6 Common Copywriting Mistakes That Hurt Content Marketing

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How Mistake-Free Copywriting Impacts Content Marketing and Which Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid

Picture this. You’re writing a blog post, a social post or copy for a product page.

You want it to perform well to scale website traffic and revenue, but how do you know your copy will hit the mark? Will people care or will they indifferently move on?

You might think online attention spans are short and getting shorter, making it difficult to seize people’s attention with content copywriting.

Some studies say human attention spans have decreased by almost a third during the internet era, exacerbating the job of content marketers.

But it turns out that shorter attention spans is a myth. Attention spans are too task-dependent and too influenced by circumstantial expectations to be a reliable metric.

Why then do audiences pay so little attention to your content marketing? Copywriting for conversions is difficult, but not because of shorter attention spans. Successful conversion copywriting is challenging because of information overload and more competition.

If readers bounce from your content, you probably rambled, your brand messaging didn’t captivate or you committed a common copywriting mistake.

For content marketers who need to drive traffic, woo potential leads and boost conversions, the pressure is on! But stagnant copywriting will impede your content marketing goals.

Thankfully, with the right eye, you can spot the mistakes that turn content with potential into a waste of copywriting resources and the reader’s time.

We’ll outline the importance of copywriting for content marketing and six common copywriting mistakes to avoid so your content wows audiences and drives conversions through the roof!

The Importance of Copywriting for Content Marketing

There are few strategies as impactful on conversions, engagement and loyalty as content marketing. Content marketing builds trust by providing value without asking for compensation.

Great content creates memorable experiences for potential leads. If your articles or posts educate and enthrall leads, they’ll trust you and become more likely to convert into a customer.

Hence why strong copywriting is vital for content marketing. Words sway people, and all content requires copy. To scale content marketing, you need to become a content copywriter.

What Is a Content Copywriter?

A content copywriter applies copywriting best practices to content marketing to reinforce brand messaging and make audiences care about what they’re reading.

Let’s break this down! Content marketing is the strategy of creating and distributing content like articles and posts to attract and engage leads. Copywriting is the art of crafting written content to knock your audience’s socks off so they take action.

But don’t you want your content marketing to knock people’s socks off too?

People crave connection to what you’re saying. Does your content merely answer queries and promote your brand, or does it go further and move your audience?

You need to make your content “people-first content” with mistake-free copywriting. Tell stories that potential leads can relate to and use language that enraptures them.

A content copywriter leverages brand messaging, emotional language and product copy in their content marketing to improve traffic and conversions. It’s that simple.

If longform content doesn’t command attention the same way a billboard advertisement does, the strength of the writing otherwise and the research you put into the content won’t matter.

Therefore, you can’t afford to overlook common copywriting mistakes in content marketing! Let’s review six copywriting mistakes to avoid to benefit your bottom line.

Banner image promoting content-writing services from Crowd Content.

6 Common Content Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid

As a content marketer—or, more precisely, a content copywriter!—you want to make your content copywriting shine!

Here are common copywriting mistakes to avoid:

  1. Messaging that doesn’t move your audience.
  2. Using the passive voice.
  3. Non-conversational writing that’s all about “me.”
  4. Too much fluff.
  5. Bad or no formatting.
  6. A failure to test your content.

1. Messaging That Doesn’t Move Your Audience

The biggest mistake brands make in content marketing is not employing clear messaging as part of a story to establish connections with people.

Storytelling is an important aspect for both B2C content marketing and B2B content creation; no matter your audience, all potential customers are people first who just want to feel connected.

Check out the below blog-post intro from the B2B-software company Gong.

Screenshot of an intro from a Gong blog post to show the importance of brand messaging and storytelling as a common copywriting mistake to avoid.
Storytelling-based messaging is not just essential for B2C brands but B2B ones too. When you give readers a reason to care with your content copywriting, that’s how they’ll keep reading.

Even though they sell complex technology to business professionals, they set up a narrative (with a pop-culture reference no less!) to hook their readers.

This tactic exemplifies what makes a great copywriter: great communication skills with people.

But to connect with your target audience—to influence and entice them towards your products or services—you need to understand them.

In short, your content should demonstrate that you’ve identified the following about your target audience:

  • Emotional pushes (i.e., what causes them problems)
  • Emotional pulls (i.e., what attracts them to a solution)
  • Present habits (i.e., what they are currently doing or not doing)
  • Solution anxieties (i.e., what might worry them if they break their habits)

Let’s go through an example.

Take a web-design agency that caters to local-service businesses, like landscaping companies.

  • Push: They work hard so they don’t have time to market their business more.
  • Pull: They want more leads to increase revenue.
  • Habit: They’re floundering with an outdated website.
  • Anxiety: They know how their website works and besides, what if their investment goes down the drain?

Here’s a potential intro for an article on “marketing tips for a landscaping website”:

So you want to dominate the neighborhood and become the top landscaper in town?

