6 Toxic Marketing Phrases to Avoid at All Costs

toxic marketing phrases

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Have you ever visited a website with poor copy that was clearly written by someone who knows English (barely) as a second language? Or perhaps you’ve visited a website that seemed to be talking down to you.

The language used to communicate a thought through website text needs to be chosen with care and intention, but there are a lot of common mistakes that can negatively affect the choices your audience makes.

Many of these mistakes aren’t so glaring that they’re in the forefront of a visitors mind, and they undoubtedly do more harm than good. Anyone who has engaged in A/B testing understands how even the seemingly small and insignificant website elements can have a large impact on visitors’ behavior. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common website copy errors to avoid to help polish your website to make it shine.

Superlatives and Hyperbolic Expressions

Superlatives are adjectives and adverbs which indicate the most extreme degree of measurement. A couple examples of superlatives include the fastest runner and the best quality. Why should you eliminate these types of exaggerations and expressions from your copy, you ask? Because, it isn’t usually believable and sews the seeds of distrust.

How many diners have you seen that advertise they have the best coffee and pie in the world? How many pizza places in New York have you seen advertising they have the best pizza in the city? Just take a look at the web host industry, where every service provider proudly claims they have the fastest servers.

It’s fairly annoying, and almost always factually inaccurate.

Instead of resorting to disparaging superlatives, find ways to quantify your claims.

Returning to the hosting example, instead of claiming their servers are the fastest, could instead make claims regarding the upload and download speed of their service in MegaBytes, or even better, we can serve 720 pages of information in 7 seconds.  Much more impressive and quantifiable.


Word choice is crucial, and you should eliminate the word “cheap” from your vocabulary; at least when you are referring to your own products and services. You don’t want to market your business as cheap for several reasons. First off, it makes you sound undervalued, as though what you’re offering isn’t of a respectable quality.

Secondly, it makes you sound like a used car salesman. Instead of using the word “cheap,” opt for alternatives that communicate low price and high quality without any negative perceptions attached. Alternatives include the following: on sale, economical, reduced price, limited time offer, temporarily discounted rate or affordable.

On the other hand, you may want to intentionally stir up negative connotations and associations in your audience’s mind by referring to competing products (especially the genuinely bad ones) as cheap and low quality by nature.

Click Here

You should also take care to avoid using the words “click here” as anchor text for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s a wasted SEO opportunity, which is enough of a reason to abandon this term entirely.

It also doesn’t create organic text, which reduces the readability of your content. Try replacing it with stronger calls to action.

Furthermore, it does feel a little insulting. Anyone who has used the Internet before understands how links work, and can identify a link without you telling them to click on it.

Stuff and Things

Both are such a mundane and gray words, and they fail to accurately describe a product or service. Both are far too vague and general, and neither is a sexy or interesting word. It doesn’t sizzle or pop, and can turn off your audience and prevent them from taking action.

If you use these words to describe anything on your site, be it content, products, or services, it can even communicate the idea that you don’t value your products or services.

Second Person Pronouns in Calls to Action

Another common mistake is using second person pronouns (you, your, and yours) within calls to action. Instead, it is generally better to use first person pronouns (I, me, my, mine).

Why? Believe it or not, first person pronouns have a track record of increasing conversion rates because they empower the user and forge a personal connection to the product or service through a sense of entitlement.

The most (superlative intended) well-known example I can think of is Apple, which famously prefaced the model name of many of its products with “i,” such as the iPod or the iPhone. In 1998, Steve Jobs claimed that the “i” in iMac stood for the following words: Internet, individual, instruct, inform, and inspire. Realistically speaking, most people today realize that the “i” stands for “individual,” which helps foster a sense of personalization and a personal connection with the product.

I’d recommend taking a leaf out of Apples book, too, since it is one of the most valuable brands in the world.

For example, let’s consider a law firm’s website, which has a call to action button concerning a free consultation. Instead of using the copy, “Get Your Free Consultation,” it would be better to use a first person pronoun, such as “Get My Free Consultation.” It may seem like such a small matter, but when you’re optimizing a website, every character and every word counts.

One Stop Shop

The phrase “one stop shop” has been horribly overused and now has been inducted into the cliché hall of fame.

Believe it or not, this term is almost a century old, and has fallen out favor long ago. Instead of telling your audience that you’re a one stop shop or that you offer all inclusive or comprehensive service, try to be specific. Tell them exactly what is you offer to not only avoid a terrible cliché, but to also better communicate your product and service offerings. Refer back to the first thing we talked about, keeping superlatives in mind, and again consider quantifiable information.

Remove the Toxic Marketing Phrases and Improve Several Things

Avoiding these website copy mistakes will help you polish your copy and help make your content look more professional Furthermore, it will help show your audience the real value of your products and services while simultaneously forging a stronger connection between the visitor and your business by fostering a feeling of entitlement. Remember, even though they seem like small matters, cleaning them up will have a tangible effect on your conversion rate!

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