8 (Easily Avoidable) Ways to Lose Your Prospect’s Trust

Image of

Let’s imagine I arrive at your site — or Google your company — and I’ve got my credit card on the desk in front of me: I’m ready to buy.

But, after a few minutes (or, more likely, a few seconds) I close the browser and make myself a cup of tea … without buying a thing.

I was ready to give you my money. But something I saw on your site gave me serious doubts.

What was it? And how do you fix it?

Here are eight ways to lose my trust, and that of many of your potential customers.

Mistake #1: Writing for search engines instead of people

Online content that’s clearly aimed at search engines, not at customers, is hugely off-putting. It’s also counter-productive: SEO isn’t about keyword-stuffing any more (and hasn’t been for close to a decade).

If you have text on your site that reads anything like this …

Our coffee mugs come in several sizes; we have small coffee mugs, medium coffee mugs and large coffee mugs. If you’re looking for a special coffee mug, we’re sure to have a coffee mug to suit you.

… then customers are going to notice, and head elsewhere. Plus, Google and other search engines may well penalize you for it.

Get smart, learn how to create compelling content that ranks well in search engines and works for human readers.

Mistake #2: Wildly exaggerating the benefits of your product

Have you ever come across a sales page that went a bit too far? Maybe it promised that you could earn thousands of dollars surfing the web for an hour a day, or claimed that a revolutionary new diet could add decades to your life.

While some customers may be a little naive, you should never take advantage of that fact. Ever.

And, even if people do go ahead and buy, they’ll probably be disappointed to find that what they’ve bought doesn’t live up to the expectations you created. If you’ve ever seen a pretty good movie that’s been ridiculously over-hyped, you’ll know what a disappointment that can be.

As Sonia Simone has so simply and wisely stated about writing copy for the web (or anywhere else):

Remove all hype.

Mistake #3: Not delivering what you say you will

If an email signup page promises a twice-monthly newsletter, that’s what your potential customer will expect to receive, and that’s exactly what you should deliver.

When they sign up, hoping for a few handy tips, they won’t be pleased if they find they’ve let themselves in for near-daily sales pitches, with an occasional scrap of useful content.

If they can’t trust you to deliver on a small promise like this, they won’t trust you on anything else. They’ll unsubscribe — and they won’t be back.

Email marketing is the most powerful tool that content producers can use. Don’t abuse it.

Mistake #4: Getting into online fights

It’s upsetting to receive a bad review or a negative comment. If you’re ever tempted to respond in anger, ask yourself whether you’d want your response displayed on a billboard outside your business.

Berating a customer (however unreasonable they’re being) is a sure way to lose them — and anyone else reading. Your Facebook page, Twitter feed and blog comments are an open forum.

And Google has a loooong memory: your angry rant at a disgruntled customer two years ago might still show up when people search for reviews of your service.

Think twice before unleashing your frustrations publicly, even if you’re convinced they’re justified.

Mistake #5: Using shady sales techniques

If you’re doing content marketing right, you won’t need deception or trickery to build a great business. And, to be clear, those tactics never built anything of true value anyway.

High-pressure, high-manipulation sales copy is an instant turn-off for many internet-savvy shoppers. The same goes for fake “countdown” closing dates for a discount — the kind that automatically reset themselves every time the reader reloads the page.

Overblown testimonials (especially ones with just initials — no name, photo, or link) will count against you too.

A good check is to look at your sales page yourself. Would you trust it? Would you be proud to show it to your mom?

Mistake #6: Going cheap on content creation

It takes time to produce great content — time that you might feel you don’t have. So you head over to Fiverr or elance, and get a bunch of posts, tweets and Facebook updates written as cheaply as possible.

Cheap content shows. It reflects poorly on you and on your business.

If you’re not very confident about your writing, or if you feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea of producing the kind of content that builds a valuable audience … relax, and check out MyCopyblogger.

Mistake #7: Plastering your site with ads

When a customer comes to your site, they’re looking to buy from you. Sending those people away for the sake of a few measly cents in advertising revenue — or even a few bucks — is a bad move.

In some circumstances, it’s appropriate to run ads: maybe you do website design and you advertise hosting companies. If at all possible, though, hand-pick your ads — don’t let Google Ads or another service provide them.

You may end up endorsing (in the eyes of your customer) someone who you really don’t want to be associated with — or you may find that you’re promoting a direct competitor.

More importantly, you’re selling off your precious audience’s attention for very little return. Much better to know them well, and then build and sell them the products or services they want yourself.

Own every pixel on your site.

