Ripped from the Headlines: The Green Giant Has Always Been Shrek

Are there SEO copywriting lessons to be gleaned from the Beloit College Mindset List?

Do you ever feel old and out of touch with popular culture?

I knew I was no longer young when — and this happened quite a few years ago — I overheard two teen-aged girls talking in a music store.

One asked innocently, “Did you know that Paul McCartney had another band — before Wings?”

For me, who first saw the Beatles in 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show, while mesmerized by a 14-inch, black and white TV screen, that question was stunning!

Fast forward to the present. Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, offering cultural references (read touch points or insights) about students entering college this fall.

Usually there are surprises that inform online marketing and SEO copywriting — if we know how to interpret the clues.

First, it’s important to acknowledge that the World Wide Web has been an online tool since these 18-year-olds were born.

Okay, no surprise there. But what does that tell us about how young people search for information?

A few highlights from recent Beloit College Mindset Lists:

  • Incoming freshmen have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  • Text has always been hyper.
  • They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
  • They’re always texting 1 n other.
  • They are wireless, yet always connected.
  • They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
  • “Google” has always been a verb.
  • Text messaging is their email.
  • For them, the Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables.

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Keyword research is simply another form of market research

Cultural references translate into vocabulary, slang, linguistic shortcuts, and eventually, a whole new lexicon.

For web copywriters, audience development managers and other online publishing professionals, understanding the keywords and phrases by which users find your website is crucial to building a subscriber file.

Generating a list of promising keywords and phrases begins with understanding the culture of your market.

  • Do you conduct brainstorming sessions to compile lists of keywords and phrases that have gravitas and relevance to your intended market?
  • Do you make certain to brainstorm with genuine representative members of your target group (not their parents)?
  • Do you have a formal process for determining the words that existing customers and subscribers use in search?
  • Do you monitor blogs and Twitter posts in your niche?
  • Have you studied your competitors’ websites?
  • Can you append adjectives and descriptors to modify and create additional keyword phrases? (e.g. online copywriting > online copywriting secrets; online publishing > online publishing strategy)
  • Have you included plural as well as singular nouns?
  • Have you explored using alternative word order? (e.g. online publishing > publishing online)
  • Have you browsed a modern thesaurus recently?

The key to web searchers finding your website, and subscribing to your email messages, is dependent, at least in part, on your discovering the appropriate keyword phrases to target in your SEO copywriting.

Getting old is no excuse for being out of touch with your younger customers…or the Green Giant.


Peter A. Schaible is Mequoda’s Chief Copywriter. For more of his unique perspective on copywriting, you can subscribe to his complimentary series on Targeting Your Prospective Customer by Type: How to Position Your Brand to Trigger an Emotional Response, available at SunDanceNewMedia. No obligation.


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