Content tips: How to Spot Bad Copy and How to Learn From It

Content tips: How to Spot Bad Copy and How to Learn From It

Jaimie Tse-Chi-Shum
By Jaimie Tse-Chi-Shum

Copy is critical to a great landing page, breathing life into your brand and clarifying your message. It has the power to connect with an audience, bring them along the journey and build your credibility.

There are huge benefits for your brand if you can get copy right – but what about the businesses who get it wrong? 

A case of bad copy can lead to low traffic, high bounce rates and poor conversion rates. Plus, it can turn off your target audience and even sully your brand reputation if you’re not careful.

Below we’ll walk you through how to spot bad copy – and then we’ll introduce you to the content tips that our content marketers use everyday at Dilate to get skyrocketing results for our clients.

How to Spot Bad Copy

How to Spot Bad Copy

When you read a blog post or web page, you might instinctively know that the copy isn’t great. But understanding why can help you avoid making the same mistakes. 

Not all copy mistakes are easy to spot. Sometimes copy reads well on the page, but isn’t converting or is suffering from a high bounce rate. 

There are a lot of factors that can affect how your copy performs. Without further ado, let’s dive into them.

1. There’s No Story To Unravel

Copy that doesn’t have a story usually sounds ‘salesy’. The reader feels like you’re out to get their money without offering any value in return. There’s no personal connection – it’s all just cold hard sales.

A better approach is to use your copywriting as an opportunity to tell a compelling story, to interact with your viewer and to contribute to the overall feel of your brand. 

Identify a problem or desire that your reader might have, then to naturally guide them to your solution – they’ll feel more inclined to listen to your proposals if it feels like genuine advice.

2. Watch Your Tone

The wrong tone can turn off your audience and even harm your brand reputation. In general, it’s best to avoid stiff, robotic ways of writing and opt for natural-sounding expressions. 

Sounding human and personal can help you connect with your audience better. Of course, the best tone for your copy depends on your brand story and industry. Defining how you want to sound is an important part of branding. 

For example, for healthcare organisations and accounting firms, it’s important to sound authoritative and factual. Using emotive or casual language in these cases could impact your credibility. However, a funky new tech brand might benefit from a youthful, playful tone.

3. It’s Copy, Not Creative Writing Class

While adjectives, metaphors and imagery can be useful for describing your product or service, you should keep a tight rein on them. If you try to cram too many onto the page, your copy will sound full of fireworks but empty of the true message. 

In general, people connect better with concrete language and descriptions rather than flowery or metaphorical styles of writing.

Plus, fancy vocabulary can be hard to read. Simple, everyday words are much more accessible and easy to engage with. Focus on sending a clear message with vocabulary that’s in line with your branding.

4. Excessive Copy And Scrawny Content

Long, wordy, content can lose the reader’s interest before they even finish the first paragraph. There’s nothing more off putting than a wall of text.

On the flip side, scrawny content can put people off too. If someone comes to your website looking for information and all you’ve got is one or two paragraphs, they’re going to be disappointed.

A word count is a great guide, but you should keep it flexible depending on the topic. For landing pages, we highly recommend using split testing to see how your audience responds to different length content.

Word count aside, keep your points concise and structured. Separate points for your reader to digest easily. If you’ve got a really long article, consider breaking it up into parts or adding a menu at the top so readers can click through to the relevant part.

5. Writing For Yourself (Not The Audience)

This is a mistake that a lot of business owners make when they write their own copy. It’s easy to write from your own perspective and cover information that you think is important. 

But the truth is, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your target audience. And your target audience has different needs, wants and problems to you.

To fix this problem, start by identifying your target audience. What do they already know about your business, and what do they need to know? How would they like to hear it? What are their desires or problems which you can solve?

If you’re writing your own copy and finding it hard to target it to the right audience, hiring a copywriter could help. A good copywriter will understand the message and the needs of your audience from a more objective standpoint.

6. Senseless Structuring

You can write the most engaging copy in the world, but if your web page is formatted in a dull or confusing way then you might as well have written it in another language. 

When it comes to structuring your copy, the aim of the game is to make it super easy, quick and intuitive to read.

Readers get bored easily, so you’ve got to make the content skimmable. They should be able to get in and find what they want super fast. Then your value-adding copy will keep them there – or suggest a related article they can move onto.

Break up your text with headings. Use bullet points, lists and tables. Use images and illustrations throughout to complement your text. Use a readable font and colours that are easy on the eyes. It all counts.

7. Plenty Of Copy On A Desolate Page

Your copy doesn’t exist in a bubble. It should work with the other elements on the page. Images, videos and graphics are the best way to grab the reader’s attention and illustrate what you're describing in your copy.

Visual content should always be carefully chosen. That’s because poor quality images, generic stock photos and unrelated graphics can actually turn readers off and undermine your copy.

When choosing visual content to go alongside your copy, make sure it stays on brand. Just like your tone and style of writing should match your brand story, so should your visual content.

Always ensure that you’re using images which you are legally entitled to reproduce – whether you purchased them, took them yourself or received permission. Otherwise copyright laws might come knocking.

