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Are You Making These 3 Embarrassing Copywriting Mistakes?

You probably fall into one of two camps:

If you’re in the first camp, you change the copy on your website a few times a month in an attempt to make it sound better. (Like I do!)

If you’re in the second camp, you haven’t updated your website copy in so long, it’s practically fossilized.

Whether you’re constantly fiddling with it or ignoring it altogether, the end result is the same . . .

Your copy is “just okay.”

But “just okay” isn’t good enough for you. You want to stand out. You want to sound like yourself. You want to grow a loyal following of people who get you and appreciate what you’re trying to do.

That’s why, for my Project ABC Update this month, I’m sharing three website copywriting mistakes I’m seeing many of my clients make.

I’m also going to tell you how to erase these mistakes. So if you recognize these stumbling blocks in your own writing, keep reading for easy solutions.

Does Your Confidence Fizzle When You Write?

Before I get into the three mistakes, I want to address an important truth: I understand how challenging copywriting can be.

Over the past few months, I’ve been helping up-and-coming business owners write copy that sounds genuine and connects to their tribe. Many of these intelligent, kind, and passionate entrepreneurs hit the same stumbling block.

When they talk about their business, they light up.

When they write about their business, it’s more like a faulty flashlight. Knock it just right, and they get a momentary flash. But other than that, they’re in the dark.

Can you relate? You second guess yourself. You use other people’s copy as a guide. You obsessively search the internet for “how to write the perfect home page.”

You’re normally a go-getter with a strong instinct about what needs to be done. But when it comes to writing copy that inspires people to take action, self-doubt runs the show. Which stinks, because you can’t afford to have “blah” copy.

There Has to be an Easier Way

If you’re serious about growing your business, making a name for yourself, and attracting a highly engaged community, it’s time to give your website copy some extra love. The first thing to do is clean up your existing copy. In my work helping up-and-coming business owners with their website copywriting, there are 3 major mistakes I see on their websites:

Mistake #1: Sardine Syndrome (Also Known As “Never Stop Scrolling”)

If you suffer from Sardine Syndrome, you pack waay too much information onto a single page. Suddenly, everything’s important: you want people to know who you help, where you grew up, what your philosophy is, how your process works from start to finish, why you started this business … and the list goes on. There are a few reasons this is so detrimental:

1.  When everything’s important, nothing’s important. Your potential client has nothing to glom onto, so they click away.

2. Screens are getting smaller! If it looks like a lot of copy on your laptop, imagine what it’s going to look like on a tablet or phone. (Actually, don’t imagine it. Go look at it on a tablet or phone.)

The solution? In the words of Uncle Joey from “Full House:” Cut. It. Out. Your website doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s connected to all your other content, including blog posts, autoresponders, your emails with clients, and even your phone consultations. Go through your website and pull out content that might be better served elsewhere.

• Could you elaborate on your philosophy during a phone consultation with a potential client?

• Is there a section on your Work with Me page that’s just screaming to be its own blog post?

• Would the story on your About page serve as a great introduction in your welcome email to new subscribers?

Think beyond your website, and determine how every point of contact with your customer ultimately fits together.

Mistake #2: Wimpy Words

You’re not a vanilla kind of person. I know that because you’re crazy enough to be an entrepreneur. So why does your writing feel ho-hum? It’s tricky to get your personality into your website. You’ve been trained by teachers, corporations, and that squiggly line in Microsoft Word to never break the rules. But it’s vital that you get your voice across, even (and especially) if it doesn’t sound like everyone else. Remember, you’re expecting people to reach out to you – either by signing up for your newsletter, booking a consultation call, or buying your product – without talking to you first. Copywriting is a conversation. Don’t be afraid to sound like yourself. (Scroll down for my free worksheet to help you tap into your writing voice.) Also, remember that you’re not trying to appeal to everyone. There’s a specific type of person who will get the most out of working with you. Tap into that person’s language by using surveys, asking feedback questions, and having potential clients complete a short form before they talk to you. You’ll be amazed by how much you can learn.

Mistake #3: You’re Always Selling

Your home page isn’t a sales page, so don’t treat it like one. Your About page isn’t a sales page, so step away from the bullet points about why people should work with you. Some pros who talk about the psychology of sales and copywriting would profoundly disagree with me. I think there’s a fine line between experimenting with tactics and squeezing your guru’s strategies into every nook of your site. At some point it feels desperate and kinda creepy. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer (not a communications or marketing major). I think we all just need to be real. Here’s how I see it:

1. Imagine you walk up and knock on a stranger’s door. What do you say to them when you’re standing on the welcome mat? (That’s your home page.)

