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Things to consider when choosing keywords for your next SMS marketing campaign

When setting up your SMS campaign, it’s a good idea to secure your preferred keyword(s) early on … after all this will form one of the major calls to action for your campaign, appearing on billboards, posters, flyers, website or in your video or radio scripts (depending on the channels in play). We make it quick and easy to check the availability of your preferred keyword and secure it, all within your fastsms account.

Choosing the right keyword could be the make or break for your campaign, which can make it seem a bit of a daunting task … but don’t panic, we’re here to help you out along the way – on this page you’ll find some guidelines, things to consider when choosing your keyword. Of course, which of these are most important will depend on your individual needs. You might not always be able to get hold of your preferred keyword (popular ones get snapped up fast!) so a bit of flexibility is always good.

Remember, if you’d like some tailored advice from one of our experts, just click the ‘chat’ button at the bottom of your screen and tell us a little about your campaign – we’re always here, ready to help 🙂

Avoid using all numbers

Keyword. The clue is in the name. While there might be an exception out there that we’re yet to come across, we can safely say that it’s not a good idea to use all numbers as your ‘keyword’.

Imagine if your campaign looked like this: “Text 94760 to 87007

That’s going to cause a bit of confusion for anyone looking to take you up on your offer. Numbers have some great uses for keyword campaigns (more on that later) but they don’t really work without a word in there somewhere. Best avoided.

One word or two?

This is one of those that partly depends on your specific campaign. More specifically it depends most on the channels you’re using to run your campaign.

Let’s look at an example for a hypothetical talent competition: “Text VoteJack to 87007

There are some benefits to forming your keyword from two words.

  1. It makes your keyword more unique. Perhaps your first choice keyword was already taken, adding another word to the mix might be preferable to a string of numbers.
  2. Add an action. As in the example above, using a second word (in this case ‘Vote‘) can add an action to the keyword – this has been known to improve the results of your SMS campaigns.
  3. It’s part of a series. If you’re using multiple keywords in your campaign then it could be a good way of linking them all together by having a differentiator on each option (in this case ‘Jack‘).

Of course where there are benefits, there’s usually potential pitfalls. The main risk here is where some people might instinctively put a space between the two words.

  1. Channels. If you’re using radio to promote your campaign then you might be best sticking with just one word, as other than pointing out it needs to be one word during the advert (and you can imagine how bad that would sound) there’s no other way to make it clear. Of course if you’re just using visual channels (TV, web, print) then it’s all down to the design of the advert – capitalising the first letters of the word works well to make it easier to read and recall, as long as it’s clear it’s still one word (play around with different fonts and layouts).
  2. Audience. As a regular internet user, you can probably reel off a bunch of websites that use two words as their domain. You might chuckle if someone typed it into their browser with a space in there expecting to end up at the right place, it’s common sense, right? But near the beginning of the web it was a real issue, and companies promoting their websites had the same considerations as you do now. The point here is that whether it’s right for you to use two words, might depend on your audience. Younger generations who are more accustomed to keyword campaigns might instinctively know that it’s one word when they look at your ad, whereas older generations might assume it’s a mistake in your ad and put a space in. Something to consider anyway.

Short and simple.

As with most things in SMS, shorter is better.

It’s a pretty sweeping statement but we’ve never come across a situation where it’s a good idea to purposely make your keyword longer than it needs to be. Shorter is easier to read and recall, uses less characters in the SMS and is generally much punchier.

Of course on the flip side of that, don’t compromise on some of the other guidelines here just to squeeze it down to a few characters less (same reason you’re not using txtspk in your outbound messages) – you’ll just be compromising on quality, and your results will suffer. Keep it simple.

The only exception here would be if you’re looking to use your brand name (or the abbreviated version) or an acronym that holds relevance.

Bearer auto carrot (Beware autocorrect).

We’ve all seen them, usually shared on social media or perhaps you’ve even experienced your own autocorrect faux-pas. In normal text messages the result is usually a quick backtrack or a bit of a giggle. But when it comes to keywords an autocorrect blunder will probably mean you lose out on a subscriber, and your customer ends up without your services (or other reason they texted in) – nobody wins.

The best solution here is to simply be aware of the possible outcomes. When choosing your keyword(s) and you get down to a shortlist, do some testing. It’s quick, easy and everyone in your office can do it (ask people with different models of phone in order to be thorough). All you need to do is type the word into a message and see if it changes automatically to something else.

