Outsourcing

10 expressions that don't belong on your Web site

Want your Web site to attract visitors, hold their attention, and get the right message across? Make sure you avoid buzzwords, marketing tripe, and meaningless hype.

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.

1: Innovative

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.

5: World-class

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.

8: Dynamic

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.

38 comments
h8usernames
h8usernames

LEGEND TO READ THIS COMMENT: (!) means the previous word should not appear on websites One technique I have used over the years to write copy (web, print and other media) is to sit down with a college/friend/family member who has absolutely no idea (or very little idea) of what I was writing about and then have a conversation about it. Tell them what it is the company does, about the products and/or services, get their reactions and questions, have a real conversation. One really important step early on is to mention that it is better for you to get negative feedback(!) then a generic 'good' or no feedback, that anything they have to say will be a big help to you and your company (providing the person likes you) . Write draft copy based on these conversations. I would then speak with existing customers, ask them about why the purchased what they purchased, ask them what they were actually looking for at the time, ask them what attracted them to the company the purchased from. I would look at the type of person, are they: - more conservative or more relaxed - wear a suit or wears jeans - late to the meeting or early This would tell me the nature of the customer and what type of style to write the copy in. It would also often told me what I had missed, what was important and what was not. I would then write copy based on these conversations. I would then take the better parts out of both versions and I would go back to the people I already spoke with and get their feedback on what I wrote. This was not so much for wording or reaction but to say thanks, take a token of appreciation (! defined as: something cheap and nasty, often leaves a hangover or other marks), tell them if they have any other ideas please let you know ASAP (!). This would give ongoing communication that not only makes you more valuable to the customer but makes the customer more valuable to you, if done correctly, you will start getting feedback on all copy and this ongoing feedback will help a lot with refining your message. Involving the people who keep your business going and people that want to see you succeed is a great way to improve and get your message across, never be scared to say you're not the best, the reason for someone to buy maybe that you're cheap or that they like dealing with you, they may prefer the color options your product offers more than your competitors. Someone else said it earlier, buying decisions are often emotional so don't be scared to get in and ask your customers what they think, you don't want their expert opinions or the most conservative or politically correct(!) answer. Write it how you would talk to a person and your message should come out louder and clearer. Finally, don't forget to write for your audience and dialect, I used US English spelling even though I am from NZ that uses International/UK English, the reason is because the feedback here is in US English so writing "colour" would not suit the website. You may now apologize to your spouse, boss or pet for being late due to reading this comment (if you get down this far).

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Please add to the list: "Impact" You are not going to hit someone/something. Use "effect." "Issue" You really mean "problem." An "issue" is not nearly the same thing as a "problem." "Initiative" You really mean "project"

lucho_con_cerveza
lucho_con_cerveza

"10 most important..." "5 ways to..." "how to fail 6 different..." "the 7 most likely..." "3 steps to..." Now, let's get rid of the lists and steps, and get back to some good old journalistic content.

itadmin
itadmin

I would like to do that, too. But how? None of the websites I've seen this on told me how to reach this nirvana.

jlgordon
jlgordon

Don't tell me it's simple. Of course it's simple if you already know the product.

bobconway
bobconway

Presumably a person visiting your Web site already knows how to use the Web, and if you and your company use Web technology then you also should know what you're doing with it. There's no need to use a phrase like "web-savvy" to remind people of what should already be obvious. Besides, isn't the word "savvy" a sort of 1970s cliche? It was revived somewhat when used more recently by Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, but aren't those stories supposedly set in the 18th Century? I'm just sayin'. (Which is yet another cliche that belongs in Davy Jones' Locker!)

By-Tor
By-Tor

It's got to be State-of-the-Art for me. I work in education and I hear this term bandied around all the time. Educational institutions should not be wasting their funds on "highest level of development" equipment, because by definition anything that is "state-of -the art" should be far too expensive for an educational establishment to sensibly purchase and obtain value for money from it.

davids
davids

Using 'Specializing in ...' to mean "we are really good at doing ..." instead of "we only do ...".

itadmin
itadmin

Many B2B websites, including IT ones, have photos of men in suits and "career women." Obviously, this is to convey the image that they are professionals delivering professional services to professionals. If images of men in suits influence anyone in allocating their business, they deserve to be taken to the cleaners. Unfortunately most decisions are made on an emotional level. The decision makers often have only a vague idea what it's all about. Those men in suits must know what they are doing, right? Better give our business to them.

Seryy Volk
Seryy Volk

These two words and several more don't even belong in the language. If a sales(wo)man tells me about an "incredible offer," I say thank you for your honesty, and goodbye. I didn't believe it before you admitted it."

mike five
mike five

I've had to do mission statements for companies that management insisted many of those terms be included. I did do one that more or less said " We want to have fun, make money, and deliver an excellent product at a reasonable cost for excellence." It was a small company and the owner had a sense of humor. He thought mission statements were ridiculous but felt he had to have one.

andrewandwendy
andrewandwendy

Funny how these same phrases are repeated ad-nauseum in the typical glossy advertising brouchures that promise you the sun, moon and stars, all at the same time. Sounds great but soon you find out it is a pipe dream. Andrew

jonesjs
jonesjs

...prove it. When I hear Sprint, Verizon, ATT et al claim to have the most coverage in the united states, it drives me crazy. PROVE IT!

PercySludge
PercySludge

Agreed, @RNR1995 ! When I built my ex-company's website about 12 years ago, the president drafted a "mission statement" to be shown on the home page. Ugh! It was full of the usual weasel-words, and frankly I was embarrassed to put it there. But I dared not argue in this case. "Mission Statements" have been around a lot longer than the Web, and they have always alternately made me either cringe or sneer. And honestly, I HATE sneering. - The SLUDGE guy who has a mission to get rid of those pompous statements.

