Do You Have Useless Website Content?

Do You Have Useless Website Content?

Your website content may be utterly useless.

Sure, it’s interesting. It’s often funny. It’s accurate and informative.

But it’s probably repetitive. Your website content most likely repeats several sentences throughout your site. Worse, it might even repeat sentences on the same page.

Your customer only needs to be told once that you’re a green company, or a hot copywriter, or that you specialize in lawyer-oriented websites.

Every word should contribute to convincing your client and telling him something new. Otherwise, you risk frustrating your reader. You don’t want to bore him by sounding like a broken record.

Want an example? That first sentence used to read “every single word.” Since ‘word’ is singular, saying ‘single’ was redundant. That’s what you’re looking for.

You could even remove that last sentence completely. “You don’t want to sound like a broken record,” basically means the same as, “Every word should tell your client something new.” I’ve used different words to communicate the same idea – but it’s still redundant.

When you remove the unnecessary and repetitive words, your website communicates its message more swiftly. More effectively. With stronger results.

A concise message lets your reader’s brain process your message quickly. There’s no clutter, and he’s more likely to take action because the need feels more immediate.

In every way, concise web copy is better web copy.

If you want to learn how to write better web copy, register for the Damn Fine Words writing course. It’s open right now to new students, and you’ll learn all the ins and outs of concise, effective writing that brings your business results.

You’ll thank yourself for it.

But in the meantime, here’s a tip you can use right away. You’ll have vastly better copy on your website in 20 minutes by following these two simple steps:

  1. Go look at your web copy right now.
  2. Take out every word that doesn’t contribute something new.

Come back here and tell us about the before-and-after. I bet you’ll have something to say!

The Damn Fine Words writing course teaches you effective writing skills to help you increase your business potential. From blogging to newsletter content to email pitches, learn the writing techniques that work. Click here to learn more.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. James, I’m all about tightening up website copy, but sometimes copywriters use repetitive to reinforce key messages. Or they’ll include the same message two different ways to ensure that if the first way doesn’t resonate with someone, the second one might have more impact. Any thoughts on this strategy?

    • Good point Susan. I’m discovering what a rookie editor I am…or maybe that’s a rookie writer :-) But there are occasions where repetition ( even if the words are identical )actually support the copy rather than take a way from it!

    • Good question. I think there’s a huge difference between being redundant and addressing concerns from different angles.

      Because if you think about it, if you’re saying the same message in two different ways to make it resonate with two different readers, you’re actually addressing different concerns – so that eliminates the redundancy.

      It’s a very, very fine line, though, so I hope you get the distinction. I think you will, though – you’re a smart cookie!

  2. Cutting flab is fun too. I run a macro that finds and highlights over 300 flabby words and phrases if found. I try to find as many as I can manually though, then let my macro tell me if I missed any.

    Most writers don’t think they can tighten. They are wrong.

    If someone posted two paragraphs of one of their blog posts in this comment section, I’d bet money I’d find at least one instance of flab.

    • Hee! I bet you would too. Most writers don’t put in the effort to actually find every little bit of clutter, because quite honestly, it’s tough to go the entire distance and most people won’t want to put in the work.

      The good news that the more you edit tightly and look for useless clutter, the more tightly you begin to write, and you really hone your skills in that area. Soon, you’re looking HARD to find clutter, because there’s so little of it… mastery is key!

  3. Every piece of writing you post to your website should be edited many times. In addition, if your site has multiple pages, and you deal with the same subject matter over and over, you’ll want to edit broadly across the entire site to find inconsistencies and duplication.

    The bad news is that editing is hard work. The good news is that editing is so difficult that most of your competition is either unable or too lazy to do it correctly. This fact leaves a clear (although not easy) path for you to make your website stand out. Thanks for the insight!

  4. I actually had to read this post about 3 times to actually make sense of what was being said. Being succinct is great. But hard cold clarity is better, IMHO
    Want an example? That first sentence used to read “every single word.” Since ‘word’ is singular, saying ‘single’ was redundant. That’s what you’re looking for.
    You could even remove that last sentence completely. “You don’t want to sound like a broken record,” basically means the same as, “Every word should tell your client something new.” I’ve used different words to communicate the same idea – but it’s still redundant.

    What first sentence….the one at the beginning of the post? Yes, I get it now, but my comprehension of what was being said wasn’t immediate.
    If a few extra words or clear explanations make for a better and more easily understood read, then I’m all for it. But all writer can become better editors right?

