Finding your brand’s tone of voice
Why read this? : We look at how you create and use your brand’s tone of voice. Learn the key role it plays in your brand
Why read this? : We look at how Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) helps improve the impact of your online writing. Learn how it helps make your writing more relevant for your audience. How it makes your writing easier to find online. And how it increases your writing’s reach and engagement. Read this to learn how to boost your SEO writing skills.
How this guide raises your game :-
One of the key foundations of business writing is that what you write has a target audience and an objective you’re trying to land with them.
The target audience is who the writing is for. It’s a group of people you want to change their attitude or behaviour. You want them to think, feel or do something different based on the writing.
But the objective then normally relates to how many of the target audience change their attitude or behaviour. And this means you needs to consider the reach of the writing, as well as the message.
To reach a target audience, you usually need to use push or pull digital media to make people aware that the content even exists.
Advertising and social media are “push” channels. You create short messages and push them out in front of customers to capture attention.
With “push” channels, YOU take the first step in the process.
You create an advert or post, then pay to put this message in front of customers.
Customers don’t choose to see this message. They see it because it’s part of the media they consume.
And, you have to plan and hope the message finds enough of the right audience. That it finds them at the right time. And that it’s relevant and captures their attention.
Push media is like you shouting at the audience and hoping they’ll stop and listen to you. There’s a lot of inefficiency in advertising when messages reach the wrong people, at the wrong time, and aren’t relevant.
Search, on the other hand, is much more of a “pull” strategy. The target audience starts the process, not you.
The customer has an issue or a question first. They put this into a search engine like Google. And if your website has search engine friendly content, they find their way to your brand. Not the other way round.
The real strength of search as a media channel is that it starts with the customer.
The search terms the customers use tells you their issue or problem. It tells you what they need. And it’s much easier to create solutions for customers, when you know what they need you help with.
The start point for ALL marketing is to understand what customers need. And then you create a solution to that need. You make that solution better than the competition. That’s what drives sales and profits.
But easier said, than done, right?
Search and SEO writing helps you identify those needs, and be proactive in creating website content and writing to meet them. It helps you reach the most relevant customers at the right time, and helps them engage with your brand.
So, search and SEO writing makes that process of understanding needs easier, faster and more impactful.
When you apply SEO tools like Google Trends and Google Ads Keyword Research, you have direct access to information about what customers want and need. What they search for tells you what people want or need. Free, up-to-date secondary research available to anyone.
From a content writing point of view, this research gives you ideas and topics to write about. Because, you can use this research to write content about how to solve those wants and needs.
When this content solves customer wants and needs, that creates a positive customer experience with your brand. And positive customer experience helps drive sales and profits.
Search is important because it’s where the customer experience starts. It’s the first point of contact. If people can’t find you, they’ll never engage. If you always have to push out advertising and media, that’s expensive. Search is more cost-effective, and connects with customers when they are more interested in what you have to say.
Now we’re clear “why” you should do SEO, let’s look at “where” it fits in.
SEO writing is “how” you as a business, do search. It’s combines these 3 skills :-
Together, these skills increase the reach and engagement of your business writing. They help you understand and meet customer needs, and write website content which attracts customers.
In this article, we’ll focus on the writing element of SEO.
After you’ve done your keyword researchs on the most relevant terms for your target audience, the next step is to start writing content. Whether this is for advertising, a blog, general website content or as sales copy, use the keyword research to create a list of ideas and topics to write about.
At this stage, you also set your business objectives. These are usually about changing the way customers think, feel or act. You have to think about how you’ll measure this. Through website data, for example. Or via market research.
For SEO writing objectives, you want the biggest number of relevant customers to find and read that content. You define how many people you want to see the search summary (impressions) and visit the site (Click through rate).
You also need to decide if you’ll write your own copy, or use a freelancer or agency. For simple writing on your own site, you may do some of this yourself. Bigger sites and anything relating to adverts, you usually outsource.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll assume you write your own copy for a blog or website page. But you can apply the same principles to review and approve someone else’s writing.
The way you write needs to fit with the brand identity and tone of voice, the business objectives and the needs of the target audience. But from an SEO writing point of view, there are further specific writing factors to consider.
When you’ve done the research and identified a keyword or keyword phrase, you then have to work out how and how often to include that keyword when you write.
You need to include it often enough so Google’s search algorithm recognises it as an important part of the purpose of the article.
But you need to avoid using it too much, as you run the risk of keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is a practice which dates back to the early days of Google. To get your webpage to appear for a search term, you’d repeatedly use the same keyword over and over on a page. Even if the content on that page didn’t serve the purpose of what people were looking for. This wasn’t a good experience for the user.
