Words You Should (& Shouldn’t) Be Using in Your Content Marketing

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Writing Engaging Product Descriptions
You already know how important your messaging is, but did you know certain words can trigger better reactions and conversions than others? Here’s what to keep in mind as you’re choosing your vocabulary.
Think positive. It makes sense, of course, that we’d be more motivated by positive phrases than negative ones on call-to-action buttons, right? But what, exactly, is a negative phrase? We’re not talking about naughty words or insults. In fact, negativity is a lot more subtle than that and changes with time. Often, negative phrases are simply overused.

  • Positive words: discover, view, enjoy, play
  • Negative words: submit, activate, pay, subscribe

Let’s discuss the word “submit.” We’ve probably all seen it on website buttons, which is one reason why it’s a term that skews negative. It’s overused, but even if you say the word out loud, it sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it?

Instead of “submit,” opt for something friendlier, even a full phrase. So if someone is filling out a form for a white paper or ebook, you might create a button that says, “Yes! Send me the white paper now” or something shorter and punchier, such as “Get it now.”

See the difference?

The marketing platform company Ion Interactive describes the difference as “value” vs. “effort-focused.” (The link opens a PDF—see page 14 for details.) The word “get,” for example, shows what’s in it for the consumer (the value). She’s going to “get” a free white paper. The word “submit” shows an effort-based action she must take, rather than the value she’ll receive.

Think action. You want your copy to have forward momentum, so make sure you use action verbs (and ones that don’t have any negativity surrounding them like the word “submit” as we mentioned above). Make your sentences active, not passive. Active sentences read better and are usually shorter to boot.

  • Active: Top chefs from around the globe think our pasta sauce is the best.
  • Passive: Our pasta sauce is considered the best among top chefs from around the globe.

Avoid bloated words. You can often remove certain filler words like “very,” “really,” and “just” from your copy without it affecting the meaning or tone. Taking the time to prune your prose will help make your copy tighter—always a good thing.

That said, don’t take this as a “must-do” directive. Sometimes a well-placed filler word makes all the difference in the world. Can you imagine “do it” ever being as powerful as Nike’s “just do it” tagline?

Avoid jargon. You know all those cool little phrases you and the folks in your industry use to describe products, processes, and so forth? You might find them cool, but people outside of your circle likely won’t.

The problem with business jargon is that it excludes people, which is why it’s not a good idea to use. Even if your content is geared towards people who should know what you’re talking about, why risk it? Keep your words simple, clear, straightforward, and—most of all—inclusive.

Never underestimate the power of “you.” You don’t want to simply speak to the person you’re trying to sell to. You want to put her in the middle of your copy’s action. You can accomplish this by using “second” person—or the “you” voice—which is what we’ve pretty much been doing in this entire paragraph.

It’s subtle, but when you write in second person, the reader automatically identifies with the “you.” So whatever scenario you’ve crafted—the bad experience at the car mechanic, the lousy customer service with the phone company, the lost luggage on the airplane—the person sees herself as the one experiencing it. Which means when you offer the solution—again using the “you” voice—she can experience that as well.

And, yes—this works with positive copy as well. Who wouldn’t want to identify with white sandy beaches on a Caribbean vacation, a new car, or a wonderfully renovated kitchen?

Test, test, test. Regarding the tips we’ve given you above, it’s important to keep in mind that these are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Sometimes there’s a place for negative copy (HubSpot gives you eight reasons to go more negative in your copy). And some words that might seem positive (or negative) to you might not necessarily be viewed that way by your audience.

Also, it’s easy to make assumptions, isn’t it? That’s why it’s important to conduct A/B tests on things like landing pages, call-to-action buttons, and email subject lines.

What words do you use or avoid in your marketing? Share in the comments.

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