Don’t use meaningless marketing words like ‘best’, ‘greatest’ or ‘incredible’. People are smart (mostly), and if not smart then they’re sceptical. When writing for the web (or any marketing copy) using words like ‘the best…’ or ‘amazing’ is a waste of space and damages your keyword ratio. Stick to the facts, get your message across quickly and your skim-reading web visitor will like you.
‘…the promotional writing style with boastful subjective claims’
Here’s my top ten list of marketing words that could put people off you:
- The best… – Putting this anywhere on a webpage will make you seem rather egotistical. If you are the best in something, then you’ll probably be ranked first in a poll of some sort. Link to the poll. Note the following two phrases which have used ‘the best’ in them have become very successful, however the vast majority of web pages probably wouldn’t if they tried using them: ‘Simply the best’ and ‘The best a man can get (Gillette)’.
- New – This word is so common amongst the internet. It has a variety of meanings, but the use that is completely unnecessary is sticking ‘new’ (normally with a yellow/red icon) next to any new pages or products. Use of a ‘new’ icon is a cop-out for better structured page sections which are designed to showcase new products. One phrase that also should be avoided: ‘the newest ____ in town’.
- Cool and Fun – These two words should only ever be used by young folk. They have no place on web pages in describing… anything.
- Generic beef-up words: outstanding, amazing, incredible, fantastic. These words are normally suffixed with ‘opportunity’. Unless you have a direct quote from someone describing your product or service as such, avoid self-declarations. Even then, don’t use them except in explicit customer testimonials/quotes.
- Unique – I love and hate it. It solves many problems as a great catchall for selling something, but at the same time it has become more overused. Hence its place half-way up the list.
- Revolutionary – Unless your product, service, or web page has either: caused a great change in thinking, a country-wide riot, or revolves regularly, this word is silly.
- Solutions – Not the liquidy thing, I’m afraid. ‘Solutions’ is the buzz word of consultants who have answers to problems you never even considered until their product existed. Rather than calling something a ‘solution’, explain what it actually does to solve a problem. Then you’ll be writing about your selling point and not a vague catchall.
- Going global – I often come across pages which mention something about being ‘internationally recognised’, ‘world leading’, ‘world class’ or ‘a global success’. The sceptical out there will probably look at these statements with raised eyebrows. Just be warey of using such terms without just cause. For example, if the first time a person has discovered your brand is by a Google Ad, you should probably not be using ‘internationally renowned’ on your site – at least not without quantifying it (e.g. ‘internationally renowned for expertise in putting holes in the middle of mints’).
- Made up words – If you haven’t worked it out by now, all the points above address the issue where words are used and the reader has to think twice about the genuine message. Making up words takes this to the next level where the reader has to think twice (or thrice) about the actual message (regardless of whether its genuine or not).
- Unbeatable (price) – Normally followed quickly by ‘terms and conditions apply’. State the price, perhaps you have a sale, but be honest and clear. Supermarkets often have price cuts after a previous two week hike, they increased the price, so now with their cut it has become unbeatable, but only because a fortnight ago the price went up. (So 10 and a half is) Sale – Closely associated with an unbeatable price. We’ve all seen the DFS/SFS/SCS sale. Some say they only have one a year, the only thing is that it’s all year long. Only use it if it’s a real sale, otherwise you’ll just saturate your sale-conscious market and they’ll become disinterested. Note: using point (4) with this is a big annoyance, e.g. ‘biggest sale ever’.
Inspired by Jakob Nielsen’s How Users Read on the Web from 1997. True now as it ever was.
For more inspiration of words to avoid go to Bulls**t Bingo.