Tag Archive | "Language"

How to Talk to Your Clients in a Language They Understand

Posted by Lindsay_Halsey

A few years ago, while enjoying a day of skiing at Aspen Highlands with a group of girlfriends, a skier crashed into me from above, out of nowhere. He was a professional skier traveling at an exceptionally fast speed, and I felt lucky to get away with a mere leg injury. I couldn’t put weight on my leg, though, so I went to the local emergency room.

After a few hours of various doctors and nurses running scans to diagnose the issue, a new doctor whom I’d never met walked in the room. The first words out of his mouth were, “You have a radial tear in your medial meniscus”. I had no idea what he was talking about. He continued speaking in words better suited for a medical peer than a patient.

I wasn’t at all interested in medical-speak. I was a new mom, anxious to return to my family. I wanted to know for how long and to what extent this injury would impact us, and how active I could be at home while caring for our son.

I didn’t get the answers to any of those questions. Instead, my doctor left me feeling overwhelmed, lost, and frustrated.

Using industry jargon is easy to do

Whether you are a doctor, marketer, SEO, or another specialized professional, this experience made me realize that using industry jargon is easy to do. And I realized that I was susceptible myself — I speak to clients all the time with words that made them feel alienated and confused.

The words and phrases that mean a lot to us as SEO professionals mean little or nothing to our customers.

When we utilize these phrases in conversations and assume we’re communicating effectively, we may be leaving our prospects and clients feeling overwhelmed, lost, and frustrated.

Years ago, feeling that way motivated businesses to hire SEO consultants and agencies. Ample industry jargon was tossed about in the sales process, leaving a prospect set on hiring a professional since SEO was too hard to understand.

There was no way that prospect felt confident in taking a DIY approach to getting found by the search engines; there was no other option besides signing on the dotted line. With a signature in hand, an SEO consultant could begin working some behind-the-scenes magic and deliver impactful results.

Today — and over the last five years — this approach no longer works.

Collaboration is the foundation of SEO

Today, we drive results by building a business’s expertise, authority, and trust online. Sure, there are technical SEO tasks to accomplish (and we can’t forget about foundational action items like dialing in title tags and meta descriptions). But long term, significant growth comes from impacting a business’s E-A-T. And for that, collaboration is required.

As an SEO professional, I often think of myself as a rafting guide in the search engine waters. I’ve been down this river before and already know what to expect around the next bend. I’m responsible for leading a team; our collaborative success (or failure) ultimately depends on my timely, appropriate guidance.

Yet it’s not all about me. The team (or client) is just as invested in our success. We’re sharing the same raft, and we’ve chosen to navigate the same river. They have their paddles in the water and are actively engaged in our journey, eager to work together. Working together — collaboration — means success for us all.

Communication is key to collaboration

Effective communication is critical to a collaborative environment; communication relies on language. If a rafting guide says “port side paddle forward,” his team will likely look at him with confusion. If he says “left side paddle forward,” his team will understand his language and take the right action.

One way to improve communication with prospects and clients is to remove industry jargon from our vocabulary. Over the past few years, I’ve challenged myself to use more everyday words in client communication. As a result, we are closing more business and have more satisfied customers seeing better results. It’s a win, win, win.

Here are some practical examples for communicating (and therefore better collaborating) with SEO clients:

XML Sitemap // Your Website’s Resume 

Instead of telling a client that their website “lacks an XML sitemap,” I explain that this file is like a website’s resume. You wouldn’t show up to a job interview without a resume that lists out your assets in an easily digestible format. A resume quickly summarizes your “contents,” or the structure of your relevant roles and experience — just like a sitemap summarizes the contents and structure of a website.

Link Building // Relationships 

When a client hears you talk about link building, they instantly recall how they feel when they receive spammy emails requesting a favor in the form of a link exchange. They may worry that this tactic is too aggressive or short-sighted and in violation of Google’s terms of service. Consider describing “link building” as building a network of a business’s professional relationships that the search engines quickly and easily understand. Putting up signposts that search engines can read.

