Ben McConnell has a short little post over at Church of the Customer this week that serves as a perfect example of why keyword research is so essential. McConnell is talking about companies that rely too heavily on jargon in their marketing materials. In the world of search engine optimization, we call that "PR speak."

McConnell's post was sparked by Facebook's description of itself on their home page.


From McConnell's perspective, this is a perfect example of a company that is relying too heavily on jargon. After all, how many of you would describe Facebook as a "social utility" if asked to describe it by friends? My guess is not many, especially since a search of both Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery show ten times more searches for "social network" than "social utility."

What does this have to do with toilets? For that matter, what does it have to do with you?

Well, it underscores just how important it is to do keyword research for your site. Whether small business or big, companies tend to get caught up in their own way of saying things. If a public relations department has been in the mix for long, there's a good chance they've tried to differentiate your product or service by giving it some snazzy new name. That's fine and dandy, but if your site focuses on that snazzy new name and ignores the boring, but descriptive might be missing the boat in terms of search traffic.

Take the example from the title. While a new model of toilet could technically be called a "biological waste aquatic removal system" (after all, you're removing human waste via a water based system) chances are slim anyone is going to go searching for that. In fact, Keyword Discovery tells me the site selling toilets would have a lot more luck if they focused on phrases like:

portable toilet
composting toilet
low flow toilet
marine toilet
corner toilet

McConnell sums it up in six words:

Jargon is easy. Simple is hard.

I understand how much companies want to differentiate themselves and their products online. There's nothing sexy about being the 4,567th site selling toilets online, but the reality of how people search means that if you want to attract these potential customers to your site, you're going to need to speak their language. If you haven't done keyword research to see if your customers call your products the same things you do, you'd better get started.

Remember, just because you are using the same base keywords and phrases as your competitors doesn't mean your site and your copy have to be boring. Tone, style and description can all go a long way toward taking those basic keywords and making them pop.

May 5, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


All I can say is "Amen, sister!"

Jennifer, another fabulous post. I have a client that is in an interesting position with two different decision makers using two different vocabularies. The folks who are doing the initial research to buy this company's products use "toilet" like keywords. The higher-ups who are actually going to make the decisions to purchase are using jargon. So they need to show up for toilet terms, but still use enough jargon on their website to be valid when the COO comes to confirm the vendor selection. It is an interesting dilemma; one that keyword research, and learning that there are 10x more searches for "toilet" has helped create! :)

Perfect and right on the money!

In fact keyword research is the difference between 10 visitors and 1000 visitors. Recently we had a poll in the office where I argued with the boss about whether people search singular or plural. In this case singular won... and sometimes it takes more than just putting an "s" on the end. So choose your keywords wisely.

For the record, I said singular was searched more often. :) But hey, that's why he employs me for the SEO work.

Great points on keyword research. Too funny that "portable toilets" is an actual word that I have optimized for many years ago. Maybe I should revisit and send our company "to the toilet" (LOL). Take care!

This is such a good point. I think we sometimes overlook it as marketers b/c we want to "be different". From an SEO standpoint though, you are totally right-thanks for reminding us to stay on track!

so true - and working for financial sevices (ie accounting!!) firm means i am constantly battling overwhelming jargon on our website. thanks for your insight, will be printing for future reference with the bean counters :)

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > It's a Toilet not a "Biological Waste Aquatic Removal System"