Mistake #8: Ignoring typos and mistakes

Typos, spelling mistakes, and poor grammar create a bad impression. No customer wants to buy from a company that makes sloppy mistakes.

It is hard to catch everything — but make sure that crucial pages like your home page, About page, Contact page, and landing pages are triple-checked for errors.

Make sure you avoid common mistakes: check out 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly for ones to steer clear of.

I’m sure you’re avoiding most of these already — but you might want to bookmark this as a handy checklist to help you next time you’re writing a blog post, crafting a sales page, sending out a newsletter, or simply updating your website.

Over to you …

Have you ever been put off from buying because a company made one of these mistakes?

Or have you got something else to add to the list?

Let us know in the comments …

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (71)

  1. says

    “Cheap content shows. It reflects poorly on you and on your business. ”

    Agreed. A $5 article is going to read like a $5 article, no matter how much you try to dress is up. As the old adage goes you have to spend money to make money and one of the most important places to spend money is on your content! That is what is going to convince someone to buy.

    • says

      Exactly, Nick. It saddens me to see content being reduced to the level of a cheap commodity, when it’s such a vital marketing tool.

    • says

      Got to disagree with you here, Nick. I did manage to score a few amazing articles for $5 each from some sellers on Fiverr, one of which I published on my site recently and it sticks out as a great-quality article. The trick is to choose sellers carefully. Whenever I can, however, I try to produce all content myself.

  2. says

    Mistake #4 is so important & sometimes very hard to do. The spectacular online flame-out of Amy’s Baking Company is practically a case-study in how NOT to market your business!

  3. says

    All good stuff Ali.

    I particularly hate point number 5. The minute I see that big long page, which scrolls on forever and has about 20 boxes saying ‘you must buy this now’ interspersed with ‘genuine reviews’ saying how amazing the product is I click my browser’s back button quicker than you can say spammy dodger.

    Actually, that’s another bug bear of mine. When I do click the back buton, or try and close the tab and get an irritating ‘are you sure you want to close this page’ javascript pop up box. These people deserve to be force fed custard creams until they explode.

    Although, the frustrating thing is… I guess it must still work. People must still be falling for all the overblown superlatives and fawning fake reviews otherwise they would change tactic.

    It’s a bit like phishing scams I guess. Someone, somewhere must still believe they have a great uncle in Nigeria that’s left them $50,000,000 after their sudden death in a flymo accident and all they have to do is send their bank account details, address and name of their first pet. Actually, these people probably deserve to be scammed…

    Anyway, I’m off on a tangent – good post!

    • says

      Good points – particularly the long rambles of selly sell text interspersed with “genuine” reviews. Grrr.

      Your custard cream punishment sounds ideal… But perhaps digestives would be more of a deterrent….

      Great post as ever Copyblogger! Thanks Ali.

    • says

      David, I’m absolutely with you on what I think of as “wait, please don’t go!” boxes — they look desperate, and they make me even more likely to stick with my decision to never go back to that site.

      You’re right that it must work on some people — though goodness knows how many prospects the sellers must have to reach in order to get a few who’ll buy. Sadly, I suspect it works best on people who are (a) not very internet-savvy and (b) desperately keen to believe the hype.

      Glad you liked the post!

  4. says

    This is a great article Ali,

    I absolutely agree with #6. It is kind of like buying your grades, you may pass but you didn’t earn it. There are so many other ways to get your voice heard, it is best to always be authentic.

  5. says

    Good stuff. Point #8 is very obvious, but all too frequently overlooked. I’m always amazed by the amount of websites that are littered with basic spelling errors and typos. If I see a site like that, I’m immediately put off.

    After all, as a consumer, you want to be sure that the company in question is capable of providing a high standard of service or a top-quality product, whatever that may be. But if they can’t even get the basics right on their own website, can you really depend on them? Are they reliable enough to deliver?

    Probably not, because this sloppiness and poor attention to detail could well be present in the products/services they’re selling. (I think I’ve read through this post approximately 146 times now to check for errors… because if there are any, I’m going to look like a right old… )

    • says

      Thanks, Nick! I agree #8 is really obvious — sadly, it’s often the obvious things that people don’t ever get round to doing.

      Errors can and do creep in (had to correct one on my own site yesterday, after a kind reader alerted me to it — how embarrassing!) — but some sites are absolutely riddled with silly mistakes. As you say, it doesn’t create much confidence about the quality of the service / product being sold.