So, Google has worked hard to cut this out. To make sure search results point to better quality content which meets a searcher’s needs. Google tries to make sure that searchers see results from credible websites which meet user needs. Pages stuffed with keywords which don’t meet user needs, get penalised and don’t appear in searches.
It’s a fine balance when you write website content to include the keyword enough times, but not so much it feels unnatural. You need to include it in the right context so the searcher finds it relevant to what they searched on.
When you choose a keyword or phrase, make sure you try to match the way it’s phrased from your research. From a pure writing point of view, it’s fine to use a synonym or paraphrase, but the search algorithms may not recognise this.
This can be challenging to avoid sounding repetitive. You have to be careful in the keywords and phrases you choose to highlight. So for example, “writing blogs” as we cover in that guide was fairly easy to work naturally into the copy.
But “how to get started with writing” which we had in a now deleted article was much more challenging to use without it sounding forced and unnatural.
Note that the search algorithms usually ignore punctuation. This can sometimes help you overcome repetition issues. For example, if your keyword phase was “business writing”, you could split those 2 words across 2 sentences and it’d still count as a key phrase. e.g. This skill is important for your business. Writing can add a lot of value.
Another point to consider when SEO writing is how you link the text to other parts of the internet. If you reference a particular point, or think the reader might want to find out more about a particular topic, you need to set up hyperlinks to that content when you publish the article.
These links can be internal to your website. They can point to another part of your website where the reader can find out more about a specific topic.
Or they can also be external and point to another website, if your website doesn’t have the right information.
Search engines see links as positive, because they’re there to help the reader. They essentially ‘glue’ content together across websites. Google likes you to have a combination of both internal and external links on your pages.
These links should feel natural where you can. It’s considered better practice to have them embedded into the text rather than overtly called out as links. So, for example, it’s better to say “we could talk about how to improve advertising copy” than to say “click on this link to read about advertising copy.”
For external links, you should decide whether to make these “Follow” or “Nofollow” links.
When you set a link as Follow, it tells the Google search bots to register your link between your website and the external website. If you’re a popular website, this effectively boosts the popularity of the linked website by authenticating the authority of the link. But if you don’t wish to pass on this popularity or link juice as it’s sometimes known, you can set the link to NoFollow.
To the website user, they won’t see any difference, the link will still work, but Google won’t recognise the value of the NoFollow link.
The more other sites link to your site, the higher your perceived Site Authority is. In the world of SEO, this is called Domain Authority and sites like Ahrefs, Moz and SEMrush can help you identity your site authority and that of your competitors.
When you’ve written the content for your webpage, there are a number of additional steps you need to cover when you publish the content on the webpage.
These steps also help to boost your SEO performance. They make the content more search engine friendly.
So, even though our included the keywords or phrases when you wrote the content, you need to make sure this also sits in the right places in the Content Management Systems to make it super clear to the search bots.
This information is called the Metadata for the page.
For example, you should aim to include the exact keyword or keyphrase in the title of your page, in the opening paragraph and use it in at least some of the sub-headlines of the text.
The search bots look in these key places. When you place the keyword or keyphrases there, the search algorithm will be more likely to recognise the link between the keyword and the content.
Make sure you include the keyword or phrase in the snippet. The snippet is the short text description of the content that appears in the search results.
If you don’t complete the snippet information, Google will automatically try to make the best 160 character description from your text. But these may not be what you want to appear in the search results.
It’s important to write your own snippet to make the content sound interesting and relevant. Your aim is to encourage your target audience to click on the search result. It should reflect your brand identity and have a strong call to action.
While there are no specific limits on how many words to use, you should definitely avoid writing that is too short. Anything under 300 words is unlikely to appear in search results. As we cover in our guide to writing blogs, blog content seems to optimise at between 1,500 and 2,000 words. (ours usually runs slightly longer – that’s OK too).
Articles such as this one can go longer. But you need to make sure they contain enough interesting and relevant content all the way through.
If people click on the page the page but then drop out quickly, long content won’t help boost search ranking. But if your SEO writing content keeps people reading all the way to the end, Google’s search algorithm will see that as a positive. This will help that page rise up the search rankings as Google will see it as a better quality page.
While not strictly SEO writing, it’s also worth considering if you can use photography or video content to make the overall article more interesting or appealing. When you can break up large blocks of text with relevant images or videos, this creates more engagement. Google sees this as a positive.
Make sure images or videos you use have appropriate ALT-tags when you publish them. These are written descriptions of what’s on the image. They’re useful for accessibility e.g. for blind people who depend on voice readers to read out website content. And they’re useful for when users might have wifi or mobile data coverage issues. The ALT-tag will display when image file sizes are too large to download.
