Are There Magic Words in Content Marketing?


From the Harry Potter films to the movie version of “The Hobbit,” magical realms are big in Hollywood right now. Harry and Gandalf could change reality with a wave of a wand or staff and a few magic words, but content creation teams don’t have that luxury. As much as the marketing industry would like to have a list of words that guarantee high open rates, click-throughs and conversions, they don’t exist. While no “open sesame” will make readers reach for their wallets, some words have a little more magic in them than others.


One of the oldest marketing words is still one of the most potent. People love getting something free, and studies such as this one from the University of Miami have proven repeatedly that the word is a major motivator for conscious buying decisions. Interestingly, surprise free gifts – those offered without being advertised – were good emotional motivators, but with content marketing, you may not get the chance to sweeten the deal before your prospective customer has bounced away to another site. If you have a gift for visitors to your blog or social media channel, tell them up front; they’ll appreciate it.


In content marketing, “you” is one of the most powerful words you can use. Businesses that spend all their time and effort talking about their features are missing the point; their customers also want to know about the benefits they provide. “What’s in it for me?” is the tacit question every reader presented with an offer asks, and that includes your content marketing audience. Why should a visitor pause long enough to read your blog post or find out more about your new product line? One way to make that clear is by addressing readers directly and specifically. “You” also creates a connection between the reader and the writer; you aren’t just a face in the crowd but an individual who’s being addressed directly. Once you start looking for it, you’ll notice how much online content is written in the second person – including this blog post.


The word “improve” is a favorite in content because it has such broad appeal. It resonates with people who have a concern to which you offer the solution, of course, but it also reaches those who are generally satisfied. Your crowning glory may be magnificently shiny already, but if you knew you could “improve your hair’s natural shine,” you might reach for a bottle of the new brand. Scan your email and note the subject lines; you’ll probably spot more at least a few offers to improve your income, your health and possibly your golf swing.

Sometimes it’s the product, not the customer, who gets the promise of improvement. An improved version of something your reader already likes can be a strong selling point, especially if the improvement promises to address a past issue. Software upgrades frequently sell on the promise of improved security, power or ease of use. Paradoxically, the phrase “new and improved” has been around unchanged for decades because it holds such appeal. Speaking of which, it’s worth a look at the other half of this partnership.


Novelty is a potent motivator. Deliver a new process, product or service that aims to solve your customers’ most pressing problem, and you instantly have their attention. The word “new” and all its variations excite people’s sense of adventure, and even in conservative industries such as banking and healthcare, the allure of the new discovery is powerful. Almost everything that lives is hard-wired to notice something new in the environment, and that includes people. Just the word is often enough to make readers take notice.

These words won’t defeat a dragon, but they have enough magic to hold people’s attention for a few seconds, which is a feat in the information-rich environment online. However, they’re no substitute for great content. By themselves, they’re just potential – a wand without a wizard to wave it. Great content writers use them to emphasize a point or punch up an email subject line, but they’re just one of many tricks up the wordsmith’s sleeve.

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