2. What do you say when the person invites you in for a lemonade? (That’s your About page.)

3. What do you say when they ask for more details about how you can help them? (THAT’s your sales page.)

Don’t be pushy. Be the kind of person you’d want to do business with.

“Good Enough” vs. “Just Okay”

Even after you eliminate these mistakes from your website copy, it won’t be perfect. There comes a point where you have to leave perfection behind and move forward with “good enough.” Remember, Good Enough isn’t the same as Just Okay. Here’s the difference. Just Okay makes you feel like crap. It makes you less likely to promote your stuff because you feel embarrassed by your website. Just Okay tugs at you because you know you can do so much more. On the other hand, Good Enough makes money. It draws the right people in. You’ll always be course correcting as your business evolves, but Good Enough is steering you in the right direction. Over to You Ready to revamp your copy? I see you nodding your head. Go for it. And let me know if you need anything.

About Adrianne Munkacsy

I'm Adrianne Munkacsy (that's mun-kay-see), a copywriter and content strategist who helps on-the-rise coaches peg their ideal clients and write clear, genuine content that attracts a steady flow of subscribers. Want to speak your clients' language in a way that feels totally natural? Start with my free worksheet: 4 Unconventional Ways to Write for Your Ideal Client.

56 comments

  1. I really like Good Enough vs Just Okay.
    You’re right there are times when as much as you put big effort into an article blog etc. it still isn’t EVERYTHING it could be.

    I believe that how we are feeling comes out in our copy, so when you’re having a bad day, best to stay away from the keyboard….and it’s on days like that if you absolutely HAVE to write, that Good Enough will see you through.

    Nice post Adrianne 🙂

    1. Thanks, Debbie. I’m a big believer in clarity coming from action. So, taking action and releasing something that’s “good enough” might just make space for writing something that knocks your socks off. 😉

  2. I actually have an art for kids website. Every blog post is full of images so I tend to fall back on that since I don’t have to do so much writing.

    1. Cool site, Faigie! And you have quite a bit of copy! (Not to mention all your guest posts—love it!) I know from my long history working with designers that image and words can enhance each other and take your blog up to another level. Your explanations of the artwork add a nice touch.

  3. I love this post! Everything’s on point and realistic. And given the immeasurable amount of writing tips across the web, this is a breath of fresh air, thanks Adrienne.

    Well, I first started out with low confidence too. It’s true that talking and writing are two different things. I can sell easier through talking with a client but with writing, there’s a whole different approach. Anyhow, through experience, it took practice to realize the approach and tone of voice I was most effective in. What I can only add to the article is to urge businessmen to practice selling through their writing. It will definitely be a challenge, but they need to learn to do it.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Azalea! Selling through writing—without sounding pushy or hypey (made that word up) is an art form for sure. It’s great that you found a tone of voice that works for you.

  4. Ah, yes!! You nailed the pain point. Within a few seconds face to face, the person you’re sharing with picks up on so much unspoken that is really difficult to translate to text. Charisma, intonation, engagement. Bringing what and how you would actually say things in person to what you use for copywriting, is such a great way to look at it. Definitely going to use this! Thanks, Adrianne!

    1. You’re welcome! When we write, sometimes we put on our serious hat—like we’re back in school or in the corporate world.

      Here’s a great example. I was talking to a client the other day about how she helps her clients with marketing strategies. She said something like, “Sometimes they see their email open rates and click through and they’re like, ‘Oh god! Why is the number so small?'”

      I stopped her right there and asked how she would’ve written that out on her website. We laughed because we knew it would be something like “Do you feel frustrated by your low open rate?” <—So generic, right? Capturing natural conversation adds instant personality and makes it so much easier for readers to engage.

  5. Great post! I need to do a lot of housekeeping on my website- I got it moved and up over a week ago, now I need some time to work on fixing and giving it the right look. I have content that came over from my old Blog that needs to be nixed – Thanks for the information -Gotta run to my Blog and start working. 🙂

  6. Thanks Adrianne for this post. Mistakes #1 and #2 as well as the “Good Enough” vs. “Just Okay” portion really stood out for me along with some points made in other portions of the piece. Although I have been working on my blog for some time now, I still feel like a “newbie”, but reading your post has given me a new outlook. Thanks!

