Let’s Get Specific: Bland is Bad

When it comes to blogging for business, you likely know the drill by now.  Your copy should be unique; it should inspire; it should entice the audience into your business like the smell of a backyard barbecue attracts hungry neighbors.  It should paint a picture of your company that would make Monet jump off his own painted bridge at its beauty.  It should be robust like fine coffee; it should be sweet like Sangria on a summer’s day in Spain.

So why, why, why do so many sites fall into the terrible trap of tediousness?  We all know that we should serve our clients up with copy that titillates and teases like a burlesque dancer; yet so many sites display wordage that seems so flat-footed.  What happened?

Words matter.  Really.

The thing about copywriting—and writing for the web in general—is that your words are what your customer interfaces with.  If you have a brick-and-mortar outlet, you likely understand that it’s important to have a store that is attractively and logically laid out; your employees may greet customers at the door and ask them if they need assistance.  Even before the customer buys, your business’ handshake is one that is pleasant, put-together, and comfortable.  It’s convincing.

It’s easy to pick on websites that make rookie design mistakes like orange copy on a flashing black and white background.  There’s obviously a problem there.  It’s easy to degenerate copy that’s riddled with errors and inconsistent tense.  These are obvious mistakes that will turn a potential client away from your site as surely as they’d turn away from a grocery store that kept their produce aisle stocked with rotting oranges and putrid eggplant.

What’s harder to diagnose, though, is the issue of blandness.  Anybody who knows their business basics understands that it’s important to differentiate your brand and mark yourself as unique from your competitors.  After all, you want a little j’e ne sais quoi about your company that catches the consumer and reels them in before your neighbor does.

So, riddle me this.

Why do so many “about” pages for websites read like this:

“Company XYZ provides the very highest standards in product X.  Our team is unparalleled with customer service, and we are happy to provide the very best to countries around the world from Argentina to Zambia.  Our industry leaders are at the top of their field, and no company can match the prowess of XYZ.”

Now, of course, I made that up off the top of my head so as not to name names, but if you’ve been around the internet block a few times, you’ve seen this beast of a paragraph lurking in the annals of thousands of companies.  Is the copy technically bad?  No.  There aren’t any grammatical mistakes, and even though I can’t imagine too much business is going on in Antarctica, it’s an actual place.

The problem is that this copy is bland.  It tells the customer absolutely nothing.  It is the 99-cent loaf of white bread on the shelves of grocery stores everywhere.  Sure, it’ll hold your sandwich together, but it adds nothing to the flavor of the dish and there’s no nutritional value, besides.  So you have a company that provides the highest standards?  Big deal.  Your industry leaders are at the top of the field?  Well, of course you’d say they were.  When was the last time you saw a website say that they adhere to low standards and the management knows nothing and the employees couldn’t care less about the customers?

Let’s Move On To Product Examples

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, you’ll need to describe it on your website at some point.  Your product is the heart and soul of the business.  It’s the music that you dance to day in and day out.  If you’re a business owner, you likely love your product. For instance, I love wine almost as much as I love to write.  And I love wine.  So that’s some serious love.

So if you’re selling widgets, you’re probably all about diggin’ the widgets.  That’s great!  You’re passionate!  You’re informed!  You’re ready to sell it to the customer!

…why, then, would you preface your product like this:

These widgets are well-made and will hold up under any use that you see fit.

Oh, man.  I’m bored.  “Any use that you see fit?”  What?  No.  I want your widgets to move me.  If you want me to open my wallet, you’d better make those widgets sound like the best thing that’s ever widget-ed.  Let’s try again.

Made for the discriminating widget-owner, these widgets are set to build your business from the ground up.  We offer a variety of widgets in all shapes and sizes to bolster your standing in the world of widgets.  When you’re ready to revolutionize your world, revolutionize it with our widgets.

Well.  That’s more like it. That product copy moves, it shakes, and it actually tells me something.  Did you know that over half of the spots on the Top 20 All-Time Grossing Movie List are action movies?  That’s because people like action.  They like movement.  They like explosions and pyrotechnics and fast cars.

Make sure that your copy moves. You don’t want it to be caught flat-footed: if you bore your reader, you’ll lose the sale, and I guarantee it.  Want to learn more about writing bangin’ product examples?  Check out this fabulous post at Portent for 5 Tips to Better Product Descriptions.

The Long and Short of it?

Don’t fall into the trap of blandness.  Sure, white bread does the job, but it’s not going to bring your diners in.  You’d never invite your friends to dinner and tell them triumphantly that you’ll be serving them Wonder Bread.  No.  You’d tell them that you were going to serve them crusty baked rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds and drizzled with olive oil.  You wouldn’t tell them you’ll serve them pasta.  You’d tell them that you’re going to serve them fine al dente linguini served with the richest of nut-brown alfredo sauces and topped with cracked black peppercorns.  You’d serve it with a glass of red wine deep and rich and smooth.

At least, I’d show up.  You had me at “wine.”

What techniques do you use to make your copy pop?

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Laura Hancock is a co-owner of ContentEqualsMoney.com. She has also been a long time writer for us. She writes with a passion for accuracy and flow. While her administrative duties have grown, she is a still a big piece of our content writing services team! Currently pursuing a certification in Technical Writing at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle. +Laura Hancock

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    1. […] do seem to be referencing myself a lot in this post, but as I’ve said before bland is bad. Since web content is pretty uniform across the board – I mean, most companies have an “about […]

    2. […] do seem to be referencing myself a lot in this post, but as I’ve said before bland is bad.  Since web content is pretty uniform across the board – I mean, most companies have an […]

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