4 Ways To Troubleshoot Copy That Doesn’t Convert

A multitude of factors can contribute to lackluster copy. Because copywriting can seem like a mysterious art rather than a science, new copywriters can fall into the false belief that bad copy is bad, it can’t be fixed, and that is that.

Not true.

Copywriting (and marketing in general) is more a science than an art. There are a number of formulas to guide us, we have our own experience and intuition, and we have best practices to follow.

This doesn’t change the fundamental truth of marketing efforts.

We write copy, assemble content assets and ad creatives, and then we set them loose into the world and see what happens. Like a scientific experiment, we start from our hypothesis, run our test (releasing the copy), and wait for the results. Once we understand a little bit more, we tweak it all and run it again.

Not everyone wants to hear that, but it is the harsh truth behind marketing and sales.

So what can you do if your copy isn't converting the way you want it to?

Try these four troubleshooting methods before you throw in the towel (organized from easiest to most difficult).

1. Did You Ask Them to Take Action?

This issue is more common than you might think. It’s also very easy to identify and very easy to fix. Read your copy and take the place of your audience.

At the end of the copy, is it clear what your next steps are?

Copy always has a call to action.


There are many reasons why copy would be released without a call to action. Maybe the copywriter who wrote it isn’t very good, doesn’t understand copywriting, or was under pressure to meet a deadline. Maybe there were too many chefs in the kitchen and the copy was diluted to the point of ineffectiveness as a result.

Whatever the reason, the fix is as simple as it is self-explanatory—add a CTA!

(wait, what's a CTA?)

Or maybe there is a CTA, but it isn’t very clear. It doesn’t matter what level of familiarity with the topic your reader had at the outset, or what their background is, or what they had for dinner last night, or what they do for a living.

If they can read the language your copy is written in, then they should know what the next step is when they are done reading.

It’s that simple.

Of course, it can’t be just any call to action that was pulled out of a hat. The CTA associated with your copy must be

  • Absolutely, inescapably crystal clear and specific
  • Relevant to the copy
  • Strategic to business goals
  • Relevant to the offer
  • Consistent with the value provided

That last point is often overlooked. If you are just asking someone for their email address and offering them nothing of value, don’t expect a high conversion rate.

Pro Tip

When examining your calls to action, don’t forget to double-check and see if you are actually delivering the thing you said you would. If your reader clicks a button that says “Click here for your free report,” then is charged a fee when they get to the final page, that is only going to turn them away from your brand.

Click or tap here for 13 other killer copywriting tips.

Here is an example of copy that does not have a clear call to action:

Is your morning missing something? If you juice every morning but find yourself dozing off when that early afternoon slump hits, you need a spark.

Our new Spark Caffeinated Juice Boosters stir right into your morning juice and deliver the energy you need to take charge of your day. Spark Caffeinated Juice Boosters are the no-jitter, no-sugar-added, 100% organic secret to making your juice work as hard as you do.

What is your reader going to think when he or she reads that? Something to the effect of “Cool story, bro.” There is no next step. But any one of the calls to action listed below would work with this segment:

Visit www.sparkjuiceadvantage.com to claim your free trial size

Click here to save 25% off your first order

Add any regular Spark five-pack to your cart and receive 10% off your entire order – Shop Now

Look for it on store shelves this July! Visit www.sparkjuiceadvantage.com to find a location near you

See how easy it is to fix that?

One final note on calls to action.

Notice how none of the CTAs listed above was simply “Shop Now,” “Buy Today,” or “Submit”? You owe it to yourself and to your brand to write better calls to action. Specific, clear, and creative CTAs convert better than clichés or other generic stand-ins.

Pro Tip

The more specific and clear your call to action is, the better it will convert. You want your reader’s journey through your copy to be seamless and frictionless. Ambiguous calls to action put up roadblocks and don’t help your audience move on to the next step.

Click or tap here for 13 other killer copywriting tips.

Not sure how to get the most out of your CTAs? This post has the goods.

2. Is Your Audience Confused?

Consumers today have more choices than . . . well, than they know what do with.

It’s somewhat counterintuitive, right?

Humans are smart and capable. We have skyscrapers, Wi-Fi, and airplanes. But present us with more than three or four choices and we often prefer to make no choice at all.

A brand-new employee of a popular jam manufacturer was hired to boost sales through in-store product demos. Eager to make a good impression and sell jars of jam, she set up her demo table with one jar each of the company’s fourteen flavors.

