5 copywriting myths that are hurting your website’s conversion power

Written by
Ally Willis

Are you happy with your website’s conversion rate? Your thriving email list makes your industry peers jealous? Leads are pouring in like springtime snowmelt waterfalls?


If that’s the case, you probably don’t need to read this blog post.


Buuuuut if your website’s conversion rate has room for improvement? One or more of the following copywriting myths may be hurting your conversion rate — and losing you leads.

In this article
  1. Taking the “people only skim” approach to copy is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you put minimal effort into your copy, you’ll produce boring, skim-worthy copy.
  2. Don’t let the lie of “shorter copy is better” lead your copy strategy. Let your voice of customer research and your offer be the determining factors in copy length.
  3. Copy first. Design second. Even with the sleekest site on the World Wide Web, if your copy is just drag-and-drop space filler, prospects will remain just that: prospects (and not clients).
  4. Research. Then write. Without research, your copy is just guesswork. And guesswork doesn’t bring in the big bucks.
  5. Brand voice and brand messaging are not the same. Brand voice is HOW you say something, while brand messaging is WHAT you say.

People only skim copy.

The “people only skim” myth is a major reason why companies are hesitant to invest in copy. Why pay when no one will actually read it?


But the “people only skim copy” myth can be a veiled excuse for the real culprit: your nap-inducing copy.


As this Copyhackers article points out, folks often refer to a Nielson Group study from the late 90s that showed the majority of participants only skimmed the copy. However, if you dive deeper into this study, you’ll realize that the chunks of copy respondents were asked to read are a straight-up snoozefest.


Like this line: “Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail.”


No wonder people skimmed it.


If your copy is doing its job — leading readers from one line to the next, preparing them to say yes to your call to action — it won’t be skim-worthy copy.


Another argument against the “people only skim copy” myth: humans make decisions differently.


Some prospects are fast-paced decision makers, ready to quickly say “I’M IN!” or “no thanks” to your offer. These prospects are more likely to skim your copy — which is why attention-grabbing, CAN’T-IGNORE-THIS headlines are the key for keeping those eyeballs engaged.


But not everyone has hummingbird-level decision-making reflexes.


Other prospects are slower-paced decision makers, reading through the entirety of a page before making a decision.


By believing that all prospects skim copy — and favoring those fast-paced decision-makers with your copy strategy — you’re ignoring an entire segment of potential clients. And that can cost you valuable leads.


Shorter copy is better.

Copy length is relative to both your user and your offer.


As this Copyhackers article notes:

“[Copy length] is a distraction from what’s actually important:


Forming a persuasive argument that gets your ideal visitors to take the next step in the customer journey.


Sometimes the most persuasive argument you can form is longer.


Sometimes it’s shorter.


But the length of the copy doesn’t cause visitors to convert or bounce.

So before you start slashing your word count to a thread-bare three lines of copy because “shorter is better…”


You need to consider your prospect:

  • Where are they on the customer journey?
  • What is their stage of awareness and level of purchase intent?
  • Are they a quick or slow decision maker?
  • Have they worked with you before?


All of these factors influence the messages a prospect needs to read in order to say “yes” to your offer. And that will influence copy length.


Your offer should influence copy length, too.


If a prospect can access a free e-book simply by entering their email address, then yes, shorter copy is better. That’s not a hard sell.


But if your service costs a pretty penny, strong conversion copy is essential to helping your prospect understand why hitting purchase on your offer is worth the investment. Six li’l lines of weak copy aren’t going to convince someone to hand over the big bucks.


Take this Macbook Pro sales page, for example. My quick page analysis shows 1500+ words of copy. And THIS is coming from A Very Big Brand Name.


Design first. Write copy second.

Designing a website first, then slotting in copy second, isn’t doing your conversion rate any favors.


After all, it is website copy — the communication of how your service or product can impact your prospect’s life — that ultimately makes the sale.


But wait! Don’t misread me.


Website design and performance are extremely important for establishing legitimacy while creating a seamless user experience.


After all, the majority of users do, in fact, judge a book by its cover. Or, in this case, a company by its website: 75% of website users admit to judging your company’s credibility based on your website design. [source]


So yes, wow-worthy website design is important to your prospect.


But design should come second to the establishment of the messages and copy your target audience needs to read in order to convert. And research should always guide message and copywriting strategy — not a design template.


Copywriting involves opening a blank Doc and following the creative muses into conversion-soaked greatness.

Sure, you could write copy that way. But that’s just guesswork.


And guesswork rarely brings in the big bucks.


Research is 80% of the conversion copywriting process. But it’s not only about understanding your company and trying to match your brand voice. A great conversion copywriter will also perform voice of customer research to determine the messages your prospects need to read in order to convert.


This involves customer interviews and surveys, competitor audits, testimonial and review mining, and more. It’s all about understanding the stated — and even subconscious — needs of your audience, so that you can directly address those needs in your copy.


Brand voice and brand messaging are the same.

A lot of companies have an established brand voice within a Brand Guide. However, many Brand Guides don’t go beyond voice. What’s missing altogether? Brand messaging.


And while brand voice and brand messaging are interrelated, they are not the same.


Brand voice is HOW you say something, while brand messaging is WHAT you say. Sure, you can repeat a non-converting message in a quirky voice all day long, but it won’t do your audiences any favors if it’s not speaking specifically to their felt pains and desired dream states.


Myths: debunked. Now it’s time to assess whether your website copy has fallen prey to any of these myths.

Want the eyes of an expert on your copy? We’ve got you.

Ally Willis is Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at Starling

With a background in conversion copywriting since 2017, she helps clients ask questions, analyze research, test theories, and dig through the results to create custom website optimization strategies.

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