One of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from your competitors is by creating a distinct voice through your written content. Whether you realize it or not, every website has a voice. For most businesses, the tone of their online voice is that of whoever wrote their content. Whether written by the site owner, an in-house writer, an SEO, a sub-contracted copywriter, or any such combination, each has contributed to creating the voice of the website.
Unfortunately, this type of collaboration also makes most content virtually indistinguishable from one website to another. Instead of creating a unique voice that is distinct throughout the site, what is created is a voice too diluted to be heard.
That's not to say that the copy is bad. On the contrary, the copy can be quite effective at educating and engaging the visitor and driving them to the conversion point. Voiceless copy isn't necessarily bland copy.
Give your website personality
Creating a very distinct voice for your website is really about giving your website a personality. As I said before, you can have great copy that lacks a clear voice that can be heard. But by creating a voice that can be heard clearly and distinctly through each written word on the page you are increasing the level of engagement with your visitor.
No longer is your website just a website that sells something. By giving it a voice you create a unique personality that each visitor is able to identify with. This personality you have developed is then able to do more than just sell your product or service, it becomes one of the main draws that brings visitors back time and time again. The visitor no longer feels like a guest, but instead has become a friend.
This friendship isn't developed with the people running the website, or the person writing the content, or even with the customer service representatives (though that's certainly desirable). But, at least initially, the friendship is developed solely with the voice that is speaking through the website. If developed with care, the visitor treats the voice as if it were a living breathing person. It becomes someone they enjoy being with and, depending on the site and the circumstances, someone they can laugh with, cry with, share with, relax with, joke with, be serious with, learn with, and do business with.
Of course all this can only be achieved by creating a voice that truly resonates with your audience. Understanding who your audience is and what type of voice will speak best to them is key to developing an effective voice that goes beyond just engaging your readers with your product or services. To engage them, you must be engaging.
Developing your voice
Before you start developing your web content you first need to determine what kind of voice you want your site to have and how you'll ultimately deploy it. A voice can really be anything:
Chances are good that your mind started speaking to you in each voice as you read the bullet point above. If not, read through it again and let your mind convert the words into examples in your mind.
Just by reading the words you can really see how these voices can really come through with well-written content. You just need to decide what voice it is that will fit best with your company and your audience. You may think that your industry is limited to just one voice, but it all really depends on how well you sell it. Let's create some quick examples:
Humorous: Our car batteries are durable, long-lasting and deliver enough power to start any vehicle in the harshest winter environment. Your escape from the in-law's is guaranteed every season of year.
Serious: Our car batteries are durable, long-lasting and deliver enough power to start any vehicle in the harshest winter environment. You're guaranteed to get power to your vehicle when you need it most.
Whimsical: You want a durable, long-lasting battery? Yeah, we got that. There is no natural force in the world that'll keep our batteries from doing their job. When you need power, we deliver.
Snarky: When headed to the in-law's you want to be equipped with one of the most powerful car batteries money can buy. Come hell or high water, you're getting out of there alive!
Flowery: Our car batteries are designed to withstand whatever forces of nature that heaven above (or you know who below) can throw at it. When you turn that key, you're vehicle will roar to life without so much as a cough or sputter.
Thoughtful: Let's face it, batteries only fail at the worst possible time, in the worst possible location. We've built reliability into all of our car batteries so they deliver the power you need when you need it to get you to where you would rather be.
Brutally honest: Your boss is a jerk, your wife can be a nag and your friends act like idiots. Everybody needs an escape. Where you escape to is up to you, but how is up to us. Our car batteries are durable, long-lasting and deliver enough power to start any vehicle any time any where. We're ready to go when you are.
Down to earth: We know that you can find cheaper car batteries from those other guys. We're not competing on price, we're competing on quality. Our batteries are durable, long-lasting and deliver enough power to start any vehicle in the harshest winter environment. Can you really put a price on that kind of reliability?
The one thing you never want in a voice is to be corporate. A corporate voice has zero personality and engages exactly no one but the corporate execs who approve the text. But we also understand that in the world of corporate businesses, sometimes you just can't get away from it. But that doesn't mean you can't incorporate one of the voices above. It's all a matter of how you do it.
If your text has to follow the mundane corporate line, then try to insert a standalone voice. Create an alter ego or use special text boxes that stand out from the corporate drivel on the page. Use these to write short bursts of content in the voice you feel works best. Corporate gets their way with the main content, but the site itself gets a little character. Even a few sentences per page can make a significant difference.
Whatever voice you choose, whichever route you ultimately go with, you want to be consistent throughout the site. This can be a difficult chore as many people often have their hands in the content through years of editing and re-writing. Establish your guidelines up front. If your voice is spelled out and clearly part of the text specifications, then it becomes easier for the voice to be consistent as pages are added and edited over the years.
Read more about Destination Search Engine Marketing:
Part I: Do you Deserve Top Search Rankings?
Part II: What Would Sudden Exposure Get You?
Part III: Standing Out in a Sea of Thousands
Part IV: It's Not Just Marketing as Usual
Seven Building Blocks of a Destination Website
#1: Expert Information
#1b: Seven Types of Expert Information
#3: Website Design
#4: Unique Value Proposition
#5: Time and Presence
#7: Trust and Credibility
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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