Crafting content that shows you care

By Posted in - Content & Websites on May 31st, 2018 2 Comments

Pickle Jar’s CEO, Tracy Playle, recently gave a webinar for Gather Content on helping non-specialists understand content strategy. She mentioned in passing the idea of ‘carewords’.

Based on some of the questions people asked Tracy at the end, it seemed not everyone had heard of carewords before. If that’s you, don’t worry. Here’s a quick guide to get you up to speed.

What are carewords?

Carewords are a phenomenon that hit SEO and content strategy more broadly about a decade ago. Gerry McGovern defines them like this: “Keywords bring you to a website, carewords bring you through a website.”

Carewords are not the words that people type into a search engine that leads them to find your content – those are keywords.

Carewords are the words they are scanning for once they reach your website that help them to make decisions and take actions. They might have searched for ‘Used Ford car’, but they will scan the page for terms like ‘five door’ and ‘1.2L petrol engine’. They might have searched for ‘Psychology degree’, but will scan a course page for the words ‘accredited course’ and ‘career opportunities’.

These words indicate what’s important to your users and what will help them make a decision – to buy a car, to apply for a course, and so on. They can play as much to the emotional side of decision-making, as to the factual and literal information needs that they are looking to be served by your content.

Why bother with carewords?

Defining your carewords is good for your users. It helps them to quickly identify whether your content is useful to them, and how to achieve their ‘top tasks’.

Defining your carewords is also good for you. It makes it more likely that users will understand the value of what you are offering to them. In turn, it should help to drive more people to perform the actions that they want them to take (buying that car, applying for that course).

Ultimately, it’s about building empathy with your users by understanding the words they use, the terms that are most likely to catch their eye and the language that resonates with them. It’s a gateway to understanding what they think and how they express those thoughts. It sheds light on their interests and the way they understand the world. At Pickle Jar Communications we often work with clients to help them really understand their audiences on this deep level.

How do I develop carewords for my audiences?

Developing empathy maps is a great way to start thinking about what matters to your users. To plan keywords for SEO, you might use Google Keyword Planner (which is free) or another specialist tool (they are sometimes worth the investment in a premium tool if you’re likely to use them a lot). To develop carewords, you’ll need to bring these things together.

Will your users talk about their ‘GP’ or their ‘doctor’? Are they looking for something ‘cheap’ or something ‘budget-friendly’? Are they interested in a ‘healthy diet’ or in ‘clean eating’? Are they looking for a ‘course’ or ‘programme’?

Think not just about the words your audiences love to use, but think about words they hate too. What language will they find really off-putting?

As much as possible, listen to the language your audiences actually use. In focus groups, listen not just to what they’re saying, but how they’re saying it. When you’re running user testing, listen to their commentary closely. On social media, listen not just to whether they’re positive about your brand, but look at their conversations more generally. What words crop up often? What abbreviations and acronyms do they use? Try to recognise where they’re mirroring language you’ve used in your questions and where they are using the words that come most naturally to them.

Using carewords with your stakeholders

As Tracy mentioned in her webinar, carewords can also be useful in thinking how to pitch projects to internal stakeholders.

When talking to someone about your project, it’s worth making sure that you’re not inadvertently using your own marketing jargon. Don’t make assumptions. For example, are you confident they understand what the term ‘content’ actually means? When you’re describing the details of a web page, is it best to talk about the written contents on a web page as ‘copy’, ‘text’ or ‘words’? Pitch your content at a level that acknowledges their expertise without confusing them.

If you want to dig deeper, consider what their motivations are? Will they be more motivated to support a project that saves money, that saves staff time or that reduces the number of repetitive questions they receive? Working these things out in advance will ensure that you can communicate with them in the most effective way possible, and secure buy-in for your project from day one.

What can I do next?

Understanding your audiences better, and defining your carewords accordingly, will help you design better content, write better copy and provide a better user experience overall. And, remember, they’re not just useful for deciding the content that you will actually publish; they can also be useful for helping you to persuade and influence your internal stakeholders in a way that resonates most with them.

If you need some help getting to know your users – whether through empathy mapping, user testing or social listening – get in touch with us.

If you want to know more about carewords specifically, grab a copy of Gerry McGovern’s book Killer Web Content (2006).

And if you missed it, catch up on Tracy’s Gather Content webinar about engaging stakeholders effectively.


(2) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Ross McCall - Reply

    July 3, 2018 at 10:53 am

    This was really helpful and I have a question. I’m currently creating a tool to assign content to writers and editors, based partly on your page tables as well as Gather Content’s article on writing content briefs. Are care words something you would include in page tables and if so how many would you limit yourself to for a single piece of content? Thanks for your help.

  • Rachel Smith - Reply

    July 18, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Thanks Ross! Great idea to add them to page tables. I’d think no more than two or three per page, with one prioritised as most important, but would be interest in your thoughts.

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