copywriting conversion ratesEditor’s note: This is a guest post from Sandra Wu. Sandra is currently the Paid Content Marketing Lead at Blinkist, a Berlin-based app that she saw grow to over 14 million users. She is the leading expert on Outbrain and Taboola, which has allowed her to establish content marketing as a major user acquisition strategy at multiple startups.

Whether you’re an experienced copywriter or a complete beginner, it’s easy to fall into these five traps.

Copywriting isn’t rocket science, yet most companies don’t get it right. I’ve seen startups neglect it completely and robust marketing teams unnecessarily complicate it. Little do they know that striking the right balance could lead to their biggest return on investment. After all, the best way to get through to your future customers is by saying the right things.

Below are five copywriting mistakes that most companies make that hold back conversion rates. Find out how you can avoid them and dramatically increase your user base. 

1. Losing your niche

When a company becomes successful, it will naturally go beyond its existing offering. Not only does this evolution become challenging from a business perspective, it becomes especially tough when it comes to copywriting. 

I recently heard an ad for a product that is marketed as “the quickest way to build healthy habits. Elusive as the description might be, the name of the company did ring a bell. It turns out it used to be a meal-planning service and a direct competitor to a company I worked for. 

Back then, they probably advertised themselves as “the quickest way to build healthy eating habits to lose weight.” Somewhere down the line, they omitted “eating” after launching workout plans, and “lose weight” as they shifted to long-term goals. This is an excellent direction for a fitness company, but its marketing message has become too vague. If people have never heard of them, they simply do not have enough information to want to sign up.

This problem is common among companies that are trying to do too much. They fail to connect to their new customers and lose old ones in the meantime.

The best way to avert this fate is by involving your marketing team early on to figure out how to sell your new brand. Set aside 1-2 months to test the pitch on acquisition channels until you’re confident that it performs just as well as the old one.

2. Sorry, what does your product do? 

I frequently get emails from vendors about marketing solutions. Having done this type of work in the past, I give them the benefit of the doubt and read the emails in full. About 75% of the time, I fail to discover what they do.

To put it in perspective, this is how the average email from vendors looks like:

I’m getting in touch about an exciting opportunity. We have worked with (a few famous brands) to increase (very broad metrics like “revenue” or “conversion rate”). We’ve been named by (unknown organization) as the best in (broad category).

We’d like to discuss how we can collaborate together to fulfill (vague need). 

As you can see, the sender mentioned a number of things, but not how their product works. Their response rate is likely very low. Sometimes, I’d write back asking for more information, but even then, I still didn’t get satisfying answers.

How can this oversight be prevented? Come up with a checklist of things you like to share about your product, ranked in order of importance. At the very top of this list should always be your answer to the following question: How does your product work? Superficial things like whom you’ve worked with and which awards you’ve won should take a backseat until this is addressed

3. Confusing beautiful writing for good copy

Tell me if this situation sounds familiar. 

In an effort to revamp your marketing campaigns, you gather the best writers in the company to come up with a brand new ad angle. They offer you clever, poetic taglines fit enough for the advertising wall of fame. You put these beautiful ads to the test and to your amazement: the most basic, tacky one wins. You feel let down and wish that your target audience had better taste. 

Stories like this reveal one of the most important lessons in copywriting: the primary goal is to get sales, not to win literary awards

There is no place in a Facebook ad for witty references, subtle humour or metaphors. The clearer you can get the point across, the better the conversion rate will be.

When your company is well known enough, you can afford to play around with more romantic ways to generate awareness. Until then, rather than a writer, think of yourself as a salesperson. The former is judged by how many customers they get at the end of the day, not the choice of words in their pitch.

4. Overcomplicating your pitch

Think back to the last time that you checked out an app in iTunes. Can you recall more than one detail from it? Don’t fret if you can’t. Your brain is wired this way—a study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group revealed that, on average, we only read 28% of the words on a web page.

The reality is that people can only handle a few takeaways at once. Yet even the most experienced marketers forget that.

To better demonstrate my point, I’ve made up a fictional language learning app called “Fluent.” I often see copies like the one below in ads:

Learn 30+ languages on your smartphone with 5-minute lessons created by experts, proven to work by The International Language Association.

Now, look away quickly. How many of these points can you remember? Well done if you can recall most of the points, but the average person can’t. 

Ads like these are unlikely to convert well for one reason: they lack focus. It’s not about how much you can cram into one space, but how well you can deliver your main takeaway

To avoid this pitfall, try using your pitch in a conversation. If it sounds like overkill, then you’ve got to shave it down.

5. Not believing in your product

On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that your product is doing a good thing for the world?

If you answered 6 or below, you shouldn’t be writing any copy. If you don’t believe in the product, how can you convince others to?

Sure, not every company is special, and some probably shouldn’t exist. However, every product has a cause worth fighting for. As a copywriter, you should make it your duty to discover what that is if you intend to do your job well. 

There are three simple questions to ask that can reignite your passion in the business, 

  • Why does your product exist? 
  • Who is it created for? 
  • What makes you better than your competitors? 

If you get stuck, loop in some colleagues and hear what they have to say. Conversations like these might just give you the inspiration for your next top ad. 

Copywriting might be a tedious task, but it is the number one skill to harness if you want to become a better marketer. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s not rocket science,  and anyone can do it well. Whether you’re an experienced copywriter or a complete beginner, overcoming these five pitfalls will see direct impact on your conversion rates.