But you work so much running your business, you worry your website isn’t pulling its weight to make this a reality and you don’t have the capacity to do anything about it. Your website has gotten you this far, but now you’ve hit a cap so it’s time to take things to the next level.

To grow your landscaping business, your website needs to work as hard as you do to become a lead-generating machine. Let’s look at some surefire tips to make this a reality!

By framing the website as working hard like them, you appeal to their entrepreneurial pride (hard work) that explains the push (not enough time), while implying the consequences of keeping their habit (they’re floundering if their current website isn’t working as hard as it could).

Plus, a “hard-working website” both alludes to the pull (if it works hard, it will generate more leads like a “machine” so they can “dominate” and “grow”) and alleviates anxiety (if it works hard, you won’t have to update it as much and it will pay for itself).

You now have a story, leading the reader on a journey where they identify as the audience with messaging that intersects their desires & pain points and your products or services.

Content copywriting with strong messaging is key to content marketing success.

2. Using the Passive Voice

Good copywriting energizes, engages and stirs people into action. It should be direct and to the point. Most importantly, good copy is crystal clear and never confuses readers.

The quickest way to undermine good copywriting is to write in the passive voice.

In the passive voice, the verb acts on the subject. It makes a phrase sound more odd and disconnected than necessary and it stutters your copy.

Take this sentence, for example: Our product is loved by our customers because of its simplicity.

The active voice flips things around so the subject performs the verb’s action. It’s more lively, energetic and clear, and it turns a passive sentence from clunky to spunky.

Like this: Our customers love our product for its simplicity.

A fast way to identify the passive voice is to look for to be and its variants (am, are, been, being, is, was and were). These verbs lack confidence and detract from more engaging verbs.

Remember in the introduction the sentence, “Why then do readers pay so little attention to your content marketing?”

In the first draft of this post, that sentence read, “So why then do audiences seem to spend so little attention to your content marketing?”

“Seem to…” devalues the stronger verb “spend” (later replaced by “pay”) and makes you sound hesitant. It also inflates your word count!

Fixing the passive voice quickly improves content marketing.

3. Non-Conversational Writing That’s All About “Me”

Brands take varying approaches with the tone and voice of their content, ranging from a knowledgeable voice and an even tone to a more casual vibe.

But all good content copywriting has one thing in common: it’s conversational.

To nurture lifelong customers and make them raving fans of your business, your copy should have the same cadence that a message from a friend would.

Read your content out loud to test for conversationalism. If it flows more like a friendly conversation and less like reading a microwave’s instruction manual, you’re on the right track.

But be wary of advice like “write like you talk,” which itself is a common copywriting mistake.

Why? Because people talk based on unedited thoughts from their head. Copywriting expert Erica Schneider says to think of conversational writing as “relaxed writing.”

A relaxed tone comes naturally when you stop talking at your readers and start conversing with them.

Want an example? Check out this above-the-fold messaging from an agency’s website:

Screenshot of copywriting that is non-conversational and about "me" as an example of a common copywriting mistake to avoid.
If your copywriting is all about yourself, why should readers care? This common copywriting mistake of not conversing with your audience leaves a lot of conversions on the table.

“We are” this. “An expert team” of that. “Get to know us”!? Yuck.

The “Me, Me, Me” tactic is a great example of a copywriting mistake because it underscores the value of focusing on what you can do for leads.

Conversational content copywriting is all about the “you”; making it about “me” is lazy and ineffective.

For instance, here copywriting expert Grace Baldwin hits the nail on the head about the importance of writing to customers about them instead of at them about you.

Trying to sell leads on your greatness will get you nowhere. (Unless of course, you’re selling the world’s best cup of coffee!)

Screenshot from the movie "Elf" showing an exception to the common copywriting mistake of not writing for your audience.

4. Too Much Fluff

Ever read a paragraph and thought, “Well that was a lot of words”? I’ll bet dollars to donuts you didn’t even remember what the paragraph was about.

Crafting conversational copy that connects with your readers is foundational to good writing. And nothing stops the flow of a conversation quicker than fluff in writing.

All too often, writers hope to dazzle readers by filling their prose with industry jargon and complex language, only to alienate their audience with fluff. 

Wait, let me try that again.

Filling your prose with industry jargon and complex language to dazzle readers will alienate them instead.

That’s better. Let’s move on….

If you find your writing is stuffed with superfluous words that belabor the point or ones that don’t make sense, you’re likely covering for your own lack of clarity.

Simply slow down and make sure you understand what you’re talking about. This usually happens in the editing process.

What are some tips to avoid this common copywriting mistake of fluffy writing?

  • Watch out for extra verbs.
  • Avoid explanations that are implied.
  • Eliminate filler terms.

Let’s look at some concrete examples of each.

Watch Out for Extra Verbs

You must make a connection with your readers to increase conversion rates.

Are you trying to write about consumer debt for a fintech company but don’t know where to start?

Many business owners aren’t aware of new LinkedIn features or how to best use them, leaving them struggling to expand their reach to new customers by not exploring their options.

“Must.” “Trying.” “Leaving.” “Expand.” What’s going on here?

