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Writing Better Web Content – Avoid the Marketing Cliche

13 August, 2009, Written by 0 comment

web_marketing_guruLanguage has meaning. Language is information. And when it comes to your website, if your information is NOT useful, it is getting in the way of the information that IS useful. The purpose of words is not to fill embarrassing white space. Skillful content writing means avoiding anything that doesn’t add value for the web visitor, including meaningless marketing phrases. In this article we will look at some of the worst cliche offenses.

1. “Best on the Web!”.
Considering that there are over 100 million active web domains, this is a pretty big claim.

Even if we moderate this to “best site in the top 100 search results for the keywords ‘acme widgets’ on Google”, it is still ambiguous at best. For example “best” means “best” at what? Quality? Service? Price? Reliability? And according to who?

2. “Satisfaction Guaranteed!”.
Well, you don’t know what exactly will satisfy your customer, so how can you guarantee it? All of us can be at times emotional, illogical, inattentive, impatient…in a word, human. How can you guarantee satisfaction which is nothing more than one of many possible human emotions?

What most website owners usually mean to say is “money back guaranteed“, which is quite a different thing entirely. If I buy a product from you and it doesn’t work, I suffer some inconvenience. I have to go back to the store, explain the circumstances to some shop clerk who may or may not be sympathetic, probably fill out a returns form and (if I am lucky) get my money back. Satisfaction is not a word that will spring to mind.

3. “Industry Leading!”
Notice that when we say “our company is a leading supplier of Acme goods” it is not quite the same thing as saying “the leading supplier of Acme goods“. It’s just a relative term. Does “leading” mean your company is in the top 3 percentile or the top 30? And if you are not the leader, it implies that there must be other companies who are better at what you do. So could you put me in touch with them?

4. “Online Internet [Service, Payment, Feedback etc]!”
Uhmm…what other kind of Internet [Service, Payment, Feedback etc] is there?

Marketing tautologies like this are fairly common.
For example:

  • “Unique one of a kind offer” (if it’s unique, then by definition it must be one of a kind.)
  • “Sign up today and get a free gift” (aren’t all gifts free?)

You don’t know what exactly will satisfy your customer, so how can you guarantee it?

5. “Welcome to Acme Inc. Website!”
Website owners often have a lot of trouble accepting the argument that “Welcome to…” is at best just a waste of valuable screen real estate, and at worst an irritation that adds visual noise for visitors.

But surely there is no harm being polite to our customers?” some of you are already saying. Well, if it’s a face to face personal greeting, sure. By all means roll out the red carpet. If it’s a personally crafted email (not a machine generated one), go ahead. Be as polite as you wish. If you are talking to customers by phone, naturally, treat you them with respect and warm appreciation. The world could use a little more of it.

But unless you are a social networking site, website visitors are not looking for your friendship. They are looking to solve problems and perform tasks. When you walk into your local bank do you think to yourself “how rude that they don’t have a WELCOME sign plastered across the front of the building?” Probably not. Probably you just want to get your business transacted quickly, cheaply, safely and then go about your day.

In his blog, content management expert Gerry McGovern has this to say about an email he received from a major corporation:

“Welcome to the second edition of our new look monthly email.” …. Welcome? Hello? What’s with the welcome? I don’t want your welcome. If I want anything from you it’s your deals, and hot deals at that. When you think of your customer, imagine Tony Soprano. Nothing personal, just business. Cut the crap. Get straight to the point.

CONCLUSION

When you are writing content for your website, keep it genuine. Avoid meaningless marketing phrases and think about every word on the page. Does it communicate something of value? Could I say the same thing with fewer words? Is it unambiguous? Are the statements truthful, verifiable and credible? We’ve listed a few of the common marketing blunders but would love you to hear your comments if you think there are others that could be added.

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