  6. says

    Thanks Ali… I am in total agreement with all of these, mostly #5 and, #7. There is nothing worse than bad marketing habits mixed in with a site I can find no REAL help on because of all the ads! I hate that crap….argh. I guess this is why I come here to learn more about generating quality traffic through quality content…even though I am not the best writer in the world…

    • says

      David, just from reading your comment, I can assure you that you’re a much better writer than plenty of business people on the internet!

      Generating quality traffic sometimes gets overlooked too, in favor of “going viral” and getting a ton of poorly-targeted hits — thanks for mentioning that one. :-)

    • says

      I agree. I came to the site to consume content, to get a question answered or have a problem solved. When they hit me with a pop up before I have had a chance to read is annoying.

    • says

      I really don’t like them either — so many blogs are using them for newsletters, and it puts me off. If I like the blog, I’ll grin and bear it, but I do wish they’d cut it out!

      (I realize that bloggers are only doing it because statistics show a big increase in sign-ups — but I wonder if the cost of people who never go back is ever considered?)

  7. says

    Great post – thanks.

    I don’t think I’m in danger of making mistake #2 to be honest as I think I tend to have the opposite problem – I guess that’s a confidence thing. I’m into writing books as well as freelance writing for clients and I think it can be difficult for some writers to sell their own skills effectively. Perhaps I’m just much more shy than I thought! I have an eBook coming out soon so hope to tread that fine line very carefully when my sales page goes up.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    • says

      Kirsty, I find marketing myself / my own products tough too — maybe it’s a British thing! (I see you’re based in London — I’m in Oxford.)

      I find it helps to focus on what I can do for the client (how I can help, what they’ll get, etc) — that way, it feels less like I’m bragging.

      Good luck with the upcoming eBook. :-)

  8. says

    Hi, Ali! Great list! Of course, I especially like Mistake #6: Going cheap on content creation. I am so glad that key-word-stuffing is out now! I love Mistake #8: Ignoring typos and mistakes. Whoever designs a universal spell check for the Internet will make a fortune, but everyone knows that spell check only goes so far!

    • says

      Thanks Heidi! I’m really glad that keyword stuffing is no longer the way to go. The internet doesn’t need more dross!

      I love Chrome’s built-in spell-checker — really helpful for tweets, Facebook updates, blog comments, etc. :-)

  9. says

    Great reminders!

    I’m put off by hype. If something seems to good to be true, it probably is.

    I’m also not a big fan of messy websites and/or websites that make you feel as if you’re in a maze. I like to get from Point A to Point B in the quickest amount of time possible. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, I click-off and find another website.

    • says

      Great point on making it easy to get from A to B, Amandah. Some websites go too far in trying to be cute / clever. I hate Flash intros (though haven’t seen many in the last year or two — perhaps they’re on their way out) and I really don’t like navigation based on symbols or pictures…

    • Shayne Rees says

      I’ve found hype seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

      If the beholder is the product or sales manager, what everyone sees as hype they often see as underselling the ‘ground-breaking, world class, market leading etc etc’ benefits their particular product/service offers the potential customer.

      Like the post!

  10. says

    All the points in this article are so true! One thing that annoys me is broken links. I think it’s because it makes me feel disappointed that I couldn’t get the info I wanted to see. It’s kind of like how bad grammer looks sloppy – broken links are such a wasted opportunity!

    • says

      Fab addition, Veronica — links are a tough one because they might stop working a couple of months or a couple of years after the content linking to them was first published.

      (And that reminds me that I need to go through my own blog and weed out some broken links…!)

  11. says

    Number 4 happens a lot more often than you might think, even among professionals who should know better. It is always better to bow out when you see a fight coming. Even if you’re sure you’re right, you’ll still risk looking like a fool if you engage in a public argument.

    • says

      Absolutely, Malinda. I’ve seen some absolute train-wrecks of conversations in comments / Facebook / forums … and sometimes from professionals who I’d really have expected better of. It’s always a bit of an eye-opener!

  12. says

    #4 is quite unreal. We are human. We anger. But you have the internet at your disposal, meaning, you can get up, walk away and return to your computer.

    Or you can close a window. Never respond when angry. If you feel angry, and cannot seem to let the thing go, ignore the request. Better to get on with your life and let the person stew than spend HOURS worrying, getting upset, or annoyed, in working through a proper response.

    Release, and find customers who appreciate your work.


  13. Archan Mehta says


    It has been a long sojourn, but what a nice feeling to see you again on this fab blog. Welcome back and thanks for your latest post: I enjoyed reading it.

    I think when you are a writer, brevity is key. I do not like reading, for example, wordy sentences on a website: it puts me off and it is distracting.

