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How to Choose an SMS Keyword for Your Campaign

Apr 30, 2024

SMS keyword campaigns are one of the most effective ways to market your business to a mobile audience. They present your customers with a quick and easy way to interact with your brand and are a great way to expand your marketing opportunities. 

Today we’ll look at tips and tricks for choosing a keyword and what an SMS keyword is. 

Table of Contents

What Is an SMS Keyword?

An SMS keyword is a word or phrase (or sometimes a combination of letters and numbers) that consumers can text to sign up to receive text messages from a brand. 

SMS keywords are typically short and easy to remember, brands can advertise their SMS keyword campaigns on the internet, billboards, television or even radio without confusing their audience. 

There are a few types of SMS keywords, each serving a distinct purpose in driving campaigns forward. Below are some examples and how to use them.

Opt-in keywords

Customers use opt-in keywords to subscribe to receive text messages from a particular brand or campaign. For example, JOIN to opt-in to a campaign. 

Opt-Out Keywords

Opt-out keywords provide subscribers with an easy way to stop receiving messages. For instance, a restaurant might include instructions to text "STOP" to unsubscribe from promotional messages. By honoring opt-out requests promptly, businesses demonstrate respect for subscribers' preferences and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Action keywords

These prompt subscribers to take a specific action, such as redeeming a coupon or entering a contest, by texting a designated keyword. For example, a coffee shop might encourage customers to text "COFFEE" to receive a discount on their next purchase.

Informational Keywords

Informational keywords provide subscribers with relevant information about products, services, or events. For instance, a concert venue might invite fans to text "INFO" to learn about upcoming shows and ticket availability. 

Customer Service Keywords

Customer service keywords initiate interactions with customer support teams, allowing subscribers to seek assistance or resolve issues directly via SMS. For example, a telecommunications provider might encourage customers to text "HELP" for support with billing inquiries or technical issues. 

By understanding and effectively utilizing SMS keywords, businesses can tailor their messaging to meet the diverse needs and preferences of their audience, driving engagement and achieving marketing goals.

8 Tips for Choosing an SMS Keyword

Although an SMS keyword can technically be any combination of letters and numbers, some keywords perform better than others. Here are eight tips for choosing the best keyword for your SMS campaign. 

1. Keep It Simple

An effective SMS marketing strategy should capture as many subscribers as possible, which is why keywords should be short, simple and easy to remember. 

Ideally, you should strive for 4-7 characters or fewer, as this will make it easier for customers to text in quickly without having to remember a long phrase or a complicated combination of letters and numbers. 

2. Align It With Your Campaign’s Theme

When choosing an SMS keyword, consider its usage. Will your campaign promote special offers, share mobile coupons or update your customers about upcoming events? 

Your keyword should be relevant to the type of content you’ll be sending out and should immediately communicate the value that customers can expect to receive by opting in. 

For instance, if you’re running a food delivery promotion, consider using a keyword like “TASTYFOOD” or “YUMMYDELIVERY.” These keywords clearly convey what customers can expect from signing up, while also making it easy to remember.

3. Choose an Appropriate Promotion Channel

Think about how you plan to promote your SMS keyword campaign. Some common examples of how businesses share SMS keywords are:

  • Email newsletters
  • Social media platforms
  • Digital ads
  • Business cards
  • On your online checkout page
  • Receipts
  • On a billboard
  • Napkins
  • In a podcast ad
  • Store banners
  • On a poster next to a cash register


Choose a platform that makes sense for your target audience and where they are most likely to see the message. For example, if you're targeting customers who frequent coffee shops, consider putting up posters near the cash register or running ads on in-store displays. If you’re targeting professionals on their lunch break, think about running digital ads while they take a break from work or airing podcast spots during rush hour commutes. 

4. Make It Memorable

While you can add numbers to your SMS keyword, numbers can be harder for your audience to remember what they need to text. A simple word related to your brand or a sale is much more memorable.

