Top Online Marketing Power Words (Hint: Free Is King)

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Content Marketing

literally awesomeEvery year-end brings pundits’ lists of words to stop using. In pop culture and ordinary conversation, “awesome” and “literally” seem to top the lists (again) this year. In business, Jeff Haden took us to task for describing ourselves (or our companies) on our websites or in social media using words such as “world-class” or “motivated” in his funny LinkedIn article, “Stop Using These 16 Terms To Describe Yourself.”

A totally unsophisticated survey (among my friends) suggests that these words are due for a long sabbatical: “Out-of-the-box,” “turnkey,” “win-win,” “low-hanging fruit,” enable,” “cutting-edge,” “bleeding edge,” “revolutionary” (and so on).

On Huffington Post, Steve Tobak gives us the “11 Words You Should Never Use in Sales or Marketing” (starting with “customer-focused”). He asks the question: “What is the primary tool used to convince potential customers to buy?” And then answers it:

 “Words. Whether spoken or written, words make sales happen.”

So if we aren’t going to talk about “partnering to exceed expectations through value-added, customer-focused, best-in-class, exceptional ROI,” what are we going to talk about?

Talk about what your customers care about

Knowing what sparks your readers’ interest most is a great place to start. You might browse forums or read trade journals to look for the power words in the industry you care about. And get specific: replace “best-in-class,” for example, with an objective description of how you can provide the best value for your customer’s needs. This begins to make it personal. And any time you can show, rather than tell, you’re on the way to using the words that create a felt experience for your reader, which can lead to trust and, hopefully, action.

Six marketing power words that work for almost any company

No matter what industry you’re in, the following six words and phrases deserve serious consideration as part of your online marketing language:


Too hackneyed? No; this is (still) perhaps the most important word in marketing, at least in B2C. It’s one of the most commonly searched-for words because the goal is to find low- or no-cost introductory goods and services that lower the risk of getting started.

Receiving anything for free today has, in many cases, become too good to be true because it’s easy for companies to misuse the word “free.” As long as you’re upfront and clear on exactly what is free (a trial period, shipping, delivery, etc.), you give your customers a reason to choose you over the competition. After all, anything that lowers risk garners business.


Most people are motivated by selfish desires. (See “Secrets and Lies and Marketing,” a recent post on what people really want.) When you write about your customers, speaking directly to them about meeting their needs and solving their problems, you grab their attention and they want to learn more.

If you spend time talking only about how outstanding your company is, without talking directly to your customers, your readers lose interest. (And who would blame them?) Change your perspective and compose content that speaks directly to your customers to make it real for them.


It’s easy to question quality today with false claims online and image-enhancing technology. Offering authentic results and explaining how customers can trust the outcome you promise gives people a reason to buy. Results encourage prospects to switch their perceptions of your product or service from a want to a need. No one wants to spend money on a product that fails to make life better somehow, so make sure your prospects know just how your product or service delivers results, and make it relatable.


People want to deal with companies they know and trust. If your company isn’t as well-established as some of your competitors, a guarantee of some kind can be a powerful way to garner trust. If you know your product or service is worthwhile, you shouldn’t be afraid to stand behind it. A guarantee reduces buyer risk and makes new customers feel more comfortable purchasing from you.

Offer a guarantee that is reasonable, yet enticing. Using the word “guarantee” as part of your online marketing strategy makes your promise apparent.


This word denotes adventure and excitement. No one wants to lead a boring life, and telling your readers they can discover something of value when they engage with you is powerful. This is also a subtle promise to make them smarter, to help them discover new knowledge.

The key behind using this word effectively in your marketing strategies is to uncover something new and exciting within your industry to share with readers. Don’t couple the word “discover” with something boring, such as, “Discover what this service costs.” Instead, use it with a phrase that creates hopeful anticipation, such as, “Discover how this service can cut your costs.”

It Depends

Does answering a question with “it depends” seem like a cop-out? As long as you couple the phrase with an explanation, these two powerful words can belong in your online marketing strategy.

When asked a difficult question – such as, “What’s the cost?”; “How does your product compare to (a competitor’s)?”; or “What are some potential problems?” – too many businesses shy away from giving direct answers. If you can answer them frankly and honestly, you’ll earn respect from your customers.

“It depends” is often a valid initial response to difficult questions when the answer varies depending on the situation and the customer. You could create an entire blog post or web page around the words “it depends,” answering those difficult questions about your products or services in a setting where your curious customers can find multiple answers, one of which may apply to them.

Don’t be wishy-washy in your explanations; get into how certain situations and problems play out, and the various ways to meet different challenges. This is an excellent way to earn respect in the B2B world.

(Note: You might enjoy Geoffrey James’ quick take on the three words that create instant credibility on

Test, test, and test again

You can validate the power of your words through A/B testing, in which you test new page copy against a proven control page. Changing just one word can show you whether a word truly is a power word for you and your customers.

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