Trying to increase your audience engagement while boosting conversions? Trigger words should fix that. This post explains what they are, why they matter, and 21 examples you can start using today.
What Are Trigger Words?
Trigger words are provocative words compelling you to action. They capture your attention by stirring specific emotions to make you think or feel a certain way. Some words pique our curiosity, while others cause excitement.
Good marketers know this and use them in their copywriting.
Why Are Trigger Words Important?
Trigger words increase the odds of readers clicking your call-to-action (CTA). Moving your reader through your conversion funnel results in more sign-ups, subscribers, or sales.
We first make decisions based on emotion, then justify our choice with a reason that fits the narrative. It’s a marriage between two parts of our brain – the amygdala and the neocortex.
Our primitive and oldest part of the brain, the amygdala, triggers our fight or flight response. Our evolved neocortex is responsible for advanced functions, including conscious thought, sensory perception, and language.
So, whenever you read an advertisement, your amygdala reacts first.
It’s why great bloggers and copywriters create content that appeals to people’s feelings and desires. Some start with an underlying base emotion to serve as their content’s compass.
Good examples of base emotions are the seven deadly sins:
Then, you could color your content with varying shades. Knowing what causes someone to act offers you the greatest chance of success with getting your point across.
AWAI lists an easy-to-follow 3-step buying tier of:
- Emotion > Desire > Action
You show your audience that you “get them” when you connect emotionally.
And as its copywriting program said:
Sell to the heart first, not to the head.
Trigger Words Sprinkled with Persuasion Principles
Social psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini, best known for his bestselling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, took trigger words to a new level when he said there are six principles of persuasion at play when convincing someone to do something.
- Commitment and consistency
- Liking “you’re like me” – belonging
- Social proof
Trigger words used in combination with persuasion principles are highly effective.
When Should You Use Trigger Words?
You can use trigger words anywhere on your website you want to elicit an emotion. Excellent places include your:
- Landing pages (e.g., homepages, sales pages)
- CTA buttons
- Email subject lines
Tip: Be tactful when using them in your email subject lines – no one likes feeling spammed. Email marketing should feel like it’s coming from your bestie.
21 Emotional Trigger Words (with Examples)
The below is a list of trigger words (aka power words) you can start using in your digital marketing copy to improve email campaignopen rates, boost social media engagement, address pain points, and make money.
Who doesn’t want free stuff? The word “free” has massive appeal to everyone. When you include it as part of your USP, you can instantly generate more excitement for your product or service.
Offer something for free on top of the main thing you’re selling. Enticing people with a free bonus has proven to elicit a stronger tendency to buy and sweetens the deal.
Using trigger words like “proven” establishes authority. If something is research-backed, it disarms your readers (assuming you back it up).
Here’s an example from the MOZ blog using it in a headline.
It also piques curiosity: if you’re searching for SEO best practices, here are seven proven MOZ strategies.
Should acts as a replacement for could. When something “could” happen, it expresses doubt. When something “should” happen, it’s more likely to occur (and more persuasive).
Here’s what copywriting expert Joanna Wiebe had to say about it:
Could” reflects an aspiration. This could happen to you, sure. But “should” reflects something that ought to happen if the world delivers any justice at all.
What’s in vogue? People want to get their hands on the latest trend. Think about how people line up around the block every time Apple releases another iPhone.
Apple lists new products on its homepage.
Advertisers use it in their headlines to appear in search queries:
Project management tool Basecamp has an entire page dedicated to it – it’s even in the URL as well as the landing page copy:
5. You (Overload Your Personal Pronouns)
Have you heard of WIIFM? It stands for “what’s in it for me?” Using this word makes it about them. It’s also more conversational.
You talk to your reader, and it is more personal.
Check out how Harry’s Marketing Examples makes use of the personal pronouns in this makeover:
You’ll make a more significant impact on your reader when they feel like you’re talking to them. Notice how many times I use the word “you” in this post? Hit “Command + F” and reply to me on Twitter : )
“Want” taps into your reader’s core needs and desires. We all want something, right? It might be:
- Flatter abs
- Dice an onion like a professional chef
- Write like Stephen King
Some use it to trigger feelings of greed, lust, and envy.
