Writing/Content

The Five Worst Copywriting Mistakes on the Web

spn_exclusive1Turn on the TV around 3 a.m., and you’re sure to see some cheesy infomercial with a sales pitch that makes you cringe.  The cheese-factor isn’t limited to late-night TV, though.  Thanks to a variety of copywriting mistakes, the World Wide Web has turned into a 24/7 cheese-fest.

So, what kinds of mistakes are Web copywriters making these days?  And, more importantly, has your sales copy fallen victim to any of them?

1.  Too much hype

This gets the No. 1 spot on the list because hype has spread through Web copy like some kind of flesh-eating virus. That’s because most of the copywriters out there mistake hype for excitement.  Instead of big, bold, red text and a million exclamation points, your sales copy should get readers excited about the product itself.

Unfortunately, lots of the Web sales copy you see is designed to create a giant diversion away from the product.  Instead of having a reasonable discussion about the product — and creating excitement about what it can actually do — copywriters try to stick a giant elephant in the middle of the page.  In the end, the sales copy is what people remember, instead of the product itself.

2.  Ridiculous promises

Yes, this is a type of hype, but it’s such a big mistake that it deserves its own spot on the list.

Here’s what you need to remember the next time you sit down to write some sales copy (or approve what someone else has written for you) — your target audience is full of intelligent people who are going to see right through ridiculous promises.  If you make these promises with the hopes that people will believe them, you’re treating your audience like it’s stupid.  That’s a great way to make people dislike you.  And if they don’t like you, they’ll never buy from you.

What kinds of ridiculous promises are floating around out there?

• How about the trading program that promises to make you rich after just 10 minutes of work per week?  (Is there really anything that can make you rich in 10 minutes per week short of driving to the nearest gas station and buying a lottery ticket?)

• Then, there’s the SEO company that promises to give you a Top 5 Google ranking for any keyword, in less than three months.  (If you know anything about how Google operates these days, you know that’s an impossible promise to keep.)

• And then, there’s my personal favorite — the cookies that promise to give you a bigger bust. (Anyone who has even a little bit of common sense knows that this is absolutely ridiculous!)

3.  Not enough emotion

Most people are going to buy your product because of how it makes them feel.  Good sales copy will either show people how much easier life will be once they’ve got your product, or it will show them how scary life will be if they don’t buy your product.

If your Web copy doesn’t create one of these two emotions, the odds of you making any sales are slim.  After all, most people are looking for reasons not to spend money.  If you take emotion out of the equation, they’ll be able to talk themselves right out of making a purchase.

Think of it in terms of trying to give ice cream to someone on a diet.  If you offer them boring vanilla, they’re going to turn it down.  But if you offer them exciting rocky road, they’re going to ignore their diet, just this once.

4.  Giant paragraphs

Web readers are notorious scanners, and they’re especially scan-happy when you plunk some sales copy down in front of them. Give them paragraphs that could dwarf the State of the Union Address, and you’ll see their eyes glaze over — and your profits will go out the window.

Instead, make sure your Web copy is easy to scan.  That means coming up with bullet-point lists and bite-sized paragraphs that won’t look intimidating to someone who’s trying to get the facts in a hurry.

5.  Leaving unanswered questions

Even though you’re not writing a news story, you still need to attack your Web copy like a journalist would — by making sure you give the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” details.  Remember, people are looking for reasons to keep their credit cards in their wallets.  Not knowing all of the facts or feeling fuzzy on the details is the perfect excuse.

Bottom line — the more questions people have when they get to the end of your copy, the lower your chances of making any sales.


Nicole Beckett hates cheesy sales copy as much as you do. That’s why Premier Content Source’s SEO copywriting services are designed to grab readers’ attention and highlight products’ features — without the cheese.

About the author

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Nicole Beckett

Nicole Beckett knows that content marketing will always play a huge role on the web.  That's why she spends her time helping business owners come up with the very best strategies.  Find out how she can take your web content to the next level by visiting Nicole and the team of journalists at Premier Content Source.

11 Comments

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  • “Then, there’s the SEO company that promises to give you a Top 5 Google ranking for any keyword, in less than three months. (If you know anything about how Google operates these days, you know that’s an impossible promise to keep.)” Ugh it is so true, my email is inundated daily with these “SEO” gurus. Before you hire, make sure and do your research!

    • Indeed, it is possible. There are spammy techniques could achieve this. It will be ranked faster, because some popularity signals sent to google. But soon as google launch panda and penguin update, it will be a nightmare.

  • Hi Nicole,

    I think everybody is sick and tired of hype and huge “get rich overnight” promises. In my opinion the key to being successful online is to gain trust and credibility.

    Yeah, there are a lot of SEO gadgets,services that promise ridiculous rankings in a short period. Maybe this can work on people who don’t know to much about search engines, but for someone who has been building sites for a while this sort of promises and hype will never work.

    Great tips Nicole.Cheers.

    ~Philip

  • Great example about the ice cream. And yes, answering all the questions of the reader before they even pop up in his mind is the right way to write a sales copy. You must think from the perspective of the reader and write in an order in which the reader would most likely process the information. That’s the reason why it is so important to UNDERSTAND your audience first.

  • Thanks, Andrew! Can you tell I was hungry when I wrote that part? 😉

    All kidding aside, though, understanding your readers (and being able to tap into their needs and desires) is the 1st thing you should do before you try to come up with a single word of copy. Unfortunately, it’s a step that lots of people skip!

  • Glad to see my inbox isn’t the only one filled with these silly promises! 🙂

    I’m a firm believer that if you’ve got a product/service that’s legitimately good, you don’t have to hype it up. The features and benefits should speak for themselves. If they don’t, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your offer, rather than writing hyped up sales copy.

  • >>I’m a firm believer that if you’ve got a product/service that’s legitimately good, you don’t have to hype it up.<<

    SO very true you are!! However, the (unfortunate) fact is that the masses typically responsible for littering the web with hyped-up sales pitches etc. don't have legitimately good products or services to offer.

    Of course, there certainly do exist people out there who have good products/services but poor/hyped-up sales copy and such people can definitely benefit by avoiding the mistakes you've discussed above.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Very good point, Richa! Most of the time, the ridiculous sales copy is covering up an inferior product.

      I just hate to see people with good products/services miss out on customers because they trusted the wrong copywriter!

  • I just hate to see people with good products/services miss out on customers because they trusted the wrong copywriter!

  • Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write.Thanks for sharing !