6 Kinds of Action Words Your Content Marketing Needs

Flesch reading scale
Flesch reading scale

If your brand is earning tons of web traffic but seems lean on conversions, you might need more action words in your content marketing. Action words turn consumers from simple readers of your content into engaged potential customers.

So how do you start using them? If you’re publishing content, you probably already are, but maybe not optimally.

We’ve put together a handy guide that covers:

  • How you can use action words strategically
  • What to consider when choosing action words.
  • 6 kinds of action words you should include in your content (with examples)

Let’s get started!

Quick Takeaways

  • You can use action words in content marketing by using active voice and placing action words strategically.
  • Showing value and evoking emotion are two ways to use action words most effectively.
  • Action words should be compelling, but not difficult.
  • There are different kinds of action words you can use to motivate different types of action.

How to Use Action Words in Your Content

Believe it or not, organic web traffic is not the end goal of content marketing — customer conversions are. If you’re creating content with a singular goal of ranking on SERPs and driving web traffic, you’re missing part of the point. Your content shouldn’t just exist as something valuable and free for people to read on the internet. It should motivate people to want more from your brand.

This is where action words come in.

Action words in content marketing tap into human emotion and give customers the feeling that they need to do something. This need could stem from a feeling that their pain points are being understood, a fear of missing out on something, a desire to capitalize on a promotion, or a number of other motivators. It all depends on how you use your action words and which ones you choose.

Without action words, your content may help a bit with brand visibility, but it won’t make much of an impact on the big-picture things that matter to your brand’s long-term success. Action words, on the other hand, help you create content that directly impacts your conversion rate, marketing ROI, and sales revenue.

Here are some specific ways you can keep your content action-oriented:

Maintain Active Voice

Every content writer needs to know the difference between active and passive voice. Active voice, which puts the doer of the action as the subject of a sentence, should always be used in content marketing. Passive voice, which incorrectly positions the doer as the direct object, should be avoided.

In language not pulled straight from a sixth-grade grammar textbook: passive voice reverses the appropriate order of words in a sentence. It’s less concise, uses indirect language, and doesn’t come across as clearly to readers.

Here are some examples in different tenses:

Active vs. passive voice

Image Source

Active voice makes action words more powerful by not placing them behind a passive verb like “is” or “was.” When you use active voice, your action word is the main verb in a sentence. It is directly related to the subject of the sentence, which in content marketing is often your potential customer.

Active voice makes your potential customer the doer, presenting an opportunity to persuade them to act.

Grab Attention with Action Words in Headlines

Did you know that 80% of readers never make it past the headline on your landing page or blog? Headlines are the first thing people notice when they perform an online search, visit your landing page, or receive your emails. It’s essential that they’re compelling, unique, and action-oriented.

Action words not only grab attention, they make the intention of your content clear right from the headline. They’re also a great way to communicate the value of your content to customers from the start.

For example:

Jumpstart [action word] your web traffic with these 3 strategies!” is much more compelling than “ 3 Strategies for Increasing Web Traffic.”

Use CTAs to Motivate Readers to Act

Calls to action clearly communicate with consumers about the next action you want them to take. And get this: 90% of customers who read your headline will also read your CTAs (if you use them).

So if you’ve done the work to create a compelling, action-oriented headline, don’t stop there. Content with CTAs converts at an exponentially higher rate than content without them. Hubspot tested this out on their own website and found that anchor text CTAs increase conversions by 121%! To boot, they discovered that 93% of all leads generated by their website came from anchor text CTAs.

Here’s Neil Patel on how you can optimize your CTA-driven conversion rate:

How to Choose Your Action Words

Think about value

Whenever you can, use your action words to convey the value your brand can provide for them. Think from your customer’s perspective. Specifically, think about what they can achieve through their interaction with your brand.

Whether that’s to “Make a Splash!” wearing a cocktail dress from your retail brand’s spring collection or to “Transform your business!” with the services of your B2B company, using action words to convey value conjures a vision for your customer of what it would be like to have it. This vision creates a feeling (more on that later) that motivates your customer to act.

Keep things simple

Your action words should be compelling and unique when possible, but they should never be obscure, hard to read, or unrelatable. The best strategy when it comes to action words is to keep them simple. Content Marketing Institute, for instance, makes sure their content sticks to an eighth grade reading level.

The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score uses sentence and word counts to determine how difficult text is to read. It’s widely used in content marketing. Best practices show that CMI is right — content that falls between 6 and 8 is optimal for wide readability.

Flesch reading scale

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All of this is to say that when it comes to action words, compelling does not mean difficult. The most important thing is for your reader to understand and relate to the action.

Evoke Emotion

Emotional marketing is a well-proven, effective marketing strategy that brands use to make a connection with consumers. Evoking emotion is also a powerful way to get consumers to act, and you can do it with strong action words.

When you’re using action words and creating CTAs, don’t think only about what you’re asking customers to do, but also the way your words will make them feel. The stronger the emotional reaction, the more likely your customer will be to take action.

Emotional CTAs don’t have to be dramatic, either. Consider this example:

“Don’t miss another . . .” Opportunity. Promotion. Event. Email. You name it — when you read that CTA from a brand you like, you feel like you already missed something. And you don’t want to miss it again, so you’ll probably complete the CTA.

6 Kinds of Action Words Your Content Needs

Okay — now we’re up to speed on action words in content marketing. We know:

  • How to use it: by using active voice, writing actionable headlines, and creating compelling CTAs
  • How to choose action words: by thinking about value, keeping things simple, and evoking emotion

But it still isn’t easy to continually think of great action words on the fly without getting repetitive or hitting mental blocks. So we’ve gone ahead and created a list of the kinds of action words your content needs with examples for each.

Read on!

Exclusive

Action words that suggest exclusivity give customers a desire to be part of something. Giving people a specific action they need to complete in order to gain access to something exclusive is extremely effective. It’s why lead magnets are so successful at increasing conversions.

Some examples:

  • Login
  • Apply
  • Subscribe
  • Request
  • Join
  • Become
  • Sign up

Urgent

Action words that create urgency motivate people by adding a time factor into the mix. When people feel that there are time limits on when they can access an opportunity, they’re more apt to make a quick decision to act.

Examples:

  • Get it now!
  • Hurry!
  • Don’t forget!
  • Grab yours while you can!
  • Get it today!
  • Act quickly!
  • Save your spot!

FOMO-inducing

The FOMO is real! We all want to be included and know what’s going on — including your potential customers. Hook them with action words and CTAs that evoke potential FOMO if they don’t act.

Examples:

  • Don’t miss out!
  • Join 1000s of others already doing it!
  • Attend this one-time-only webinar!
  • Don’t be the last to join!

Educational

Learning something new is a huge value-add people get from content. Use action words that make people feel they’ll come away with new, valuable information by acting.

Examples:

  • Discover
  • Learn
  • Master
  • Become an Expert
  • Explore

High-Energy

Sometimes action words need a big punch. When you’re using action words to get people to take big next steps, use powerful words that match up.

  • Transform
  • Upgrade
  • Jumpstart
  • Launch
  • Accelerate
  • Disrupt
  • Break through

Negative

Brands don’t just offer benefits, they help customers solve problems. Using negative action works that emphasize how people can eliminate problems can be big motivators.

  • Eliminate
  • Stop
  • Reduce
  • Remove
  • Diminish

Take Action on Your Content Marketing Strategy

Ready to revamp your content marketing strategy’s use of action words and CTAs? Marketing Insider Group has experienced SEO experts, content writers, and marketing professionals who can help you consistently publish action-driven content that converts.

Check out our Content Builder Services and schedule a free consultation today to get started!

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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