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The biggest mistakes when writing website sales copy

By Will Stevens - October 18, 2017

Website copy is vital. It’s one of the things potential customers will use to form a picture of your business, your products and whether they want to do business with you.

No matter what you’re selling – whether it’s one product, hundreds of products, or a service of some kind, if you get your copy wrong, then your chances of making that sale can dwindle away to zero.

In this article, we’ll look at some huge mistakes that can hurt your copy, and your chances of convincing people to do business with you.

Getting your tone of voice wrong

It’s tempting to think that the words you write on your website will be a potential customer’s first interaction with your business, but this simply isn’t true.

All customers will hear about you somewhere – whether it’s ads in traditional media, search ads, social media ads, a search engine result, or something else.

This means it’s important that any copy about your business always reflects your business. The easiest way to do this is to develop a tone of voice for your writing and stick to it. If you use a different tone of voice in different places, then you’ll confuse customers.

For example, imagine reading an advert for a solicitor that uses slang, and then visiting their website to discover the content on there is written in a very formal way. It would certainly feel strange, and that feeling could lead you to develop a negative view of the company.

Learn about how to decide on and implement a tone of voice in this guide.

Not thinking about the customer journey

It’s not just tone of voice you have to take into account when thinking about how people get to your site.

You also need to think about the customer journey and make sure the things people read before they get to your site match up with the things they’ll read when they’re on your site.

What does this mean? Well, imagine you want to buy a pair of size 11 black formal men’s shoes. You go to Google and search for “size 11 black formal men’s shoes”. At the top of the search results is an ad for a website selling a pair of shoes that meets your needs. So you click on the ad, and are taken to a webpage which features a pair of brown trainers. Obviously, you’d hit back on your browser and try another website.

Now this is an extreme example, but it demonstrates why it’s so important to make sure your copy is consistent in terms of purpose (as well as tone of voice).

And it’s absolutely vital that this consistency is present in places potential customers can click to visit a page on your website. Generally, this means your social media posts, your search engine results (either paid for ads, or natural results), emails, and even links from other sites (although you have less control over the text that surrounds this last kind of link).

If you’re not sure about how to influence the way your website appears in search results, then read this guide on writing title tags and meta descriptions that get clicks.

For anyone who is worried that their search engine ads might not be providing a good customer journey, then check out this guide to getting started with PPC ads, which will give you a few pointers.

Writing content that lacks purpose

We’ve already touched on this, but it’s absolutely crucial so it deserves a section of its own.

Every page on your site should have a purpose. From your highest earning sales page, to the humble “about us” page, every part of your site has a job to do.

If you’re creating a new site, this is something you must address in the planning stage. Take some time to think about everything your site needs to do, and then plan the pages, and content, your site will need to allow those things to happen.

If you already have an existing site and this isn’t something you’ve previously thought about, then conduct an audit of the pages and your content.

For sales pages, everything on the page should drive the reader towards making a purchase. For a product, that will include product details (size and colour, for example), while for a service you’ll want to include details of exactly what customers will get for their money.

And no matter what you’re selling, all your pages, and your sales pages in particular need to feature a prominent call to action, or they’re doomed to fail. Let’s look at why.

Missing out a call to action

There’s no such thing as a website that is intuitive to use. Good ones will feel that way, but that’s down to good design and thorough testing.

Because no visitor will automatically understand how to use your site, it’s your job to ensure that there as many clues as possible.

Perhaps the most important of these clues is the call to action (CTA).

The exact wording and form of a page’s CTA varies, but on a sales page, it’s likely to be a large, prominent button saying something like “Buy now”, “Add to basket” or “Request a quote”.

If the CTA on a sales page is missing, hard to see, or even just badly written, then the chances making a sale will fall dramatically, and in the most extreme cases there’ll be no chance at all of a page making a sale.

If you’re planning a new site, then make sure you include CTAs in your page designs.

For people with an existing site, conduct an initial audit, starting with your most important page, and make sure that your CTAs are up to scratch.

CTAs are hugely important for all websites, so make sure you read this guide on getting your CTAs right.

Failing to address customer needs

You’ve thought about tone of voice, the customer journey, the purpose of your pages, and made sure that they all have a call to action, so nothing else needs addressing, right?

Well, not necessarily. Although all of the above things are crucial for good sales copy, it’s possible to have them all and still get things wrong.

How? Well, often businesses have a habit of talking about themselves when they should be talking about their customers, and addressing the needs they have.

If someone is looking to do business with you, it’s because they need something. That something could be a pair of shoes, it could be a loft conversion. Whatever it is, it’s your job to convince people you have the right product/service for them.

To do this successfully, you need to understand the reasons why people need the product(s)/service(s) you offer and any concerns they might have about making that purchase.

For example, if someone wants to buy a pair of formal shoes, they’re probably attending something like a job interview, or wedding, so why not mention occasions like these in your copy? They’ll also be concerned that the shoes might not match their suit. This is an issue that you’ll probably address by providing plenty of images, rather than copy, but it’s a useful reminder that the perfect sales page will contain a mixture of content.

Other common concerns include your trustworthiness of a business in general – especially if the company isn’t well known, and/or the product/service is expensive. To address issues like this, make sure your sales pages include copy that builds trust. This includes reviews and testimonials, along with links to your customer service policies, and information about any professional accreditation you have where relevant.

You can learn about gathering testimonials here, while this guide covers collecting reviews for your business.

If you need to get a better picture of who is going to do business with you, then check out this guide about creating marketing personas.

They’re an invaluable tool that will help you with every aspect of your online marketing.

Important: We’ve talked about potentially adding a lot of extra content here, and although it’s useful, it should still be secondary to your CTA, which should be the most prominent feature of the page.

Skipping proofreading

So now your sales copy is perfect, right? Well, no. If you haven’t thoroughly proofread your copy, then the chances are there are errors in there, and errors can make your website seem untrustworthy.

So make sure you proofread your copy, and if possible have someone else read it for you. That way, you can eliminate those pesky typos.

Thinking your copy can never be improved

So finally your sales copy is perfect? Again, no. Sorry to break it to you, but there’s no such thing as a perfect webpage, or perfect copy. There’s good, there’s even great. But there’s not perfect.

There are always things you can do to make improvements to your site, even if they’re not immediately obvious. That’s why it’s so important to use A/B testing to run experiments and identify ways you can encourage more people to buy from you.

You can learn about getting started with A/B tests here.

Not using a professional if you can

If you’re on a low or non-existent budget, then writing your own content is fine. But if you can afford it, always use a professional copywriter. Doing so will remove a lot of headaches for you, and make sure that your copy is as polished as it can be. (As long as you pick a good copywriter, that is.)

Summing up

Sales copy can make or break a website, so never be tempted to think that you can just dash of your copy in a hurry and it’ll be good enough. The more attention you pay to the words on your sales pages, the better those pages will be.