5 Mistakes You’re Making When Writing Your Website CopyEvery new website includes what we call “content” – the stuff that goes on every page. Website content can be broken down into two oversimplified categories: graphics and copy. And while it’s simple in theory, creating all that stuff takes time, energy and strategy.

Wouldn’t it be a shame to invest in a beautiful new website design only to have it ultimately be no more successful than the old one because the messaging is ineffective?

Here are some of the most common mistakes I see in website copywriting, and how to avoid them to make sure your website tells the right story, to the right people, and compels the right action.

1. You’re not spending enough time on content mapping.

I’ve written about this before. I’ll write about it again. Nothing will tank the quality of your website faster or more completely than a failure to plan.

There’s no mastery of language or sense of importance that will inspire the average website visitor to read a 1000 word essay on each of your conversion-driving website pages. Or even on one of your pages.

Good website content takes into account the way your visitors want to consume it. Paragraphs of more than a handful of sentences will be skimmed, then ignored. More than one long paragraph in a row will be scrolled past. And if every page experience leads readers to start skipping over your content, they’ll see if someone else has better information available.

Content mapping is the best way to ensure you write your website in a way that people want to read it. Here’s how you do it.

2. You’re relying too much on what already exists.

Unless you’re a brand new organization, chances are you already have a website of some sort.

The path of least resistance is to reuse copy from your existing website, paste it into the new one, and let the updated design and UX do the work.

There are times when this is OK. But they’re pretty rare.

Before you reuse content, run it through this checklist:

If you can’t say yes to all 5 (I mean it – all 5) of those qualifiers, write new content. Move your brand forward.

3. You’re not considering the complete website experience.

What makes website writing much trickier than other types of writing is the sheer amount of copy needed combined with the unique challenge of creating a unified narrative across the entire website while ensuring each unique page tells the story it needs to.

The way Google operates these days, it’s getting less and less likely that anyone will land on your homepage first – with that in mind, are you telling the right story on any given page?

Remember that your website as a whole is the experience, no one page will get the job done. The way people move through it will vary, and your narrative needs to account for as many of those journeys as possible*.

* Interlinking, global modules, visual cues, appropriate CTAs, high-strategy messaging and parallel page formatting are big pieces of putting this puzzle together, but none of that matters if you haven’t done your due diligence on site mapping.

4. You’re focused on the wrong audience.

I know you think you know what I’m going to say. You think I’m going to talk about identifying your audience groups, and maybe something about developing personas and making sure your website is written for the right audience groups.

But you’re wrong.

The most common mistake I see in website writing, when it comes to the audience, is that it’s not written for your customers at all.

It’s probably written for you. Or your boss. Or someone else who already has intimate knowledge of your company, what it does and what it offers.

It probably skips over some of the basics – the things that are table stakes to someone familiar with what you do, but critical information to new potential customers.

It probably focuses on value propositions that are important to ownership, or to the internal culture, but make very little difference to your customers and their purchasing decisions.

This segues nicely into the next and final common mistake, so keep reading for the solution to this one.

5. You’re trying to do it yourself.

Astute readers may have realized partway through this article that my core message is that website writing is hard. It seems like anyone should be able to do it (after all – who knows your company better than you do?), but the truth is that even skilled writers can struggle with some of the challenges listed above.

Beyond the skill required to do it well, having an outside perspective is incredibly valuable when it comes to crafting the right message for your audience. An outside copywriter won’t come in laden with “but we’ve always…” and “let’s just keep doing…” and “I think _____ is important….” They will be able to cut through the clutter and zero in on what matters to your audience, then figure out the best way to communicate it across your site.

BONUS TIP: You’re Using the Wrong Voice

You’ve made it this far, so here’s my final tip: write your website in 1st and 2nd person voice. “We” is more personal than “they” when you’re talking about your company. “You” is far more compelling than “our customers” if you want someone to do something. Write as yourselves, and speak to your audience as if they’re already a customer.