Life Science Marketers: Mind Your Language

By Michelle Waddell, 4 July 2018

In this article we discuss life sciences jargon in action; how failing to align internal terminology with how users are actually searching can have a profound negative impact on digital performance.

One of the things we’ve noticed over the years is that life science marketing professionals are more likely to suffer from jargon blindness than many other clients. This might be that often life science marketers and Product Managers are themselves experienced scientists, familiar and comfortable with jargon. It may also be to do with the fact that language evolves over time, and in such a rapidly expanding industry like Life Science, it’s not uncommon for synonyms to evolve equally rapidly within companies, regions and or disciplines.

Consider Synonyms

As an example, a while ago we did some work with a company that sold software to life scientists. One particular client team used the phrase “scientific workflow” to describe the standard methodology that a scientist should follow to execute a particular task. Everyone within this department intuitively understood the phrase, so no-one thought to question its utility, until it became apparent that the page featuring the client’s downloadable Scientific Workflows had received less traffic than expected. We were asked to speculate on the reasons, whereupon a quick search of synonyms started to point towards the problem:

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We discovered “scientific protocol” was used approximately 10 times more frequently amongst the customer community. Simply changing “workflow” to “protocol” within the page titles, headers, meta descriptions and content was all that was required to significantly improve both search performance and page traffic.

Consider Search Intent

The influence of a company’s internal lexicon can be incredibly subtle with profound effects on search performance. When discussing its centrifuge portfolio internally, another client would refer to this category as “Centrifugation products”. Unsurprisingly, this descriptor was adopted within the site taxonomy. Again, everybody within the company was familiar with this descriptor and was entirely comfortable with this representation.

However, and again, as a result of poorer than expected page traffic, we were asked to investigate. This time Google Scholar suggested that “Centrifugation” returned almost twice as many search results as “Centrifuge”. A deeper analysis of traffic sources revealed that the problem lay in the semantics of the search intent. So, scientists searching for centrifugation, tend to be significantly more interested in methodology than purchase. Whereas scientists searching for Centrifuge/s tend more likely to be researching an imminent purchase.  

The majority of life sciences organizations could benefit from listening harder to the language customers actually use to describe their products and services. And being especially careful not to unconsciously translate their language back into their own internal jargon when discussing the latest customer research!

Are your product names and service descriptors in line with how users are searching? We can help you find out - get in touch today for your free search term review.

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