RNR1995
RNR1995

If you are a service company and your mission is NOT to provide the best service bla, bla, bla, then maybe you need a new mission Seriously, every mission statement I have ever read was DUH! They repulse me, they are idiotic and I do not do business with companies that use them, as they are either morons or liars, you pick

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Right up there with 'world class'. Edited - 'Professional grade' too, while you're at it.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Welcome to Ansugisalas.co.wi.fi.net.org.com We are a welterweight company with dynamic world-class results, oriented towards outstanding excellence in the field of proven customer experience. Or something...

sweetings
sweetings

Not only do those expressions not belong in advertizing, they should not be found in reports or any other article. Defendable facts only.

TortillaFlaz
TortillaFlaz

Meangingless except when writing about the latest multiple-blade Gillette razor.

guy
guy

I know that this blog is about websites, but a persons CV (resume) is basically his "about me" website too. I see a lot of similar phrases in CVs too. Maybe get people to submit their "about me" CV and do the same exercise. You'll certainly see "dynamic" and "results orientated" there too.

jasonr.holstein
jasonr.holstein

There go my top ten copy writing tricks! Why, oh why, TechRepublic, did you have to out me? :)

sperry532
sperry532

"Solutions" The word has been rendered meaningless by overuse. Instead, being specific about your products - hardware, software, consulting advice and guidance - gives a better indication of what you do and whether your website viewers will become customers or not. "We provide hardware, software, and technical support for both" is more informative than "we sell solutions." Talking about "solutions" without specifics forces the viewer to blindly grope about your site, or, more likely, simply go to another vendor's website.

RockerGeek!
RockerGeek!

I seriously LOL'd at using the definition. Great article- It reminds me of a rule I learned in an English class. The teacher reminded us to watch out for redundant pronouns and to avoid starting off sentences the same way. Guess what- works for websites too

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

To view our web page you must use a specific browser. You could of course not mention that your site only works on I6 on win95 in an often succesful attempt to fool the browsee that they are missing out by doing something wrong. My all time favourite is still if you are having problems viewing this website please turn off your firewall. Wasn't an iffy site as such either. Porn, ringtones, Mp3s, warez etc , just had their site designed by someone with less technical ability than what my dog leaves in the garden after a slap up meal..... Though I must admit a site I got sent to by a recruiter to take a technical test that only worked on IE 6 in XP compatibility mode came a close second... As to whether the content on the site was good or the test useful, no idea..... How you say something can be important as what.

QAGeek55403
QAGeek55403

As I read each example, I wondered how many of these expressions have made their way into resumes as well. This is good information for all of us to consider whether marketing a company or marketing ourselves

philliplawson
philliplawson

I wish companies would take this to heart, not only for websites but for for every form of advertising! After all the point of advertising is to make the public aware of products and services, not your how well you can use buzzwords.

pbninc
pbninc

Not only ban from your website, but from the entire vocabulary, "at the end of the day...". Please.

eileen4571
eileen4571

Thanks, I am in the process of starting a new ecommerce business, just setting up my website. All "good to know" stuff. Any other comments from successful ecommerce business people, greatly appreciated.

mlewis
mlewis

It's funny that AT&T used to have comercials claiming that they covered everybody. Now their comercials emphasize how hard they are working to expand their coverage. Why do they need to expand if they already had everone covered?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If a business's mission statement does not include a polite wording of the phrase, 'Make money by the bucket load...', then it doesn't acknowledge why it's in operation. It's fine to 'provide the best service / widget in the Tri-State area' but that's the method chosen to fulfill your mission, not the mission itself. You're in business to make money, period, end of message, out.

gljaeger
gljaeger

Jeff, Thank you for the reminder of what not to use - we/I often fall into the traps you mention. I will have to go back to my websites and to my CV and check, and modifiy when found, these phrases and words. @RNR1995 - I wonder if anyone knows how hard it is to write a good, not great, but good mission statement. Especially a mission statement that has not been around in some form. While I appreicate the fact there are a lot of blah mission statements, I certainly do not use them as any part of the reason to either do business or not do business with a company. If I did that, I would miss out on all the competent people who have done some amazing work.

nrepoz
nrepoz

In my business I DO emphasize industrial or commercial grade. I feel like I have to. Many companies go out and buy what I would refer to as "consumer-grade" products and then wonder why they don't last. They have no idea that there is a difference. They just think that it's twice as expensive - so, industrial or commercial-grade is a value that can be important. Any suggestions as to an alternative way to get this across?

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

That game has been around for years, but somebody bowdlerized the name, Follow the link to the German article in Wikipedia.de, and you'll find the original name.

sonyasnet
sonyasnet

Another to ban is the over worked, "...well basically...," (groan) along with signage which reads, "At Sale Prices." or "All stock reduced." How on earth does the buyer (as opposed to consumer) know what the price was originally, and what was the stock priced at before being reduced? Worst of all, to me, is seeing "Christmas Sale" in November!

Too Old For IT
Too Old For IT

Wile we are at it, can we ban "take it to the next level", in business, pleasure and especially The Bachelor/Bachelorette? One more time, and I swear a standard red brick is going through the TV.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Tell your audience what you mean by it. What makes your product different from consumer grade? Why is it better suited for industrial / corporate use? Why is it worth the extra money, in terms of ROI? Unfortunately, too many companies are using the term for consumer products (I'm looking at you, Detroit truck manufacturers). It may have already been cheapened beyond redemption.

wordsmart
wordsmart

Excellent advice! Some peope run away from phrases like the ones because all they have is the phrase. The key to good writing is telling the why. Make a claim and then provide evidence. This works for a web site, resume or scientific paper.

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