Conversion Strategy: Using Colloquial Keywords to Optimize the Purchase Journey

by David Cohen · 12 comments

in Content Strategy, SEO, Strategy

Conversion Strategy: Using Colloquial Keywords to Optimize the Purchase Journey

Colloquial keywords… Purchase Journey… seriously?

If you’re rolling your eyes, just chill for a second. I promise I’m not here to promote annoying new marketing terms. So before we proceed let’s align on my intent for sharing this strategy and process, which is:

To inspire you to take a transformative action that will give you an advantage over your competitors by enhancing your desire to understand, on a deeper emotional level, the community of people you wish to do business with. This method is strictly connected to an earlier post about advanced keyword research for SEO.

3 Types of Value You Can Get From this Oddly-named Keyword Optimization Strategy

To help you decide if this post is worth your time and to give you a sense of the opportunity, I want to be clear about the value of this information.

There are three instructive elements to this post:

  1. The Philosophical
  2. The Contextual
  3. The Practical

And here are the three types of value:

I. Revenue and Growth Value- when your success is measured by achieving marketing goals tied to creating new business, growing revenue and increasing the lifetime value of your community, apply the context of this colloquial keyword strategy.

II. Visibility, Attention and Engagement Value- when your marketing objectives demand that you create more visibility, attention and engagement on digital channels to support reaching your revenue and growth goals, you make practical application of this colloquial keyword strategy.

III. Competitive Value- when you are competing for the attention and trust of the people who are journeying through the process of choosing one product and brand over another, you make contextual and practical application of this strategy in ways that elevate you over your less-caring and less-strategic competition.


In the third paragraph I used the word “transformative”. When I say “transformative” please understand I literally mean that this strategy can transform your entire mindset as a marketer in a way that I feel will be highly-desirable in the near future, which is:


And by marketing with this type of care and guidance mindset, you develop a level of empathy that transforms you into a marketer who possesses the power to:


But, this is all predicated on you and I sharing a similar personal philosophy which we apply to our professional work:


That said, what you learn here will help you sell more products. And by the end of story you will see why.

What’s a Purchase Journey?

Please don’t feel bad if you’re unfamiliar with the meaning and context of a consumer’s purchase journey… this is how I personally define the purchase journey:


Understanding a consumer’s purchase journey, and I mean really getting deep into their nuances and patterns of behavior, will enlighten you on ways you better relate to a community of people whom you likely know nothing about.

And by going through the process of building a purchase journey, you’ll quickly develop a new found care and respect for this community of people, and you’ll genuinely want to see them make the right purchase decision.

Here’s how I visualize in my mind the connection between marketing, empathy and the purchase journey:


Those are the four essential questions a consumer seeks answers to as they go through the physical and emotional process of making a buying decision. I say this confidently because I’ve created purchase journey’s, and because I’ve used purchase journey’s to develop multi-channel digital marketing strategies, all the way up to the Fortune 25 level.

The reason why I have those four questions connected to the word empathy is because it’s on you to answer those questions genuinely and authentically, with the greater good in mind. It ties back to empathy, as in truly caring that people make the right decision for their life, especially when the person has to make a significant investment of time or money in you.

And part of being an empathetic marketer is ultimately possessing the desire and discipline to:


Who Should Care About Their Audience’s Purchase Journey?


When the research is done well and the data is logically disseminated, purchase journey insights bring tremendous revenue-growth value and opportunity. Especially for eComms, financial service providers, real estate agents, healthcare practitioners and any brand that launches geo-targeted or hyper-local marketing campaigns, especially when lead generation, subscriptions, memberships or appointments play a significant factor in the sales process.

A legit purchase journey goes deep into nuances of your audience, such as how they use search and social on their path to purchase, which is obviously quite valuable for marketers who use digital channels.


The Colloquial Keyword and Purchase Journey Connection

Now that we’re aligned on what a purchase journey is and why it’s so valuable, let’s make the connection between this and the colloquial keyword concept by creating some context for “colloquial keywords”, which is about you:


The connection between colloquial keywords and optimizing the purchase journey centers on you being able to honestly say:


Think about it, you may only get a few seconds of a person’s time and attention while they’re on their purchase journey, comparing you against your competitors. At that moment when your paths cross the goal is to make a genuine personal connection in a way that frees the person to give you more of their time and attention, by their own choosing.

