In the post 7 Ways to Write a Better 'About Us' Page, I asked readers to submit their About Us pages for a possible rewrite in a future post. (LOTS of you responded.) I'll get to that post in a week or so, but in the meantime, here are words and phrases you should remove from your Web site -- not just from your About Us page but from many other pages as well.
Since the only (human) audience that matters is your customers, let's pretend I'm a customer. Here are my reactions to the following words or phrases that appear on your site.
Note: This article is based on an entry in BNET's Owner's Manual blog.
Just about every company claims to be innovative. Most aren't. You don't have to be innovative to be successful. But if you truly are innovative, show me. Describe products you developed. Describe processes you modified. Give me something real -- then I'll know you're innovative.
2: Service provider
Everyone who meets a need is a service provider. When I fill up my car, the gas station is a service provider: I need gas, the station provides it. "Service provider" says nothing. If you sell gas, tell me you sell gas. If you design commercial office spaces, tell me you design commercial office spaces. If you're an Internet service provider, fine. Otherwise, use plain language and tell me what you really do.
3: Proven track record
Almost every company has a track record. It may be good, it may be bad, but everyone's track record is proven. Give me facts and figures instead. Share on-time performance rates, or waste percentages, or under-budget statistics... let your track record be proven by your achievements. Don't have any achievements yet? No problem; you don't have a track record either, so it's a moot point.
4: Unique blend of...
If you're KFC, your recipe may be a unique blend of herbs and spices. Otherwise, someone, somewhere, is also doing what you do. You may do it a little better, but you aren't unique. Describe why you're better.
Usain Bolt: world-class sprinter. Lindsey Vonn: world-class skier. Makes sense -- but what is a world-class company? Who defines world-class? The fact that you provide (or hope to provide) products or services to a global customer base doesn't mean you are a world-class company.
6: Collaborative approach
You won't just decide what's right for me and force me to buy it? Wow! If your process is designed to take my input and feedback, tell me how that works. Describe that process. Show me exactly how we'll work together. Don't just claim we will.
7: Outstanding customer experiences
Providing an outstanding customer experience is important; if you don't, you'll fail. The problem with this term is that it describes a general phenomenon. How will my experience be outstanding? Tell me what I can expect that will make my experience so outstanding.
If you're "vigorously active and forceful," I prefer you stay away from me.
9: Myriad solutions
This phrase is everywhere. I think the intent is to say, "Boy, we do a lot of stuff." To me it comes across as, "Basically, we'll do anything you are willing to pay us to do because we haven't figured out our business model yet." Some companies might actually provide myriad solutions. If you're one of them, break those solutions down into categories, list the categories, and then describe each one somewhere else. But don't talk about solutions. I want you to solve my problem; tell me how you will. "Solutions" has become a buzzword and is therefore meaningless.
10: Results oriented
Really? I will get what I pay for? Wow -- I assumed you would focus on something more important than results. Thanks for letting me know!
Adjectives are great, but only if specific, descriptive, and directly applicable to what you do. Use plain language, avoid generalities, and skip the hyperbole. If you paint houses, don't say you are a "leading provider of exterior and interior surface renovation, repair, and beautification services." Say you paint houses and tell me why I should trust you to paint mine. Potential customers --and the search engines -- will like you a lot better.
It should come as no surprise that a few of these also appear on resumes; check out BNET blogger Rick Broida's 5 Resume Cliches to Avoid at All Costs.
Other banned words?
If you have other words or phrases that should be registered as serial Web site offenders, share them in the comments below.