The #1 Website Copy Mistake That Most Businesses Make

by 9 07/12/2012

When it comes to writing online, not everyone knows what it takes to write compelling website copy.

They think any text will do, but that’s not the case.

There’s an art and a science to writing good copy online and off, and the best copywriters know how to write in a way that connects with customers and compels them to take action. They also know how to write in a way that keeps people reading to ensure that all of your website copy gets read.

But a lot of businesses skip this step and go straight to writing copy themselves. They don’t hire a copywriter because, well, it’s just writing. How hard can it be?

Some people get away with this, but most end up with weak, lifeless website content. They end up with writing that doesn’t get read and words that doesn’t get people clicking or taking action.

There’s also one big mistake that most businesses make. Before getting into that, we need to understand a fundamental principle about people.

The fundamental principle

The first thing businesses need to know is that customers and prospects don’t care that much about you or your business. They care about their number one—themselves.

It’s easy to think that your business is awesome and meaningful and that people care about you, but that’s not the case. People are inherently selfish. In some ways it’s bad, but really, it just means that they’re looking out for themselves and what’s in their best interest, which isn’t so bad.

What they do care about is how your business can help them get something they want and accomplish their goals. They don’t care that much about you, but they are interested in how you can help them.

This leads us to our next point—the number one website copy mistake that most businesses make.

The number one copy mistake most businesses make

The number one mistake most businesses make is writing too much about themselves. They write like this: “We’re an accounting firm that specializes in corporate financial reporting, etc., etc., etc.”

They go on to talk more about what they do and continue by saying “we this” and “we that.” In case you need help picturing what this looks like, here’s an example from a law firm based in Orange County. This text may work for them, but it’s not the best example of engaging website copy.

So what’s wrong with this kind of copy?

The problem is that people don’t care that much about the law firm. They don’t care about what the law firm does; they want to know how the law firm can help them.

In this example, the focus should be placed on the customer. Instead of talking about the types of cases the company handles, more copy like this should be used: “We can help you to win personal injury lawsuits, file immigration papers, declare bankruptcy, etc.” This type of copy places the focus on the customer, not the company.

It’s ok to sometimes talk about the business, but whenever possible, it’s best to focus on the customer.

Examples of putting the customer first

Rejoiner.com

In this home page call out, Rejoiner does a good job of focusing on the customer first. Instead of talking about who they are and what they do, they talk about how their product will benefit customers.

They don’t talk about “we do this” and “we do that.” Instead, they go straight into the benefit their product provides—”The easiest way to turn abandoned carts into customers.”

KISSmetrics.com

In this example, KISSmetrics begins their website copy by using “you” three times in the first two sentences. “KISSmetrics helps you to get actionable metrics for your business. Get to know your people.

Who are they focusing on here? Themselves or the customers? The answer is the latter, and the result is that customers are learning how they’ll benefit from using KISSmetrics. That’s what they really want to know anyway.

Basecamp.com

Basecamp is known for their rigorous website testing and willingness to experiment with new layouts and designs. They’re also known for excellent copywriting that focuses on customers first.

The text above is an example of copy on a sales page that starts with the benefit the service provides. They mention that, “nothing gets lost and your team always knows where things are.”

Why do they focus on this? They focus on it because they know it’s a pain point their customers experience. Since they’re software solves this problem, they mention it in the second sentence.

What if they said this instead: “We’re a software development company that designs project management software for businesses and individuals. Our goal is to create the best software and sell it at the lowest prices.” This copy would instantly put visitors to sleep. Nobody cares what Basecamp does, they just want to know what Basecamp can do for them.

Conclusion

So the biggest website copy mistake that businesses make is focusing too much on themselves. They write about what it is that they do and how they do it, but they fail to talk about how their product or service benefits customers. They causes them to miss sales and lose customers.

One way to solve this is to use “you” more than “we” and “our.” Another way is to write about benefits and not about what your business does.

If you find yourself in the situation of talking too much about your business, step back, take a minute, and figure out how you can focus more on the customer. By doing so, you’ll write copy that’s interesting and that compels visitors to take the action you want them to take. Remember: it’s not about you; it’s about what you can do for your customers.

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About 

Joe Putnam (@josephputnam) lives in Lubbock, TX, where he has the world’s shortest commute and works remotely as a Growth Manager for iSpionage, a PPC competitive intelligence tool that makes it easy for smart advertisers (and agencies) to increase their ROI on Google AdWords campaigns. Sign up today for an iSpy competitor alert and get free updates on new PPC keywords, ad copy, and SEO terms for the URL of your choice.

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9 COMMENTS

Jordan @ simpixelated.com

Looks like you’re missing the examples. Anyway, I like your advice. I think a key to doing this well is always think in terms of “benefits” instead of “features”. This will keep you focused on how your product or service helps the reader instead of talking about all the shiny things you have for sale.

You don’t want to forget the features though, because people need proof of how you’re going to provide those awesome benefits. Just don’t lead with them, as you said.

July 12, 2012 Reply

    Joseph Putnam

    Hi Jordan, you were totally right about the missing content. I accidentally published the post this morning before finalizing. It’s updated now so you can check out the rest of the post.

    You’re also right about benefits and features. Writing about benefits is one way to focus on customers, but features can’t be forgotten because they help to seal the deal. It’s good to use a combination of both, and it’s always best to put the spotlight on the customer.

    July 12, 2012 Reply

JonathanK

I like this post. Thanks. There are a few companies doing this well but it is certainly still in the pioneering phases.

This isn’t common sense to most companies, the minority of companies even get the “content” thing, much less graduating up to good content. We have been creating decent content for a long time in our industry, versus just promoting ourselves and what we do. I think we go to the extreme with regard to helping people in the content we put out. But reading your post made me really think about what we are putting out and making some changes.

There are millions companies doing this poorly, poorly, poorly. Just look on just about any discussion on any group on LinkedIn, or on many of the other forums where spamming is out of control. They understand the “content” thing, but it’s all about me, me, me.

I’d like your feedback on our customer content to see what you think. How can we be more about our customers? I’m not trying to promote my brand, as it’s not a product or service that the target reader of this post would be seeking. Take a look and see what you think about our content and leave your comments.

Maybe this is a good “example” to use here for what works and what doesn’t. I’m willing to be the guinea pig. Here’s a link to the blog on our website that we promote via our digital media platform: http://privatemoneyutah.com/blog/

Thanks for your feedback and thanks for the great post. Our marketing director sent it to me.

July 12, 2012 Reply

The eWAY Team

You have articulated this principle perfectly. It’s obvious, yet often overlooked.

The text on our landing page reads:

Your online payment gateway

1 Sign up with eWAY
2 Link your website to eWAY
3 Take credit card payments online!

We have found it to be very effective at driving sales, so you must be right!

July 18, 2012 Reply

Josh

Great advise here. Keep that info coming. We use and love your analytic tools!

August 18, 2012 Reply


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