What’s the quickest way to tear down your marketing efforts? Bad copywriting.
It may be tempting to cut corners with marketing materials, but copywriting isn’t something you can afford to take lightly. Poor-quality copy isn’t just going to turn customers away — it could do irreparable damage to a brand.
From overly complex sentences to awkwardly formatted text, bad copywriting is something that sticks with a brand’s reputation for years to come. After all, once something is published, it can’t be unpublished.
So how do you identify bad marketing copy? Let’s explore examples of bad copywriting you should avoid at all costs, as well as the copywriting techniques you should be using instead to craft compelling, persuasive, and targeted content that gets real results.
What Is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the backbone of marketing. The definition of copywriting is the process of writing persuasive text that motivates people to take a specific action.
There are a few differences in copywriting that fall under the same definition, like blog writing, content writing, and social media writing. However, any kind of writing that markets a product, service, or concept can be considered copywriting.
Think of copywriting as a call-to-action, but for your whole brand. Examples of great copywriting can make people think and feel more deeply about your brand and how it might fit into their lives or solve their problems. The ultimate goal of copy is to get people to respond and enter your marketing funnel, whether that's typing your brand name into a search engine to learn more or clicking on a 'sign up' link for a free trial.
Importance of Copywriting in Your Content Strategy
No matter how carefully you strategize, your marketing efforts will fall short if you don’t have the compelling copy to go with it.
Whether it’s a product description or a landing page, good copywriting is what makes your marketing work. The right piece of content builds an emotional connection with potential customers and presents the brand as a solution to their most pressing problems.
Beyond the quality of the writing itself, a good copywriter also has the SEO knowledge to make content go further than ever before. Powerful keyword and linking strategies can improve your content's ranking on Google’s search engine, leading to more eyes on your brand.
Examples of Bad Copywriting You Should Avoid
The difference between good copy and bad copy can be as simple as a misplaced comma or apostrophe. Or it can be something as big as an offensively bad tweet that goes viral across the Internet. Whether big or small, a copywriting mistake can linger on the internet for a long time, as well as in the minds of your target customers.
Here are the top 10 examples of copywriting mistakes you can't afford to make.
1. Making False or Misleading Claims
Good copywriting is about more than just making a product or service look good. It’s important to build trust with your audience. And that trust can only survive if you put honesty and transparency first in your writing.
Statements like “Join millions of other customers who have experienced the amazing results” can come across as posturing and exaggerating — even if it's true. Even something as simple as “results guaranteed” or “risk-free investment” might make customers raise an eyebrow.
That doesn’t mean you should highlight a product’s flaws. But if you’re making claims about something that isn’t backed by evidence, that can seriously hurt the brand in the long run. Not only do misleading claims break trust with customers, but they can also make a brand look shady and deceptive.
2. Using Jargon or Technical Terms That Your Prospective Customers Won’t Understand
If someone has to consult a dictionary to understand your writing, chances are, they won’t bother reading it at all. Complex words, niche jargon, and technical terms your customers won’t understand are the quickest way to turn them away from your content.
For example, think about a statement like “Marketing automation and ROI effectiveness solutions designed to maximize the performance of your campaigns.” It may not be inaccurate, but it’s cluttered with buzzwords and unnecessarily complex language. Even if your target audience already understands keywords like “automation” and “ROI,” it’s not easy or pleasant to read.
3. Making Typos or Grammatical Errors
Even the smallest mistakes can have an impact on your marketing success. A typo may seem minor, but it can have a ripple effect that impacts the entire brand’s reputation.
A heartfelt social media post for Mother’s Day could backfire for a brand if they misspell a keyword, like “This day is for all the mothers out their.” Instead of meaningful engagement for the brand, you’ll get a flood of comments correcting the spelling mistake. And while one typo can’t ruin a whole business, it still reflects poorly on the professional image and reliability of a brand.
4. Being Too Aggressive or Pushy
Copywriting should speak to your customers, but it shouldn’t push too hard. If the tone comes across as aggressive or direct, it can be an immediate turn-off for customers. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being lectured into buying something.