Make it easy for customers to remember both the keyword and shortcode. “Text FROYO to 12345” is much easier to remember than “Text FROYO818 to 12345.”

5. Make it Unique 

SMS keywords should be easy to spell and remember. That means you should avoid made-up words and unusual spellings. Even if your brand’s name has a unique spelling, consider using another relevant word.

For example, Kelli’s Café could use “KELLI” as its SMS keyword to promote future sales. But if a customer accidentally texts “KELLY,” then Kelli’s Café would lose that subscriber. Instead, Kelli’s Café could use “COFFEE” to improve their chance at success.

6. Don’t Use Special Characters

Just as you should avoid using SMS keywords that are too unique, also avoid using special characters, such as substituting “and” with “&.” Special characters like $, %, &, ? and ! can make it harder for people to remember or mistype your keyword. 

For example, you might use “CA$H” as a clever SMS keyword. However, your audience might not remember that the dollar sign is part of the keyword, costing you a potential subscriber.

7. Only Use One Word

To keep your keyword as simple as possible, try to stick with one word.

However, if you really want to use an SMS keyword with more than one word, like “NEW YORK,” consider reserving two versions: one without a space (“NEWYORK”) and one with a space (“NEW YORK”). This way, you can make sure you don’t miss out on any subscribers who use your keyword’s various formats.

8. Plan for Autocorrect

Autocorrect can be helpful for people who type faster than they catch mistakes. But remember: You generally only have one shot for a customer to subscribe to your text message program. While you can reserve multiple SMS keywords for one campaign, claiming many variations of one keyword can be frustrating.

To account for any issues with autocorrect, here are some tips:

  1. Test your keyword on multiple phones: Before committing to your SMS keyword, test it across different mobile operating systems to check for auto-correction.
  2. Claim the autocorrected version of your SMS keyword: If you must use a specific keyword, you can reserve different autocorrected variations to make sure you don’t miss a subscriber if they mistype.

SMS Keyword Campaign Best Practices

Choosing the best keyword is just one part of creating a successful SMS keyword campaign. For the best chances of success, you must also consider how your customers will discover your keywords. Here are some best practices to help your SMS keyword campaign thrive.

1. Promote Your SMS Keyword Wherever You Can

Consider adding your SMS keyword and short code to your marketing collateral, along with a short blurb about why customers should sign up. 

2. Use Multiple Keywords to Segment Your SMS List

By adding secondary keywords to your SMS keyword campaign, you can easily segment your SMS list. This way, you can directly target your audience with specific offers that align with their interests, which can boost your subscriber list retention.

For example, if you own a local bar, you might use “DRINKS” to add people to your general list. But if you want to promote upcoming events, like open mic nights or trivia nights, you could use a secondary keyword, like “EVENT,” to send your customers specific updates.

3. Try A/B Testing to See Which Keywords Perform Better

Once you’ve started running your SMS keyword campaign, consider using A/B testing to evaluate your keywords’ performance. A/B testing is a simple yet powerful way to use user engagement metrics to improve your SMS keywords and campaigns.

When testing your keywords, divide your keywords between two lists, then review which performed better. You can also use randomized A/B testing to promote different keywords in online ads and social media and see which keyword gets the most subscribers.

How to Set Up SMS Keywords With Textedly

Using Textedly’s keyword feature is easy! Simply log in to your account, select “Keywords” from the navigation bar and then click “Create a New Keyword.” From there, you can enter your keyword of choice and create an auto-reply message for customers who text that keyword.

Partner With Textedly for Your SMS Marketing Campaigns 

Ready to get started with an SMS keyword campaign for your business?

With Textedly’s easy-to-use platform, you can create highly effective SMS keyword campaigns. By working with our expert SMS marketing team, you can choose the best keyword for your campaign goals and watch your marketing outreach grow.

Sign up for a free trial of Textedly to discover how easy it is to connect with your customers!