Walk like an Egyptian, talk like your customer.

Big companies can sometimes forget about “the little guy” – their customer – and instead try and do marketing the way they see fit. After all, if they didn’t know better than Joe Six Pack what sold in the marketplace how did they manage to get so big in the first place?

But knowing the little guy and particularly how he thinks and talks is critical. This can be particularly true in internet marketing where the customer does not have the advantage of touching the product, feeling its heft and having a positive user experience. In web marketing, particularly in SEO and SEM marketing, you need to think and talk like your potential customer if you want to convert them to being a paying customer.

I once worked for a large electronics manufacturer. This manufacturer had a heavily trafficked corporate web site with 1000 major products and thousands of related accessories. These products were of course categorized and the product pages put into bread crumb navigation structures. The amount of traffic, the related links to the corporate site from bloggers and tech geeks should have meant that this company would totally dominate the natural search results for certain terms. But they didn’t dominate. You know why?

They didn’t talk like the customer.

This company was huge in mobile phone handsets. But nobody says “mobile phone handsets”. In the United States we almost universally say “cell phone”. But, on this company’s site the term “mobile phones” was used in the copy, in the categorization and in the navigation. The result: even though this company was the number 2 manufacturer of cell phones in the world at the time they rarely showed up on the first page of Google search results for “cell phones”.

When you walk into a bar to watch the big game and you’re wowed by the picture of that 2 inch thick piece of glass and plastic on the wall do you say “great picture on the LCD TV over there”. No, you say “flat screen TV”. Because only the guys on the floor at Best Buy know the difference between a LCD TV, a plasma TV and an LED TV. But again, this company didn’t optimize their site for the term “flat screen TV” but a competitor did. This forced the company purchase the term for SEM purposes – which they probably would have done anyway – but being in the top 3 paid results AND being in the top natural results would have been sweet.

Most people call a portable computer a “laptop”. This company’s breadcrumb structure was “mobile computing >> notebook computers”. “Hon, I’m off to the Starbucks to get a latte and do some mobile computing, see ya later.”

When is the last time you spoke the words “I’m running out of underwear, I better throw a load in the laundry center”? Yep. They went there.

I understand the desire to sound professional. It adds a quality and elan to your product or service. But if you want to get ranked well by Google you’re going to have to get pedestrian and proletarian. And let us all collectively pray that people do not start searching Google in SMS message speak.

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