When writing for the web, you need to put your best foot forward. Whether you’re writing a book, sales copy, documentation or blog post, you can’t afford to be lousy with your content.
If your readers aren’t having a great experience while consuming your content, they aren’t likely to come back, trust you, do business with you, or purchase whatever you’re selling.
While writing great content for the web contributes to the growth of your organization, embarrassing content writing mistakes lead to the exact opposite. They hurt your brand.
No matter how great your writing skills are, it is worth a few minutes to make sure that you’re not committing any of the mistakes outlined below. So here are the major errors you need to avoid, and guidelines on how the pros handle them.
Errors of Preparation
Writing for the web is never as simple as opening a blank document and typing your heart out until you’re done. You need a proper foundation to begin and produce correct work. And these mistakes prevent you from having this foundation.
Failing To Conduct Proper Research
Great writing is a result of excellent research. And yet one of the biggest blog writing mistakes newbies make is to ignore the research process.
Research Sources - No matter how well you know a subject, you can also find new information to incorporate in your writing. Pros read from multiple reliable sources before creating a piece of content.
This helps get a holistic view of the topic. When you do your research, make sure to cite credible research, books and articles. Refer to my guide to conduct thorough research. Other research strategies include:
Keyword research - Use a keyword research tool to discover the keywords readers use to search for the solution you’re offering in your content.
All you need are one or more seed keywords, and to run them through a keyword research tool.
Most keyword research tools show useful statistics like search volume, SEO difficulty, PPC competition and the top content ranking for those keywords.
If you don’t have the budget for a premium keyword tool, there are several free options available to use.
SERP Research - Analyze the top posts on search engine results pages and break them down to find out why they perform so well.
Using a tool like Surfer SEO is helpful as it gives you an overview of the content on the SERPs. It gives you data such as the length of the articles and the number of exact match keywords used.
Another important piece of data you can use from the SERPs is the “People also ask” box. This is a great place to get secondary keywords and relevant subheadings for your article.
Research helps you get new insights and gain a competitive edge. It also helps you get facts and statistics you can use to make your writing more authoritative.
Failing to Understand Your Audience
As much as you may enjoy writing (or simply need to write), one thing is sure - you write for your readers. This means every piece of content you write must focus on the reader.
People don’t read your content because of your excellent writing skills. They read because they’re looking for relevant information. To create relevant information, you must understand your audience.
Professional content writers don’t put the proverbial pen to paper until they research their target audience.
There are several ways you can use to dig deeper into the lives of your audience, identify their problems and get a deeper sense of who they are.
So study your audience to know what makes them tick. Understand their goals and pain points.
This is valuable information that will help you create content that your readers relate to.
Errors of Introduction
Your introduction is the most crucial part of your body copy. Well executed, it will hook your readers and compel them to read more of your content.
A poorly written introduction, on the other hand, will put readers off. In most cases, a reader lost is impossible to regain. And a reader lost is a prospect lost.
Once you’ve nailed your introduction, getting people to read the rest of your post becomes easy.
Intro is too lengthy
Once your introduction goes beyond 4 (short) paragraphs, it’s too long. Pros understand the importance and power of an introduction.
That’s why they get to the point with concise intros. Quickly introduce your topic to your readers and get into the rest of the post.
Intro doesn’t excite the reader
A weak introduction fails to show readers why they should read the rest of the post. It also fails to show the reader what the post is about.
Hook your readers by tugging at the pain point you want to address in your article. Cliffhangers are great for this, so make use of them in your introductions. Another way is to start with a statistic or interesting fact to pique interest.
Intro is too broad/generic
Another common mistake is to use generic facts which aren’t closely related to the topic you’re writing about.
For example, let’s say I want to include some interesting statistic or research study in the introduction part of this article that you’re reading right now.
Since the topic of this content is writing mistakes, it’d be great if I could find some research or survey results on things like:
- What the most frequent mistakes are
- How often writers make those mistakes
- How much time they spend on proofreading and correcting mistakes
- How mistakes affect reader perception or bottom line
Insights like these would be great because they directly relate to my topic. What’s not okay is trying to begin with generic statistics like how popular content writing is or how much content is being published everyday.
While broad facts are also interesting, they don’t add as much value to an intro as the specific insights directly related to the topic at hand. So whenever possible, try to find facts which are closer to your topic.
Errors of Content Body
Now that we’ve covered mistakes of preparation and introduction, the next part is errors writers make in the main part - the actual body of the copy.
Overwhelming Your Readers
One of the most common copywriting mistakes you’ll find from newbies is that they assume their audience knows the topic.
The reason they’re reading in the first place is that they need your help to understand the topic.
The pros understand that not all readers will be up to speed on what they’re talking about. So they explain all complex phrases, acronyms, and industry jargon the first time they introduce them in the content.
Speaking of jargon, this brings us to the next content writing mistake you should avoid at all costs.
Trying To Sound Too Clever
Ever had a conversation with a person who’s trying too hard to pass themselves as being clever and witty?
If you’re like most people, you endure the conversation out of politeness. With web writing, however, your readers won’t afford you that courtesy.
