The other day, someone left a message saying they were from “the world’s leading Internet marketing company.”
“That’s strange,” I thought. I’ve heard from two other companies in the last three days, all claiming to be “the world’s leading Internet marketing company.”
Did I call them back? Nope. If I can’t trust what they say in a voice mail, why would I trust their business practices?
It’s the puffery that threw me off.
“Puffery” means exactly how it sounds – exaggerated statements that, in actuality, no reasonable prospect would believe. If you’ve been to a bar during ladies night, the pick-up lines you’ll hear represent puffery at it’s finest. “I’m the best at…” “People say I’m the greatest.” You can almost picture the Leisure Suit Larry-type throwing out the lines.
The problem with puffery is it sets off people’s B.S. meters. You read things like “We’re the best in the industry” and, “We’re the world’s greatest at…” and you think, “Yeah, right.” You don’t believe it. You can’t believe it. Especially when 1,000 competing Websites brag about the exact same thing.
The sad thing is, if you don’t know any better, puffy SEO copywriting can sound good when you’re writing it. Stumped for something to say, it’s easy to boast rather than provide benefits. “We’re the best.” “All experts agree!” “Work with the leading company in…” What these folks forget is that their readers want real information. They want to know the specific ways your product or service will help them. They want to know how you’ll make their lives easier. Not how cool you are.
When I posted my “World’s leading Internet marketing company” experience on Twitter, I received some interesting responses:
And these Facebook responses, one of which from the always-wonderful @demib (someone who really can claim to be one of the top five SEO experts in the world):
How can you prevent puffery? Comb through your site and delete any comments containing unsubstantiated superlatives like “Everyone uses our services.” At the same time, boost your street cred the real, effective way – by announcing awards, touting your testimonials and raving about your reviews. It’s one thing for you to say, “I’m the best in the business.” It’s quite another when you have 50 testimonials raving about your service, you’ve won industry awards, you’ve chaired boards and you have scads of press clippings quoting you as the expert source.
After all, it’s one thing to toot your own horn. But it’s so much more effective when someone else does it for you…