Depending on your website Content Management System (CMS), you should be able to access more online tools to help refine your metadata inputs.
On WordPress sites like this one, you can use Yoast to audit your metadata on every page. It will flag issues and recommend improvements.
Tools like these check the focus keyword or phrase appears in the title for example. They check it appears early enough in the writing and in enough of the sub-headlines.
They also check the keyword or phrase appears in the URL address of the page.
These tools will also look at the length of the total article. They will tell you if the keyword appears too little, too often or is about right. And, similarly, they will also check the number of internal and external links. They will direct you, and tell you if the number of links is in the right range for the length of the article.
Tools like Yoast will also run readability checks on the content you write.
While Google’s search algorithm won’t directly audit the readability of your site, it audits how people interact and engage with the content. And the more “readable” the content is, the more readers interact and engage with it. This can boost your “quality” score with Google.
These basic readability checks act as a kind of robot editing for your writing. They won’t audit the context of what you say. But they can point out any obvious challenges in the way that you write it.
For example, Yoast will flag if sections are too long without being broken up by sub-headlines. It’ll flag if you start too many sentences with the same word. Or use sentences and words which are long and difficult to read.
If you over-use the passive voice when writing, it will direct you to use the active voice more. Writing in the active voice creates sharper and easier to read writing. (check out Yoast’s guide to passive and active writing, well worth a read).
Tools like Yoast are often free or bundled in with your CMS. But they also come with additional paid features for more advanced users. But the basic free tool is good for most purposes.
For non WordPress users, check what’s available on your website CMS system. Or use an online tool such as the one at WebFX. We haven’t tested too many of the competitors to Yoast, as we’ve found it pretty straightforward to use. But if you check it out and it’s not the right tool for you, you can review of alternative search tools.
While all this technology helps boost your understanding of what people want and need, and how to make it more search friendly, you still have to remember that what you write will be read by an actual person.
Your business objective depends on an actual person thinking, feeling or doing something different.
You need to bear in mind the key elements of business writing and being a better writer so that your SEO-filtered content is still interesting, relevant and engaging enough for the target audience to read it.
The technology, particularly the research tools, helps you understand the phrasing that searchers use. This is a particularly strong way to boost the impact of your writing skills. You can use the same language and syntax when you write. So you will be playing back the words that readers use themselves. This makes it more likely that what you write will be relevant and understood better.
Writing in a style that matches how your target audience thinks or articulates ideas is good practice. It creates empathy and engagement. It makes it more likely the reader will enjoy and engage with your writing. You’ll reach more customers and have a better chance of hitting your business writing objectives.
The final area of SEO writing is to track and measure how your writing performs against its objectives.
You should include measurement of key pages as part of your digital data and analytics plan. Set goals in Google Analytics and check how the pages perform in your SEO Webmaster Console reporting.
Typical measures would include the number of visits, the time spent on the page, the bounce rate and the number of clicks or other interactions.
Compare the different topics and subject areas that you cover. Build a dashboard to work out which ones are more popular than others.
What learnings can you take from what worked and what didn’t to improve your future business writing?
Consider how to include your business writing in your overall digital media plan and the set-up of your website. These key areas interact to help you drive reach and engagement of the content. They help you to deliver your business objectives.
In very simple terms, SEO writing is a way of applying the basic process of marketing. Find out what people want and then give it to them.
You use secondary research; digital media and website skills, and solid business writing skills to create positive experiences between your brand and its target audience.
Online tools help you research customer needs based on what they search for.
Then you write content that meet those needs and creates experiences for customers.
This generates more data you can use to create even better writing experiences in the future.
When you apply SEO writing skills like setting focus keywords or phrases, metadata and performance tracking help you deliver more reach and engagement for your brand through your website.
But, remember search is also a way for customers to find you.
It is a way to create exposure for your brand by delivering answers to questions and issues that customers have. It’s part of your digital media plan and how you set your website up. You need to understand how search engines ‘read’ your website to make sure what you publish is search friendly.
Remember you are writing for 2 audiences when you publish online.
You want your ‘real’ audience to enjoy and get value out of the content. But if you use the right SEO writing tools and techniques, you make it more likely readers will actually find your content in the first place.
We’ve a lot of experience and expertise in business writing, and especially in SEO writing.
From creating and commissioning writing to the editing and refining of it for marketing and e-Commerce purposes.
We specialise in coaching and advising on how to raise your business writing skills. Whether you use writers, manage it in-house or want to build your own writing skills, we can help.
Contact us to find out more about how we can support your business writing needs through our coaching and consulting services.
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