Visual Context: How Hershey’s Is Faking The Colloquial Keyword Concept

As I was in the process of writing this post, I knew I couldn’t publish it on Nick’s blog without providing a real example of a big brand that’s smart enough to use the colloquial context and concept to sell their products, but in the exact opposite way it should be done.

Hershey’s, unfortunately, has provided us with a real life illustration of faking the colloquial keyword concept…

“Hey DC, check this out. Have you ever had Lancaster caramels before?”

“No, I don’t believe so.”

“Lancaster caramel is amazing. Come over here and look at this. We should get some.”

I was at the other end of the aisle when my friend discovered the caramels. As I walked back up the aisle I began to catch a glimpse of the packaging. And then as I got closer something felt off, mostly because the packaging had a big brand look and feel which is not customary for products that are made by artisans in that hyper-local geographic location [Lancaster, PA].

When I got in front of the shelf I instantly went into skeptical-marketer mode. Whomever designed the packaging clearly wants to get people’s attention by making the word “Lancaster” the eye-catcher and showstopper. So then I went into research-marketer mode.

“No way these are real Lancaster candies. Turn the bag over and tell me who it’s made by.”

“Ugh. Hershey’s.”


Nice try Hershey’s and Canada (you’re on the bag, so you’re getting called out too). Oh, and we saw the high fructose corn syrup and the GMO soy on the ingredients list. You think the Amish in Lancaster are putting that shit in their caramels?

This is where Hershey’s wants you to think these caramels are made:


But this is really where the caramels are made:


Calling anything “Lancaster X” carries colloquial context that has become known the world over. And that’s because the fascinating people of this community in rural Pennsylvania have built a reputation for creating products that are distinctly “Lancaster”, whether it’s a Shoofly Pie, a quilt or a hand-carved armoire.

Using this as an example, I feel like Hershey’s is taking from the people that develop and grow the colloquial context of “Lancaster”, and Hershey’s are using it to sell a product based on a reputation they did little to create or support. I could be thinking too far ahead, but I don’t believe brands can get away with faking it like this much longer without getting publicly (e.g. socially) called out and mocked.

I trust you now have a solid understanding of the colloquial keyword context and concept, and the power it has to create visibility, attention and engagement in order to sell products in highly competitive industries.


What is a Colloquial Keyword Strategy?

First, when I use the term “Colloquial Keyword Strategy” don’t get stuck thinking about it in a purely SEO way. Yes, this strategy will allow you to discover and properly use the right geographic and hyper-local words, in a relatable way, on pages you want to create visibility for on natural and paid search channels.

But remember, this is really about you taking the time to go through a process of understanding how to best help your target community make the right purchase decision. Here’s how I visualize the strategy in a practical way:


Think about people who are looking for a wealth advisor for a moment. Now think about why they might need to draw those conclusions and make those trusting statements before they are ready to choose one wealth advisor over another.

The “care” part is you doing this type of research to discover that people who use search and social as part of their purchase journey to find a wealth advisor want affirming answers to those questions before they buy. And then making creative application of your research to optimize the consumer’s purchase journey.

3 Elements of a Colloquial Keyword Strategy

Just so we’re all clear, let’s define the three elements that make a colloquial keyword strategy, with some more context:

Colloquial keyword research- this is done the same way you would do any other type of keyword research, using many of the same tools you already use. The difference, however, is purely with your intent and the goal you’re seeking to achieve, which is helping you understand why people describe their community the way they do and why that’s important to them.

Colloquial keywords- think of these like the emotionally-intelligent version of broad keywords. Sure, colloquial keywords are typically geo-specific, entity-specific and often times hyper-local. But also think about the intent of the person who goes to Google and types, “financial planner center city philadelphia“. That person’s intent-to-buy is likely stronger than the person that types, “philadelphia financial planner“.

Quick story related to colloquial keywords…

Last year I provided data to a Fortune 25 CMO that showed in a specific town in Washington, where their brand competes with two other mega brands, that the equivalent of 0.46% of the entire town’s population does monthly searches on Google using geo-specific and hyper-local terms related to their line of business… that helped get a conversation going about competition and lead generation, among other things.

I tell this story as an example of how you can use the colloquial keyword research to help inform a strategy that seeks to address competitive threats and to uncover new marketing opportunities on digital channels.

