8 Unethical Copywriting Techniques To Avoid

8 Unethical Copywriting Techniques To Avoid


Do you write copy for your business or as a freelancer? Here’s the scoop on eight unethical copywriting techniques to avoid.

Copywriting is a branch of writing which produces content and copy. 

While the definition is broad, the term copywriting’ includes blog posts, product reviews, sales pages, static website pages, and online articles. It’s writing meant to draw traffic, sell things, or advertise things. 

If you write copy, ethics is important, although not always discussed often. 

Unethical (sometimes called ‘black hat’) copywriting violates website terms, misleads readers, and manipulates search engines. 

Here’s the scoop on eight unethical copywriting techniques (& why they’re bad for business).

Who Uses Unethical Copywriting? 

Unethical copywriting is bad.

Sometimes, these techniques are used by content mills, and agencies or freelancers who are willing to bend their morals for quick money. Know these techniques, so that you are never tempted or employed to use them.

When these get used, it downranks websites, gets accounts banned, and harms entire websites, brands, and writers’ reputations.

Obviously, don’t do it.

Copywriting should always be honest, fair, and adhere to consumer rights law and website terms.

If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

8 Unethical Copywriting Techniques To Avoid

1. Copied Posts

Plagiarised online copy steals from the original author, but it also hijacks website hits. Copied posts are rewritten, or posted without attribution from a source with more traffic.

It’s illegal, but still gets used as a technique to channel hits.

Always check content with anti-duplication software (like Copyscape) to avoid this. 

2. Keyword Stuffing

An unethical SEO technique called ‘keyword stuffing’ loads content with an unnaturally high amount of keywords or tags.

It makes for clumsy writing, but will make a search engine pick up on the used keywords rather than the content. Updates make this method less effective, but not less common.

Check readability (and specific word usage) for anything that might appear like a keyword overload to a search engine. If you score any words too high, edit. If you use a plugin like Yoast, you will be able to track if you are doing this correctly.

3. Cloaking

‘Cloaking’ violates the terms of most major sites and search engines, and it’s a black hat technique related to link usage. 

Affiliate, sales, or redirect links are ‘cloaked’ within HTML code to make them look like something else. This way, users don’t know what they are clicking on – but the other end of this chain gets more hits as a result.

Cloaked links could go anywhere, but usually leads to someone who paid for it. The source might contain malware or other internet undesirables, too.

It’s misleading to readers, misleading to search engines, and just plain wrong.

4. Buying Traffic

Website traffic and readership is referred to as ‘organic’ when the reach happens naturally and ethically.

But viral reach can also be bought in the dark alleys of the copywriting world like fake sunglasses. For a fee, some agencies sell hits, likes, shares, or general online reach in the form of packages.

It’s not just unethical, but completely against standard website terms.

Purchased traffic are usually bots, or fake accounts.

5. Smaller & Hidden Tags

When a search engine bot looks at a website, it looks for keywords and readability scores (among other things).

If you were to set a tag at point 1, or change it to the colour white on a white background, it would be invisible to the human eye… But not to a bot.

The hidden tag is an elaboration of keyword or link stuffing. Its deliberate attempt to manipulate what a search engine bot finds is what makes it unethical and illegal as a way to get higher-ranked.

If you ever catch a website or writer using hidden SEO tags, it’s reason to trust them a little less.

6. Manipulating Headlines

To push hits up for a quick and dishonest return, a common unethical copywriting technique involves unrelated or misleading headlines.

Headline manipulation is a a common sight of fake news, though might affect any other type of copywriting with the goal of just inflating hits a lot. The content is often bad, awful, or unreadable – but the headline gets clicks.

As a copywriter, pay attention to writing sensical and good headlines. A proper copy headline should always describe what readers or search engines will find behind it.

7. Nonsensical Content

There’s a lot of unintentionally bad copywriting on the internet, but sometimes it’s written to be deliberately nonsensical or unrelated to the website.

For example, imagine that you visit your favourite news site. If their top-read article for the day is, ’10 Best Writing Resources’ and it made no sense, you would feel that it is suspicious, right?

That’s because it is.

Nonsensical content (or just irrelevant, odd copy) is another way search engines and readers are made to click on things in unethical ways.

8. Spamming Links

Search engines know when links have been shared to social media statuses, and exactly how much.

If you post the same link too many times (or in irrelevant places), just for the sake of cheap hits, it becomes link spam. Link spam is enough for a warning, and can be enough for a profile ban on most social media sites.

Internationally, you could even get your address, name, or domain listed on blacklists for intentionally link spamming. Good copywriters never do it.

How To Be A Better Copywriter

Writers write, but never for misleading consumers, manipulating search engines, or unnaturally inflating a hit counter. If you want to keep your copywriting as good as it can be, start by ensuring you are not using unethical copywriting techniques.

If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

 Source for image

 By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.

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