Jargon. Verbiage. Policy speak. Whatever you call it, we all encounter it on a daily basis.
Why? There are at least three reasons why companies of all sizes use jargon on their websites, and they’re all fallacies.
As well as taking a look at why I believe that’s the case in this post, I’ll also highlight some of the benefits of banishing jargon, such as improving the way potential customers react to you and lifting your conversion rate too.
Myth 1: Jargon makes my business sound professional
Actually, jargon makes you sound unapproachable. Readers hate jargon because they hate feeling stupid, and that’s how they’ll feel if they can’t get through your site without a dictionary.
When people are looking to buy a product, 9 times out of 10, they are looking for something that’s going to simplify their life. Using complex technical language/ buzzwords makes it more difficult for readers to understand what you’re trying to say.
If they can’t even understand a sales page about your product, they’ll think, “OK, this is too complicated,” or words to that effect—and leave.
Myth 2: My competitors/companies I aspire to be like use jargon
There are times when taking cues from competitors can be a good idea, but this isn’t one of them. If your site reads exactly like those of your competitors, why would people choose you? Instead of who has the best product, their decision comes down to who they saw first.
As for the companies you aspire to be like, take a look at how they did things in their early days. As companies grow, they have a tendency to tighten up because they have investors to worry about and a huge customer base watching their every move.
You don’t have to play it so safe. A light, friendly, jargon-free approach to set you apart from your competitors. (To be honest, bigger organizations should revert back to a fresh and exciting communication style!)
Myth 3: Complex terminology is tied up with what we do
There are few things people fear more than doing their taxes. I work with words for a living, so I try to deal with numbers as little as possible—with the one exception of measuring conversion rates.
I’ve never used TurboTax, but their website makes me feel like I could use it to do my taxes without pulling my hair out. Their ‘How It Works‘ section uses almost no jargon, and instead reiterates how easy, simple and safe the process is:
Of course, I can’t speak to whether or not the software is as easy to use as the site claims. However, the jargon-free approach already has me thinking in a new way about something that used to scare me.
Ditching Jargon Builds Trust
There’s a great skit in The Simpsons that illustrates how easily jargon can be used to push an agenda. Lionel Hutz, a realtor, attempts to enlighten Marge on how she can use jargon to her advantage:
Lionel Hutz: Listen, it’s time I let you in on a little secret, Marge. “The right house” is the house that’s for sale; the “right person” is anyone.
Marge: But all I did was tell the truth.
Lionel Hutz: Of course you did. But there’s “the truth” (shakes head) and “the truth.” (smiles wide) Let me show you.
Marge: It’s awfully small.
Lionel Hutz: I’d say it’s awfully “cozy.”
Marge: That’s dilapidated.
Lionel Hutz: “Rustic.”
Marge: That house is on fire!
Lionel Hutz: “Motivated seller!”
Consumers are savvier than they’ve ever been before. The credit crunch, deal/voucher code sites and the rise of social media are all factors, among other things, but the outcome is this: people know a good deal when they see one.
By extension, people are getting better at spotting when someone is trying to make something sound better than it is. The other day I received a lengthy email from a global talent supply chain expert. He rambled on for half a page before clarifying that he was, as most of us would put it, a recruiter.
I’m not looking to hire anyone but, if I was, I’d much rather deal with someone who sent me a note that said, “Look, I’m a recruiter. I know most people hate us, but I’ve worked with these two people before and they’d be great for this job.”
This is a difficult one to quantify in terms of conversion, but I’m sure there are very few people out there who don’t agree that people buy from brands they trust.
Jargon Ain’t Fooling Anyone
There’s more than a whiff of dishonesty about trying to dress something up in fancy clothing, and the same goes for using boastful jargon to promote a product.
Do I really believe that a certain piece of software has “an innovative structure that will change my life forever”? Probably not, at least not when it’s phrased like that. But I might believe that it will save me four hours a month because it does X, Y and Z.
In that respect, moving away from jargon comes back to a favorite adage of mine: Features tell, benefits sell. Here are the results of two split tests gratefully borrowed from an Unbounce blog post:
The former isn’t jargon as such but my point is that, in both of the above cases, copy that’s clear, simple and focused on benefits wins out over more convoluted or flashier content.
Jargon And Conversion Optimization
Jargon is not only unappealing to readers, it’s also off-putting for search engines. Ok, not the actual search engines because they’re robots, but people using search engines.
Take a look at the below, hat tip to Aaron from Falconer Web Marketing for discovering it:
As Aaron points out, the number of searches for the layman’s term—sales tax refund—is 31 times that of the jargon term—sales tax recovery. He estimates that, as a result, the potential ROI of targeting the former is close to 100 times that of the latter.
This is just one example of how focusing on how you can actually help people, rather than rambling jargon about complicated features, can help you differentiate from the competition and find more leads.
And it won’t just help you get leads; it will help with conversion too.
In researching this post, I stumbled across a great case study outlining how a legal blog boosted conversion by a whopping 550% by working with an agency to simplify their content and appeal to layman readers.
Many people are afraid of using language that’s simple because they worry that it will make their product or service seem basic. Provided you’re careful when writing about what you do, that’s not as big a risk as people think it is.
I wrote above that the majority of people, especially in business, make purchases because they’re looking to simplify a process and save time/money as a result. Jargon appeals only to experts who already know the space and how to simplify, so they don’t need you.
What jargon says to the people who DO need you is that you’re not a company that’s going to help them simplify anything.
Been put off a company because of overuse of jargon? Ditched it yourself and seen success as a result? Let us know in the comments!
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