    • That first sentence could refer to the beginning of the piece or the beginning of a paragraph, so either way it was correct… but agreed, adding in ‘that first sentence of the last paragraph’ would have made things clearer. Good catch!

      • No catch intended :-) I’ve been learning a metric ton of stuff from this blog in the last few months. So my initial feeling was one of frustration when I couldn’t understand what you meant, first read.

  5. Excellent post, with one problem: the content isn’t gender-neutral. As a woman, I’m hard-pressed to purchase the products or services of a provider that uses male pronouns only, for obvious reasons.

    Here’s an example of what I mean, taken from your post:
    “Every word should contribute to convincing your client
    and telling him something new.”

    The simple fix here is to simply make “client” plural, so you include everyone:
    “Every word should contribute to convincing your
    clients and telling them something new.”

    The vast majority of the time, pluralizing works. When it doesn’t, the sentence can usually be rearranged to be gender-neutral.

    Cheers. :-)

    • Hey Merryl,

      Generally, using the male pronoun is acceptable and considered to refer to both genders – read any legal text or corporate document and you’ll see it happens all the time. And a woman, I know why writers use male-oriented language and that the writer doesn’t mean ill intent.

      Also, when using pluralization, such as ‘clients’ and ‘they’, it actually weakens the copywriting message – it turns something personal between two people (one real, you the reader, and one imagined, him standing over there) into a watered down third-party situation.

      It’s easier for readers to imagine ‘him’ than ‘them’, because for ‘him’, our brain throws up a specific image and for ‘them’, our brain uses a faceless image – a sea of people we can’t relate to personally.

      So for the sake of a brief, easy read and specific mental imagery, I go for male pronouns. I actually dislike reading copywriting that uses ‘they’. I dislike copywriting that switches back and forth between ‘he’ and ‘she’ even more.

      • Sorry, but I don’t agree. The very fact that your nom de plume is “James” proves the point that men still enjoy greater credibility and respect in a very unfair world.

        Just because something is acceptable doesn’t mean it is right, as history tells us all the time. Using male pronouns perpetuates sexism and the age-old idea that men are both dominant and the primary gender. Titles such as “firefighter,” “police officer,” and “Ms.” arose out of the need and desire on the part of women to gain gender equality. I’m working on getting people to use “Congressor” instead of “Congressman” and “Congresswoman,” which are ungainly. ;-)

        We have a long way to go, and male pronouns in text and copy set us back all the time.

        I have faith that readers can visualize what the copy addresses without being pointed to it with a male pronoun.

        As to the comment made by Carol, a sentence isn’t of necessity ungrammatical simply because a pronoun is plural. “Children enjoy playing with their toys,” for example, is a perfectly sound sentence.

        I do agree with you, James, that switching back and forth between male and female pronouns is not the solution. That switch is simply annoying.

        Cheers. :-)

  6. I agree with using the male pronoun, particularly since, as James well knows, “male” gets better attention. Unfortunate, and I don’t like it, but that’s the way of the world. I’m working on going James’ route myself, and for the same reason.

    I hadn’t thought about the weakening effect, but it makes sense. Enlightening.

    But my main problem is that pluralizing, as defined, is grammatically incorrect and it just plain drives me crazy.

    BTW, James is right on top of things – this post came to me via email, with a typo in the headline, but I see here it’s been corrected. Yeah, I like that!

  7. *Comment self deleted*

  8. You know, I actually did this very recently and was appalled at the direction my blog was going in. I had a bell curve in my content quality, and it was going downhill fast. A quick changing of the guard and a refocused vision helped get it back where it needs to be.

  9. I completely agree with James here. Concise web copy is better web copy.

    I just think that too many writers get carried away with what they write the first time. They think that their first draft is their best work when in fact it is just the beginning.

    If you want to write content that will get you more results and engage people the more, you need to be like a neurosurgeon who cut tumors out of people heads to make them better.

    In other words you must be ready to cut the tumors out of your writing. Without that your copy cannot do the job you want it to do.

  10. James, I agree that using “he” and other male terms is the way to go. But I’m supposed to create copy with my audience in mind, right? With more women taking commenter Merryl’s position that they’re outdated and offensive, I feel almost obligated to use gender-neutral language. Is the male version more correct if I’m offending readers by using it?

    • Good question. If your audience is female and has strong opinions about feminist areas, then it would be wise to go with what they prefer. I’m sure on certain blogs, “she” is the correct pronoun to use.

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