The internet is wonderfully responsive if you make a mistake on your web content – a few clicks here and there, or swift application of the ‘delete tweet’ option, and you can amend any mistakes. Nobody’s any the wiser… until you realise someone took screen shots of the entire incident and managed to make your web copy fail go viral.
Whilst you should always admit your mistakes, it’s best if you don’t make them in the first place. Here are some common web copy errors you should avoid, or at least learn from, to sharpen your digital copy skills.
Misusing Words In Your Brand Campaign
Copywriter Beverley Reinemann spotted Garnier’s misuse of the word ‘literally’ in its sponsored social media marketing campaign for micellar water. According to Garnier’s tweet, beauty journalist and influencer Alessandra Steinherr was ‘literally blown away’ by the product. The word ‘literally’ means ‘in actual fact’, so we can assume Steinherr was blown across a room or two by the sheer force of using this product.
Reason number 76421875424923 to have a professional copywriter on your marketing team pic.twitter.com/U9bYUH90jR
— Beverley 🌹 (@PckYourPassport) August 7, 2017
Garnier’s example tells you why social copy needs checking – yes, even the quotes. But you should also be wary of using famous quotes out of context in your regular social media updates. Case in point: AdWeek called out an American football team, the Seattle Seahawks, for adding a Martin Luther King quote to a promotional photo.
The quote had been chosen to tie-in with Martin Luther King Day, so the social media team obviously hoped for traction and retweets by using the hashtag, but comparing a football team’s progress to civil rights struggles was really insensitive. To avoid this situation, check and double-check any controversial hashtag plans, ideally with a colleague who doesn’t work in social media or content, so they can be impartial. Sometimes the content team’s drive for exposure can override the voice of reason.
Not Editing Enough
No text on your web page goes unnoticed by sharp-eyed readers, but even casual viewers need smart, succinct content above the line. Your copy must engage them straight away to keep them scrolling down the page; loads of flowery or overly long copy can lead to a high bounce rate.
If you’re struggling to edit great copy, sometimes printing it out and scrutinising with a red pen can help. Look for pointless extra words to cull, without losing meaning; the Content Marketing Institute has a useful guide to ‘worthless words’. Focus on the point of your web page or content, and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit.
There’s a line between snappy and blunt writing – you don’t want to put off a reader – and you’ll need to add relevant keywords for SEO purposes, but if something can be explained in fewer words, it’s better to remove them. Be creative with what’s left, using bullet points, short paragraphs, and subheadings to make it easier on the eye.
Be wary of using buzzwords your target audience hates, or even just overdoing the buzzwords they like to see. Let’s take food as an example industry: there are so many overused descriptive terms and categories, from ‘fasting’ and ‘clean eating’ to ‘gluten-free’ and ‘superfood’. The real meaning has been lost, and the target audience might be tired of these terms, too.
Reader’s Digest has come up with a list of health food buzzwords they’re sick of, including ‘superfood’, to show just how lazy some marketers have become. Of course, if your brand is chasing a certain audience or trend, you should get on board with a few relevant buzzwords to drive traffic, but please use them responsibly!
To get some ideas flowing, have a brainstorming session with your entire marketing team, and do plenty of competitor research. Don’t be afraid to stand out from competitors who stuff their copy with buzzwords. Your words will have far more value if you vary those descriptive terms, add authenticity and focus on what makes your product or service unique.
Now you’ve sharpened up your copy and stripped out the buzzwords and dodgy quotes, your words can make the right kind of impression.
Polly writes for Inspiring Interns: graduate recruitment specialists, providing the latest job listings, internships and graduate careers advice. Whether you’re looking for graduate jobs or looking to hire a recent graduate, they have the solution.