  7. Another mistake that people make is not having someone else proofread what’s written. It’s difficult to edit your own work–we often see what we meant to write, not what’s on the page. You’ll never know who gets turned off to your blog post or doesn’t trust your offer because it’s full of the kind of mistakes that spellcheckers can’t catch (like its vs. it’s). Some people won’t notice but some will. And others will be turned off without knowing why.

    1. Thanks, Paul. I use Aweber which has been experiencing repetitive DDoS attacks over the past week, rendering the service unusable.

      At the time and date of this comment, it’s working again. If you’re still having trouble, I’ll send you the worksheets directly. You can email me at info[at]adriannemunkacsy[dot]com. Sorry for the hassle!

  8. Great stuff!. Starting my writing career at an advanced age, but having fun with it at the same time. Of course, having a little money wouldn’t hurt either.
    Looking forward to more of your insights, and many thanks to you. Ken

  9. Great information from not only the post, but the comments as well. I’ve been struggling with this because I want to share my content credibly, but I tend to be carefree and relaxed in what I create. I look at my site as a creative outlet and not selling which is probably part of my problem. If I want traffic, comments, ENGAGEMENT, I have to sell it. This is becoming more of a learning process than I expected 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Terri, how long have you been in business and working on your site? You’re smart to want meaningful engagement with your readers. I also have a lot of admiration for biz owners who don’t see much traction with engagement, but keep experimenting and pushing forward. You sound determined (and positive!) which is so important. Keep it up!

      1. Adrianne,
        I started with an Etsy shop and facebook page a couple years ago. I just started my blog http://simpletreasures2u.blogspot.com in Jan. of this year so I’m trying not to expect too much just yet 🙂 I was doing well with selling my vintage finds, but not my “creations.” They liked what I made, and I had offline sales at shows and such, but there was more interest in how I did it rather than buying it. That was my push to see if a blog might be a better fit for me. It’s actually been interesting to see that some posts that I thought were pretty darn cute have been viewed less than some that I wasn’t that impressed with. Thanks and sorry to being going on so 🙂
        Terri

        1. I’m happy to see Pinterest pins on your site—seems like a great fit for what you do.

          The first time, I looked at your site I was on my phone, and a list of your different blog posts came up on the home page. But on my computer, I can only see one blog post on your home page. I wonder if there’s a way for you to have excerpts of your blogs (maybe 3 to 5) on your home page at all times so people can see a few options up front. It’ll give them a good idea of the different types of stuff you create at a glance.

          1. Thanks for your input and the email 🙂 yeah, so I was tweaking my page and changed it to 1 because I thought maybe it was too much. You must have caught a glimpse of both LOL. I was thinking maybe I had “sardine syndrome” with a little of my ADD thrown in. Many blogs stay with one theme for posts, and as I have difficulty with that ;), I was thinking 1 post might be better. Sooooo…let me sneak back and put in 3. I liked it better anyway 🙂

          2. Gosh, how funny is that! Doesn’t it figure that you just changed it and I suggest something else?

            Because you just started in January, I think it’s okay to experiment a little and see what “sticks” when it comes to your content. And good luck with the Scavenger Hunt!

          3. Instead I left it at 1 and put in a random posts widget which I’ve wanted to do anyway 🙂 and I think there are points for that too
            #FPMScavHunt. Thank you Adrianne!

  10. Awesome post. Apart from your content mun-ka-sy I especially loved your flow. It kept me reading line after line. I’m an author, communicating with readers is my thing. Sometimes I like to speak in my book character’s personality. It has a different appeal and there’s a deep and special connection the readers have with it. It’s like my character is a very real person. I do this with care though. Tuesday the author speaks Friday the character (Ivey) takes her turn.

    1. Thank you! And what an awesome idea! I can see your audience having so much fun with that. You take your characters to another level when you allow your readers to interact with them in that way. Love the concept.

  11. Oh-em-gee! I definitely suffered from word vomit and not enough editing the first time around. This is great info and I will use these tips as I build my new website. Really sucks that Aweber is down right now so I can’t get access to the free worksheets – but I’ve bookmarked the post anyhow so I will be back. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Aweber’s had a tough week! The good thing about editing is that, if you go off the rails, you can use those extraneous thoughts somewhere else (maybe they’re well suited for a different blog post, for example). So what you edit down doesn’t have to go to waste.

