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 …
About the Author: Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a membership site for writers that’s packed with great content -- and that has lovely, supportive members. If you’re a blogger, novelist, short-story writer, freelancer (or a bit of everything) then get all the details and read what members have said here.