By Kasy Allen
I write a lot of content on the Internet. Sometimes it’s for personal reasons, other times for SEO blogs and this blog, and a lot more for Bridgeline clients. Each of these outlets has its own unique personality, and that personality has to show through the voice in the writing.
First of all, the writing (or content) voice has to be concise across the entire site, because it is technically the personality that represents the company, but this can be hard to do – especially when there are multiple people adding content to a single site. So, it’s important to figure out what that voice is and make sure that everyone involved with writing on the site is informed as to what that voice should be.
Questions To Find Voice
Here are some questions you can start with to try and figure out your voice:
1. What kind of personality is it that you want to represent to your audience?
2. Is this personality the same for your employees?
3. For help on finding your personality type, take a look at Creating an Online Brand Voice.
4. Why are you writing? Figure out your goals for writing; is it to inform your audience and build your brand, or to generate leads?
5. Who are you writing for? Figure out the audience’s demographic - there’s a big difference between writing for teens and writing for middle-aged women.
6. If you could explain your company in 4 different adjectives, what would they be?
7. Become your audience and see if the personality you created makes any sense. When you search your competitors, is there one voice that stands out and is clearer than the rest? Is there one that makes no sense at all? Make notes of this.
Now, let’s look at a few examples of different places that I’ve written across the web, and how the voice is different for each. I’m a pretty laid back writer and try to make things as simple as I can, which is why I’m the person that usually writes for our clients when they request a voice that is neighborly and friendly. So you may see that style of voice across the different posts, however, each post or site has a very different personality.
1. Bridgeline Digital Blog
The Right Way to Make a Mobile Site SEO Friendly
Adjectives: Technical, Informative, Approachable, Intellectual
We have a lot of writers for our site and our blog. Even though I’d like to take my own medicine, and say that the voice is concise, I’ll admit that we can do better… and yes, we’re working on it. But over the past year, the voice in our blog has become very, very consistent from one writer to the next. We have collectively become approachable to our audience by offering technical advice that they can use on their own site, while still being intellectual and informative.
2. SEOMoz Blog
Creating Keyword Opportunity Lists with Excel Custom Sort
Adjectives: Creative, Technical, Helpful, Advanced
SEOMoz began as an SEO company that offered services to clients to help build their online presence, but over the years they have evolved into a software company that offers top-notch tools for marketing professionals and SEO gurus. The majority of the SEOMoz blog is filled with advanced and technical advice that helps the audience learn more about the latest techniques being used in the online marketing world.
3. EverBright Energy
Energy Saving Tips
Adjectives: Helpful, Neighborly, Simple, Smart
I helped EverBright Energy get their website kicked off by writing the majority of the content across the entire site. I informed them that brand new sites can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to get ranked. We worked on creating a consistent voice and making sure that each and every page not only spoke to their audience, but was well optimized for the search engines so that they had a better chance to rank more quickly.
The marketing team at EverBright Energy was very aware of the voice that they wanted for their company and could sum it up in the 4 adjectives I used above – helpful, neighborly, simple and smart. If I had to put those adjectives into a personality it would be the neighbor you always go to for advice, because they always have the best ideas and can explain it to you where it makes sense.
Their site launched in early May, and within a month they were getting organic traffic to the site for targeted keywords. Where the search engines usually take up to 6 months to even notice a new site, EverBright Energy was receiving traffic for top keywords within weeks!
4. Perisylvian Syndrome Blog
After Max Was Born
Adjectives: Loving, Caring, Educational, Simple
This is a personal site that I started for my son that has a rare syndrome called Congenital Bilateral Perisylvian Syndrome (CBPS). Since I saw that there weren’t many people writing about the syndrome when I was researching it, I started the blog to help other parents that were also in my position. I wanted the voice on the site to be loving and caring, yet educational and simple. I wanted it to remind the audience that the writer was a real person, a real mom.
This site is also very new, but has received a lot of user comments and feedback. The comments are from parents looking for more information on CBPS and people that just extend “thank you’s” for writing. The comments alone let me know that I have accomplished the voice that I wanted.
Every website is going to be different. The voice on the SEOMoz website works because the tips and advice that are offered speak to top-level Internet marketing professionals. If a blog post went up about SEO 101 tips, their audience would be turned off. If the blog posts continued in this manor, SEOMoz would eventually lose that audience. On the other hand, the audience for the Bridgeline Digital Blog would be turned off by the advanced level of knowledge in SEOMoz posts. Not because they couldn’t understand them, but because they don’t do Internet marketing for a living. Our audience wants tips and advice on finding their voice in writing, not tips and advice on cracking the Google algorithm (of course if this is what you’re looking for, I’d highly recommend the SEOMoz blog ). You have to find a voice that works for your audience, because if you don’t they will leave. Unfortunately, the Internet isn’t about you and your company anymore, it’s about them – the audience.