How to write really bad web copy

Web copy is one of those things that many companies think that they’ve got so right, when in fact, they’ve got it really rather wrong. We see these common mistakes across hundreds of company pages: they’re not always obvious, so we’ve turned the situation upside down by showing you how to write really bad web copy. And don’t worry – we’ve included the changes you need to implement to make it good!

Write about yourself

You may find yourself scratching your head in confusion and thinking “isn’t that the point of web copy?” Well, not really. Your customers don’t care about you – they care about the problem they’re trying to solve. Copy that is all about you can be egocentric, uninformative and, ultimately, not that interesting to your prospective customer. Talk about the reader, not the company. For a quick fix, try circling the uses of ‘we’ and ‘you’ in your web copy draft: If ‘we’ heavily outweighs ‘you’, it’s time for a redraft!

Be inconsistent

It’s possible that your web copy requires input from several people within your company. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but if your final result is a copy and paste job from several different sources, you’re probably going to end up with inconsistencies of style, length and structure – all of which are off-putting for readers. Create a house style guide, and ask all contributors to follow it. Then, make sure you appoint a single person with editorial responsibility for the finished web copy, and give them permission to be as ruthless as necessary to ensure there is consistency across the entire site.

Make your copy really long

Bonus points if you’ve put it in a tiny font so it doesn’t look as lengthy! Now you can hurt your customer’s eyes as well as switching them off with your ten page ‘About us’ blurb. Seriously, when it comes to web copy, less is pretty much always more. You want to summarise what you’re about in a simple, straightforward and succinct manner, so before you even begin your draft, make a list of the key points that you want to include, and stay focused. This is one occasion where it’s okay to be brutal; look at every sentence and see if you can say the same thing in fewer words.

Sell, sell, sell

We’ve all seen them – websites crammed with unbelievable offers, never ending exclamatory sentences and more capital letters than you can shake a stick at. They’re loud, proud, and alienate 99% of customers within seconds. It is important to highlight all of the great things about your brand, but you really don’t need to scream and shout about it – clients will respond much more positively to genuinely helpful, informative content than a bunch of hyperbolic claims.

Use plenty of jargon

“Cutting edge solutions” created by “blue sky thinking”. Would you speak like that in real life? No. Then why would you put it on your website? Corporate-speak does nothing but leave your readers cold. It doesn’t matter if you’re reaching out to teenage consumers or the CEOs of the FTSE 100 – either way, your readers are people and will respond to lively, clear copy that communicates the benefits of what you’re offering them. You can be professional without resorting to jargon.

Don’t differentiate

Sometimes, even copy that meets all of the obvious standards – well explained, clear, easy to understand – can still fall under the radar of your consumers. Many brands struggle to understand why this kind of copy doesn’t achieve the kind of results they are looking for, and that’s because they’ve missed the final ingredient: differentiation. If your copy is indistinguishable from that of any other company which does the same thing you do, then you’re not giving your reader any incentive to pick up the phone and talk to you. All you’re giving them is one of many options. Think about what sets your company apart from the rest and inject some creativity to show it.

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