    These days, hyperbolic ads have become a fact of life. How many times have we come across a product or a service that was hyped over the counter but failed to deliver on its promise during crunch time?

    You really need to earn the trust of your customers. If they feel let down, they will not return. They will take their business elsewhere. A lot of customers have cottoned on to “snake-oil salesmen” and have become cynical about the next great sell. You can’t fool them anymore. Cheers.

    • says

      Archan, it’s lovely to be back here on Copyblogger. Thanks for your warm welcome. :-)

      I do agree with you about brevity: sometimes, writers genuinely need a lot of words to make their point — but I often come across writing online that would be hugely improved by being cut by 25% or so.

  14. says

    Mistake number eight keeps me in business. Haha.

    The problem with ignoring typos and mistakes is that potential clients don’t usually speak up about how a grammatical error or poor writing is the reason they didn’t buy. Also, by the time the business owner does find out that this is something that’s driving customers away, they’ve already lost so many potential sales.

    Anyway, I loved this list and am glad to see that my service isn’t committing any of these mistakes! :)


    • says

      Lauren, I’m glad someone benefits from all the typos on the web! :-)

      That’s a really good point about potential clients not speaking up. If I spot a typo on a friend’s site, I’ll point it out (quietly, by email / DM) — but if I go to a site for the first time and typos put me off buying, it’s unlikely I’ll leave feedback.

      There was an interesting piece going round a couple of years back about the business cost of spelling mistakes on websites: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14130854

  15. says

    This whole list is great and they are all very important rules to follow.

    My addition to the list would be to “Never Assume.”

    Pre-qualifying prospects on any criteria can instantly kill a sale. No one likes to be judged and if you assume that someone doesn’t want or can’t afford your product you might as well say goodbye.

    Number 4: I love the perspective check of comparing your online comments to posting them on a billboard outside of your business. GREAT thought. If more people followed this rule, we would have less virtual bickering.


  16. says

    At some point I was put off by every single one of these mistakes.

    But what never stops amazing me is the ads on a business website – I mean, seriously? Are you THAT desperate to get a few extra bucks? It’s like putting somebody else’s ad banner on the wall of your office…

    Also, I’m a bit suspicious about businesses that don’t provide any other contact info except a contact form (present company excepted:)). Not even phone number or skype. Does that mean they have something to hide?

    • says

      I agree on the ads — and it happens on some really quite major sites, too!

      Interesting point about contact forms. Sometimes, I think it’s because businesses are pretty small and don’t want to or can’t provide someone at the end of a phone line consistently during office hours. I’m not a mad fan of contact forms, though, and I’d prefer at least the option of an email address.

  17. says

    Great post Ali!

    Definitely things to keep in mind when writing sales pages/letters and just blog writing in general. I love Sonia’s quote about removing the hype because I think it’s a bit off putting nowadays when customers seem to becoming more wary of scams.

    I’ll certainly be referring back to this post in the near future :)

    Jake Johnson

    • says

      Thanks, Jake! I think people have (rightly) become a bit jaded about hype. There’s one particular product-creator whose work I love, but whose sales pages are all yellow highlighter and scammy looking … whenever I point people to her stuff, I feel I need to tell them to ignore the sales page!

  18. says

    This is a great article. I’ve clicked the close button many times especially on the long hard sells.. have those ever worked?

    The comment about testimonials really hit home for me. I had one customer who said (about my testimonials) oh I never know if they’re really real or if someone just wrote them themselves. My testimonials are real but how can I promote them without them seeming spammy? Any tips or suggestions?

    • says

      I try to link mine to the website or Twitter account of the person giving the testimonial — though that obviously only works if they’ve got an online presence. I also include photos of the individual (with their permission). Could one or both of those maybe work for you?

      Would love to hear what other Copyblogger readers suggest, too!

  19. says

    Mistake #7 is something I see ALL of the time. You are dead-on about how excessive ads kills trust and the sale…sending their attention elsewhere.

    I find that even ONE poorly placed ad can work against you as well. Basically anything that causes the person to click off of your site and/or away from the “sales funnel.”

    Good post!

    • says

      I’m OK with non-stop list posts as long as they’re genuinely useful — but I’d certainly agree it’s good to mix things up from time to time.

  20. says

    A very timely article. As a fledgling print journalist I was always taught to write and edit from the p.o.v. of the prospective reader and constantly ask the question “would this be interesting to me?” An adaptation of this strategy seems to work well on the web.

  21. Jen says

    GREAT post Ali!