For example, a course advertised with “This course is the only way you’ll succeed in business” may not have the intended impact. Instead of feeling inspired, customers may feel like they’re being pushed or manipulated into making a purchase.
5. Not Addressing Your Target Audience’s Pain Points
Copywriting should consider the whole customer — inside and out. Their pains, needs, motivations, and frustrations are the foundation of compelling content.
For example, consider a brand selling innovative marketing technology. Focusing only on what the brand offers (services, features, etc.) isn’t going to be enough to convince someone to take a risk on the brand. Instead, they should address why the customer needs the product or service, like taking manual marketing operations off their hands or improving the reach of their marketing campaigns.
6. Not Being Persuasive
At its core, copywriting is all about persuasion. So when a piece of copywriting content lacks a persuasive edge, it won’t pack the punch you need to catch someone’s attention, let alone convince them to take the next step.
As a bad business writing example, consider a cannabis company that boasts: “We work hard to bring the best possible bud to our customers.” The emphasis on “we” and “our," along with the generic messaging, does nothing to persuade the customer of anything. It takes customer-focused copy — delivering a targeted message to “you” — to truly inspire motivation.
7. Use of Vague and Confusing Language
If your copywriting isn’t clear, concise, and easy to understand, there’s a good chance your customers aren’t going to be inspired. If it’s confusing enough, they may not even give it more than a glance.
As a bad advertisement example, let’s consider the tagline. A marketing tagline is something quick and snappy, like Nike’s famous “Just Do It.” But what if a brand is too vague or confusing with its messaging? For example, a car advertisement that says: “Experience Amazing.” What exactly is this car delivering? And what does “amazing” actually look or feel like? The messaging is unclear and will leave your readers with far more questions than answers.
8. Not Using an Effective Call to Action (CTA)
It’s safe to say that almost all copywriters are familiar with the CTA or call-to-action. But a truly powerful and effective CTA is hard to do right.
A copy example of a bad CTA could be something dry and boring, like: “Buy now to experience what we have to offer.” It lacks urgency and doesn't give a specific reason why the reader should take action.
Or it could present far too many options for actions to take, leaving customers confused, like in this example: “To learn more about our grief counseling service, explore our website or download our grief counseling resource today. Or you can visit us in person for a free consultation.”
9. Using Clichés or Overused Phrases
Even professional writers are vulnerable to using clichés or overused phrases. But giving in to these temptations could be holding back the quality of your writing.
Overused words and phrases can make the copy feel dull, repetitive, and hard to read. Some of the most outdated clichés could even have readers rolling their eyes. For example, phrases like “go the extra mile,” “we’re pioneers in the industry,” or “we turn your dreams into a reality” might not have the effect on readers that they would have decades ago. These phrases don’t feel fresh or new anymore and could even make your writing feel dull and dated.
10. Not Testing Your Copy Before the Release
Even if you do everything right, not every copywriting campaign will connect with audiences. That’s why it’s so important to test your copy before a release.
Copy testing is a kind of market research where brands can collect consumer feedback on the likely success of an ad. Ads that do well with readers move on to launch, while ads that miss the mark go back to the editing table. This is your chance to fix typos, hone your persuasive writing, and change that crucial “we” to “you.”
Ignite Action and Fuel Engagement With Effective Copywriting
Looking at good copywriting examples isn’t always enough. Sometimes it’s the worst examples of copywriting ads that teach us the most critical lesson — what not to do.
At the end of the day, the perfect writer doesn’t exist. Despite our best efforts, some errors are bound to slip through the cracks. But once you know what to look for, these common copywriting mistakes can be easy to spot and even easier to fix.
Is a lack of quality content holding you back? Leave awkward and lackluster writing behind with Compose.ly. Our team of expert copywriters will help you craft thoughtful, compelling, and persuasive content that gets real results. Learn more about our copywriting services or get a sample to see for yourself.