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How to Use Emotional Power Words in Your PPC Ads

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Not all words are created equal. Some words are impactful, thudding against your brain and changing the way you view things. Others are like gentle breezes: pleasant to have around, but very unlikely to spur any notable action. Guess which kind you want for your PPC ads! Yes, it’s the former — each PPC ad has just a brief moment to compel someone to act, so it needs the best phrasing you can come up with.

But how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Well, you don’t generally need to, because it’s mostly been done for you. Marketers have known the rhetoric merits of certain word groups for a long, and documented them in depth: most usefully detailing emotional power words. These words don’t just communicate concepts — they also evoke feelings. And since our emotions hugely drive our actions, they’re perfect tools for selling.

Let’s take a look at what these emotional power words involve, and how you can use them in your PPC ads to compel readers to get deeper into your sales funnel:

The categories of emotional power words

Language is open to interpretation, so different people will define different categories here, but I’ll go with this logical set of seven:

  • Fear. You’re probably familiar with fear of missing out (FOMO) and the huge role it plays in marketing, and the core words that factor into that fall under this category. Words like “gone”, “miss”, “panic”, “risky”, etc. Play into someone’s fears, and you can inspire them to act in an effort to combat those fears.
  • Encouragement. We all need inspiration from time to time, and when all other categories seem too heavy-handed, going for simple encouragement can work well. Think about words like “achievement”, “success”, “faith”, “triumph”, and “victory”. Make someone believe that their can get the outcome they want.
  • Lust. This doesn’t need to be sexual or even romantic in nature, because it extends metaphorically to anything that generates desire. You’ll often see these words used for high-end luxury items, particularly comestibles or vacation experiences. Think about “divine”, “intoxicating”, “dreamy”, “captivating”, and “tempting”.
  • Anger. Anger drives a lot of our decisions, whether intense or fairly mild. Get someone angry at a situation and give them a way to address it. Consider words such as “revolting”, “obnoxious”, “annoying”, “ridiculous” and “payback”.
  • Greed. It’s in our nature to always want more, no matter how much we have. The hunger always returns sooner or later. You can play to this with words such as “free”, “profit”, “reduced”, “bargain”, and “cheap”.
  • Safety. Perhaps more than ever, we’re skeptical about the companies we buy from and the services we use. We want reassurance that we’re in safe hands. Words like “guarantee”, “authentic”, “professional”, “certified” and “proven” provide that reassurance.
  • Forbidden. If you want someone to want something, make them believe that they’re not supposed to have it. After all, we want things we can’t have, and enjoy feeling rebellious (however illusory it might be). Try words like “off-limits”, “controversial”, “private”, “exclusive”, and “insider”.

Something important to remember about these categories is that they can (and do) overlap, and the effects aren’t limited to individual words. You can’t just throw in some power words and expect them to be effective. Instead, they need to be used in good marketing copy, placed in context and fully supported.

The illusion of rational decision-making

Evoking these emotions is so effective because we’re incorrect in thinking that we make solid, rational decisions when we’re shopping online. We don’t. Often, we barely think at all, preferring to simply react and continue on autopilot. Because of this, getting someone to feel something can often be enough to motivate them to act.

Imagine that you see an ad saying “50% off EVERYTHING, but hurry: offer ends soon!”, and choose to click through before placing an order. Is that a rational process of weighing up the value on offer and reaching a sensible conclusion? Or is it a matter of feeling an immediate and urgent need not to miss out on the offer, barely even considering whether you actually need any of the discounted items?

Sometimes that kind of scenario will be a balance of practicality and emotionality, but often it will be dominated by the latter. A problem with targeting emotions, though, is that you need to get the balance right or your powerful words will prove counterproductive. Let’s see how.

How to use power words without going overboard

So, the time has come to write the copy for your PPC ads. You have limited space (depending on the platform), and a specific goal in mind (likely just making sales). How can you bring the power of emotion to bear without ruining the effect?

Well, it’s really a matter of understanding the audience you’re targeting, knowing the qualities of whatever you’re offering, and being aware of the context: what other ads say, what rival companies can offer, and what motivations best suit your product or service.

Imagine that you were trying to sell your business and wanted to get some more eyes on the listing to drum up fresh interest and start a bidding war. The most basic form of your ad copy might be something like “Online Business for Sale: $5,000 ONO”, and would be both boring and ineffective. What could you do instead? Let’s sprinkle in some power.

How about something like this: “Profitable online business for sale at a bargain price. Perfect for an aspiring entrepreneur: no skills needed, just learn as you go. Professional design, proven CMS. Likely to sell quickly.” Of course, that won’t fit as it is, but we can cut it down as follows:

If you want to see some great examples of how language can be used to make something more appealing, look through some real estate listings. You’ll quickly start to see the patterns: the ways in which features are painted in the most positive light. A small house will be described as “cozy” or “charming”. A run-down building will be described as “rustic”, “well-loved” and “a perfect project”.

The key thing with PPC is that you make sure that every part of your copy serves a purpose. You don’t have the room to waffle even if you want to, so forget about extended paragraphs of rhetoric and stick to the essentials. You’re not going to be able to hit upon every emotion in one ad (and it wouldn’t be advisable anyway), so pick whichever one seems most applicable to whatever you’re advertising.

If you were trying to sell a luxury car instead, for instance, you definitely wouldn’t want to use any greed words. The more you talk about something being generously priced, the less people will see it as being a top-class luxury item. Stella once ran an ad campaign using the slogan of “Reassuringly expensive”, turning the high cost of the item into a selling point playing on both lust and safety. Smart work!

Oh, and one last thing for getting your implementation right: make sure your landing page copy matches your ad copy. If you boast something (such as a bargain price) in your PPC ad but fail to clearly offer it on the linked page, any clicks you get will be worthless, because the searcher will believe that they’ve fallen victim to clickbait. Good luck!

Patrick Foster

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