In 2008 the US changed the way it thought about a place to live.

The words we use to describe things are powerful. They’re hooks that we use to find information. For business owners, the words that customers use to describe things are hooks used to attract more customers.

Mirroring the language of those around us is a way to grow closer together. Marketers have used this to advantage for some time. Online is no different. Search engine optimization is perhaps the most focused and science-like effort by business owners to mirror the language of customers.

Let’s look at the real estate industry as an example. In the chart below, 2008 is the year in which more people were seeking a house for sale than a home for sale.

2008, especially the end of it, was a pretty traumatic year in the United States. The housing market, at the center of the collapse of a financial bubble, was especially traumatized. There are a variety of search and website behaviors which have changed dramatically since 2008. The words used to describe the place we live may be one of those changed things.

I guess the old saying “A house is not a home” is now reversed.


  1. Posted May 29, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. Certainly seems to coincide with the massive number of foreclosures. This indicates a huge psychological shift in think, I believe. In projecting forward it would be my estimation the terms will eventually regrade and shift “back to normal” as the fallout slows and the housing market returns to a pre-recession “business as usual”.

  2. Posted May 31, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Ken: What interesting to me is that it seems to predate the big fallout by about 12 months. It’s the beginning of 2008 where the switch occurs, coming out of the New Year holiday. Likely an example of predictive analytics potential.

    The trends don’t suggest a shift back to business as usual, “house for sale” is gaining ground. That said, it could have another reset at the New Year holiday again.

    If it was my job to keep people thinking about “home for sale” I would do some heavy brand advertising in the traditionally slow months of November and December to help that reset along.

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