8. Lifting Copy From Other Sites

It might sound laughable, but there are some websites out there which have cut and pasted whole chunks of content from other sources. Plagiarism is a serious offence and something you should never, ever do. 

Unless you want to be penalised by search engines and damage your digital reputation, you’ve got to use unique content. After all, this is your chance to spread your message – why waste it spreading someone else’s?

9. Poor Grammar And Spelling Mistakes

Poor grammar and spelling mistakes can make your copy look amateur and undermine your credibility. 

We all make simple grammar and spelling mistakes – even the most experienced copywriters do. That’s why it’s crucial to proofread your copy and find a second set of eyes to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Use online grammar checking tools or the options available in your chosen word processor. Remember to set the language to the correct type of English for your audience. Writing “color” and “favor” might turn your readers off if they’re Australian.

10. Failing To Edit Or Proofread

As mentioned above, proofreading for spelling and grammar mistakes is important. But the editing process should be so much more. 

Factual errors, misleading information and confusing copy can all have a negative impact on your brand. It can be hard to spot blunders yourself – or know how your copy will come across to others. 

Ensure you have a great team who can assess your copy, and help you to make any necessary changes or improvements. They might offer critiques or simple content tips to make your copy really shine.

Content Tips For SEO Success

Content Tips For SEO Success

Now that we’ve run through the biggest mistakes you can make with your copy, here are some actionable content tips to take your copy to the next level – and make sure it ranks on Google.

These are tried and true content tips that we use as a content marketing agency to help our clients get big wins. Put them into practice and you’ll start to see results.

1. Focus On User Experience – Google Will Reward You

Google wants to make its users happy. When they type in a search, they should be offered the most relevant, user-friendly content out there.

Your content should address their search query in an easy-to-read, accessible and engaging way. If you succeed in this, you’ll be rewarded with more website traffic and better revenues and greater visibility.

Keywords are important for helping you rank on Google – but only if you use them naturally. Stuffing your content with keywords may have gotten you somewhere in the past, but these days it’s a sure way to get on Google’s bad side.

Here are some actionable steps for better user experience:

  • Write for search intent (What is the visitor looking for? Give it to them.)
  • Break up long sentences and paragraphs to be more digestible
  • Use headings to break up your content
  • Use dot points, tables and lists to get your message across quickly
  • Link to other blog posts or web pages on your site when relevant
  • Avoid industry jargon and complex vocabulary
  • Use images and illustrations to complement the copy
  • Use keywords naturally

2. Keep Up With Google’s New Innovations

Google’s dynamic algorithm sends us an underlying message: “Innovate or stagnate.” In other words, if you want to increase conversions and profits, you’ve got to keep up with the changes.

Optimising your content for voice search and adding in featured snippets are just two of the new Google features you need to adapt to.

As technology keeps on evolving, it’s crucial to keep up with the changes. That way you’ll better understand how users interact with search engines – and how you can use that knowledge to create content that converts.

3. Use Content Clustering: Key Topics Over Keywords

A topic cluster is a group of interlinked web pages that cover a single topic. At the centre is a page that offers a broad overview of a topic. Branching out from this are several other pages that have a more narrow focus.

For example, a digital marketing agency might have a cornerstone article about search engine optimisation (SEO) called “What is SEO and Does Your Business Need It?” From there, they might publish related, more focused articles around the topic such as “How to optimise a title tag for SEO” and “The Best SEO Tools in 2022”.

Topic clustering helps a lot in getting your valuable content to your prospects and in increasing brand authority. 

It’s not easy to pull off without thorough planning and careful execution. But when it’s done well, this technique has a big impact on keeping your target audience engaged and attracting more prospects.

4. Achieve Outstanding Content With the Skyscraper Strategy

Let’s say you’ve nailed the basics of content writing, but you’re looking to take it to the next level. How can you stand out from the other content already out there?

This is where the skyscraper technique comes in. It basically involves scouring the internet for reliable, high performing content and then planning how you can top it. 

For example, the current top ranking article on “How to install roof insulation” might be super informative and engaging. But you could take your own article a step further by providing a video tutorial or explaining alternative ways to insulate a roof.

The skyscraper strategy requires a lot of creative thinking and a good understanding of your competitors.

5. Create a Solid But Flexible Action Plan For Writing Content

If you want to reap the rewards of content marketing, consistency and long-term planning are key. You can’t just publish content when inspiration strikes or when you feel like it. You’ve got to have a clear, actionable strategy.

As a content marketing agency, we believe you always get the best results when you combine data-driven tactics with creative flair. We’ve found that taking a collaborative and flexible approach allows the best ideas to flourish.

Speak to our team about how we can fine tune your content marketing strategy to help you reach your business goals.

Conclusion

A data-driven content marketing strategy supported by innovative and creative ideas is the recipe for success. It’s not always easy, but strong copy can have huge benefits for business growth.

If your website is suffering in traffic and conversions, poor copy could be part of the problem. Applying the content tips in this article is a great first step, but don’t forget successful content marketing requires consistency and big picture thinking.

If you could use a hand, call the team at Dilate. Dilate Digital is a Perth based digital marketing agency, with an impressive track record for SEO, copywriting, content marketing and more.

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