For example, “Want to be the envy of all your friends?” Or, you can use it to show you understand your customer’s problem and can solve them.
7. Fact (to Signal Logic)
This word employs a technique called “Signaling Logic.” Remember when I said earlier that our decisions are emotion-based?
We want to believe logic is what drives our decisions. The fact is, they’re emotion-based.
Tip: The word “Truth” also works in this scenario.
For example, “the truth is…”
“Imagine” uses a concept called future pacing. It’s where you get your readers to imagine a better world for themselves because of your product.
You can have them envision their life a month after using your product, one year after, or for the rest of their life.
Forget trying to paint a picture with your words. Instead, leverage your reader’s imagination and get them to think about the future.
Here’s an example from a Ramit Sethi sales page:
He designed his entire website using trigger words.
Other phrases worth exploring include:
- What if
- Think about
- Just imagine
And here’s one more using the phrase, “What if”:
When you say “because,” people connect it with a reasonable explanation, you sound informed when you use the word. It amplifies your logic-sounding-ness, for lack of a better term.
A good combination is using the “Why/Because” technique. You start with a statement. Then ask, “why?” Next, you follow up with your answer using the word “because.”
Here’s an example:
I never eat after 9 pm [statement]. Why? [ask “Why?”]
Because it disrupts my sleep cycle [answer starting with “because.”]
It’s also a good way to break up your text and pull readers down the page.
Speaking with conviction alleviates doubt. When you decrease your reader’s suspicions, you increase their belief in you. Here’s an example from marketer Harry Dry’s website.
Instead of using the word “help,” use “how”:
How implies “this is the way it’s done.” It sounds confident and unquestionable.
It works similar to “how,” as in, “the way podcasts get made.” You don’t want another random solution that may not work; you want THE solution to solve your problem.
“The” signals to your reader there’s no alternative to what you have.
For example, which sounds more convincing?:
THE proven framework to double your audience size in one month.
Aproven framework to double your audience size in one month.”\
It sounds negative, but when used correctly, it can serve to agitate your audience in a way that makes them want to buy (or keep reading your blog post).
It’s part of many copywriting formulas, including PAS (problem agitate solve).
The method involves identifying a problem and agitating it before providing a solution.
Here’s how you could employ “worse” in your copywriting:
“Meeting people is tough [problem]. What’s worse is when you’re in a foreign country, and nobody speaks your language [agitate]. Luckily, this post details five tips you can use to start meeting people abroad, even if you don’t speak the language [solution]”
Or try this example:
- What’s worse than having the wrong running shoes? Having no running shoes.
Here’s a word that promises immediate gratification. People hate waiting. Whether it’s getting approved for a credit card, increased blog traffic, or higher sales, you want to know that your efforts are paying off.
Here’s how marketer Neil Patel uses the word in a headline:
If you’re struggling to get more leads, you’re reading that article.
Get Instant Approval (makes for a nice CTA button)
This word plays to our immediate fulfillment because nobody likes delaying gratification. We want what we want when we want it.
It helps impress feelings of scarcity or FOMO. You might only be able to get this product now (as opposed to later).
It also addresses the availability to start something quickly. CTAs make great use of the word “now.”
- Get started now
- Carve a Better Pumpkin Now: The Definitive Guide
- Make more money right now
Make your audience feel important. When you offer something like gated content, a bonus, or a special membership, exclusivity should boost your offer’s attractiveness.
You might include an offer to read:
…And if you act now, you’ll get access to exclusive content I’ve never shared with anyone…”
Just be sure your “exclusive” material doesn’t disappoint.
In the 1960’s psychology pioneer Solomon Asch conducted a study, notoriously known as the Elevator Experiment, appearing on a Candid Camera episode called Face the Rear.
The experiment had actors enter an elevator with an unwitting participant. The actors began performing a series of odd behaviors, including folding their arms, tipping their hats, and facing the rear.
