Words, some argue, are a living thing, breathing life into our businesses, relationships, and communication. We are social creatures, and the way we interact changes with our location, our intention, and our culture. What does this mean for your content marketing strategy? Are you keeping up with language evolution, or are your word choices going the way of the nothingburger?

Language matters

How you impart your company’s message to your audience is vital, not just to reach people on a level they can understand, but for searches and keywords that drive people to your website.

Since mobile internet usage has eclipsed desktop usage, people are more judicious in how they search for the things they need.

Search queries are shorter, broader, and much less specific.

Thanks to fewer people going to higher learning institutions for Language Arts or Humanities degrees, and because Latin and Greek are falling by the wayside as subjects of study, as a culture, our language is shrinking. Add to that our increased stimuli bringing us far more input on a daily basis—they don’t call it the Information Age for nothing—our brains are having more difficulty retaining and recalling language than ever before. More stimuli and information means we switch focus more rapidly, giving ourselves less time to imprint ideas and concepts into our brains, and the result is a major impact on our communication skills.

Keywords and SEO rankings vs natural language

Remember when commercial phone systems began using automated messages to handle high call volume or provide answers that didn’t require a person to field the question? If we called, for example, to check our bank balance (because back then, there wasn’t an app for that), the voice reading back our account number to check for accuracy was very robotic. Now, whether we’re calling to track a package or ask our cable company to verify an auto-payment, the robot who answers the phone sounds lifelike.

As Artificial Intelligence gets smarter and more adaptable to handling customer service, there will come a time when we talk to a machine and don’t even know it.

This is natural language. 

It’s not replacing keywords. It’s affecting them, as well as SEO optimization of our web pages and search terms.

The language of business has become far more casual, more natural to the way people really speak. That changes how internet users search for goods and services. Where once keywords needed to be specific, now that’s not the case. Search engine algorithms account for our misspellings, and our grammar gaffes, and are much better at reading between our lines than before. Now, we search by topic, not by specific keyword string.

Instead of looking up, “best pick up lines after a divorce,” we’ll search for, “dating tips,” and be rewarded with a host of articles we can quickly browse and glean in minutes what we need to know.

Not only that, but we’ve become less specific in our searches to reach a broad topic, and then drill down to more and more detailed info until our questions are answered.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

Why get out the laptop for a quick internet search when we have our smartphone beside us on the couch?

How you tailor your content makes a difference when more than half the users who’ll land on your site or product pages are looking at a 4.7 inch screen.

We want our information in small, quickly browsed chunks rather than a wall of text. At least we do when it comes to the awareness and consideration sections of the marketing funnel.

There is, however, a balance to be struck. Clever, pithy content could be wonderful to read, but if it doesn’t contain enough of today’s keywords in your industry, no one will land on your page to read it. Short and snappy content is key to keeping people interested in your products or services, but they have to be able to find you. But if you’re parroting what too many of your competitors are saying, how will you stand out? It’s a trick that must be undertaken with care, and the investment in a savvy content writer can make all the difference.

Match your audience, not your competition

Are you selling to a younger generation or an older one? The language you use makes a difference for them.

Younger generations cut as much of the fluff as possible, whereas older generations are wordier, more explanatory in what they need.

There are a couple ways to narrow down the patterns of language your customers use.

  • Focus groups: having a sampling of your customers take a survey about your company or their experience with a recent order can help you in more ways than one. You can learn not only about their interaction with your company, but you can derive their speech patterns and adapt accordingly.
  • Experiment with searches on your business yourself using various methods. Have a friend or family member do searches related to your business in their words, or even with voice activation enhancements, such as Siri or Alexa. How many different ways can you land on your company’s website through varying word choices?
  • Stop copying your competitors for language. That won’t make you stand out. Even if they’re ranking better than you, you’re not trying to outdo them. You’re trying to make a connection to your customers. What language speaks best to them? Some AB testing with landing pages with varying language styles can provide you with reams of data for what word usage most resonates with your target audience.
  • Use your locality. While brands are trying harder than ever to go global, communities are searching for more ways to keep their expenses local, especially in the food industry. If you’re not keeping in mind how to remain relevant to your local municipality, you’re overlooking a huge chunk of search engine users that are literally at your doorstep.

Be ethical

In 2017, Burger King stepped in it when they tried using voice activation to awaken smart speakers, specifically OK Google devices, in homes to describe their Whopper burger. In the ad, the actor prompts the smart speakers in thousands of homes to define Burger King’s signature burger, and the devices obeyed, delivering the Wikipedia definition of the Whopper to homeowners. It didn’t take long for Google to shut down the fast food chain’s hijack of their product, but it wasn’t fast enough to raise eyebrows and questions about the devices’ security and privacy. If your content is designed to overstep boundaries to get people’s attention, a rethink is in order, no matter what language choices you make.

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