Year after year, I realize that more and more of the problems I’ve faced in business in the past–stress, sluggish sales, were symptoms of something deeper:
A mindset that’s all wrong.
Occasionally, the problems I’ve faced were caused by a genuine not-knowing. A mistake born from ignorance. But more often, it was my misguided thinking and confused perspective that caused the mistake.
So, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the most common (and most damaging!) website copywriting mistakes I see are also able to be traced back to, yes, a mindset malfunction.
Mistake #1: Expecting your work to speak for itself
You’ll know you’re making this mistake if your website is nothing more than a glorified catalog (or portfolio). Other symptoms include having very few words on your website besides your company name and over-relying on images and design.
And the words you do have? They’re just the “dry facts.” The features of your product, period.
This is a mistake. Unless your target customer is someone who is also an expert maker or seller of the same products (rare), your customers should not be left to “infer” the value of your products on their own. Because… they won’t.
They need some education. More specifically: They need to feel reassured that your product is quality, aligned with their values, aligned with who they see themselves as, and worth what you’re charging for it.
Even brick-and-mortar locations, where customers can touch and try on the items in person, employ sales associates to help customers understand the value, feel welcomed, and leave confident in their purchase.
How much more important is it for an online shopping experience to do that?
Mistake #2: Using the same phrases as others in your industry (aka cliches)
If you’re DIY-ing your website copy, it’s tempting to get inspiration from the top names in your industry. If everyone is using these phrases or this style of writing, then it must be working, right?
But once a phrase transitions into a cliche (like “empowering” for wellness products), they lose their power.
Think about it. If a customer is shopping for a new lip balm, and website after website says the same thing (“Want soft, supple lips?”)… pretty soon, their eyes will glaze over. The message no longer has much meaning. The customer barely registers its existence.
It takes original words to jolt customers into hearing your message. Don’t be afraid to be different.
Mistake #3: Believing that the problem is your product descriptions
Spending hours tweaking your product descriptions is a band-aid for a bigger problem (and a band-aid that drains your energy, no less).
While product pages are important for closing a sale, customers first have to get there. And if you lose your customer on the home page… then your product pages never even played a role in the loss of that sale.
Spend an equal amount of time nailing your messaging on your home, about, and shipping & returns pages as you do on your product pages. That way, your messaging feels balanced and supportive of the customer’s journey all the way from the very beginning to the thank you page.
Mistake #4: Framing everything from your perspective
Are you talking too much about your brand and not considering your customers’ needs?
You’ll know you’re making this mistake if you notice that your website has more than 1-2 “we” sentences. For example, “We created this….”; “We founded this company…”; “We believe that…”; “We have a great team…”. We, we, we, we.
Another telltale sign is when you share the cut-and-dry features of your products without then explaining what the features mean for customers–or why customers should care. In this instance, you’re stuck talking about your products in a way that’s most important to you…. not to your customers.
This is a mistake because you always want to position your customers as the hero of the story as they move through your website. Your brand is only there to help them along their journey, not to outshine them.
Mistake #5: Staying confused about SEO (or ignoring it)
Not prioritizing SEO for an online store is like not caring about the location of your brick-and-mortar boutique. Foot traffic? Who needs it!
Yet, this is the attitude many small business owners have when it comes to their online store. They believe that by marketing endlessly on social media and through digital advertising, they’ll be set.
The problem is that when you rely solely on marketing to drive traffic to your store, you are, in effect, paying for every customer who walks through your door. Your customer acquisition costs will be through the roof, which narrows your margins and makes it harder to build sustainable revenue.
SEO isn’t a magic cure-all for low sales, but it is a core aspect of running an online business that cannot be ignored.
Done well, a search-engine-optimized store can take the pressure off your marketing by attracting organic “foot” traffic from customers who will be easily won over. After all, they were already searching for what you have to offer!
Mistake #6: Leaving your website copy until the last minute
Think that your website designer will provide the words that go in all those Lipsum orum text boxes? You’d be wrong.
Website designers and developers have their own zones of genius–the function and aesthetic of your website. But strategic sales messaging is not a part of that.
Too many business owners aren’t prepared when their designer asks for their website copy. They hand over the piles of product descriptions they have and a mission statement… and then are confused when their website sounds boring, doesn’t excite customers, and isn’t magically showing up in search results.
Instead: Prioritize your website copywriting first. Create powerful messaging, and then ask your designer to build a website that flows with your words.
The result will be a website that’s not only beautiful but also draws customers in, bonds them to your brand, and leads to sales.
Don’t throw your marketing dollars away with a poorly written website
If there is one mindset shift I wish all business owners would have, it’s this: Your website is the most important piece of the online business puzzle.
Yes, marketing is vital, customer service is crucial, and your products themselves must be amazing. But all the money and time you spend marketing your business is really just driving traffic to your website.
And if your website doesn’t connect with customers and make sales, then nothing else matters. Your website includes all the final, most important steps of your sales funnel. So make it count.
Content courtesy of Krista Walsh, creative copywriting for purpose-driven companies and passionate people
CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR, KRISTA WALSH
Krista Walsh writes website copy, blog posts, and product descriptions for small eCommerce companies and service-based solopreneurs. Her writing and messaging strategies help her clients speak to their customers’ values and emotions, for meaningful sales.
In her free time, she writes about purpose-driven business and freelance life at kristawalshcopywriter.com. On the off chance she’s not writing, she’s volunteering to walk the big ole’ dogs over at the Dog Café LA or watching (pretty bad honestly) TV dramas on Netflix.