The Common Phrases Killing Your Content’s Credibility

Published on March 10, 2017

An active, consistently-updated blog can have huge benefits for your brand. Creating and sharing multimedia content helps you gain traction with search engines, allowing you to capture a whole new audience of curious web searchers via Google or Yahoo.

And once users have found your site, your content is a highly effective way to turn lookers into customers, guiding users through your conversion funnel and making them lifelong clients.

A lot of content that we see on sites across the web, however, doesn’t actually create any value – not just for customers, but for the creators themselves. You see, it’s not enough to just have content on your site; instead, the content you post has to be highly effective – at educating consumers about your brand, at persuading them to engage with you, and at positioning you as a trustworthy thought leader in your field.

Want to write more credible, engaging, and trust-building content? Start by eliminating these all-too common phrases from your copywriting lexicon:

1.) “Guaranteed to Boost Your Sales 95%”

In general, consumers tend to get wary around any claims of a guarantee. We’re so used to getting burned by seemingly-incredible online offers that, as a culture, we’ve adopted a new mantra: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Users are quick to sniff out exaggeration, overselling, and hyperbole; relying on puffed-up, unverifiable claims reeks of arrogance (at best) and desperation (at worse). Either way, your brand takes a tumble in the eyes of your prospective customer.

Leadership expert and business consultant Prasad Kaipa offers an easy way to be mindful of setting appealing, realistic expectations. In this stellar piece for the Harvard Business Review, Kaipa sets out the questions leaders should ask themselves in order to become more credible; we feel that they apply just as much to marketing content as to executive decision makers:

  • Am I saying something that implies a promise?
  • What are the odds I can or will actually follow through?
  • How can I articulate my ideas and concerns in such a way as to not raise false expectations?
  • What kind of credibility do I currently have with my family, my organization, and my community?
  • What kind of credibility do I want?
  • Where or with whom do I have special difficulty bridging my credibility gap? Who can support me in keeping my word? 

2.) “How AB on CFs Benefit B2B on SERPS”

Write enough content day after day, and you fall into a routine. It happens to everyone. In fact, maintaining this routine can be a great way to increase your productivity as a content creator. On the other hand, it’s also easy to fall into bad habits when you don’t really think about what you’re writing.

Case in point? Writers who forgo substantive explanations and audience-focused writing in favor of jargon, acronyms, and industry abbreviations. Rather than making you seem like an expert, relying on industry speak is a sure way to turn off wide swaths of your audience who feel confused, excluded, and overwhelmed by your content.

The surest way for your content to persuade – and generate conversions – is to build trust with your readers by speaking to them directly; making your copy too dense or esoteric is a surefire way to make users disengage – and, perhaps, spend their precious time on another site.

3.)  “The numbers may LOOK bad, but here’s why they’re actually good.”

Accuracy, honest, and transparency are three hallmarks of successful marketing content; don’t sacrifice your chance to make an honest connection with a user for rhetorical fallacies or confirmation bias (a.k.a. “alternative facts”).

Recognize when it’s time to confess to any mistakes or to critically, objectively take a look at yourself or your industry.

As an example, imagine that you’re creating content for a real estate firm. Don’t push content that tells clients they’re in for an easy home sale when all of the market conditions for a neighborhood say otherwise; misleading or misrepresenting any data that you have, or relying on anecdotal evidence in the face of overwhelming trend lines and hard numbers, will only lead to a poisoned relationship as the customer comes to realize that your claims are bogus, and drops your group for a real estate team that’s more upfront and effective.

In summary: Don’t sugarcoat reality, don’t cherry pick data, and don’t reject criticism out of hand. Instead, be honest, transparent, and self-reflexive with your users. Though it may lead to a few more uncomfortable meetings upfront, it’s far more likely to pay off down the line – for you and your client alike.

4.) “You Know,” “Kind Of,” and Other Filler Phrases

Let’s go back to that Harvard Business Review for a moment, because it’s the place where presentation expert Jerry Weissman has waged a one-man war against “filler.” We agree with Mr. Weissman that weighing your copy with too many reflexive, space-wasting filler words and phrases can “cast doubt on the content itself.”

As an example, take one of Weissman’s most-hated phrases: “Does that make sense?” He argues that posing such a question makes your argument less credible, positioning the writer as uncertain about their own argument and doubtful of their audience’s ability to keep up or pay attention. Neither is a good look.

Rather than hemming, hawing, and relying on words that weaken your argument – “sort of,” “kind of,” “pretty much” – focus on making your language specific, concrete, and active. Write with clarity and conviction, and you’ll look stronger and more trustworthy in the eyes of your readers. Who knows? You might even get a conversion (or three) for your trouble!

Looking for help creating high quality, search engine optimized content for your business? Geek is here to help! Drop us a line today to see what blogging and multimedia can do for you.  

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