What You Need to Know About Trigger Words

In psychology, trigger words are phrases that prompt a certain reaction or remind us of a particular memory. Today, trigger words are widely used in online marketing, advertisements, and news headlines, to grab our attention in split seconds. Once they caught our eye, trigger words are to persuade us to undertake a certain action: a purchase, a share, a like, or simply - a click.


What Are Trigger Words?

As the name suggests, trigger words are meant to prompt a certain action or reaction. Contemporarily, this action usually means a purchase, a click, or a share. How can you spot trigger words and what should you know about them? What are some common examples of trigger words and where can you find them?

In the psychological understanding of trigger words, they are supposed to bring about a certain emotional reaction due to previous experiences. Sometimes, they may trigger certain memories or even traumatic experiences to come back to one’s mind.

Broadly speaking, a psychological trigger can be any stimulus – from sounds to smells, to sights that cause certain reactions and cause a psychological impact. Today, trigger words are used most commonly in ads, news headlines, and social media to grab your attention.


Examples of Trigger Words

Trigger words examples

Trigger words can be easily found in headlines. Single sentences or a few words put together are meant to bring about a certain reaction – especially the aforementioned attention. They also spark up your curiosity and get your imagination going. You certainly have come across such trigger words as:

  • Best, for example Best Movies on Netflix
  • Limited, as in Limited Edition
  • Ultimate, for instance Ultimate List of Hobbies
  • Now, for example Buy Now
  • Essential, as in Essential Christmas Ideas
  • Today, for instance Available Only Today
  • Using a year, for example Ultimate List of Essential Movies on Netflix 2020

As you see, trigger words come in different varieties and forms. They can establish an article’s authority or a certain offer’s timeliness. We’re more likely to purchase a particular product if we’re faced with a special offer that expires soon, which is in fact the whole magic behind Black Friday.

However, trigger words can also be used in speech to get a person’s attention or even goodwill. Entire books teach us how to use words to get what we want.

For instance, in How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie claims that “there is no sweeter sound to one’s ear than the sound of one’s name.” (Check our article about Dale Carnegie on the Secrets of Dealing with People) Indeed, while networking or simply meeting new people, if we use the name of the person we’ve just met, it subconsciously indicates that we care for them and are concerned with something so personal as their name. Hence, using one’s name every so often in a conversation can get the person to like us more, which is the emotional reaction that trigger words strive to achieve.

As another example, trigger words such as “easy,” “fast,” or “free” indicate how the product can be beneficial to us. We like to get things free of cost and stick to time-saving solutions. Trigger words like “secret” or “mystery” additionally spark up our curiosity and make us genuinely interested in buying a product, reading an article, or watching a video.


When, Where, and Why Do We Use Trigger Words?

Online marketers, news journalists, businesspeople, and many others do their best to trigger us to action. In a way, the use of trigger words is but applied psychology, a way to hack humans into experiencing certain reactions.


Hence, an article headline’s job is to make you read the article by grabbing your attention in split seconds. Search Engine Optimization has become a necessity in the branch of online marketing. Generally speaking, SEO is the process of using certain words and phrases so that a website or a webpage will rank higher in search results. Search Engine Optimization also entails web design and a plethora of other factors, yet the right trigger words are the key to successful SEO.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon may lead to commercialization of writing, as article or column writers focus on being SEO-friendly, rather than actually delivering the intended message.

When browsing through search results, we don’t really read the headlines and titles. We’re scanning them. Our brain looks for stimuli that trigger our curiosity and attention. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that companies and websites may more and more attention to how to catch your eye from the ocean of search results.

Nowadays, every company competes to be recognized and acknowledged by you. In fact, entire business models are based on this.

The most common example today is social media and online algorithms. Companies such as Google or Facebook need your attention to increase their revenue. Only once you’ve clicked the ad, so once you’ve been the trigger to a particular action, do these companies get paid for such advertisements.

We’re surrounded by headlines and trigger words competing for our attention. In a world craving to catch our eyes as quickly as possible, our perception of reality can be warped, as is especially the case with fake news. A simple headline can misinform thousands of people. What is more, trigger words keep sneaking into our inboxes, which might on occasion be quite irritating.


Check Your Spam

How many times did you use your email to open an online account or get a special offer? Probably more than you can remember. More often than not, when using your email online, you’re added to a large email database by default. Only later do you realize it, when your mailbox is barraged with newsletters and spam.


Email marketing is an important business model and marketing strategy. Most sites collect their subscribers’ or customers’ email addresses ever since the site is made. Of course, they too use trigger words to remind you of a special offer, a new product, or any other email campaign.

The headline, an email’s topic, is the most crucial aspect of an email campaign. If it doesn’t grab your attention immediately, you’re less likely to take a look at the email’s content at all.

Companies hire teams of experts to figure out a proper email marketing campaign, be it with special offers, limited editions, or the good old newsletters. What matters to them is the click-through rate. In other words, how many people clicked what they wanted them to click from all the people who received their email.

To make the CTR (click-through rate) go up, trigger words are their most effective tool. First, the headline has to catch your eye and make you curious about the content of the email. Then, the email’s content has to persuade you to buy an advertised product, take part in a survey, or visit a website. In one word: click.

Email marketing is one of the easiest examples of why trigger words are so important in online campaigns and advertising nowadays. In a world barraged with information, marketers and companies constantly compete for a single second of your attention.



Psychologically speaking, trigger words are certain words and phrases that are meant to bring about a particular memory or trauma. They are words whose role is to cause a specific emotional reaction.

Today, this definition has been broadened, as trigger words entered the world of marketing and advertisements. Used to catch your attention or persuade you to undertake a certain action, trigger words can be found in news headlines, online ads and emails. They also play an important role in Search Engine Optimization.

In fact, you can use trigger words in everyday conversations to persuade people or make them like you more. In Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, he elaborates how the use of certain trigger words can get other people to do what you want.

Words such as “best,” “ultimate,” “limited,” or “free” are to establish a product’s timeliness and exclusiveness. The idea is to grab your attention immediately and make you interested in an article or an offer.

Entire business models are based on the art of catching of your eye and then monetizing your attention. The importance of trigger words has gradually become paramount in online marketing. In the era of information and social media, we’re likely to see this trend continue.

Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontages: Martina Advaney


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