When you think of jargon, you may think of those silly phrases that have become almost meaningless in our daily conversation.
Best practice. “In today’s world…” Full service. “The bottom line is…” Value added.
You get the idea.
However, there’s another type of jargon that’s harder to catch: internal jargon.
Internal jargon consists of the words and messages we use to communicate to one another inside of our offices or departments — words and messages that don’t translate well to our audiences. These are things that we may fully understand but are unfamiliar to many prospective families, such as:
- Educational terms (ability grouping? deductive thinking? learning center?)
- Programs, services or standards (common core? rubric? NCLB?)
- Various school departments (admissions vs. advancement vs. marketing vs. what?!)
Internal jargon not only makes your content unclear, but it also makes it harder for a reader to connect with your school and view you as a trusted resource and ally.
So how can you ensure no harmful internal jargon muddles up your website content?
#1: Check Your Program Names
From club and activities to academic programs, names often mean one thing to our internal teams and another to our external audiences. When we begin a new program or activity, we name it for internal development purposes — and the name just sticks. We never revisit it, and we forget to think about it from our audience’s perspective.
For example, I was recently helping a university rewrite its website’s program pages. One of the programs was a master’s degree in Media Literacy. However, the name of the course didn’t reflect exactly what the degree was about (analyzing media in all forms and using digital media to make an impact on children and social justice).
Because the program name was set, we had to work harder to explain the course in content — knowing that the program name could deter people who may, in fact, be interested in it.
So how can you avoid this problem? When starting a new program, do some keyword research. Understand what words your target audience is searching for, and name the program accordingly. And if possible, revisit your current program names and ask yourself:
- Does this name accurately describe the program?
- Is it meaningful to someone who doesn’t understand what the program is about?
- Is it something our audience will be organically searching for?
#2: Don’t Go Acronym Crazy
Acronyms are similar to program names: while they may mean something to our internal teams, that meaning may be lost on our audiences. Especially when they’re not fully explained.
In print, there’s a rule that an acronym should be spelled out the first time it is mentioned, and then the acronym can be used in subsequent mentions.
However, this rule gets muddied online. We often forget that, because website visitors don’t read in a linear fashion, they may have missed the first mention of an acronym. That’s why it’s important to spell out acronyms on the first mention on every page.
Along with explaining our acronyms, we also have to be careful about how many acronyms we use on each page. The last thing you want is a page that looks like it’s written in secret code. Remember: visitors are trying to read, not become experts in our internal language. Let’s make it as easy as possible for them.
#3: Keep Content Marketing-Focused
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your website is your most important marketing tool. It is NOT a catchall for all of your communications. It is NOT the place to appease someone by adding in unnecessary details. It does NOT belong to everyone on your internal team.
Your website is the hello, not the conversation. It needs to attract, and it needs to prompt action. Only include helpful information that is designed to get your reader to take the next step. Do not bombard them with everything. If you offer too much, you confuse your message and lose control of the reader’s actions.
Want more tips on how to keep your content marketing-focused? Read 9 Content Mistakes Wrecking Your Website.
#4: Review Those Calls-to-Action
Along with the marketing focus, you need to make sure your calls-to-action are specific and meaningful.
This means no more including a bunch of downloadable PDFs and convincing yourself you’re giving your audience enough information to take action. No more linking over to unrelated pages or programs. No more dead ends.
Instead, it’s time to give your calls-to-action the attention they deserve. And this means really thinking about the pathways you want to create for your audience. Think about it this way:
- What would your audiences find helpful once they visit this page?
- How can you continue to engage your reader so that they don’t leave your site?
- What visitor action would bring you one step closer to reaching your specific goals for this website page or section?
When we have a process on our website, we need to make sure that process is easy and intuitive from the very first visitor encounter. And a call-to-action is a process. So make each clear and strong. Learn more in The Ultimate Guide to Crafting a Call-to-Action that Converts.
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