I was once told a fascinating story by a friend of mine who is involved in the investment banking industry. Investment bankers were looking for investors in what they were calling “third-world economies.” Nobody was having much luck. Then some banker started calling them “emerging economies,” and there was a phenomenal increase in investment—all because of a couple of words.
Fortune magazine had a similar experience. For years, it had been publishing a supplement on retirement options with headlines like “Better Plans for Retirement.” Then someone came up with the idea of using the headline “Retire Rich.” Those two words resulted in a huge jump in sales, making that issue the company’s most successful in its entire history.
Words matter, and they have never mattered more than they do today. In this hectic world, we are inundated with so much stuff that we simply home in on the things we care about. And we express what we care about in a small set of words—I call these words “carewords.”
I could call them “keywords,” but then you’d yawn and put the book down. The problem is that—like “third-world economies”—the word itself is uninspiring. Of course, the way keywords have been used hasn’t helped. Many people think that they are something you quickly add to the HTML of a page and have only a loose association with the actual content. Keywords are also associated with metadata, a word so boring it deserves a health warning. So I’m going to call them “carewords” from now on.
Listen up: The secret of Web communications and marketing success is to be found in the concept of carewords. There’s something in them that has explosive potential, something that gets to the essence of modern human behavior. As Web readers, we are hunter-gatherers once again—only this time, instead of scanning the horizon for prey, we scan pages for carewords. When we see these words, we click, we act. And that is what the Web is all about: tasks and actions.
What do most people care about when flying today? Low fares or free coffee? You’d probably say low fares. When people go to a search engine, are they more likely to type “low fares” or “cheap flights”? Suppose I told you that one of these careword phrases is 400 times more likely to be typed into a search engine than the other.
Wouldn’t it be important for you to know that if you were working as a marketer for an airline?