Breaking Down Words That Convert – Copywriting Tips for Inbound Marketers

Post written by Jesse Aaron
On Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Your target audience members are exposed to data at alarming rates. From the time they wake up until the time they fall asleep, they are bombarded with advertisements, messages, social media posts, web pages and other forms of data that keep them occupied and distracted. How is a brand supposed to break through the clutter while drawing attention and encouraging action? It might be simpler than you imagine; it might come down to word choice.

The Goal of the Copywriter

Writing copy that attracts attention is both challenging and rewarding. It takes innate skill and experience to stand out, but when you do break through the avalanche of clutter the conversion boosts make all those A/B tests worth it. There are certain terms that stand out in the eyes of average users, but what makes certain words more effective than others?

copywriter meme

There have been many tests done on the effectiveness of certain words and phrases; it’s by no means a “new” science.

ellenIn one experiment, social psychologist Ellen Langer of Harvard tested the reactions of individuals to different phrases. Her goal was to ask to cut in line at a copier machine.

Her first question, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” received a 70% positive response. When she changed the phrase to “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” she received a 94% positive response.

A few words may have made all of the difference in the world – the theory being that providing a reason (being in a rush) helps validate with strangers.

Likewise, the Encyclopedia Britannica tested the power of words and increased their conversion rates by 103% when they replaced a simple question in a headline with a new phrase that started with the word “get.” It was a simple change with exponential results.

britannica test

These tests continued through major academic institutions. In the 1960s, the University of California, Yale and Duke each ran tests to determine the most effective words in advertising. They all returned the same list of 10 words:












Various studies have returned different results, but, the underlying message is the same. Words have power. When used correctly, they can influence website visitors more than graphics, navigation and any other variable.

This idea was furthered by Kevan Lee of BufferApp, “Neurologically, we have an instinctual reaction to words and language. Researchers have found that we are hardwired to associate sounds with images, even in words we do not comprehend.”

Words that Work Today

Modern consumers have the ability to hone in on exact information with just a few searches. This is known as the consumer journey. During this journey many copywriters attempt to seduce visitors with creative, aggressive, and subtle strings of words. Whether it’s a PPC ad in a Google search result page or a Facebook text post, the digital copywriter aims to encourage action.

Different industries means different terminology the copywriter must consider. For example…

contact page for a law firm balances emotional and professional values:

lawyer example

But a contact page for a clothing site can be a bit more laid back and flexible with their tone and copy:

betabrand contact

Implying Exclusivity

If your brand’s end goal is to make your product or brand stand out by letting members or customers know that you’re catering to them, you want to imply exclusivity. The words found to be most effective in the previously referenced Buffer App study include:

Members only
Login required
Class full
Membership now closed
Apply to be one of our beta testers
Exclusive offers
Become an insider
Be one of the few
Get it before everybody else
Only available to subscribers

Implying a Lack of Risk

Maybe safety and security are your brand’s top concerns. You want your customers and potential customers to trust in what you have to offer. Maybe your concern stems from an expensive product that seems like a risk, or maybe you’re new to the market and need to gain some ground. The following terms could be most beneficial in this case:

Cancel anytime
Money back
No obligation
No questions asked
Try before you buy

Encouraging Shares

For content to have the impact that your brand is looking for, sharing is essential. Social shares can take ordinary content and unknown brands to the next level. For this reason, creating content that has the potential to go viral is critical. These terms are most likely to provide assistance in this area.

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Words can make or break any advertising campaign or marketing initiative. They could be the difference between being scrolled over or being clicked on and engaged. The content that you create has many purposes, to attract attention, to drive action, to generate leads and to convert. It’s what inbound marketing is all about. Putting the phrases above into action on your next campaign could be your secret to success.

About the Author:
Jesse is a professional blogger with a passion for homebrewing. He writes about social media marketing strategies with actionable tips on his blog.

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