Featured Snippet // Above #1

Clients are often hyper-focused on their rankings. If you talk to them about “gaining a featured snippet result,” that language will leave them lost and therefore unengaged in the initiative. Instead, focus on what they want: to rank #1 for a keyword they’ve chosen. If you’re working with a client on a new piece of complete content (to help propel them to the top of the search results by sharing their expertise), you can get the client onboard by telling them the goal is to be “above #1.” 

SEO // Getting Found

Perhaps the most important term of all is “SEO.” We all assume our prospects and clients understand what SEO stands for and why it is important. But more often than not, the acronym alone can lead to confusion. Try substituting “getting found in Google” anytime you’re tempted to say “SEO,” and your client will be connected to the value instead of confounded by the vocabulary.

Removing industry jargon has been the most impactful of our changes to client communication. We also recommend (and practice) sending monthly reports, actively seeking feedback, and setting clear expectations. Read more client communication tips on the Moz blog and at Pathfinder SEO.

What expressions and words do you use in client communications?

Let’s create a shared, jargon-free vocabulary to improve how we talk to our clients. Let’s stop leaving our clients feeling overwhelmed, lost, or frustrated with SEO. After all, collaboration is the foundation of SEO. And to collaborate, we must create — and meet on — shared ground.

Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

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Microsoft to Ban Language It Finds Offensive on Private Accounts

Microsoft users might want to take a closer look at the company’s update to its service agreement. Set to take effect this May, privacy experts are alarmed about the changes seem to suggest that Microsoft will now have the right to review user content even without prior consent.

The questionable changes were first reported on by Jonathan Corbett at the Professional Troublemaker site. Microsoft warned against the use of offensive language as well as the sharing of inappropriate content. The company stated that violating the modified rules could result in the closure of a user’s Microsoft account.

“In the Code of Conduct section, we’ve clarified that use of offensive language and fraudulent activity is prohibited. We’ve also clarified that violation of the Code of Conduct through Xbox Services may result in suspensions or bans from participation in Xbox Services, including forfeiture of content licenses, Xbox Gold Membership time, and Microsoft account balances associated with the account.”

But what worried privacy experts, even more, is that aside from banning users from the company’s services, using offensive language can even be used by Microsoft as grounds to conduct an investigation and go through the user’s private data. As pointed out by Corbett, the term “offensive language” is a bit too ambiguous and its definition can vary greatly between different people.

“Enforcement. If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason. When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue. However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.”

The updated rules could be particularly problematic for users of Microsoft’s gaming service Xbox Live. This is because, within gaming circles, trash-talking is normal among players.

This was pointed out by Corbett who couldn’t help but ask, “If I call someone a mean name in Xbox Live, not only will they cancel my account, but also confiscate any funds I’ve deposited in my account?”

Aside from Xbox Live, the updated agreement will also cover users of other Microsoft services such as Skype and Office. Given the scope, Corbett fears that the amended terms would allow any Microsoft staff to pry open anyone’s private data such as Skype call recordings as long as they are “investigating” something.

At the moment, Microsoft declined to comment on the issues raised related to the amended agreement.

The post Microsoft to Ban Language It Finds Offensive on Private Accounts appeared first on WebProNews.


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Copywriting: Listen to customers so you can speak their language

Words are subtle indicators to tell a potential customer “we understand you specifically” and “this offer is meant for people like you.” To truly speak our customers’ language, we must listen to them because our customers may be very different from us.
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Google Shopping feed optimization: Speak your customers’ language and write more compelling product titles

Product titles are among the most important factors influencing the performance of your Google Shopping campaigns. Contributor Andreas Reiffen shares data on how to optimize them.

The post Google Shopping feed optimization: Speak your customers’ language and write more compelling product titles…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language

Image of Open Dictionary

When it comes to assembling persuasive copy, like any other construction job, you need to rely on your skills, experience, and toolbox.

The toolbox of the writer is filled with words.

In defining what I believe is a critical element of crafting effective copy, I’ll make my case by amending the famous quote from Animal Farm: “All words are equal, but some words are more equal than others.”

And there are certain power words that hold more sway over our decision making process than others. You might be surprised to find that these “power words” don’t seem … well, all that powerful.

This speaks to just how damned efficient they are. Simple language is crystal-clear language, and these words make it clear just what you want your reader to do.

And you might be surprised just how effective these deceptively simple words can be.

