How to develop a voice for your web content
When writing content, it needs to grab people’s attention. It needs to be engaging and needs to encourage people to read on.
Connecting with your audience
By developing a voice in your writing, you are more likely to connect with people who are interested in what you’re saying/selling. You don’t have to be an award-winning scribe to develop a voice in your writing and don’t force it; it should come naturally to you, especially if you’re writing about something you are knowledgeable or passionate about.
Consider the following two examples of content from an imaginary website selling garden fencing…
“We sell lots of different types of garden fences. We have big and small fences available at low prices. Look at our pictures of fences to see which ones you like best and will be best for your garden. We have fitters who will come and fit them for you who are professionals at fitting fences all over the country. Contact us today.”
“Welcome to Garden Fences 4 U, the UK’s leading supplier of garden fencing. When it comes to choosing new garden fencing, we know the options can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Do you want something subtle for plants and bushes to grow against or something to improve security in your garden? Maybe you’d just like to chat with someone to discuss your options. Whatever your predicament, contact us today and speak to one of our friendly and knowledgeable team who will be happy to help.”
Now then, which of those is better to read? I’m hoping you’re going to say the second one otherwise this whole point is moot. I’m going to assume you said the second one. The first one might seem boring and drab but there are plenty of websites that have content like this and worse. By injecting a bit of personality into your writing, it’s not only more interesting, but it’s actually easier to read.
Have a voice tailored to your industry
Of course, the voice you develop will very much depend on the type of business you are. Garden fencing is a subject that lends itself more to a colloquial tone than, say, a business providing spray nozzles or moulded plastic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still develop a voice.
Let’s take spray nozzles as an example. To many it may not seem like the most interesting of industries, but it’s a no less important one and lots of people are interested in it. So how do you develop a voice for a more technical industry when a less formal tone of voice is maybe not appropriate? Well, like any industry, it’s all about knowing your products and thinking about what a potential customer might want to read.
Here’s an example paragraph…
“Here at Spray.co.uk, you can find a wide range of spray nozzles to suit a variety of applications. We provide only the most advanced spraying equipment on the market and are constantly researching new technologies so we can offer our customers the very best products in the industry. We will work closely with you to find a bespoke solution to your spraying problems.”
There would, of course, be more to it than that but that’s not a bad starting point. We don’t want spray nozzle companies coming and nicking it for themselves now, do we? But there you have an example of content for a technical industry that has a voice to it. It’s a more formal and less chatty voice, but a voice that is appropriate for that industry and most of the people who are likely to read it.
Don’t overdo it
There’s a big difference between writing with a voice and writing as one would speak, which is something that can be all too easy to do. If you write as you would naturally talk, you will likely fall into all kinds of pitfalls that will make your content rather messy, particularly on the grammar side of things.
You need to strike a balance between personality and information. It might seem like fun to ramble for ages about personal experiences and stories, but most of the time a reader really doesn’t care and doesn’t want to have to wade through paragraph after paragraph of waffle just to get what they want. This is more pertinent in SEO content rather than blogs; you can have a little more artistic freedom with blogs but, again, consider the industry you’re writing for.
Or spelling and grammar as it’s otherwise known and something that is important to be wary of. As I mentioned in the above point, developing a more formal tone of voice can lead to a drop in grammar levels, so just be careful when writing. There are certain ‘rules’ of grammar that many will wangle a long stick on your face about, such as split infinitives and never ending a sentence with a preposition, but these are generally considered archaisms now and are acceptable for the most part – the first sentence in this paragraph ends in a preposition, but it doesn’t make it any harder to read, does it? However, it is important to learn where to put commas, apostrophes, etc, as incorrect use can lead to content that’s not very pleasant to read. Spelling should always be spot on; many people simply won’t take a website (and therefore the business behind the website) seriously if their content is littered with typos.
Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, it’s important to consider the industry you’re in. Are those you’re targeting likely to turn their noses up at a split infinitive? If so, best not use them. Are you targeting a younger audience? If yes, then by all means start a sentence with ‘because’ or ‘but’. Sometimes, readability is more than just ensuring the grammar is correct. If in doubt, get someone else to read it and see what they think.
Boring, unimaginative content is probably going to get you nowhere. Next time you’re on the internet, have a look around and see what content are on some of the websites. You’ll no doubt come across some that have you wincing with how poorly the content is written and how dull it is. However, you’ll also likely come across some that grab your attention and have content that is both well written and provides interesting information.
Don’t forget the purpose of the content – information. Every single person who clicks on your site is a potential customer, so tell them something about what you sell. Are you cheaper than everyone else? Tell them. Do you have highly qualified professionals working for you? Tell people that. If you write passionately about your product then that passion will carry across to those visiting your site and may just make the difference but securing a sale and them going elsewhere.