Besides making you sound pompous, using complicated words and terminology slows your readers down. And that can result in them getting distracted and leaving the page.
If your reader has to think twice about a word or phrase, you’re committing one of the biggest blogging mistakes on the planet.
Pro web writers eliminate words, sentences, and language that have any chance of forcing readers to make an extra cognitive effort to understand.
They keep their writing simple enough to be understood by a sixth-grader. To do this, you can use a tool like the Hemmingway App to help you check your content’s reading level.
To use Hemmingway, simply open the app in your web browser then copy and paste your content into the editor. It will then show you your readability level and how you can improve it.
Overemphasis On SEO
Everyone wants to write content that ranks well on the search engines. But the drive to rank can lead to one of the most damning content writing mistakes you can ever make.
Yes, I’m talking about writing for search engines and forgetting your readers. Over-optimizing your content is evidenced by keyword stuffing - especially unnatural keyword placement.
Here’s a classic example of keyword stuffing (courtesy of Google):
“We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The text doesn’t read naturally because the keyword “custom cigar humidors” is appearing everywhere - even in unnecessary places. Evidently, it was written for search engines, not people.
Pros create content for readers first. Reader-centric content focuses on providing value by meeting the reader’s needs and offering a good user experience.
Search engine optimization (important as it is) is secondary. This is especially important as Google has announced user experience will be a major ranking factor from 2021 onwards.
Writing Stale, Bland Content
There’s a lot of stale, boring content on the web. But let’s be honest here - most topics under the sun have been beaten to death.
In fact, according to data from Worldometers, over 6 million blog posts are published every day - on WordPress alone.
That means the topic you want to write on has probably already been published somewhere. And a grave blogging mistake many newbies make is to create cookie-cutter content. As you know, this kind of content is bland, stale, and boring.
Pros know that despite being a lot of content created around a particular topic, there’s always a way to make it stand out. And that way is adding personality and spunk to your content. A few ways to do that include:
- Adding your personal experiences
- Inject humor, sarcasm, or other personality traits
- Develop a unique writing voice
Doing this will help your readers feel like they’re having a pleasant conversation with a good friend. And that’s key to getting readers hooked on your content.
Another of the top blogging mistakes newbies make is to format their content like a page from Moby Dick.
If you’re like most people, when you encounter such blocks of text online, you quickly click away from the page.
The reason is simple - no one feels inspired to read large blocks of text. If anything, blocks of text are intimidating.
Another reason to watch your formatting is that readers often skim content - and research proves it.
That’s why you must be careful how you format every piece of content you write for the web. It must be easy to skim and light on the eyes.
Write short, punchy sentences. Paragraphs must be short - 3-4 sentences at most (yes, even one-line sentences are allowed). Use bullet points wherever relevant.
White space is your friend when it comes to writing for the web. So make sure to format your content in such a way that you have plenty of it.
Using Passive Voice
Writing in passive voice means making the object of the narrative the subject instead. This is another of the most common blog writing mistakes newbies make. Need an example?
Passive: The apples were eaten by Dave.
Active: Dave ate the apples.
Passive voice weakens your writing. It takes the pace out of your writing. And for marketers and entrepreneurs, it can make the difference between a conversion and a bounce.
On the other hand, the active voice makes your writing more interesting as the pace of the narrative is fast. It inspires action from your readers - and can increase the chances of them taking you up on your offer.
So when writing for the web, determine the actor and the subject in your narrative. Identify sentences that have a form of “to be” (is, are, am, was, has, etc.) used in conjunction with a past participle
Besides slowing down your narrative, passive voice can also lead to confusion. Avoid it like the plague.
Errors Of The Conclusion
The conclusion is probably the most ignored part of writing for the web. Many writers think it’s not that important.
Or by the time they reach the ending, they just want to be done with it. So in a rush, the conclusion paragraph gets botched up.
Concluding On A Weak Note
Your conclusion should encourage the readers to follow through on what they just read.
Take your readers through the promised land. Show how their life or work will change as a result of following the points you shared in your content.
Highlight the main benefits and remove any remaining obstacles preventing them from taking action.
Not Tying Things Up
Your content or copy must surely have a point or purpose before you started writing, right? Else why would you be writing it?
So you should be able to sum up that theme of your content in a couple paragraphs. Summarize in such a way that your readers are reminded how much value they got from your piece and what they’re taking away.
Make it quick. Focus only on two or 3 major points you penned about. Don’t make the mistake of writing everything that’s already been covered.
Not Having A Call To Action
If you won’t direct readers on what to do next once they’re done reading, their next step could just be to leave and forget.
So direct their attention to increase engagement and conversions. Show them what else they might like to read, ask them to leave a comment, or share your content on social media.
However, remember not to overwhelm them with too many options. Based on your content goals, pick a main call to action, and a secondary call to action.
Then place these CTAs near your content in such a way that your main CTA gets more attention, followed by the next.
Let’s face it - no one is perfect. Mistakes are common. However, that’s no excuse for creating content riddled with them.
Learn to catch common content writing mistakes early. This will help you correct them and step closer to achieving writing perfection.
Use this post as a checklist to ensure that every piece of content you produce is error-free.
Did I miss anything? Did you try these tips? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.