blog post or Instagram caption. Just offer your audience the next step. You’ll be surprised at how often people will take direction and follow that next step.
Failing to talk to your audience
How often are you writing from a first-person perspective? Browse through your content and copy real quick. If you’re seeing too many sentences with “I,” “we,” or “our,” you may need to change things up.
Writing from a first-person POV shows that you’re relatable, a real person hiding behind the screen. But don’t forget to talk to your audience. Use the second person point of view, which is “you.”
Rambling on and on and on
Get to the f***ing point.
We’d leave it at that to make a statement, but for clarification: you have literal seconds to grab your audience’s attention. Make your point up front; don’t take forever to get to the good stuff.
Don’t leave your audience wondering why they stuck around.
Telling a story that intrigues people is great, but only when done intentionally and when it matches your point. You’ll know you’re doing this intentionally when you’re making an analogy or metaphor, rather than just talking out of your ass until you remember your point.
A note from Latasha: I am personally sick of seeing people “tell stories” that they try to shoehorn to fit their lesson. Recently, a friend shared an email about escape rooms. It went something like this:
“I was recently in an escape room and could not get out! Clearly this isn’t my zone of genius! So I started a course program to help you create your own courses!”
Wait… what? Who the f*ck cares? Please stop doing this, you guys.
Neglecting your design
Design goes hand-in-hand with copy and content, and it’s actually really important.
Did you write the most amazing blog post on the face of the earth…and published it in Comic Sans? Goodbye, readers. (Latasha disagrees on this point, because Comic Sans is accessible and also annoys her designer friends.)
Did you post huge blocks of texts on your blog? No one’s gonna want to read that. Take two minutes to press Enter a few times and break them up into manageable paragraphs.
Do it yourself or hire an awesome designer, but pay attention to design just as much as your content. Design can make or break a new lead or sale or blog reader.
Acting like a lifestyle blog (when you’re not a lifestyle brand)
We all love to think we’re fascinating. But the truth is, no one gives a shit about your personal life, unless you’re famous or the most interesting person on the planet.
Many brands create content like “links we’ve loved” and “monthly roundups,” which do not relate to their actual brand. And when they don’t relate to your brand, they’re just empty fluff pieces that do nothing for your biz.
Side note from Jess: I once proposed a monthly content roundup piece for the Uncanny Content blog, and that (very wisely) went nowhere.
We repeat: unless you’re a lifestyle brand, avoid the lifestyle-type blogs.
Using negative opt-outs on popups
Imagine this: You head to a new website. After a minute of scrolling, a popup takes over that says something like, “sign up here for my XXX secrets to the most amazing life ever!”
Your two options are:
- “Yes, I want the most amazing life ever! SIGN ME UP!”
- “No thanks, I’m cool with being a miserable human being.”
Ooh, this one really grinds our gears.
If you do this, you’re a passive-aggressive asshole. You’re talking down to someone visiting your website, shaming them for leaving without signing up for your offer or email newsletter or whatever. It’s not clever or persuasive. Cut it out. A simple “yes” or “no” will work.
Pushing paid offers before offering freebies
So many brands start with a paid offer before they really build a following, or even build up a library of resources or services. Prove your worth to your audience and give them a reason to buy your stuff. You can do that by giving away something of value.
Write blogs with thoughtful content for your industry (notice how we emphasized thoughtful?). Show up on a podcast to share your expertise. Send out emails with helpful tips. Create social media posts that teach, entertain, or explain something to your followers.
Don’t worry that you’re giving away everything for free and quit saying, “If they want to learn more, they’re gonna have to pay.” (Boy, that sounded ominous, didn’t it?) Give your people a reason to want to pay you — by showing them how generous and awesome you are.
Slacking on editing
We’re not saying you should strive for perfection all the time; that’s exhausting. We have typos in things (maybe even in this blog) but we’ve done our best to eliminate them. How?
We write with attention. We edit our own writing and each other’s writing. We ask a friend to look our content over when we can’t even see straight anymore.
Have a review process for every piece of content you create. Don’t just write something and slap it up on your blog or website without hesitation. Read through it for errors, read it out loud, pay someone else to do it… just edit your copy and content.
Forgetting your brand voice
Sometimes, brands are so focused on creating a lot of content that they outsource that work to anyone. Sometimes, it’s multiple anyones. There’s nothing wrong with hiring other people for the job. It becomes a problem, though, when you lose your brand voice in the process.
If you choose people outside of your team to write your brand content and copy, pick a writer who understands your brand voice and knows how to write in it. And — ahem — that’s us. Here’s the proof.