Most people touch type, and you’d be surprised how often you hit the wrong letter, you don’t notice because your phone is pretty good at guessing what you meant … so try to be as natural as possible (not too precise) when testing, as you could skew the results. Everyone has that one word that their phone repeatedly gets wrong (for me, ‘”something” always seems to get changed to “sting” … big thumbs) so you’ll see that it’s not just about correcting misspelled words, but what a phone thinks are mistyped based on the likelihood of you using that word.

So, if you find that your chosen word is potentially troublesome with autocorrect you have a few options…

  1. Use a different word. If your first choice is going to be a problem then it might be an idea to move on to second place.
  2. Append a number. If you’ve just got to have that keyword, for example because an existing campaign has already been built around that buzzword (or it’s your brand) then you could append it with a number. This is the quickest way round it, but may detract from the effectiveness of the campaign.
  3. Claim the alias. If you’re serious about covering all the bases then what we recommend is securing the alternatives and misspellings of your keyword too (this is what the big boys do). You can always refine this list during a campaign.

The eye of the beholder

The understanding, interpretation and even the reading of your keyword is to a point, subjective. To illustrate part of this, here’s a demonstration of what is known as ‘Typoglycemia’:

Bheold the poanhmeenl pwoer of the hmuan mnid. As lnog as the fsirt and lsat ltteer are in the rhigt palce, you soulhd hvae no pbrloem riaedng tihs at nromal seped.

Aside from being fun (and making you feel all clever), what this shows is how the quickly the brain can make sense of things that don’t make sense (think of it as autocorrect for the mind). Now remember, much of the time your ad may only be visible for a few seconds (if you’re using billboards, TV ads, buses etc), so your audience only has a moment to make their mind up about what they saw.

There’s not much you can do about typoglycemia other than to be aware of it, and try and avoid deliberate misspellings or words that might look like other words at a glance (not everyone will have time for a double take).

Similarly, you want to avoid unambiguous letters and numbers. That is, when appending your keyword with numbers or using acronyms you don’t want to use numbers and letters that can be confused with each other, if you can help it that is.

A great example of this is where people use unambiguous letters and numbers in personalised vehicle number plates to make it read as a word (e.g. ‘FA5T5M5‘) … you want to do the opposite. It might be tempting to be clever and substitute numbers for a letter in order to get the keyword you want (if it isn’t available) but be prepared to take a hit on your responses, depending on the channels in use of course.

Stick to the main characters

If you go to compose a message on your phone (assuming it’s a smartphone), you’ll probably notice that you have a button for ‘shift’ or ‘sym’ (symbol) or just ‘1/2’ or similar. Whatever you have, it’s there because it’s just not practical to have all the possible symbols your phone supports on the screen at one time (and some of them are pretty obscure).

You might find you have more characters on show if you tip your phone landscape (depending on the model), but in most cases whichever way up you’ll have all the letters A-Z and all the numbers 0-9 and these are the characters that we recommend you stick to.

Here’s why…

  • If you’re accustomed to running marketing campaigns, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “don’t make me think”. It’s based on the premise that you shouldn’t overcomplicate things for your users and customers – if you do, you’ll get less people taking the desired action.
  • As an extension of that, there are still people out there who don’t have smartphones – that’s the beauty of SMS … you can still reach them. But if you’re asking them to text your keyword that includes some little known or extended character, remember you’re asking them to find it first (cue horrifying flashbacks to typing text messages by repeatedly clicking the same number button).
  • Keep in mind also, that while a character might appear on a phone it might not be part of the GSM character set for text messaging. In other words it might not be supported by the UK networks. See here for more information.

Be relevant

Above everything else, the most important thing is that you choose a keyword that is relevant. This can be relevant to your business, the brand, your products or a specific promotion or campaign.

As an example, say you’re a company called “Papi’s Pizza” …

The business: “Text PIZZA to 87007

The brand: “Text PAPIS to 87007

The products: “Text FEAST to 87007

The promotion: “Text FREESIDE to 87007

The action: “Text ORDER to 87007

Depending on the type of campaign, (i.e. what is the keyword for) you can decide what level you need to focus on, and you should be able to come up with a few relevant keywords to run against the rest of these guidelines.

But remember, they’re only guidelines and should be treated as such. Everything has an exception. As with all marketing, results should be analysed and campaigns refined over time.

Want some more advice on choosing the right keyword for your campaign? Just click on the chat button and we'll be happy to help