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58 Online Copywriting Power Words and Phrases

Today’s audience development efforts require online copywriting skills that borrow from the print world, but also address larger issues

If you’re experienced in online copywriting, you know that “you” is generally considered to be one of the most effective copywriting power words, ranking right up there with free, new and save.

As direct marketing legend Herschell Gordon Lewis says in The Art of Writing Copy, “Unless the reader regards himself as the target of your message, benefit can’t exist. Benefit demands a ‘We/You’ relationship.”

Among Mr. Lewis’s other favorite copywriting power words:

  1. free
  2. free gift
  3. limited time
  4. right now
  5. surprise
  6. hot
  7. first time offered
  8. not sold in stores
  9. good only until [DATE]
  10. Don’t miss out
  11. I’ll look for your order
  12. Try it at our risk

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

Online copywriting borrows from magazine covers

Today’s online copywriters are a hybrid of journalist and marketer, employing the best skills of both crafts. We—and I include myself in this group of online copywriting hybrids—have broader concerns that inform and influence the words we choose.

They boil down to two fundamental questions:

  1. What are the keywords that people use to arrive at your website?
  2. What words in email subject lines trigger the highest open rates?

Here’s a list of copywriting power words used by one of our former clients who was very successful in transitioning from a legacy magazine model to a digital-first business model. These words were posted on office walls, and were used interchangeably for newsstand magazine cover lines, promotional copy, and email subject lines:

  1. Improve
  2. Trust
  3. Immediately
  4. Discover
  5. Profit
  6. Learn
  7. Know
  8. Understand
  9. Powerful
  10. Best
  11. Win
  12. Hot Special
  13. More
  14. Bonus
  15. Exclusive
  16. Extra
  17. You
  18. Free
  19. Health
  20. Guarantee
  21. New
  22. Proven
  23. Safety
  24. Money
  25. Now
  26. Today
  27. Results
  28. Protect
  29. Help
  30. Easy
  31. Amazing
  32. Latest
  33. Extraordinary
  34. How to
  35. Worst
  36. Ultimate
  37. Hot
  38. First
  39. Big
  40. Anniversary
  41. Premiere
  42. Basic
  43. Complete
  44. Save
  45. Plus!
  46. Create

The list was compiled by Curtis Circulation Company, a leading national newsstand distributor of magazines, and Linda Ruth of Publishers Single Copy Sales Services, by studying best-selling magazine covers.

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

Used judiciously in online copywriting, power words can grab a reader’s attention and help communicate and persuade. But they are not a substitute for formal structure. Good online copywriting requires an orderly format that moves the reader along to a purchase decision.

Power words can be, well, powerful, but they do not work without context. Power words in online copywriting need to be used in cooperation with all of the other tools in the copywriter’s bag of tricks.

We also recommend tools like SubjectLine.com, and the Email Subject Line Tester to help develop effective, compelling subject lines that withstand sophisticated SPAM filters.

We also like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer.

58 Online Copywriting Power Words and Phrases - Coschedule

… and the old trusty  Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from the Advanced Marketing Institute.

58 Online Copywriting Power Words and Phrases - AMI

Additionally, a newer tool is Sharethrough’s headline analyzer which gives you a scorecard after you enter your title.

Also, be sure to study Google Analytics to find out which terms consumers are using to get to your website, and use those liberally. Together, all of these tools can help you write more effective headlines and discover the online copywriting power words that work best for your company and industry.

What are the power words that seem to perform in your efforts? Let us know below. 

This article was originally published in 2012 and has been updated.

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