When she offered shoppers samples, she assumed that they would want to try new and exciting flavors like berry blends and unique fruit pairings. Interest was minimal at best.

The next day, instead of displaying the company’s entire assortment, she set out just their three most popular flavors. She ran through multiple jars of each. Everyone she asked wanted a sample and made their choices confidently.

Same jam, same store, same demo salesperson.

When people are faced with too many choices they become paralyzed. You don’t have to admit it, but I’m guessing it has happened to you at some point as well.

This concept comes home in the effectiveness of your copy.

How many benefits are you highlighting? How many calls to action are present in the copy?

Your copy—and your call to action—will always convert better if you narrow the focus and select just one call to action.

Pro Tip

Less is more when it comes to focusing on benefits. Select one or two benefits that are pertinent to your audience and relate to their pain points; revolve your copy around those points. It may seem appealing to try to write for as many people as possible, but the reality is that targeted, audience-specific copy will show higher conversions.

Click or tap here for 13 other killer copywriting tips.

Fixing the problem of a confused audience is straightforward, but it isn’t always as easy as simply adding a call to action. To truly fix copy that is confusing your audience, you have to go back to the drawing board and figure out exactly who your audience is.

Once you have reassessed who your copy is geared toward, then select one or two key benefits that speak to that audience’s pain points. Addressing more than one audience? You need more than one segment of copy.

Here’s an example of a jumbled-up segment of copy.

If you’re working out and keeping fit but not including fresh, organic juice in your diet, then you’re missing out on a big part of healthy nutrition. Juicing unlocks key vitamins and minerals that otherwise pass through our bodies without being put to use.

Today’s juicers are powerful, efficient, and designed to deliver consistently delicious juice at the press of a button, which means that there is no reason to let those valuable vitamins and minerals stay locked up inside the fruits and vegetables you are already eating. You are not getting the most out of your diet!

And if you are tired of spending too much money at juice bars to get your wheatgrass fix, we offer a complete range of juicers that allow you to produce healthy wheatgrass drinks right in your own home. With a chlorophyll content of up to 70%, wheatgrass is a super juice that ensures your workout is as effective as possible.

Start benefiting from the wheatgrass advantage, save money and time today. Click here to get started.

What is this about? There’s a lot going on in those two paragraphs, and the segment lacks direction overall. Plus, that CTA is a mess. What exactly will the reader get if they click on the link?

3. Is Your Audience Missing Something?

Not just a CTA, but is there something more substantial missing from your copy?

Can your readers see the picture you are painting for them? Are you holding their hand and walking them through the exact ways that the benefits your product or service provides are a perfect fit for their (conscious or unconscious) pain points?

This problem is a little harder to fix because it can have such a wide range of causes. The first question to ask yourself pertains to the audience:

“Is this message right for the audience I’m targeting?”

Misalignment between your message and the audience you’re targeting creates a dissonance that even the best copy can’t shake. The right message will never hit home if you’re talking to the wrong people.

If you are confident that your message and your audience are correctly paired, then the culprit could be the copy itself. It isn’t always easy to dive into your work knowing that it might not be up to par, but remember that copywriting is more science than art.

As you try different approaches, keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Trash the stuff that doesn’t pan out and hang on to the stuff that converts, to provide inspiration later.

Like I said, there’s no quick fix for this issue.

Some copywriters think that they should be relying on adjectives to pump up their copy, and this often isn’t really the case.

Rarely is the issue solved by more words. The remedy is often the right words.

This can be tricky, but when constructing your copy, really think about what you are trying to say. Stay away from jargon and take the time to pick the right words.

If this means cracking open a thesaurus, so be it.

4. Does Your Audience Want What You Are Offering Them?

This is the toughest copywriting issue to fix, because it isn’t really a copywriting issue.

If the underlying offer isn’t attractive or valuable, the best copy in the world won’t be able to save it. It is simply a dud offer. This is a time when it makes sense to look to your competition.

What kinds of offers do they have?

Is their offer simply much better than yours?

Is anyone else doing what you’re doing?

We would all like to live in a world where our businesses don’t have competitors, but in reality, a situation where your business existed without competition might not be such a good thing.

Take stock of the situation and ask yourself an honest question: are you without competitors because what you’re doing is truly innovative and without peers, or do you not have any competitors because what you’re doing is not working?

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that it is never easy to face issues that can sometimes crop up in poorly converting copy. An offer can have poor conversions for a number of reasons, and copy can sometimes be the culprit.

Once you have gone down the checklist and checked your copy, it's time to examine the underlying offer.

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