I love to share objective, plain-spoken advice on our blog. Branding, marketing and website expertise I’ve gained from over a decade researching and working with small businesses. This article however is a full-on rant.
I spend a lot of my life reading copy on small business websites, and I am just really tired of seeing the same text over and over again. I want to talk about five common website copy clichés that drive me potty, and why I think should you should avoid them.
1. We do things differently.
Bbz, we all do things things differently because we are all different people. I ruddy hate the ‘we do things differently’ trope because it says absolutely nothing – when you could just say what exactly it is that you do differently.
Are you cheaper? Say you’re cheaper.
Are you plain-spoken? Plain speak that then.
‘Doing it differently’ is painfully generic and can apply to pretty much any business. In fact, it does – which is why over the years I’ve probably seen hundreds of brands using this in taglines, headlines and headings.
If you find yourself writing ‘doing things differently’, instead try putting into words exactly what it is that you are doing, that nobody else does. If it’s really that good, you should shout about it.
2. Making X simple
I was debating bundling ‘making X simple’ with ‘doing things differently’ as they’re both nauseating for similar reasons. However, I thought I’d highlight this simple cliché as it has an extra layer – in that ‘simple’ is often completely subjective.
The tasks, programs and projects I find simple are probably not the same ones that you find simple. Think of the last time you were trying to teach something that you find easy to a colleague or friend, and they replied with “oh I just can’t get my head around that”.
Simple does not have a fixed definition that applied to every person, in every situation. If I wanted to learn a knew language, it’s pretty safe to say that Portuguese would be more simple than Mandarin Chinese – but right now they’re both gobbledygook to me.
3. Does this sound like you?
Oof. Now we’re getting into proper opinion territory, as I have a feeling there’s technically nothing wrong with using this writing format, but it just grinds my goats.
Does this sound familiar?
- You like website copy that is fact-packed and fun
- You hate clichés, but like doing things differently
- You can’t speak simple Portguese
- You paint things pink when you get stressed
- You have shoulder-length blondeish-brownish hair
- You have a cat called Elmo and live in a yellow house
- Do you struggle to pet seagulls, even though it’s been your lifelong dream to touch one?
- Does the thought of touching a seagull fill you with joys untold?
- Are you the kinda gal who picks seagulls over pigeons every time?
- Did you watch the first two seasons of This Is Us, and then stop watching it because you really, really hated Toby and couldn’t find enough people on the internet who agreed with you?
- Do you have a cat called Ambrose, who although you love dearly, is not as good as Elmo?
Using bullets to separate points is usually clarifying but I don’t feel this format fits in most business situations.
My pesky human brain assumes that I must complete every option on a list. If I see a list of 8 points and only 3 apply to me or my circumstances, that’s less than 50% and therefore not relevant.
I bet any business owner out there who uses this format is thinking “but I can help you if any of the points applies” and you might even write that in your text. And here’s where the clarifying power of bullets actually gets in your way – as it’s waaayyyyy easier to absorb the things that are not relevant to me, than it is to absorb the fact that not all of them need apply.
4. Welcome to my website
You might be surprised by how many websites start with ‘welcome to my website’. I have no beef with greeting visitors, it’s just another waste of words. The top of your homepage is probably the most viewed area of your website, and should be used carefully.
‘Welcome to my website’, ‘welcome to brand X’, ‘we are X’ are all fine, but fine doesn’t deserve the most prominent location. Instead, open with your most compelling message.
5. Ego (in place of personality)
My fifth common copy cliché anti-crush is a little less concise than the others. It’s copy that focuses on the business owner first.
The human-ness of a small business is a massive selling point, especially over our high street and big-boy competition. Throwing your personality into every sentence emphasises that you are real, creative and relatable.
But facts about you are not your personality. Ego is not personality.
You can show that you love your work without writing “I love what I do”. Take the plain-spoken brand with a difference from earlier – they could say “I’m a plain-spoken lad from the Yorkshire Dales,” or they can type every sentence without acronyms, buzzwords and bullpish.
If you celebrate small businesses, showcase the small businesses you celebrate. Stop saying, start showing.
Now, I’m definitely not saying that there’s nothing to be had for sharing personal stories. I do it all the dang time – I totes live in a yellow house, I have shoulder-length blondeish-brownish(-greyish) hair, I want to touch a seagull and I HATE TOBY. Seriously. I don’t get it, he seems really pushy and inconsiderate and has bad manners.
But there’s a time and a place. Save the ego and the anecdotes for more editorial content, like blogs and Instagram. Cut the waffle from your website, and stick to communicating the benefits of your brand and your products.