Tag Archives: keywords

What language are you speaking?

19 Feb

Are you by chance speaking in jargon? Why are you doing that?

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As a writer and a consultant, I often ask my clients what their “keywords” are. It is helpful, and sometimes crucial, to use the right terminology for any given industry.  Especially when you are working in a business to business environment, you need to know how these businesses look for the services/products that they need. But when an outsider lands on one of these B-to-B web pages or marketing materials,  he or she will most likely end up not understanding a word.  For instance, a client of mine uses the terms “professional services.”  For general marketing purposes, this is the emptiest phrase out there, but in the client’s world, it carries a specific meaning.

Setting aside the need for industry-specific terminology, and recognizing the importance of specific terminology in a B-to-B setting, what is going on with language today? Why are so many people talking in gobbledy-gook? Lately, I have heard the following phrases/terms on TV, in conversation and seemingly, everywhere else:

  • Drilling down (apparently, this means getting to the heart of the issue or talking specifically)
  • Sweet spot (as in where the perfect opportunity lies)
  • Being out of pocket (never got this one although it means being unreachable)
  • Getting your ducks all in a row (oldie but goodie, means be prepared)
  • Leveraging an opportunity (making the most of something)
  • Staying ahead of the curve (presumably, leveraging opportunities to get to your sweet spot)

In a sense, these universally used phrases serve as a crutch. Use them and other people will understand what you mean, even when the meaning isn’t entirely clear. Sometimes, using touch phrases makes someone look like an insider, someone who is in the know.

In the end, jargon and catch phrases muck up your meaning. It’s one thing to use these in conversation where I can stop and ask you what you mean. It’s another to use them in writing.  When things are written (especially printed) there is no easy or quick way to ask the writer what he or she means.

Catch my drift?

Words are Key

6 May

Keywords. They are the mantra of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) people.  Some websites are written in a weird, keyword heavy format to make them seem like candy for the search engines.  Websites also have metatags and alt-text and other areas for keywords. Search engines read text, which is why content is king on the Internet. Search engines do not read images, unless they are labeled or tagged.

Some companies set up blogs just to increase their likelihood of being found. And SEO people think you should have keywords there too.

If you ever doubted that keywords are important, then do a little experiment on Twitter. Use a keyword like marketing, writing, or golf (if that is your thing) and see how many people start following you. Yesterday, I re-tweeted a story about the Christian Science Monitor getting rid of its religion reporter (fairly ironic, and that is why I shared it). Guess what, no less than three people of a heavy Christian persuasion started following me. Even though none of my posts and my bio say anything about Christianity. These people were simply keyword surfing and leeched on to the word Christian in Christian Science Monitor.

So, how do you create a list of keywords? Easy.  Start with your industry and work from there. Say you are a civil engineer. You would have the following: engineering, civil engineering, building, and so on. The important thing is to think of variations and related words. If you are in advertising, you would naturally choose marketing, and perhaps sales.  You may also want to include location (city, state, country) and specialties. You may want to use the names of your principals. Just ask yourself: what would people ask if they needed to find me or someone that does what I do?

Final thought: a popular word on this blog has been Twitter. In fact, I am sure if I tagged this article with the word Twitter, I will get plenty of search engine hits. 

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