Colloquial keyword optimization- to me, keyword optimization is really about getting search, social, content, PR and digital channels teams to strategically collaborate on geo-targeted digital marketing initiatives more effectively by communicating with their target community with one voice, one tone and one personality, in a way they can relate to.

Lastly, consider how this type of keyword research strategy might lead to something significant…


How to Do Colloquial Keyword Research

I’m sorry if this posts ends like a Lars Von Trier movie, but as I mentioned above, the process you follow to do colloquial keywords research is no different than how you normally do keyword research. The difference is the intent and goal of your research, and how you plan to make strategic and tactical application of your data.

To end the post I’m going to walk you through my colloquial keyword research process, but if you’re like, “shit, I don’t even know how to do keyword research”, then I suggest you stop now and read this prolific keyword research post by Nick. In fact, it was Nick’s post that directly inspired me to explore the idea of using hyper-local and colloquial keyword data to optimize the purchase journey.

How I do Colloquial Keyword Research

Keyword research is something I find enlightening, enjoyable and educational. In terms of doing colloquial keyword research, I have a focused process that progresses in this logical order:

  1. Define the strategic marketing goal
  2. Define the strategic marketing objectives
  3. Perform a competitive analysis on search and social channels
  4. Using the competitive analysis data, create a visualization of the competitive landscape with prescriptive next steps
  5. Establish KPIs for the approved project
  6. Use the brand’s purchase journey data to create audience and community profiles
  7. Survey people that publicly represent the brand, sell to the prospective clients, or directly provide a service to the prospective client
  8. Use the survey to uncover professional and personal biographic information about the representatives or service providers
  9. Use the survey to get the representatives to reveal how people in their local community describe entities, geographic locales, neighborhoods and parts of town
  10. Use the survey to learn how the locals describe where the representatives or service providers offices are, and how they refer to their community, colloquially
  11. After this process is completed, all data has been compiled, and all business cases have been made and approved, I move to the tactical phase of uncovering colloquial keyword opportunities and strategizing how to use them

The survey’s have been the most powerful way to get insightful biographical, colloquial, geo-specific and hyper-local keywords because you’re essentially asking a local to educate you about geo-centric and hyper-local colloquialisms and how to use them without sounding like an idiot.

Tools I use to do colloquial keyword research

Here’s a list of every tool I use to pull data from search and social channels during the tactical research and discovery phase:

Extend the value of the data these tools provide

I’ve found there are valuable insights that extend beyond the keyword opportunities themselves. The insights are buried within the nuances of the keyword data, and reveal strategic insights such as:

Trend-driven patterns of behavior- those tools will show you how your keyword opportunities have historically behaved on natural search and social channels. And also if marketers have been willing to paying more to get visibility for those keywords on paid channels… take a look at the historical trends to get a view into the future.

Demand- there’s no better way to uncover a legitimate business opportunity than using data to determine market demand. Buried within the data those tools provide are market demand insights.

Competition- as a marketer I want to know where my competitors are investing their marketing dollars, how they are investing those dollars and how well those investments are performing. SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner do a solid job providing these types of competitive marketing insights.

Need help doing colloquial keyword research for your website? Contact us for an offer!

So, where are we again?

As I said at the outset, my intent for sharing this is to inspire you to try a new approach to solving an a old problem, but in an empathetic way. Give yourself permission to rewrite the rules of what you think keyword research is and the value it can provide. 

I know this is a lot to cover in a blog post, and I tend to think more conceptually and big picture, so please use the comments section to ask me specific questions, get clarification or to dive deeper into a concept or idea discussed in the post. And most importantly, many thanks to Nick for offering a platform to publish my feelings about marketing, and these ideas.

About David Cohen
David is a decisive leader who earns resources to build teams and execute multi-channel campaigns. He has earned a reputation as an exceptional communicator and presenter with high level of business acumen, critical thinking and diplomacy skills. And an empathetic manager with verifiable success directing and mentoring teams, especially Millennials.

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  • David – Thank you so much for writing this.

    So many of us that use online marketing as a true business tool overlook the importance of aligning personal interests and empathy with our marketing objectives. Tactics can only get your business so close to achieving it’s marketing objectives without true understanding of your customers perceptions and emotional triggers.

    Phenomenal post man, thanks again!