Some ideas are complicated, we get it. But you can boil all sentences down to three elements: Subject > Verb > Object. There’s no need for more than one verb per clause if you can help it.

Adding extra verbs to a sentence is an example of a common copywriting mistake because it lacks confidence, increases word counts and indicates you probably need an editor. Here are ways to fix these problems:

Connect with your readers to increase conversion rates.

Are you writing about consumer debt for a fintech company but don’t know where to start?

Many business owners aren’t aware of new LinkedIn features or how to best use them. Instead, they struggle to reach new customers by not exploring their options.

Avoid Implied Explanations

Delineation is extremely valuable when referencing industry buzzwords, but rarely welcome in all other circumstances.

If you’re padding your points with additional context that tells the reader something already obvious or that they already know, your content copywriting will tire them out.

This seems simple, but writers overlook this copywriting mistake frequently, because it even creeps into microcopy on a sentence-by-sentence basis when writing first drafts.

Consider the following example:

Can you imagine a competitor not in your space? What does that even mean?

Eliminate Filler Terms

What are filler terms?

Filler terms are words or turns-of-phrase in sentences when trying to get thoughts on paper but which don’t add any value to readers.

They bloat your writing, hurt your content marketing goals and make your readers more likely to bounce from your articles or blog posts.

Remember the sentence a couple subsections ago, “All too often, writers hope to dazzle…”?

Yeah, “All too often” was lazy filler. That’s why I cut it and rearranged the syntax to later lead with “Filling your prose….” Much better, no?

Some examples of filler words include adverbs, “in order to” and “the fact of the matter.” Instead, leverage action verbs, mitigate adjectives and avoid clichés.

Are there exceptions to these rules? Absolutely!

It all comes down to context. For instance, I used the word “absolutely” even though adverbs are usually a red flag, but not to qualify an adjective or verb. And even then, strategically placed adverbs to modify other words can sometimes be effective if they grab attention.

Use your discretion and always put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

5. Bad or No Formatting

Potential customers want copy that engages, entertains and informs. They don’t want to slog through monotonously formatted paragraphs that hurt their eyes.

Format content to reflect the nature of the medium. Did you know that the average person spends 37 seconds reading a blog post? That’s insanely disheartening for content marketers! Don’t chase readers away with walls of text.

Here’s how to make content scannable, easy to digest and pleasant to read:

  • Break up topics with headings and subheadings;
  • Include interesting points and facts as bullet points; and
  • Embed relevant images or video content to visually compel readers (and as a bonus, multimedia content adds authority to your article, showing you’ve done research to back up your points). 

And don’t forget to format paragraphs themselves. The flow of your writing is just as important to the visual and hierarchical structure.

Screenshot of a quote showing how to for copywriting for content marketing to improve readability and avoid a common copywriting mistake.
A demonstration of formatting your content copywriting with creative variety to grab readers’ attention.

Rhythm, syntax, vocabulary and more all comprise flow that helps define copy-formatting. Lacking diversity of these elements is a major copywriting mistake to avoid.

6. A Failure to Test Your Content

No matter how well you write, there’s still a subjective element to great copy.

You simply can’t know if a piece of content works until you put it out there. To succeed, you need great content copywriters with strong intuitions about what works and what doesn’t.

That and testing your content.

Creativity is an inherent part of copywriting, but there’s no reason to leave your marketing results to chance.

A/b-testing, readability testing and even studying analytics are all crucial to optimizing content copywriting and to mitigate mistakes.

Want to test two different headlines, introduction sections, taglines or more against each other? Check out a free tool like Google Optimize!

Want to double-check the grammar, flow, readability and more of your content copywriting? Try Grammarly (freemium) or Hemingway Editor (free)!

Want to cross-reference your content with traffic or conversions to see what content types work well and which pieces are most profitable to optimize? Google Analytics!

Leaving content stagnant, not analyzing it and not testing it are the low-hanging fruits of common copywriting mistakes. Pick those fruits and your content marketing will thank you!

How to Avoid Common Copywriting Mistakes to Blow Past Content Quotas

Writing, in general, is deceptively simple. Anyone can form words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and so on. But crafting words that connect, engage and sell is another matter.

Remember, people don’t pay less attention to business content than they used to. Instead, it’s tougher to compete but also never more important.

Content marketing is vital to improving your marketing metrics, spreading your brand and delivering more qualified leads. But you can’t succeed without great copywriting that’s on-message, well-tested and written confidently, conversationally, jargon-free, succinctly and more.

That’s what content copywriting is all about!

But even when you know the rules of good copywriting, scaling your output and committing additional time you don’t have are new challenges altogether.

High-quality freelance copywriter services deliver on all these notes, without any of the mistakes that can hold your content down.

Supercharge your content with managed services and now your content strategy might be the envy of other marketers!

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Kevin Elliott is the SEO Manager at Crowd Content. He specializes in website marketing, driving organic traffic and helping companies realize their potential with content marketing. He also loves his dog Karl!

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