I’ve listed these words below (along with studies related to their power) that will show you how to speak more persuasively to your audience.

Warning: I can’t stress enough — just as in the application of writing headlines that work — you must understand why these words are persuasive, and you must use them in the contexts that make sense for your audience and your business. If you just start slapping them on every piece of content you create for no apparent reason, you’ll quickly see just how unpersuasive they can be.

There, you’ve been warned. Now, let’s get on with the show …

1. You

There’s an often-cited study in the copywriting world about a piece of Yale research that reveals “You” to be the #1 power word out of a supposed 12.

Despite the fact that the study likely never happened, I have some actual research that reveals the power of invoking the self.

As it turns out, while people might like the word “you,” it is guaranteed that that they love reading their own name much more.

According to recent research examining brain activation, few things light us up quite like seeing our own names in print or on the screen. Our names are intrinsically tied to our self-perception and make up a massive part of our identity. No surprise then, that we become more engaged and even more trusting of a message in which our name appears.

Research has shown that we will gladly pay more for personalization, so isn’t it about time you start getting personal with your customers?

However, there is one small problem with this finding …

Writing general web copy with name utilization in mind isn’t usually possible, but by capitalizing on the power of permission marketing, you can adapt this strategy easily — many email lists are greatly aided by being able to start off messages with a customer’s name.

While that may not be important for your blog updates, if you maintain a variety of separate lists for your products (and you should), make sure you’re grabbing a first name to make your broadcasts trigger that personal aspect with customers.

2. Free

Everybody loves free.

People love free stuff so much they’ll actually make different choices, even when the respective value of the item or service remains the same.

Dan Ariely revealed this startling fact in his book Predictably Irrational, where he examined a very unusual “battle” between Lindt chocolate truffles and Hershey Kisses.

To test the power of the word “free” in relation to concrete value, the study first asked people to choose between a 1 cent Hershey Kiss or a 15 cent Lindt truffle (about half its actual value, generally considered a richer, superior chocolate).

The results were as follows:

In other words, tastes were found to be very much in favor for the truffle. I mean, who’s going to pass up a deal, right?

Later though, another random group of subjects seemingly flipped on their opinion of these two treats. Ariely revealed that when the price was reduced by one cent for both brands (meaning the Kiss was now free), people altered their choices drastically.

With the new prices, here were the results:

Although in the first test it appears we simply can’t pass up a deal, as it turns out, we really can’t pass up a steal. Although the relation in prices remained the same (a 14 cent difference between the two), people chose the Kiss far more often when it was free.

Ariely points to loss aversion (our disdain for losing out on things) and our natural instinct to go after “low hanging fruit” as the reasons why we are so susceptible to snatching up free stuff.

The danger of free: As we’ve seen here, there is a certain inherit danger in trumpeting free things. Having something for free will attract more people. But that will most certainly include a fair share of “bargain hunters” who aren’t likely to turn into the superstar customers that really grow your business.

Use free only when it makes sense, and only in the right context.

Emphasizing the “freeness” of your free guides, courses, information, support, etc., can go a long way in attracting attention. On Sparring Mind, I emphasize the fact that my newsletter is “free to join,” because although most marketers understand this, many folks don’t quite understand what it means to subscribe.

Conversely, you should use minimal pricing to keep out those barnacle customers who aren’t ideal long-term buyers, or who aren’t truly suited for your flagship offerings.

3. Because

In a study from the classic book Influence by Robert Cialdini, tests were conducted on requests from a person in a hurry to use an in-office copy machine. The tests examined how different requests might affect people’s willingness to allow this person to “cut” in line.

In the first test, the participant simply stated:

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?

In this scenario, around 60% of people allowed him to cut in line and use the machine first.

In the next scenario, the request was slightly tweaked. This time the participant said:

I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I am in a rush?

Did you see the ever-so-subtle difference between the two?

Let’s break this down: Not only was the request only minimally changed, but the “because” (his reason) was barely a reason at all! “Because I’m in a rush” wouldn’t stand up as a good excuse for most of us, right? Isn’t a majority of the working world in a rush?

Despite what we might like to believe, around 94% of people allowed him to cut in line this time! If you think that’s strange, check out the request used in the 3rd and final test:

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?

