If I were to ask you about your new website, you would probably tell me about the fresh layout, user-friendly navigation, and vivid photos. Because I’m a copywriter, I’d say “Neat! But what about your content?” And I can all but guarantee you’d assure me that your SEO/meta tags/Google Analytics are under control—which is great, and very important—but I want to know what you’re actually saying and how you’re saying it. Ignoring the quality of the content in your new site is like giving someone socks for a birthday present—they may be beautifully wrapped and are very useful, but they aren’t much fun and certainly won’t win any awards for the best gift ever.
Clean, edited, informative copy is important—essential, really—but sometimes acquiring or keeping customers requires content that is above and beyond just technically sound. Finding your company’s voice and expressing it through your content gives your website (and by extension, business or brand) an established and complex identity. A reliable identity is initially appealing to new customers, and it can also become a comforting presence that encourages customer retention.
What is voice?
While we typically talk about voice in literary or creative writing, it deserves a place in web copywriting as well. Voice refers to how your content expresses the information presented on your site—think of it as a personality. Obviously, your voice should sound knowledgeable and confident, but there are nuances within those categories that might apply to different brands. For example, a government site that outlines certain laws should have an authoritative voice, while a gourmet candy site may want to sound more playful and inviting. Voice can be expressed through word choice, sentence structure, and even content formatting.
How do I find ours?
Poke around for clues. Start with your web design: did you choose to utilize warm, sunshine-y colors or cool tones? Opt for an uber contemporary layout with edgy fonts or stick with a traditional format and Verdana? These decisions, which were likely made with your target audience in mind, are reliable indicators of your company’s voice. Generate a few adjectives that describe your site design and consider how those vibes can be expressed through your content.
For example, if you want your spa site to evoke a sense of tranquility, you’ll probably avoid exclamation points, jarring medical terms, and emotionally-charged words. You may also want to ditch both very short and very long sentences in favor of mid-length phrases that have a sing-songy cadence. If you’re really digging this concept and feeling advanced, you can even go heavy on words that have long, pleasing vowel sounds (soothing) and soft, mellow consonant sounds (facial and massage)–a little trick called euphony.
Still having trouble? Do a little snooping. Analyze your competitors’ content and pretend you are a potential customer. Does it have a welcoming voice that draws you in? Or are you put off by jargon-heavy descriptions and a condescending tone? Consider finding a voice that will make sense for your product but still set you apart from other businesses’ sites.
When should I use it?
Always. Consistency is important when it comes to voice; you don’t want your customers to feel as if they’re hopping around to different employees (one helpful, one aloof, one overly sweet) when they navigate between pages. If you have multiple copywriters contributing to your site, consider creating a voice and style guide that outlines your standards, and always make an effort to have one person (who knows your voice well) review all content before it’s published.
There are likely some areas of your website that can afford to “speak louder” than others, and that’s okay. But even the contact (“give us a shout!”) and call-to-action pages (“we pinky-swear we won’t spam you”) can capture your voice.
Yes. Do these things regardless of your voice or style:
- Be clear and concise. Use as few words as possible to express your information. Eliminate any empty phrases and extra words that do nothing to contribute meaning to your content.
- Aim for simplicity. Readers want to feel relaxed and intelligent when perusing your site—content stocked with five-syllable words that send them over to dictionary.com won’t roll out the welcome mat. Same goes for industry jargon (ahem, lawyers—lookin’ at you) and overly technical or foreign language.
- Make it juicy. Now that you’ve pared down your words and kicked out the snobs, make what’s left count. Is every word you’ve chosen the best one for the job? Your verbs should be active, your nouns specific, and your adjectives essential.
Can you help me?
All of this, of course, is easier said than done. When in doubt, hire a professional. Our copywriters can help you find your voice and craft that smooth/elegant/pithy/punchy/smart-but-grounded content your company needs. Ask about our content support and full copywriting options at your consultation.