  • David Cohen

    Thank you, Nick. I appreciate you letting me voice these ideas. Right after publishing this post I had a convo with the VP of a 30-year old company that has essentially survived and thrived off of three things- creating innovative products, providing stellar customer service and word of mouth. The marketing team is 2 people.

    It’s a beautiful story, but this VP has been asking himself the question, “What if we knew why people loved us? And what would happen if we actually marketed ourselves?”

    So yeah, even companies like this that have built a reputation on high quality, innovative products knows that to stay competitive in the future and continue growing, it’s time to get strategic and build sustainable marketing processes and programs on the right channels.

    Thanks again.

  • Great post, David. Really like the goal of this post. It’s all about being real and useful for customers, while keeping an eye on the marketing plans.
    Before keyword research though, I think companies need to have the right attitude and goals to be there for their customers. I mean, the work of a marketer is extremely important for sure, but it’s not enough if the whole company is acting differently. You can create an awesome copy, an awesome packaging, but if the company is bullshitting me it doesn’t matter anymore.
    Stakeholders and people taking decisions need to have the colloquial keywords first in their mind and in their visions, before applying them somewhere.
    And sometimes you don’t even need to do keyword research. Example: one restaurant owner was saying to me: “I hate that I receive a lot of phone calls just asking “are you open tonight”? He said: I have a website and Facebook.
    The problem was there were no opening hours written in Facebook and the website. Can you imagine?
    I said: you know that you don’t have the opening hours in your website right? that’s why your customers are calling. He said: ah! I think I didn’t put it because sometimes we close randomly and I didn’t want to bother with changing every times.

    You see? Here the owner was creating a disservice to customers, just because he didn’t bother. The owner simply was not talking the same “language” of their customers, he didn’t care about their needs (apart from creating great food).

    Speak the language of your customers. Spend time with them, go where they are…and yes, sometimes shut the PC down and go into the real world.

    Thanks for posting this Nick and David! Rock on!

    • David Cohen

      Alessio, thank you for the thoughtful response and ideas. Your story about the restaurant illustrates your point perfectly- this sense of care for the customer/client/community has to both come from the top but also flow naturally out of the entire team. And if not, these types of strategies aren’t nearly as effective.

      The past few weeks I’ve had a lot of conversations with recruiters and hiring managers and they all ask the same exact question: “What are you looking for?”

      I have three answers to this question. One of them is that the people who are behind the brand and the company genuinely care about the people they do business with, and that there’s a natural outflow of wanting to be the very best at what they do because it’s the right thing to do.

      There are good marketers out there that want to be associated with companies of excellence. And by that I mean, companies that have a reputation among their customers and community for selling innovative and high quality products, providing stellar customer service/customer communication, and for having an educational mindset to help people make the right decisions.

      And to your last point- yes, go meet the people that buy your shit and who you want to buy your shit. Go to their conventions, their meetups and their get-togethers. But not for the purpose of selling them anything, but for the purpose of just better knowing who they are and what kind of problems they have that you might be able to solve.

      Thanks again for reading the post and taking the time to comment.

  • Very long post, but very informative and worth spending time to read it totally. Every bit of information is valuable and gave me some new ideas to convert traffic

  • Great article, took a while to read it tho. I had to take a break cause i become dizzy around the half 😀

  • Yes all very long but very useful information thanks for sharing

  • Hershey used colloquial key words for evil, but we can engender a sense of trust without swapping in a product that violates it. Thanks for this in-depth and informative post!

  • One sin which usually almost every SEO company commits is with the keywords suggestion to clients. They offer keywords which are usually good for informative purpose for example: “SEO” people using this search term are usually looking for information about SEO rather than seeking services. So the bad happens from the base even if they somehow rank them on these keywords the conversion rate or CTR is very low and same goes for paid campaigns. Keywords are everything when it comes to search engines.

  • Very in-depth and instructive article and the tips are very much helpful and handy. Understanding our audience, their needs and our products or services are really important to select the right keywords. Having conversation and taking feedback from new and old customers can give new insights which can be used to derive new keyword ideas.
    Thanks for writing such a good article and for the ideas. Noted, bookmarked and shared.

  • This is a great article. This would definitely help conversions. I’m currently working on getting the most out of the traffic I get to my websites so I found this article at the right time. This is one of the important lessons

  • Great post indeed David. Definitely worth sharing to others. Very informative and easy to understand. Keep it up…

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