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Friday, Apr. 4, 2008

How to Find Your Website’s Voice (Even if it’s a Blog)

By Jeff Sexton
April 4th, 2008

In our “Ask the Experts” post, Dina asks how to find her voice — her copywriting voice, that is — for a blog:

“Copywriting for a lifestyle blog is a mystery. How can a blogger create compelling copy that resonates in the short opportunities available, i.e. tagline, front page, about page, social media profiles so that readers subscribe?

“Long copy strategies just don’t work on my baby boomer marriage blog. There’s not enough room to describe the content, show personality and be keyword-rich without sounding crazy.

“What style of writing works best in a blog situation?”

As social media evolves, businesses of all sizes are struggling to maintain a balance in tone between website, blog, and anywhere else their content and brand are represented.

You may already know how to find your website’s voice, so let’s unpack Dina’s question a bit and see if it applies to your social media strategy as well…

Hi Dina!

First, subscribe to Brian Clark’s Copyblogger. He’s got concrete advice on web copy and content creation in general, and he’s the best of the best when it comes to copy that’s specifically tailored to blogging. In fact, one of his writers just did a post about “How to Create a Rock-Solid Tagline“.

Second — Before we, or anyone, can help you find the right tone for your blog, it’s essential to understand its goal.

How are you measuring success? You say you want to generate subscriptions, but to what end? Do you plan on monetizing the blog — and if so, how? Question your own assumptions. You’re suggesting that there are only a few “short opportunities available” to ask people to subscribe, but don’t forget that each post can present an opportunity to subscribe.

Your About Us page should be about more than just “keyword-rich” copy; it should tell your story. Take a look at Nike’s About Us page. Powerful, isn’t it? Sure, they hit all of the essential, dry corporate facts, but those few sentences that stick out let you know why people care about their brand. Your About Us page shouldn’t need to be as dramatic as Nike’s, but it should reflect your blog’s purpose. Remember, you’re asking people to subscribe to your blog, not search engines.

Let people know what you’ve done; where’ you’ve come from; what’s in it for you; what’s in it for them. Future Now’s About Us page isn’t perfect, but hopefully we’ve been both honest and persuasive — two things that are essential to our blog’s voice as well.

In your case (Dina runs a lifestyle blog about boomers getting married), here are a few questions that might help you find the right voice:

  • What is the overall emotional stance that your blog has towards its subject?
    • How does your blog view marriage?
    • Write down some adjectives or perspectives to help.
  • If your blog where an actual person, who would it be? Is your blog:
    • Another girlfriend to talk to about marriage?
    • A marriage counselor?
    • A sincere talk show host?
    • A close friend of the opposite sex who you feel comfortable asking sticky questions?
    • A favorite aunt who has been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt?
  • Is there a favorite quote you have on marriage that sums things up for you?
  • Is there one particular moment in the life of your blog that would capture its essence in a nutshell?
  • Do certain words or phrases keep popping up in your blog, and would they help show your style/voice?

It may seem silly, but this stuff works.

Third, once you’ve established your blog’s voice, make sure it resonates in the details. Comment directions, error messages, category titles and the like are all good places to indicate your personality. But most of all, headlines are key. Make sure the post titles reflect both your brand’s personality and voice.

Finally, to the degree possible, make sure the content on the blog matches its editorial voice as well. This may be harder to do with multi-author blogs, but having a central blog voice can help. Send the style and voice guidelines out and simply ask for your writers not to stray too far from it. When some of them (quite inevitably) do stray, you can simply make it your policy to brand the post slightly differently than normal, so the readers know that not everyone shares the guest blogger’s perspective.

When in doubt, you can always ask your readers what they think.

. .

Editor’s Note: These are all things we’ve tried to do while finding our own voice at GrokDotCom. It’s not easy, particularly when offering what one hopes is constructive criticism, to be percieved as actually having been constructive. Of course, subscribing to a blog feed or a newsletter does not mean you subscribe to everything its authors say or how they say it. And as Seth Godin points out, “Sometimes, the web is more of a cocktail party than a club meeting.” Very true — and doubly so for those of us who offer advice.

On that note, we’d like to hear your thoughts on how GrokDotCom’s voice has evolved over the days, months, or years you’ve been reading. Don’t worry about hurting our feelings, either. We’d only be hurt if you thought we weren’t listening.

Feel free to share your comments below or email Robert (that’s me) directly. Thanks!

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Comments (14)

  1. [...] Future Now’s GrokDotCom / Marketing Optimization Blog wrote an interesting post today on How to Find Your Websiteâs Voice (Even if itâs a Blog)Here’s a quick excerpt In our “Ask the Experts” post, Dina asks how to find her voice — her copywriting voice, that is — for a blog: “Copywriting for a lifestyle blog is a mystery. How can a blogger create compelling copy that resonates in the short opportunities available, i.e. tagline, front page, about page, social media profiles so that readers subscribe? “Long copy strategies just don’t work on my baby boomer marriage blog. There’s not enough room to describe the content, show personality and be keyword-rich w [...]

  2. [...] Read the rest of this great post here [...]

  3. Excellent post, Jeff. I’m currently in the middle of merging my website with my blog with a complete re-design and your thoughts here have provoked my own brain into thinking differently. Thanks!

  4. Jeff – picking up on your last sentence about asking your readers what they think – I wonder if that point ought to be emphasised a bit further. I’m a big fan of testing (and by now I get the feeling the Grokfolk out there are too :] ).

    If your blog was a commercial magazine you probably wouldn’t hoist it upon the market and see if it sells. Now, I’m not suggesting many of us have the time/resources to do that kind of market research – but your post got me thinking about how you would test your blog’s voice/tonality.

    Random thought: Smart marketers use Google Optimizer to test different landing pages. Is there anyway bloggers could do something similar, testing multiple versions of a single posting with blog subscription (or list signup) as the conversion goal?

    Anyone have any ideas about that?

  5. Excellent post jeff

  6. Great article. Definitely bookmark worthy! It can be hard to find a continuity in the way a blog is written the and topics written about… this is a great approach to handling those aspects.

  7. Jeff, my constructive criticism is that I have none. After years of reading your posts I still find them relevant and interesting. Other blogs have faded, but the Grok is still going strong. Hats off to you.

  8. David,

    Yes, you can definitely use Google Website Optimizer to test blogs — even at the post level. But there are a few things you should consider because it’s certainly not worth it to test each post.

    Thank you for a very provocative question. If you don’t mind waiting a few more days, though, I’d rather answer it thoroughly in a separate post than discuss all the variables here. Jeff and I have been chatting about this one a bit and I’ve got a whole list of things to share.

    Thanks again!

  9. That’s a very nice post. I’m sure it’ll help bloggers come up a very excellent idea for their entry.

  10. This has given me a lot of great ideas. I am preparing the transition from Blogger to a WordPress theme and have been trying to come up with a suitable domain name.

  11. ,..] http://www.grokdotcom.com is other relavant source on this issue,..]

  12. Definitely bookmark worthy! It can be hard to find a continuity in the way a blog is written the and topics written about… this is a great approach to handling those aspects.

  13. merging my website theme a complete re-design and be hard to find with preparing the transition from a continuity in the way a blog is written the and with my blog Blogger to a WordPress

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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