Industry Language is for the Office, Not Your Website

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Are you guilty of using internal lingo on your website? In other words, do you write content that assumes the customer knows the industry like you do, and he must understand all your industry buzzwords and jargon? If so, let our Austin advertising agency be the first to tell you: Stop! It is true that consumers like transparency, but using the language of one’s field doesn’t convey transparency to readers. If anything, it puzzles them.

Here are some examples of unfortunate trade jargon that is sometimes found on business websites. Perhaps you have encountered some of it before.

Confusing Language

At a physician’s office, words like “consult,” “pre-op” and “post-op” are terms the office uses internally; they are abbreviations for the terms “consultation,” “pre-operative” and “post-operative.” Sure, this is something that seasoned patients know right off the bat – but new patients, or people viewing the practice website for the first time, may not. For one thing, “consult” is a verb in most conversations (with emphasis on the second syllable), but when the call to action on a website tells them to “schedule a consult,” the word becomes a noun with emphasis on the first syllable. This is confusing, and should be avoided.

On the website, it’s just better to spell out the entire word rather than attempt to use industry slang. This accomplishes two goals: projecting a more professional image of the practice, and leaving no doubts in the readers’ minds when it comes to the meaning of certain words. After all, an unconfused reader is a happy reader who is more likely to convert to becoming a customer.

Intimidating Language

Other times, brands attempt to impress customers by using language that is too high level – and all that ends up doing is intimidating people. Business consultant Karl Albrecht wrote about a United Airlines survey he once took, and explained how its use of industry jargon was a breach of good customer communication. It featured the question, “How frequently do you or the people in your company fly in each of the following markets?”

“Very few air travelers would refer to the trip between Los Angeles and San Diego as a ‘market,’” he wrote. “Second, very few people except travel agents would be likely to understand all of the city-pair abbreviations used. How many people know that ‘ORD-LGA’ stands for a flight between Chicago’s O’Hare Field and New York’s LaGuardia airport?” In that survey, Albrecht wrote, “One item managed to demonstrate almost all of the key blunders one can make in writing questions.”

There is a chance that the airline was attempting to appeal to the sophisticated side of its consumer base – but even if it was, doing so could alienate others who are less seasoned flyers. No brand wants to alienate a part of its audience, which is what intimidating language does.

Technical Language

Technical language, which is frequently encountered on service provider websites, takes intimidating language to another level. For instance, if a mortgage broker speaks to the audience as if it is speaking to a colleague, readers may feel perplexed, stressed out, and discouraged that they may never achieve their goals simply because they can’t figure out what the company is talking to them about.

Another example that is found on service industry websites is spending too much time explaining how a process works. Let’s say Joe wants to hire a tree transplanting company, and he finds one through a search. If the company’s website pages are packed with information on root balls, encapsulation and advanced irrigation techniques, Joe may be so daunted that he abandons the website and looks for one he can understand. Keeping a site free from technical details as much as possible is often the better route.

It may not be possible to eliminate all jargon from a website – after all, it is important to sound authoritative – but it is certainly feasible to keep the industry language to a minimum. To get a professional perspective on content creation, contact the Austin advertising agency professionals at Crest Media for a free website consultation.


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