    For me, #2 is so critical. Trust is completely blown when you start reading stuff you know is hyped up. People are smart. Marketers need to write to prospects just like they’d write to their friends – with honesty and a genuine interest in helping them solve problems and get results they’re looking for.

    Thanks and I hope all is going well for you!


  22. says

    Very interesting, I think a couple of the mistakes contradict with how I feel about writing my own blog. I have horrible grammar yet I like to keep it real. But the other stuff I understand, I also think avoiding religion and politics too to avoid online fights…

    • says

      Jackie, I’m willing to be a bit relaxed about grammar so long as what you’re doing is easy to read. :-) (Some people get very hung up on grammatical “rules” at the expense of actually writing like a human being…)

      I agree with you that controversial issues are best left out (unless, of course, you have a blog about religion or politics)!

  23. says

    Ali, these are great points to check our sites against. I know I’m especially put off by websites that are plastered with Google ads. Especially if the ad is placed in the middle of blog posts. With that in mind, I want to be sure I’m not unknowingly putting off any of my prospects. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    • says

      Thanks, Roz — and by all means use this as a checklist! I agree about Google ads: I’m fine with them on small blogs but they really don’t have any place on a business’ site.

  24. says

    What bugs me as a consumer AND a marketing professional is clicking thru an email to a landing page that DOES NOT OFFER WHAT WAS PROMISED in the email. The most irritating bait ‘n switch ever. Do they think we’re total idiots?

    • says

      I’m lucky enough to have avoided email lists that do this, but that would be highly likely to have me clicking “unsubscribe”…

  25. says

    Mistake #3 resonated with me tonight, because I have a note to myself to write a post about promises broken.

    Yesterday I decided to check out one of my competitors – a fellow real estate copywriter. He promised samples – even has a tab on the page entitled “Samples,” but when you get there, you get a song and dance.

    He says his writing is so superior that he can’t put samples out for all to see – because his competitors would steal his work. So in order to see a sample of how he writes, you have to opt in.

    In my book, that’s a promise broken.

    I didn’t opt in, so I’ll never know what kind of real estate letters he writes, but some of the typos, etc. on the page had already told me the story.

    • says

      How frustrating, Marte — and I completely agree that this is a form of broken promise. A few months back, I was trying to hire a magician for a friend’s party — NO magicians seem to have any indication of their rates on their websites. Even when I found helpful-sounding posts like “what does a good magician charge?” or “my rates” it was all about why it’s impossible to give a standard rate. Really irritating!

  26. says

    Mistake #4 really gets to me. I see that a lot in forums and I don’t understand why people let negative words consume them. Mistake #2 is hilarious.. it’s like trying to hard to make a point that it makes you second guess…

  27. says

    These are all common sense suggestions which not only should be followed, but should be referred to on a regular basis as a friendly reminder.

    • says

      They’d make a handy checklist! I’m sure most Copyblogger readers aren’t guilty of many of them — but it’s easy to slip up (or to accidentally copy some dodgy marketing tactics).

  28. says

    #1 is the best on the list in my opinion! I see too many newbie bloggers these days who write each one of their blogs to benefit search engines. A blog should be written like a conversation between two human beings is going on. Blog to readers not at them and always think of them before search engines. I mean in the end, even when performing SEO tactics, we are doing this to gain more human traffic so its important to make them our main priority at all times.

    • says

      Shawn, you’re absolutely right — I think bloggers sometimes get hung up on SEO and forget that (if the SEO actually works!) a real live human being will be reading the content too.

  29. says


    I agree on every word. I want to add a little story of my own as a buyer and another one as a seller. There is one application I am literally in love with that I use for every aspect of my own marketing efforts. I think it’s well worth twice the price I paid it, but I was just about not to buy it because the authors did many of the mistakes that you mention in your post.

    First, their website is full of hype claiming that the app can build a business on auto-pilot, which is obviously not true, and secondly they use a fake counter to try to convince people who download the demo to buy it. Rather than having me buy the damn thing, I concluded that it had to be rubbish and ran away from their site without thinking twice about it. I did buy, in the end, because a person I trusted assured me that it was legit.

    Moral of the story is this: the hype, the lies, shady sales techniques and poor content are likely to be doing more damage to online businesses these days than good.

    On the other hand, on my site I do web hosting reviews. While I was testing some popular web hosts using my tools, one of the host’s connection froze and the host got a very bad speed index result. Since I am LAZY and the host is not the main one I promote I published the result that shows the bad data but added a note to it saying that the result was unusual and did not reflect the true performance of the host. That host sold better than any other through my links! Honesty pays…

Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.