Goodbye Keywords, Hello Carewords!

Another (long) excerpt from Gerry McGovern’s article. This guy knows what he’s talking about.

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?

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3 Responses to “Goodbye Keywords, Hello Carewords!”


  1. 1 gardenwife December 22, 2006 at 5:42 am

    Hi, Michael. I found your blog through a Google News alert subscription for Caribou Coffee (your mention in the entry regarding Starbucks losing its coolness factor with its mega-expansion). Your blog’s great! I was a marketing major at a 2-year school and have spent the last couple decades in various levels of customer service and sales positions building upon that knowledge. Learning about SEO is something I began about a year ago, so this entry of yours really caught my attention. I like the idea of care words vs. key words. It makes sense.

    I’ll be back to read more. You’ve got some good stuff here. My husband and I enjoy Dave Ramsey’s show, too, so finding you work for his company is heartening as well.

  2. 2 Michael Morton December 22, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Hi Gardenwife. I’m glad that you find my blog interesting! I am also glad you listen to the Dave Ramsey Show. Thank you for your kind comment. Please feel free to share any future comments or questions you may have. I do enjoy hearing other people’s opinions on all things marketing.

    Best regards!

  3. 3 Good Usability October 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    The last paragraph here is key. What McGovern says here is that he’s just rebranded keywords. His own methodology might throw up ‘low fares’ as the careword. But search stats would tell you that cheap flights are the keywords.

    I’ve written about this on my blog here:
    http://www.goodusability.co.uk/2008/10/trigger-words-versus-customer-carewords/


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Who am I ?

My name is Michael Morton. I believe in bringing energy and professionalism into the office, that knowledge is power, that leadership trumps management, that customers are more influential than advertisements, that content is king, and that two heads are better than one. I currently lead the marketing efforts of the Strategic Alliances department of my company. Let’s talk marketing!

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