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5 buzzwords that sabotage your website content

5 buzzwords that sabotage your website content

Buzzword. The word itself is a kind of… buzzword, isn’t it. To be fair, it’s been around for a while. Since 1946, actually, when the Harvard School of Business started encouraging its students to use phrases such as `poor focus’ and the rather quaint `turn in his suit’ to help them get better results. As buzzwords go, I guess it has heritage.

Anyway, enough history. I’m about to have a good old rant about the 5 most loathsome, lazily meaningless buzzwords that appear all over the internet today. These words will sabotage your website. At best, they’ll spray a thick smelly mist of vagueness over your content and give the impression that you have something to hide. At worse, they’ll make you look dumb.

OK, take a deep breath. Here they are:

1.    Leverage

Are you Archimedes? You are? Go right ahead… You wrote The Equilibrium of Planes so you’re allowed to use `leverage’. Otherwise, just stop it please.

Leverage is the advantage gained by using a lever. Imagine a big rock. You ram a crowbar underneath it, push down and the rock goes up. It’s a noun – and just because some financial marketing guy once stuck `age’ on the end of `lever’ to describe some sort of money-tree nonsense, this doesn’t suddenly make it a verb.

Have I just spillaged coffee over my keyboardage during my diatribe about this word? No I have not. I spilled it. Hang on while I get a cloth…  

2.    Utilize

A bit like leverage, only worse because this one has an alternative, accurate meaning. When amateur content writers employ `utilize’ in the wrong context, they’re not only trying and failing to sound clever by using an unnecessarily big word when a smaller one would be better, they’re also using the word incorrectly.

Utilize: to make or render useful; to convert to use; turn to account — Oxford English Dictionary

Unless you’re actually taking something and creating an alternate use for it (converting to use), utilize is the wrong word. If in doubt, go for `use’. It avoids embarrassment.

3.    Innovative, innovate, innovation

To be honest, the whole `innovate’ thing makes me want to utilize a large mallet to leverage shoddy websites into internet oblivion. Google page 4.  

First off, is your product or idea actually an innovation? Is your business genuinely innovative? Are you sure? OK, prove it.

These days, it’s not good enough to just say your product is ingenious and original. That judgement call is up to the reader. Their decision should be based on informative content that extolls the benefits of your product’s originality and explains what they’ll gain from buying it. You have to earn the right to be deemed innovative.

4.    Synergy

Seriously, would you ever use this word in a real sentence?

“Yum! Fish and chips with vinegar has really great synergy.”

Synergy has been so overused by business that the poor thing has effectively been beaten to a pulp. It’s moved from a reasonably useful word to a cheap and meaningless filler. If you use this in your website content, most readers will simply ignore it – or they’ll click off to your more imaginative competitor.     

5.    Solution

I’ve left `solution’ until last, mainly because it’s difficult to describe how much I hate it. Solutions are absolutely everywhere – from business solutions and HR solutions, IT solutions and digital solutions to sugar solutions (I made that last one up). Its tedious ubiquity, however, isn’t the only problem.

`Solutions’ doesn’t describe what you do. When I see a website that promises `business solutions’, I’m left absolutely clueless about how these people might help me. What does it mean? Nothing. If someone is providing a solution, does this mean they understand the problem? Nope. Do customers always have a problem to solve?  Well, no actually. Some businesses just meet a need. Ice cream solutions, anyone?   

If you’re tempted to use `solution’, or any other overused buzzword for that matter, please resist. I’ll leave the last comment to George Orwell who knew a thing or two about words….

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”


Helen Beckingham is the founder of Keyword Copywriting. Expert scribbler on websites, blogs and e-books, rather good bassoonist, terrible singer. If you need high quality, well-researched content email - or to save time, click here

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