6 Quick Ways to Spot (and Remove) BS from Your Website Copy

Want to improve your web copy but don’t feel like reading yet another 3000+ word monster article? I’ve got you covered.

Here are 6 quick practical tests you can run on your copy to uncover (and fix) its shortcomings:

  • The BS Test
  • The Forehead Slap Test
  • The “So what?” Test
  • The Google Translate Test
  • The 5 Seconds Test
  • The Ctrl + F Ego Test

Here goes.

#1 The BS test

Magic powers: Instantly tells you if your copy is total BS.

Imagine, you would use the words you wrote on your website in a real life conversation:

The BS test: Is your copy clear?
“The BS test”: Imagine using your web copy in a real conversation

The copy featured in that imaginary conversation has been kindly brought to you by very real websites, by the way.

Your copy is BS. Now what?

Rewrite your copy using plain, specific and clear words. Then reapply the BS test.

#2 The Forehead Slap Test

Magic powers: Uncovers missing benefits.

Let’s say, you’re a nutrition coach, and one of your sales pages proudly displays the benefit of your new diet program:

“Flush Deadly Toxins Out Of Your Colon!”

To see if it’s really a benefit, apply a “Forehead slap” and imagine whether your customers had ever jumped out of bed, slapped themselves on the forehead and screamed, “I gotta flush some deadly toxins out of my colon!”.

If that image seems rather unlikely to you, congratulations, you’ve uncovered a fake benefit.

An example of a fake benefit
A totally realistic scenario of your customers being excited about your “benefit”

This tip has been kindly brought to you by:

  • Mr. Clayton Makepeace (the “world’s highest-paid marketing coach and copywriter”, according to his LinkedIn bio, which in this case may be even true).
  • Folks from Copyblogger who came up with the name “Forehead Slap Test”
  • probably Allie Brosch, the author of “What do we want” image (or maybe not, I’m not sure, but I’m also not a fan of copyright lawyers)

Your benefit is fake. Now what?

By a convenient coincidence, the solution to this benefit disaster is to apply the “So what?” test (see below).

#3 The “So What?” Test

Magic powers: Uncovers features and fake benefits and turns them into real benefits.

Sure, you offer all these services and your product has all these great features, but have you told your prospects what’s in it for them?

To make sure your prospects see the value of your offer, look at what you think is an enticing benefit and ask “so what?”. If there’s still an answer to this question, your existing copy fails to communicate the benefit.

You failed. Now what?

Let’s say you sell ovens, and these ovens preheat quickly.

So what?

You can start cooking sooner.

So what?

The food is sooner on the table.

So what?

You spend less time in the kitchen, and even if you forgot to preheat your oven you sill make that casserole in time before your family is home for dinner.

And that, my friends, is the real benefit.

This tip has been kindly brought to you by Henneke Duistermaat (who doesn’t have anything braggy in her LinkedIn bio, but everyone still knows that she is awesome).

#4 The Google Translate test

Magic powers: Uncovers missing information and places in your copy where you’ve sacrificed clarity over creativity.

Here’s a great tip to spot unclear copy if you are multilingual:

Autotranslate your page into another language you speak. Your brain won’t be able to trick you by automatically filling in the blanks, so you’ll easily spot the missing information.

Plus, Google Translate doesn’t do well with metaphors or fancy word plays. So if the essence of your message got lost in translation, you are being too clever and your prospects may not get your message.

Google translate test
If you’re multilingual, translate your copy in another language you speak

Your copy is vague. Now what?

If you realized your copy is missing important points, add the missing information. Rewrite your copy using plain, specific and clear words. Then reapply this test.

#5 The 5 Seconds Test

Magic powers: Tests the probability of your prospects staying on your website longer than 5 seconds.

If your website fails to instantly communicate to your customers what you do, what you offer and what’s in it for them, they’ll leave faster than you can blink.

Ask a volunteer (ideally, someone who is a part of your target audience) to look at your homepage for 5 seconds and then to answer these questions:

  • Do you understand what this website offers?
  • Do you know what benefit this page provides?
  • Can you recall the name of the person, the company or the product?

This test has been kindly brought to you by people from Usability Hub (that also suggested applying this test to website design).

People don’t get what your website offers. Now what?

You can do a couple of things here:

  • Ask your volunteer what exactly they found confusing.
  • Apply the BS test to make sure your copy is clear.
  • Apply the “So what?” test to make sure your copy communicates what’s in it for your prospects
  • Use one of the website tagline formulas to create a clear website tagline.
  • Make sure your copy is properly formatted to be easily readable and your design not visually cluttered.

#6 The Ctrl + F Ego Test

Magic powers: Uncovers copy where you talk too much about yourself.

We all have a friend who just won’t shut up about themselves. Every time you talk to them, it’s “me, me, me”.

#eyeroll

Super annoying, isn’t it? You wish for the conversation to be over before it even started.

Here’s how you tell if you are that friend to your prospects.

  1. Open a page on your website
  2. Press Ctrl+F and type “I ” (mind the space character after “I”)
  3. Write down the number of occurrences
  4. Repeat for:
    • my
    • we / our (if you’re a company)
    • [your name] / her / his (if you are talking about yourself in the 3d person)
    • you / your

…and compare the numbers

Your copy is too self-centered. Now what?

If you use I /  my / we etc. more often than you / yours, rephrase the self-centered sentences:

  • Business owners -> You
  • I provide -> You’ll get
  • I teach -> You’ll learn
  • I’ll show you how -> Find out how
  • I worked with clients XYZ -> I helped clients XYZ achieve…
  • I work with one client at a time -> Your project will have my undivided attention
  • I started my career in 1990, in a company X. Then I switched to company Y in 1996 -> OMG, nobody cares! Tell people how you can help and add testimonials from your previous clients showing that you deliver results.

Bonus: #7 The Face Palm Test

Magic powers: An instant indicator of horrible copy.

To give you an idea how it works, here’s an image of a website reviewer conducting a face palm test.

Face palm gesture
An unidentified website reviewer conducting a face palm test, XIX century, France

Unfortunately, this test doesn’t work when it comes to your own copy, and the scientists still struggle to find the reason.

So I’ll be happy to conduct this test (as well as other, more legitimate tests of your copy, design and user experience) on your website.

I recently launched a new homepage review service. The current discount price will hold for only 25 first reviews (as I’m writing these lines, there are just 19 places left).

Want to improve your homepage to get more inquiries on autopilot?

Check out Gill’s homepage reviews