The participant’s desire to conform compelled him to follow suit – even when it meant facing the rear of the elevator because everyone else was!
The fact is: Your audience is more likely to do something when they see everyone else doing it.
It’s hardwired in our DNA as a survival mechanism.
Blend in, and you survive, stand out, and you die.
The word “everyone” combines two of Cialdini’s principles:
- Social proof
FOMO is real. And when you see everyone doing something except you, you’re more likely to consider trying it. Why?
Because you don’t want to miss out (scarcity) on the latest trend (social proof). People tend to swim with the stream.
Here’s an example, “Everyone is smitten with the WordPress affiliate plugin.”
Or this one:
17. This (for Creating “Open Loops”)
There’s never been a more clickbaity word than “this.” It’s particularly handy in headlines and subject lines. It creates an open loop in your reader’s mind. Why?
Because we have no idea what “this” is. So, we click.
Tip: Be sure you close the loop in your article or email. Otherwise, you’ll lose their trust.
We’re naturally curious. And when we see something pulling that lever, we’re helpless until we get an answer.
Here are some examples courtesy of Joanna Wiebe’s fantastic copywriting formulas article.
You shouldn’t waste another second doing/reading/seeing this
I learned this from watching ____
You can also try it with headlines:
Weight Loss: This one tactic is how I shed 75 pounds in 6 months
Pique their curiosity and create an open loop with “this.”
The word “today” addresses our need for immediate gratification. It also signals scarcity or the feeling you’re missing out (FOMO)
Phrases like “Today only” or “Expires today” prompt you to act now rather than later.
You can also use it in your blog intros. For example:
“This post details seven techniques to attract the love of your life you can start using TODAY.”
You’re more likely to read the article if it offers strategies you can start using immediately to attract your life partner 😉
Hearing “yes” signals that something is possible. You may have doubts about whether you can do it. “Yes” confirms it’s attainable.
Take one of our blog headlines as an example.
We saw the keyword phrase, “Can affiliate marketing make rich?” appearing in Google’s People Also Ask.
That query gets roughly 19 million results in Google.
So, we decided to answer the question in our headline with an affirming “yes.”
If your readers ever wonder whether you can solve their problem, immediately tell them you can with “yes.”
It will play into their feelings of optimism, positivity, and encouragement.
20. Tired (for “Review Mining”)
One of the first rules of great copywriting is empathy. When you know what people’s pain points are, you can speak to them in their own words.
The phrase “Tired of” is an excellent way to discover what your audience doesn’t like about something.
And one easy way for determining what your readers don’t like is using the Google search operators “site:” and “inurl” operators.
If you were writing a blog post about dry skin, you could run a search on Amazon using the phrase “tired of” to learn about what people struggle with.
Here’s how you do it:
site:amazon.com inurl:product-reviews “tired of” dry skin
Here are the results we get when plugging the above search term into Google search:
Look at the above examples:
- I’m tired of putting harsh chemicals on my skin
- Tired of investing money into facial products that I wound up using only a few times
- I got tired of spending hundreds of dollars on face products that do nothing
That’s a goldmine of terms to include in your content. The trick is using your reader’s own language.
It’s called Review Mining, and marketers use it all the time.
Another phrase to explore is “struggle with.” What things do your readers struggle with?
You can try this trick on any product review site and see what you get — for example, G2.com or Product Hunt.
Your search might look like this:
site:g2.com “struggle with”
You probably won’t need to use the “inurl” search operator for sites not including a product review category page (like Amazon).
21. Already + Still
Here’s a two-sentence phrase with the words “already” and “still.”
Here’s how it works.
Saying “already” addresses a task you’ve completed. “Still” signals you haven’t achieved the desired outcome.
You’ve already set up automatic deposits to your savings account, but you’re still not seeing your net worth grow.
Tune Up Your Copy with Powerful Trigger Words
Whether you’re trying to attract more customers, clients, or email subscribers, using trigger words doesn’t have to be complicated. Just match your copy with the emotion you want to elicit and employ an ethical persuasion principle to boot.
Remember, sell to the heart first, not to the head.
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