The English language is a rich source of creativity and originality, yet we all dabble in clichés to a certain extent. We use unnecessary bridge words like literally all the time, claiming to be certain when we’re really just confident. Worst of all, we exaggerate (‘fabulous’, ‘sumptuous’) and occasionally defy reality (‘110%’). It isn’t possible to give more than 100% effort, even though candidates on The Apprentice frequently claim they can.
In everyday conversation, it’s possible to overlook someone repeatedly saying ‘like’ or ‘actually’. But when these terms are scattered across written text, it’s far more noticeable. That poses a problem for anyone attempting to write compelling marketing literature or optimized website content. The liberties we can take in throwaway conversations can’t be extended to text that will be scrutinized by search engines, pored over by competitors and judged by potential clients as a benchmark of quality.
It’s vital to avoid clichés on your website. But if you’re not a natural writer, how can you avoid pitfalls like declaring ‘content is king’? Below, we’ve listed ten tips for achieving optimized website content that’ll impress clients and search engines. Best of all, you won’t have to take things to the next level, or think outside the box…
#1. Don’t use cultural references from five years ago
The Past Times retail group collapsed in 2012, yet people are still paraphrasing it’s “Keep Calm and Carry On” mantra in brochures and articles. The phrase has been hugely overused and is now more likely to raise a groan than a smile. Similarly, avoid pop-culture references that’ll be lost on older audiences, and don’t assume today’s terms will make sense in future. Optimized website content needs updating or replacing every few years to remain fresh.
#2. Never write to a strict template
Some websites are notable for having one sentence per paragraph or featuring exactly 100 words for each product description. This often comes across as stilted and forced. By all means, set a maximum character count for text boxes, but don’t assume you need to use every last letter. Successful ecommerce and marketing websites have an organic flow to their text that doesn’t involve meeting rigid quotas to follow a template.
#3. Always avoid acronyms
Unless acronyms are essential, try to avoid them. Some people still think LOL means Lots Of Love, while MOST has dozens of unrelated meanings across various industries. Over-using jargon often causes people’s eyes to glaze over. If you have to use industry-specific abbreviations for long or frequently-used terms, spell out the first usage on each page and include the abbreviation in brackets. Message Received And Understood (MRAU)?
#4. Lengthy prose loses audiences
People don’t care about personal backstories, and they don’t need lengthy explanations of your industry. They want to know who, what, where, when, why and how much. Think like a journalist and elevate key points to the top, cropping text from the bottom to minimize its length. Attention spans are shorter than ever, so break up blocks of text with bullet-point lists, highlighted sentences and bold text. Short sentences improve readability and keep eyes on the page.
#5. Avoid rhetorical questions
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Nobody wants to feel patronized, and there’s no justification for underestimating your audience’s intelligence. Instead, add sub-headings to ebrochures or web pages, posing a specific question that the next paragraph can resolve. Ask people unfamiliar with your industry what they’d want to know, and tailor any questions around this feedback. Friends and relatives will have surprising opinions on need-to-know information.
#6. Don’t declare yourself to be the best
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. By all means, acknowledge market-leading customer feedback or industry rankings, but let your audience decide whether you’re the greatest firm in your industry or not. Modesty is appealing, but self-congratulation will deter more potential customers than it attracts. If you must use hyperbole, describe yourself as ‘one of the leading’. Your products and service ought to speak for themselves
#7. Try to avoid meaningless platitudes
Hotels are notorious for describing themselves as ‘hidden gems’, while manufacturers often declare they offer ‘something for everyone’. In truth, neither of these terms has any logical meaning. Something isn’t hidden if it’s being promoted, and no company offers a product range or services suitable for every single person. Generic marketing clichés do nothing to define your brand or build trust.
#8. Study SEO platforms for content clues
If you sell gardening implements, use Kissmetrics or Google Analytics to see how often people search for ‘earth inverting horticultural tool’. Then do the same for ‘spade’. SEO research identifies keywords and long tails (containing three or more words) customers in your industry type into Google and Bing. Rather than using irrelevant terms, tailor your copy to incorporate selected terms a few times per page to improve your site’s overall ranking.
#9 Check for spelling and grammar issues
From LibreOffice and Google Docs to WordPress and Sequoia, these text-editing software comes with integrated spelling and grammatical checks built in. Use them. Don’t save a document and ignore text underlined in red. Sophisticated packages like Microsoft Word contain a thesaurus as well, identifying alternatives for common words. Use word counter tools on sites like writewords.org to highlight possible overuse of common words like ‘this’ or ‘however’.
#10. Give newly written text a couple of proofreads before publishing
Many people have short attention spans, preferring to upload something as soon as it’s written. This is a bad idea since optimized website content is almost always refined by a second reading. Reviewing something the next day often lends a fresh perspective, identifying sentences that can be improved or deleted. Get colleagues and relatives to proofread major projects like new web copy, and take their feedback on board.