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Using Keywords with VMNs and Shortcodes (Part 2)

choosing keywords

If you’ve read Part 1 of this series, you’re ready to find out how to choose a keyword for your SMS marketing campaign. While the options for keywords aren’t infinite, it can certainly feel like it. You can pick whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be a real word, it can be a combination of words or numbers. But there are a few guidelines you should follow. Because whatever word you pick will have consequences for your customers and for you.

Randomness and Misspellings

You might be tempted to pick a unique combination of letters and numbers, especially if you are using a shared shortcode. You also might want to be cute and use a misspelled version of a word (like HOMEZ rather than HOMES).  But there are a couple of reasons you probably don’t want to do this.

The first reason is autocorrecting. Every mobile these days has a built-in feature to aid in proper spelling. Well, at least they are supposed to help. Sometimes they just get us into trouble. And for you, a random combination of characters could look like something else to the autocorrect software. Every phone, every user, has a unique autocorrect experience. This is because most of them “learn” about us as we type, and make the corrections that fit our typing history. Since no two people type exactly the same, the autocorrect solutions differ too.

If someone believes they typed in the proper keyword, and hits send before realising the autocorrect changed it, you won’t get that message. Or at least it won’t be processed correctly. The customer might notice it wasn’t right, they might not. If they don’t fix it, then the message will go to a general inbox and any rules you set up to process keywords into specific lists won’t run.

Even if you use a VMN or a dedicated shortcode, it can be a labour-intensive process to manually go through the inbox and put messages into the proper list. If you can determine which keyword was actually intended to be used that is. If you use a shared shortcode, you’ll never see messages sent to the wrong keyword because the SMS provider can’t sort them all out either. It just isn’t practical.

So, avoid being random, if you want your messages to arrive properly.

The same goes for misspelled words. If you deliberately chose something that is one letter off a regular word, most autocorrects are going to fix it. That means you’ll be depending on your customer to recognise it and stop it from happening. Do you want to give that control to your customer? Or do you want to choose a word that doesn’t have these issues?

But there’s another reason to stay away from both random and misspelt words. There’s some evidence that the human brain can process words even when the letters are out of order. This is specifically true for the “interior” letters.

If you’ve been using email, or been on Facebook, for a few years you’ve probably seen what I’m talking about. Someone posts a small passage with the letters shifted in the words and you are challenged to read it. Most people can read it just fine even if there are letters missing or shuffled. For example, “pelpoe” instead of “people”, or “tht” instead of “that”.

What does that have to do with keywords?

If you choose a keyword that is close to another word people read frequently (even if the characters are random), some people may see a different word. It may be similar to your chosen keyword, but that isn’t good enough. The keyword needs to be the exactly the same to support proper processing.

Keep it Short

So, if you can’t be random or cute, you may consider picking a long keyword if you’re using a shared shortcode (if the one you want is already taken). If “HOME” isn’t available, you may try and go with “BOBSHOMEREALTY” for example.

That’s descriptive, and unique (probably), but also very long to type. Think about the person looking at your ad. Ideally, people send the keyword when they see or hear it. But ideal doesn’t happen every time. Will they remember the whole thing when typing it in later, when they aren’t in front of the ad? A potential customer might remember “BOBSHOME”, but not remember the rest by the time they get home or to the office.

The best approach is to choose something that is as short as possible.

In these last two blogs, I covered a lot of information about keywords and using them with VMNs and shortcodes. Hopefully you have a better understanding of your choices, and why those choices matter so much. But if you still have questions about choosing keywords, our experts are happy to answer them via live chat, email or phone.

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