As you set up your SMS marketing campaign, you will likely want to incorporate text keywords. These are a simple way of gaining opt-ins so you can be legally compliant and grow your list of subscribers simultaneously.

While including an SMS keyword is incredibly helpful for your campaign, you will get the best results if you know how to use them properly, including how to choose a relevant one. Explore some SMS keyword examples and the step-by-step process of how to select a keyword for your campaign. The more information you have, the more successful your texting campaigns are likely to be. 

How do I start an SMS marketing campaign?

Starting an SMS marketing campaign should always begin with planning. You should always start with a clear goal in mind, as this will help you make decisions related to the campaign. It will also help you track the campaign to ensure it is effective.

You will also need to choose an SMS campaign service early on. This service will provide the platform that lets you automate various aspects, such as an SMS keyword autoresponder. The service should also offer analytics to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign so you can make adjustments if necessary.

As you craft your SMS marketing campaign, make sure to keep that goal in mind, as well as what your clients want. For example, offer promotions or deals that your clients will be interested in. Avoid sending too many text messages, as this can feel like spam. Include a call to action. We’ll go into more detail about some best practices later. 

Once you have an SMS marketing list, you can send them mobile coupons or information about upcoming events, changes to your sale system, exclusive offers, or other promotions. The message and content that you send depend on your campaign goals. 

sending sms

How are keywords used in SMS marketing?

Keywords are used in SMS campaigns to gather opt-ins. These opt-ins are essential, as you need all customers to opt in before you can send them marketing messages to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act and avoid legal trouble.

Keywords are among the easiest method of gaining opt-ins. You just advertise a keyword that people can send to your SMS shortcode to opt in. You can include this anywhere that you would typically place ads. That can include digital ads, your website, in-store signs, and traditional advertising like radio, billboards, and bus stops.

You then set up an SMS keyword autoresponder that will confirm their subscription. That autoresponder should also handle all of the legal requirements. For example, it should identify your company and give a simple method that lets them unsubscribe or opt out. It should also give them instructions to get more information. 

You can also have people send the text keyword to a typical ten-digit number, but SMS shortcode is popular because of its memorability. They are much easier for clients to memorize and send text messages later and are simply quicker to type. As is the case when choosing your business phone number, you can also get a vanity SMS shortcode to use for your SMS marketing campaigns. 

The idea behind using a text keyword for opt-ins is that people are already on their phones. Additionally, texting is the preferred communication method for most people. 

How do I select SMS keywords step-by-step?

You will want to pick a text keyword that is relevant to your business and easy to remember. The following tips and SMS keyword examples should help you select one that works well for your company. 

Plan for autocorrect

People will be entering the keyword on their mobile phones. This means that you have to account for autocorrect. In practice, this means you shouldn’t use a creative spelling of a common word, even if it is your brand name. This increases the chances that autocorrect will change it, and the keyword won’t go through. Take this a step further and take the time to test your keyword on several different phone platforms before starting to use it. This will let you confirm that autocorrect won’t change it. 

Stick with one word

It’s best not to use more than one word for your keyword because text keywords can’t have a space in them. This means that you could theoretically use two words without a space between them, but it would be a bad idea. That’s because people may accidentally add a space. That would make the keyword a gibberish text without any meaning or function.

Don’t include special characters

You want to avoid using special characters for the same reason that you don’t want multiple words without spaces: it makes it harder for clients to remember the keyword accurately. That increases the chances that someone will enter it incorrectly, making it useless to them. 

Make it easy to remember

As mentioned, the best text keywords are easy to remember. Ideally, the consumer will see the keyword and SMS shortcode and send a message right away. But you want to make it possible for them to do so later on. At the very least, you want it to be something that they can remember between seeing it and typing it on their phone. That’s why it’s best to use actual words instead of a jumble of letters. 

Don’t be too clever

While you want to be clever and unique with your keyword, you don’t want to be too clever, overcomplicating it. This will make your keyword harder to remember and increase the chances of misspellings. 

Keep it short

One of the keys when choosing a keyword is to keep it nice and short. Remember that you want it to be easy to remember, and this is much easier to do if it is short. There’s also less of a risk of people making spelling errors when they type a short word. This is even better if it is a simple word related to your business, as well. Simple and short go hand-in-hand for mass text messaging. 

Make it relevant

As you choose a keyword, be sure to select a word relevant to your business. For example, if you want to offer a free trial, consider TRIAL. Or you can choose a word that reflects your products and services. So, a bookstore could use BOOKS or READ, and a spa could use RELAX. 

man reading sms message

SMS keyword campaign best practices

To make the most of your keyword campaign, you should follow some best practices. These will maximize your results so you can grow the largest possible list of opt-ins. Remember that these tips come after choosing the right SMS keyword and are ready to implement your text message program with keyword campaigns. 

Use multiple keywords to segment your SMS list

As with any other type of marketing campaign, you are likely to get better results if you segment your SMS list. This will let you send messages only to those who will find them most relevant. That, in turn, prevents recipients from getting annoyed by constant messages and unsubscribing. It also increases the chances of reading the messages before deleting them and even engaging with them.

Using keywords to segment your list is simple. Just offer separate keywords for each list you want to build. For example, if you run a beauty salon, maybe you would have keywords like NAILS, HAIR, and PRODUCTS so subscribers can choose the promotions or services they are interested in. 

Try A/B testing to see which keywords perform best

To make sure that you chose the right keyword, consider using A/B testing. This would involve using two different keywords to get opt-ins for the same list. You would then compare the data for each to see which one is more effective. Then, stick to the keyword that performed better. You can even use marketing templates for SMS for inspiration. 

Promote your SMS keyword where you can

For your SMS keyword to be effective, people need to see it. As such, you want to promote it wherever you can without seeming overwhelming. We already mentioned some places to list it, such as on a sign in-store, your website, and even billboards. Include it anywhere else that it makes sense to do so. This can include your receipts, business cards, napkins, and social media platforms. 

The impact of text keywords 

As mentioned, text keywords and keyword campaigns are an excellent way to grow your subscriber list, but there are still some caveats to be aware of. 


  • You can quickly grow your subscriber list.
  • SMS keyword campaigns handle subscriber opt-in automatically, making you compliant with the law.
  • You can customize the SMS keyword to fit your business.
  • You can use multiple keywords to segment your audience.
  • Texts have a much higher open rate than email, likely leading to better results with this marketing technique.                             


  • You have to spend time choosing your unique SMS keyword to ensure that it doesn’t confuse people. 
  • Consumers can misspell your SMS keyword, causing you to lose potential leads.
  • You have to advertise the keyword.
  • There will be a cost associated with the text campaign and SMS keywords. That being said, it is typically more affordable than many other marketing methods. 


The bottom line is that text keywords are an excellent way to grow your subscriber list. They are easy to market and let you handle the legal aspects of compliance. With autoresponders, the entire process can be automated, requiring minimal time and effort from you. You just have to choose an easy-to-use platform for your SMS campaigns and select a keyword that is simple to remember, relevant, and unlikely to be misspelled.        

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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