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4 serious copywriting mistakes most writers make

Do you feel your copywriting has lost its edge? Like your content is falling on deaf ears? If your copy isn’t getting results, you may be making one of these serious (but very common) mistakes.

Mistakes are a necessary part of learning any craft, including copywriting. If you’re not getting results from your copywriting, first of all, don’t panic. There is a learning curve. Second of all, remember there is always room for improvement, no matter how experienced you are. 

Here, our team share some of the major copywriting mistakes they’ve made—and learnt from.

Copywriting mistake 1: Writing about what interests you, not what interests your target audience

We estimate about 90% of marketing teams are making this mistake, especially in small businesses with limited research budgets. Most marketing teams have some sort of content plan, but precious few have a truly customer-driven content plan.

As a marketer, it’s easy to get caught up in the drive to fill your social media channels with… anything, as long as there’s lots of it. We’ve seen it time and time again. There’s a lot of pressure on marketers to “post at least once a day” and “email at least once a week”. So there simply isn’t time to stop and think about what your target audience actually wants.

But, as you’ll soon find out, one piece of relevant content will make a bigger impact on your bottom line than 100 pieces of irrelevant content.

As a copywriter, you may be spilling over with creative ideas about what to write, and that’s great! But unless your audience is front of mind at all times, all that creative work will be for nothing.  

Your job as a copywriter is not to generate as much content as possible as quickly as possible (even though it often feels that way). No, your job as a copywriter is to defend and uphold an audience’s right to relevant, interesting and valuable content.

Copywriting mistake 2: Writing about what you think interests your target audience, not what actually interests them

How does “customer-driven marketing” actually work? For most marketing teams, it goes like this: Sketch out a profile (usually a list of demographics) that fits your highest spending customers. Then, using a combination of empathy and imagination, create content that “person” is likely to be interested in.

But empathy and imagination can only get you so far. There are countless stories of companies thinking they know what customers want and getting it wrong. Really wrong.

So you need to talk to your customers and find out what actually interests them. Send out surveys, chat on social media or have a face-to-face conversation where possible.

These conversations will get you closer to the truth. But to quote Steve Jobs, “People don’t know what they want.” So make sure your findings are backed up by data. 

To truly understand your target audience, you need to be watching what they do, not just what they say. And thanks to the internet, everything they do leaves a data trail. The data doesn’t lie.

Every business, no matter how small, has data. Today’s marketing software churns out more data than we can humanly handle. But rarely is it put to good use. 

So if you want your copywriting to be effective, you need to be obsessed with data. You need to be looking at likes, opens, time on page, comments, shares, and overall engagement levels.  

All the time.

Copywriting mistake 3: Not tracking your results

We’ve spoken to a lot of copywriters in our time, and it’s alarming how few of them actually track their results. 

And hey, we get it. Copywriters are in high demand. We’re usually piled high with content to write and don’t have time to track it all. And as a freelance copywriter, you probably can’t even see the results of your content because you give it all over to the client.

Still, this is where you need to start advocating for your audience. The next time you get a brief to write “five more articles on this topic”, ask your client how the last few articles on that topic performed. Ask them what their best and worst-performing pieces of content were. And use that information to guide the content strategy.

One of our copywriters sets reminders to follow up with clients a month after submitting her work to ask how it performed. And her clients really appreciate that. They’ve started included her in content strategy, not just production, which she can charge a higher rate for.

Copywriting mistake 4: Not learning from your results

We’ve all been to marketing meetings where last month’s results are shared but the content strategy continues unchanged. Perhaps it has to do with habit: once our marketing tactics have become routine, it’s hard to change them. Perhaps we feel we don’t have the time to reconsider our strategy, because our goals are quantity-based, not quality-based. 

But being an effective copywriter means being willing to adapt your techniques whenever needed. You have the data. Use it to guide your writing. If you see a certain angle isn’t resonating, drop it and try something else.

This is surprisingly difficult to do, especially when you have months of content scheduled out and ready to go. Or if you’ve become particularly attached to it.

But at the end of the day, it’s worth the extra effort. Listening to your customers, whether in-person or through surveys, online forums and hard data, is always worth the extra effort. Because it means you won’t be shooting in the dark anymore. You’ll be hitting the target right away. And you’ll get amazing results.

We hope these four points help you create more effective content and succeed as a copywriter. There’s so much to experiment with and learn from. Enjoy the journey!