  12. Great article. I’d add that you have to be tough with yourself and also have ‘fresh eyes’. Write your copy to length and then be tough with yourself and edit it down by 30% — that really forces you to think about the words you use and the ideas you are trying to convey. I also find it helpful to write copy, leave it for a few hours or a day and then come back to it. By doing that I find that words or sentences that don’t work, or jar, immediately jump out.

    1. You just reminded me! I should do that again. I forgot all about the waiting thing. Normally I write and it’s posted within the same day. Thanks Debbie.

    2. Heck yeah. Great advice. A good night’s sleep will do wonders!

      Sometimes when I come back to a piece—I realize what I was REALLY trying to say. So I start again with my new perspective in mind. In a way, you have to fall in love with the process.

  13. Hey Adrienne,

    I just wanted to give you a thumbs up on your chosen profession of helping clients write the way they speak … I could almost hear you having a chat with me … I would invite you in for lemonade any day!

    I also now have a hankering for a more interesting surname as it is very fun the way you explain the pronunciation of yours.

    Most enjoyable read

    Cheers and Thanks

    Lyn

    1. Lyn, your surname wish cracks me up! I always wonder what people type into Google or the URL bar when they try to remember my darn name!

      And if you make the lemonade, I’ll bring cookies.

      Thanks for brightening my day. 🙂

      1. Haha, I wouldn’t worry. Adrianne Munkascy actually seems quite simple to me. And it’s also a unique name so I can easily identify you when I hear from you again, anywhere.
        And thanks for your comment on my comment. 🙂

  14. Really enjoyed reading your post Adrianne and totally agree with the three mistakes you’ve listed, they’re certainly ones I come across with my own clients.

    However (dramatic pause) I thought that some of your points were a little unfair.

    There’s certainly a fine line between friendly, suggestive sales copy and a hard sell that gets peoples backs up. But, whilst it’s important not to scare potential clients away from your home page with a sleazy sales fest, I think it’s equally as important to inform that client about what you can do to help them. After all, good ol Bob is not going to invite you in from that welcome mat unless you give him a tempting reason to continue his conversation with you…

    A website full of whimsical ‘this is the wonderful me who sooooo loves what I do’ fluff can be just as off-putting as a pushy one.

    Selling your skills doesn’t necessarily equate to not being ‘real’.

    I loved how you made the point about people talking about their businesses with passion and writing with blergh. Ironically I think the opposite is key to why most elevator pitches fall flat: they’re supposed to be spoken, but people end up creating them to be read! Definitely Just Okay!

    1. Hey Kerry, my sales coach colleague would totally agree with you! And I do too–you’ve gotta sell your stuff. That’s the whole point. To clarify, I notice that some people fall into the trap of every page “feeling” like a sales page.

      I work with service-based biz owners, so their ultimate goal is to sell themselves (basically). While each page serves a purpose of selling, I think each page should have a distinct personality.

      Here’s an example. I was helping a life coach write a teleseminar, and she slid into that “pain point” talk—“you’re frustrated and worried about your money and how you’re going to make this business work…”

      I helped her soften the language: “You’re on this call because you want to run a creative business, but the thought of the boring stuff—like budgets—makes you cringe.”

      So, I’m all for selling, but doing it in a way that’s a good fit for what your audience is expecting on each page or platform. People rarely make buying decisions from the home page—so I recommend not going out of your way to push the sale there. Just help people know they’re in the right place and what to do next.

      Thanks so much for your insightful comment and helping me refine my thoughts. I love taking the convo deeper.

      1. Well said! And what a lovely example. I make most of my table crumbs from the big corps at the moment… great for ££, not so much for inner truth, which is often a shame. Having said that, since I left the city for the country, the number of small businesses coming to me for sites is creeping up… I’m going to have to start implementing some Munkacsy principles!

  15. Thanks Adrianne for sharing your thoughts on the 3 mistakes copywriters make. I like the idea of writing like you talk. I pretty much have always done that, so that part comes easy.

