As the year winds up, I’ve been travelling the web to sort out a few issues for my business – travel for next year, insurance, networking, IT … that sort of thing.
I’ve seen quite a few web sites across a range of industries and I’m convinced now more than ever before that many corporate web sites are written by spammers.
Well, if they’re not actually written by a spammer, the writers are doing an excellent job of pretending to be one.
There are a number of elements to spam email that are common – that most spammers think constitute the best chance of appealing to absolutely everyone:
- Using catchy PR jargon. I’ve received spam that uses everyone cliche known to man (which I know is a cliche in itself. It’s called sarcasm). They overhype products or services to the nth-degree with words like ground-breaking and innovative solution. I have also visited large corporate web sites that do the same. They use meaningless words that do not provide any substance to their claims of being the world’s best whatever.
- Making massive promises before they’ve established trust. One thing spam has covered is the ability to oversell a product like a late-night direct marketing TV show host on cocaine. Yet I’ve visited web sites (some of them government) that tell me – in the first sentence on each page – how they will change my life forever. Here’s the catch: I don’t know who you are, so therefore I am automatically suspicious of anything you say until I trust you. How about you generate some of that trust first?
- Talking to a general audience so they can appeal to everyone. As I say in my web writing workshops, your web site is not for everyone. I can understand why spammers write this way – they’re sending 50 million emails and need responses from perhaps 0.01%, so they need to write in a scattergun approach. But on your web site, you aren’t strafing the world with your web site’s message – you’re talking to a defined audience (or at least, you should be).
- Often having so many mistakes in them that it becomes a comedy show for any proofreader who’s received their email. Maybe it’s poor English, poor grammar or just a lack of interest in the details, I receive spam emails that I can tell eminate from the spam uber-states of Africa or the former Soviet Union. But I’ve also read corporate web sites that have the same mistakes – poor grammar, clumsy English or, in one particular case, a company that couldn’t spell its own name right.
So how does your web site read? Could people pick it out from a spammer’s web site in a police lineup?
Paying attention to some of these minor details – and sticking to the best practice of web writing – is one way to make sure your web site is read correctly and working for you.