Conversion Guru - Online Secrets to Success

Friday, May 19, 2006

Choosing your words carefully when you write online is just as important as the layout of your page, or the content on your site. To improve your site, consider the meaning of the words you are writing.

When we write we have to realize that words often have more than one meaning. They have a denotation, which is a literal meaning and how it is defined in the dictionary, and a connotation, which is an implied meaning within certain cultures. Some words have positive connotations and some have negative ones.

Take the word cheap for example. You could say, “He drives a cheap car.” Here the suggestion is that he drives an inferior vehicle to everyone else. However, if you replace the word cheap and say, “He drives an inexpensive car,” the statement has a much less negative connotation. Now the statement implies that he drives a practical, reasonably priced car. Despite the fact that the words have basically the same denotation, they have very different connotations.

I see this most often online in the form of the infamous ‘submit button.’ On a great majority of the pages I see, where the call to action is to start a form, or upon the completion of a form or online order, you are asked to ‘submit.’

Submit has three definitions –
To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another.
To subject to a condition or process.
To commit (something) to the consideration or judgment of another.

I never like to surrender myself to the authority of another person. In American culture, submit is often associated with a negative connotation as well. People who are inferior, are asked to submit to someone else. Submit is also used when implying that someone has dominance over another. In short, I don’t want to submit to anybody, and I doubt that the visitors on your website want to submit to you.

Instead, consider using phrases like ‘start now,’ ‘finish’ or ‘complete your order.’ These words would convey the same concept of ‘click here to finish,’ but have a much less negative connotation.

I am also reminded of another example I have seen. Sometimes on sites when the user is asked to pick between a variety of options, there is an annoying link next to it saying, ‘Learn More.’ If the user came to your website looking to buy something from you, odds are they think you should be the expert on the topic and they don’t want to learn more. If they really want help, the link could say ‘Help Me Choose.’ Now, if the user wants help, they will feel comfortable that the topic will be explained to them without having to ‘Learn More.’

These are just a few examples of words in the English language that could be replaced with others to convey a less negative connotation. I encourage you to re-read the content on your website and examine the connotation of the words on the page, particularly the words on buttons or in text links. Re-writing the text on your website with words with more positive connotations will make your visitors more comfortable with your site and can really improve conversions.

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