The 7 deadly copy sins that cost you customers

Stop making these mistakes with your travel copy

You’ve spent forever writing the copy on your tourism website, but you’re still not getting the engagement you’d been hoping for. Reading it over, you think something is missing. Trouble is, you can’t quite put your finger on it.

If you worry that your copy is not quite hitting the mark, you might be making one or more of the most common copy mistakes. Check out the list below. Can you recognise yourself in any of these?

travel writing shouldn't sound too corporate

1. Sounding too corporate

A few months ago, I worked with an amazing tour guide. How did I know they were amazing?

They had gazillions of customer reviews showing what a warm, funny, fascinating and all-round good egg they were.

Would I have picked this up from their website? Hm, not so much.

You see, this tour guide had fallen into the trap of thinking that trustworthy = corporate. So, despite the fact that they were a one-person band, they’d used the third-person plural throughout their copy (we are instead of I am.) When I asked them why, they said it would be unprofessional to use the first person.

Well. We soon knocked that one on the head!

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Who are you booking a tour with? A person or a corporation?

And (as I think we’d all prefer a person) wouldn’t you like to feel you knew a bit about that person before booking your tour?

Top tip: I’m sure you’ll have heard the phrase People buy from People (unless you’ve been living in a cupboard). Well, it’s true. Bear it in mind when you write your copy.

2. Using bland adjectives

This picturesque island boasts spectacular scenery and countless beautiful beaches.

The adjectives above need a well-earned break, wouldn’t you agree? They’ve been crawling all over travel copy for years, describing destinations from Stockholm to Shanghai. Can we retire them, please?

When you write, use adjectives that are less overdone. If the surrounding scenery is rich in plant life, what about lush or verdant? If you really must write about a breathtaking view, could you switch breathtaking for panoramic or atmospheric?

Top tip: Tools such as word hippo can be helpful here.

3. Being too general

This is linked to the second deadly copy sin, and it’s just as much of a copy killer.

When I look at tourism websites (and believe me, this is something I do a lot) I can’t help but notice how generic the writing seems. So many travel blogs, if you were to blank out the specific place names and references to tourists sites, could be describing just about anywhere in the world.

The key to any good writing is to be specific. Don’t write The cafe serves delicious local produce, try Warm up in Pete’s Cafe with a rib-sticking lentil soup.

You see the difference? The first example says nothing; with the second I can feel the salty soup warming my chilled bones.

Top tip: As you go about your daily life in your destination, note down specific details that could find your way into your copy. Try to record the things that make your destination different. Or ask your customers to share things they’ve noticed.

4. Ignoring your audience

If you’re committing deadly copy sins 1-4, this is probably the root of all your wrong-doing!

You see, if you know who you audience are, you’ll speak directly to them. Your copy will not be corporate, as you’ll feel like you’re chatting to a good friend when you write it. Your words are less likely to be bland and generic, because you’ll know what your audience want to hear from you.

Top tip: If visitors coming to your destination have a particular interest, think about how you can weave that interest into your copy. For example, loads of visitors to Shetland are into the BBC crime drama Shetland. So, a good idea for a blog post (which I haven’t written yet!) could be 5 places you’ll recognise from the Shetland series with a little bit of detail about each one.

Another top tip: And, when it comes to thinking about your audience, why not put them centre stage? How about doing a weekly or monthly interview with one of your customers? Or asking them to write a guest blog post about their experiences in your destination? Not only does this give you some great free content, it goes a long way to making your customers feeling valued and important. A win-win.

copy writing is not essay writing

5. Going into essay-writing mode

The first thing to know about writing tourism copy?

You’re not at school anymore.

– No gold stars for big words.
– No prizes for hefty word counts.
– No kudos for complex sentences.

Quite the opposite, in fact! The copy you write for your tourism business needs to sound like a friendly voice talking in your customers’ ears. And when was the last time your pal spoke to you in paragraphs?

Top tip: If you struggle with writing in a natural tone of voice, why not record yourself talking onto your phone? Then you can use the dictate function on Word to capture what you’ve said.

The result will need a bit of editing, but should sound much more natural.

6. Not reading your copy before publishing it

When you run your own business, you’re not only your own copywriter, you’re your own editor and proofreader too. Don’t leave out the editing and proofreading part – it’s really important.

Now, of course, people will forgive the odd typo, but if you’re doing it regularly you risk being seen as unprofessional.

Things to watch out for:

  • spelling mistakes
  • repetitive words
  • typos
  • text that doesn’t flow

Top tip: If possible, give your copy a day or so to sit before publishing it. Guaranteed you’ll see things you want to change when you come back to it.

7. Forgetting to include your CTA

I’ve spoken about this before because it’s so important!

You may have written a great description, but if you’ve not included a CTA (a call to action), your reader is in danger of saying ‘mm, nice’ and wandering off – what a waste of all your hard work.

Don’t be shy. Just tell your readers what you want them to do. They’ll thank you for it.

Top tip: If you’re needing some CTA inspiration, check out this list.

If you’ve been guilty one (or more) of these seven deadly sins, know you’re not alone! We all commit copy crimes from time to time, and it’s never to late to redeem yourself.

If you want to turn your copy around, get in touch. No penance necessary, but a one hour Copy Boost session with me could be just what you need to get your copy back on the straight and narrow. Interested? Then let’s talk.

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