That went from having a barely passable reason to absolutely no reason at all for letting the man cut. In spite of this, 93% of people let him cut on this third trial, only a 1% drop from when he had a weak reason (“I’m in a rush”) and a 33% improvement vs. the first test.

According to Cialdini:

A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.

Here’s the bottom line: Many companies are proud of the features that their product (or service) can offer, and that’s fine, but you have to remember that when you are focusing on writing persuasive copy, it all comes down to answering your customer’s #1 question:

What’s in it for me?

Although “because” may appear to have some sort of brainwashing effect on people at Xerox machines, it’s only really a matter of reasoning: even giving weak reasons have been shown to be more persuasive than giving no reason at all.

Only trumpet features and product traits you are proud of when they help make your point. Use them to create an incentive for customers to take action. And use “because” when pointing out these compelling reasons, but don’t rely on it as a crutch.

4. Instantly

The subject of delayed gratification is an important one among neuroscientists, as many famous studies (such as the Stanford marshmallow experiment) showcase how being able to delay rewards to a later date is a skill needed to become successful. (I know very few entrepreneurs who would argue against that.)

The reason this interests us as marketers is because it reveals an interesting aspect of human nature …

We want things yesterday!

Several MRI studies have shown just how fired up our mid-brain gets when we envision instant rewards, and how it’s our frontal cortex that’s activated when it comes to waiting for something (that’s a no-no for sales).

Words like “instant,” “immediately,” or even”fast” are triggers for flipping the switch on that mid-brain activity.

If you are in the business of selling web-based software, you already have an advantage here: “instant access” isn’t a vague promise, it’s often the reality. For those in the physical products or services business, reminding customers that they will receive their product quickly (or someone will get in touch with them ASAP) can go a long way in being the gentle push they need to buy.

We’ve seen how even “tightwad customers” can be swayed with these subtle changes in language to insinuate fast pain removal. It’s a reliable tactic for converting more prospects into customers as long as you follow the one golden rule …

Always deliver on your promises. And, whenever possible, overdeliver.

This is an area where many business get too optimistic, and although it’s smart to emphasis these instant rewards, it’s also always a good idea to under-promise and over-deliver, so be sure you can actually follow through on your promises or you may end up with a “tribe” that hates your guts.

5. New

This one almost seems paradoxical.

According neuroimaging research, we actually respond more favorably to recognized brands, and can have a hefty amount of disdain for any drastic changes. (Remember New Coke? Oh, the horror …)

On the other hand, it’s long been known that novelty plays an incredibly important role in activating our brain’s reward center and in keeping us content with our products.

“Newness” is important to products, especially because research has shown that they age far more quickly than “experiential” purchases. (In other words, you’ll hate your new headphones in 2 years, but that concert you went to 5 years ago probably aged in your mind like a fine wine.)

How can you achieve a zen-like balance against these two contradictory sides of the same word?

The important things to consider here are which parts of your business generate trust, and which parts generate utility. It’s your brand that creates trust, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Your products however are what customers get utility out of, and stagnant offerings are your first class ticket to an abysmally bored userbase.

Your core brand elements like your unique selling proposition, your dazzling customer service and your quality offering in the marketplace should be approached with excessive caution if things are going well.

With your products, it’s far easier to excite customers with new features and polish. Even if things don’t work out perfectly, a majority of customers will appreciate innovation attempts over no progression at all (unless you pull a Digg v4 and ruin everything in one fell swoop).

New fixes to old problems, new features and improvements, a fresh new design, or even new ways of getting your message out there (Red Bull anyone?) are all essential for keeping your customers “on their toes,” without losing the trust that has cemented you as an awesome brand in their mind.

Now it’s your turn …

Here’s what to do next:

  1. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the research above. Also let me know about what words you love to implement into your persuasive copy. You don’t need to cite research, just give me a reason why.
  2. As a special thanks (and if you want more research-backed content), be sure to pick up our guide on 10 Ways to Convert More Customers with Psychology (it’s free!). You should check it out because it’s a really good read ;-)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!

About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible help desk software for small business owners. Get more research tidbits from Greg on Help Scout’s customer loyalty blog.

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