    One thing I struggle with is the long posts. Like you said, some posts go on and on and seem like they’ll never end and it’s difficult for me as a reader to get through them sometimes. But on the other hand, I think I read somewhere that Google likes long posts. I guess the difference is that if a post is long but stays on one topic, it’s okay. If you get off on several topics in one post, like you said, it can be a turn-off.

    Another thing is quitting when it’s “good enough”. I tend to be a perfectionist and have always struggled with that, consequently not finishing projects because I can never get them perfect. So that’s a good one to remember – even if it makes me cringe, I have to quit when it’s good enough because it will probably never actually be perfect!

    1. Karleen, I love that you feel confident when it comes to writing how you talk. That’s not easy for a lot of people!

      About the long posts, it’s okay to have long content, as long as you break it up into bite-size chunks. Short sentences, short paragraphs, headlines, subheads, etc. My post above actually has paragraphs that are too long (I’m wondering if my formatting got weird as I transitioned from one word doc to another…)

      The other thing I remind my clients is that all your content is connected. So what starts as a long About page could be dispersed among your about page, your blog, and your autoresponder series.

      I can totally relate on the perfectionist stuff. Are you a planner too? Sometimes I get so caught up in the planning, I don’t start the doing. 😉

      1. LOL Yes, lots of planning and lists, and not a lot of action!

        Funny, I didn’t even notice that some of your paragraphs were kind of long, but now looking back over it, I see what you mean.

        I do think formatting gets screwed up sometimes when transferring from one document to another.

        Yes, I get the long post thing now and connecting everything. It all makes sense.

        Thanks for the reply!

  16. Great post! I loved the idea of getting things good enough and going with it. Then tweaking it as needed. And writing as if you are talking makes the site more conversational and welcoming. Thanks for the encouragement and tips!

    1. So many of my clients get totally paralyzed by perfection. And I can relate! But think of writing like cooking—you add a little here and there. It’s a process, so it’s okay to put something out there that’s not “just right.”

  17. Adrianne, this is a great and informative post! I tend to fall into the first camp of going back and tweaking my website copy once or twice per month. Also, good to do as one’s business evolves.

    The task of writing fresh copy can take me awhile. The biggest gem I took from what you shared is that “Copywriting is a conversation” If I can hold onto to the thought that I am writing my copy to have a chat with one reader that makes things so much simpler.

    I have a colleague who struggles with copywriting. He actually hates it so I am going to share your post with him.

    Thanks for the pearls of wisdom!

    Best regards,
    Michael

    1. Our businesses can evolve fast, so I agree it’s good to give your copy the once over on a regular basis.

      The conversation thing is interesting. Writing can feel introspective and one sided, but the person reading your words is “responding,” even if they don’t realize it. Questions will pop into their heads. They’ll smile knowingly to themselves if they can relate to you. People, especially online, are actually trying to connect. That’s why I love comments so much!

      Speaking of which, I hope your colleague leaves a comment! I’d love to hear his thoughts. Thanks so much for passing this along.

  18. Adrianne, I love how you break this down for us. Gareth’s comment made me think that it’s always good to get someone else’s eyes and opinions on what you are doing. And not just on your website, but on every piece of communication you are putting out there. Not only for proofing purposes, but to get your audience’s response and input. I know I’m scared to do this, but when I do, I always learn and find ways to improve. Great post! Thanks for contributing! Sue

    1. Good point, Sue. One thing that really sticks out to me when others read my work is that they remind me to highlight stuff that feels obvious to me. (Like emphasizing my writing style or what’s different about the way I think.)

      And you’re wise to emphasize more than just website copy. All content is connected (emails, opt-in offers, blog posts…), so it’s vital to create consistency—and allow pieces of content to influence each other—from a big picture standpoint.

      Thanks for the comment and kind words!

  19. Great post, Adrianne. I’m a writer and LOVE to write copy, but see the same struggles in many of my non-writer friends. I tell them, “STOP trying to sound smart. Just write it like you’re talking to a friend.” That helps….

    1. There’s something that happens when we start typing! This other voice takes over. Plus, it takes time to erase school and the corporate world. My worksheet helps people keep an ear out for the words and phrases that they use so often they’re blind to them. Those little nuggets help loosen up otherwise stiff copy.

      I hope your friends take you up on your advice! Sometimes I open Gmail, type “Hi [friend’s name]” and pretend I’m writing to them to tell them about my offer/thoughts/tips, etc. It helps!

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