Well, apparently Charlie Sheen had it right. Who would have thought “Winning” was the right word for him to use when he was in the midst of his nervous breakdown/publicity blitz last year?
Winning is one of those words that copywriters have designated as a “Power Word.”
And because words have the ability to connect readers with emotions, savvy advertisers have been secretly (and not so secretly) influencing you by slipping these words into their marketing to create compelling copy.
Experts claim that there is a finite list of words that subconsciously grab the attention of a reader and can unleash never before seen success, but even the best psychology majors who ended up in computer programming have not been able to devise a test that isolates and analyzes the true benefit of power words within the copywriting context.
It’s easy enough to determine whether emotionally charged words are more easily recalled. That’s been proven in a number of studies.
But the best way to decipher whether or not power words make a difference for you is to change up your content to include them and then run an A/B test. Test your current dull, drab copy against a jacked-up power-words version.
Let’s take a look at a case study from our friends at Visual Website Optimizer. Their client, Scandinavian Outdoor Store, decided to run a split test to see if some subtle changes to their copy would make a difference. They focused on their headline which simply read (in Finnish) “Men’s Clothing.”
How the Test Was Won
Understanding the power of words, the headline was changed to “Order Men’s Clothing easily for bargain prices” (Which I’m sure translates much more eloquently!) The new version, saw a 127% increase in conversion rates, simply by adding a few key words.
Easy and bargain are listed on nearly every power words list. By simply maximizing the power of this headline the company was able to sit back and let the profits roll in. (It doesn’t hurt either that it turned a blasé header into a call-to-action.)
Challenge your copywriters to find value in the words they choose. Remember that the descriptive words that illicit emotions are the ones that work. I can guarantee that words suggesting your customers are going to save money will be effective. For ecommerce: Think FREE, SALE, DISCOUNT, CLEARANCE and AFFORDABLE.
So why does it matter what words we use? Because the human brain is wired to react to words that inspire action and conjure up positive images or emotions. Words like quick, improve, quality, new, unique, exciting and convenient all have an uncanny ability to draw a reader to action.
Words can hurt too. Using words that trigger feelings of dishonesty and distrust could alienate your visitors faster than a HIPPO on a power trip. The goal is to create a need based on fear or avoidance to convince prospects to buy, not to make readers uncomfortable and force them to leave. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between the two that even the most skilled copywriters struggle with. (And that’s another reason why A/B testing is SO important.)
But, a conglomeration of the right words doesn’t mean success is imminent. It’s as simple as Marketing 101: The right message + The right people + The right time = Success aka Conversions. And the right message in the web world is different than in traditional media. It’s a mix of good copy, good design and tons of other factors (context, readers’ moods, etc.) that all must come together perfectly to compel a reader to take the next step. Otherwise, engagements are limited, conversions sink and bounces skyrocket.
Be conscious of the words you are choosing when writing copy. If a power word fits, use it. Steer away from words that insinuate uncertainty like try, might, maybe, perhaps, etc. People are smart (well, at least some of them) and will see right through a company that is unsure of itself and its products.
With a simple Google search you can find list upon list of power words. Most are pretty similar, sharing a majority of the words. Words are powerful. There is no doubt about it!
So, the next time you are writing copy consider adding a few in. Or, if you’re not seeing the conversions you think you should, run that A/B test to see where the breakdown occurs.
Oh, and did you notice, this post is chockfull of power words. How many can you uncover?