Google is anything but transparent. As such, its algorithm inner workings have never been easy to interpret.
How do we properly interpret “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization), if that’s the case?
Well, SEOs dedicate themselves to a sort of “algorithm watch.” They spend eons of time poring over search metrics. They write novel-length blog posts analyzing the changes they can only guess happened, and how these changes may or may not affect search rankings. 😣
(This is why I love being a content marketer with a focus on great content first — hacks, never. Techniques, yes. Strategy, yes. But never does watching the algorithm come first for us. We notice that when we put our audience first, and ditch hacks in favor of people and trust-building, the algorithm works in our favor.)
In the world of SEO, you may have heard about Google’s “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.” This MASSIVE document finally gave SEOs massive clarity on what Google actually looks for in their ranking algorithm. It’s also where EAT, YMYL come from.
Way back in October of 2015, The SEM Post got a leaked copy of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, and their interpreted version went viral. In response, Google broke the internet by releasing the entire guidelines.
Since then, Google has released multiple updates of these guidelines across the last five-plus years.
While Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines don’t lay out exactly what we need to know to rocket to the top of the rankings, they do provide some valuable information:
What kind of pages are viewed as high quality
Which factors influence high- and low-quality ratings (SUPER important, as these factors may be similar to how Google measures page quality for SERP rankings)
We’ve taken an inside look and studied the document as they relate to your SEO and on-page site content, including those fresh updates. 🔍
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of key points in this major SEO document for your online content writing and publishing.
Source: Page 5 of the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google’s search guidelines document is over 170 pages long and broken into an overview, an introduction, three separate parts, and an appendix.
The major parts are as follows:
General Guidelines Overview
Introduction to Search Quality Rating
Part 1: Page Quality Rating Guideline
Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs
Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline
Appendix 1: Using the Evaluation Platform
Appendix 2: Guideline Change Log
In addition to focusing heavily on mobile search, Google’s search guidelines also focus on the importance of building trust and a good reputation for websites and/or content creators.
This isn’t hugely surprising – it’s simply a variation on what Google has been saying for years: The best websites are ones that deliver relevant, trustworthy, quality information to users.
We all know Google focuses heavily on experimentation and adjusting their algorithms to improve web quality. These guidelines provide specific instructions on what the Google engineers want people to do to improve individual site quality.
Needless to say, the Google search guidelines are dense. They cover everything from important definitions to duplicate landing pages and all the places in between.
For those of you who want to read through the guidelines on your own, you can find the static link here. For everyone else, here’s a breakdown of key points we’ve found inside this document.
12 Key SEO Content Factors in the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
For SEOs who have dedicated themselves to keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms, this document will serve mainly to reaffirm what you already know, with a few goodies thrown in here and there.
For SEO newbies, though, this document offers an expansive guide to Google’s preferences and the future of SEO. The guidelines lay out specifics about Google’s algorithms and how, exactly, SEOs can better predict changes to it in the future.
1. Beneficial Purpose
One of the newer additions to the guidelines circa the 2018 update is the concept of “beneficial purpose.” This term defines websites with pages created, first and foremost, for the user’s benefit.
On the other hand, many pages are created solely for the purpose of ranking on Google or are created with no intention of helping users. In Google’s eyes, these pages have zero beneficial purpose.
According to the guidelines (part one, section 3), raters are supposed to give these pages the lowest rating:
“Websites or pages without any beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating.”
In stark contrast, pages with beneficial purpose are the very definition of high-quality:
“High-quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose, from giving information to making people laugh to expressing oneself artistically to purchasing products or services online.” – Part one, section 4.1
According to Google, high-quality pages not only have a beneficial purpose; they also achieve that purpose.
In other words, if you’re not writing to help your audience in some way, your page will have little overall value to the search engine. Thus, “beneficial purpose” is the ground-floor factor that affects your page quality.
Page quality has always been a bit of a mystery. Google uses hundreds of ranking factors and it’s often unclear how they all relate to one another.
We’ve always known unique, relevant, well-written content helps produce a high-quality page, but the guidelines have some additional insights to offer on this topic.
According to the guidelines, it’s not just high-quality main content (MC) that matters. In fact, Google created an acronym for what every high-quality page needs: E-A-T.
Introduced in 2018, E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.” As we know from official Google liaisons like Danny Sullivan, E-A-T in itself is NOT a ranking factor. It’s a tool search evaluators use to determine the quality of web pages.
However, it does approximate many different signals the algorithm uses to determine page quality.
Our systems aren’t looking for EAT. Our raters are using that to see if our systems are working well to show good information. There are many different signals that, if we get it right, align with what a good human EAT assessment would be. See also: https://t.co/1fs2oJ9Gtlpic.twitter.com/GBbnYEjJUV
So, while the algorithm doesn’t look for E-A-T, it does look for signals that amount to E-A-T.
(Still confused? Think of it this way: The Google algorithm and system for ranking pages is a machine, so it looks for signals a machine understands. Search evaluators are humans, so they look for E-A-T. It’s two different languages for the same concept.)
Pages that are expert, authoritative, and trustworthy will be viewed as higher-quality than those that aren’t.
But what does that mean, exactly?
A. High-Quality Pages
Google’s guidelines state that the search algorithm ranks websites on a sliding scale from lowest, low, medium, high, to highest.
Source: Google’s Guidelines, Section 3.0
According to Section 4.1 of Part 1, high-quality pages possess the following characteristics:
A “satisfying amount” of high-quality MC, including a title that’s appropriately descriptive/helpful
“Satisfying website information” or information about the website’s owner/creator (shopping or transactional pages need satisfying customer service information, conversely)
The page and its associated website have a high amount of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
The website (or the MC creator) has a good reputation
It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t specify how much content a page needs to be considered “satisfying,” only that the “right” amount of content depends on “the purpose of the page.”
Google provides this page as an example of high-quality content (partial screenshot):
According to Google, this page has high-quality, humorous MC. Plus, the website has a positive reputation and displays expertise in farcical humor.
B. Low-Quality Pages
According to the Google search guidelines (part one, section 6.0), low-quality pages feature the following:
Poor, low-quality MC
An inadequate amount of E-A-T
Unsatisfying amounts of MC for the purpose of the page (a dense topic with little information, for example)
A page title that is essentially clickbait (“exaggerated or shocking”)
An author that doesn’t have the level of expertise needed to write about the topic
A website or content creator with a “mildly negative” or mixed reputation
Unsatisfying information about who created the content/who’s behind the website
Page content that distracts from the MC, like intrusive ads/interstitials
Google goes on to say that you can land yourself in low-quality content land by making things up, not editing material enough, buying papers, using obvious facts (“A German Shepherd is a dog”) or over-complicating simple facts.
Here’s an example Google provides of a low-quality page (partial screenshot):
According to Google, this page has low-quality MC, is lacking in E-A-T, and has a misleading page title.
Google also says that pages will be considered low-quality if they’re created “without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill.” This is a broad statement, but it’s safe to say that it encompasses everything from poorly designed and scraped content to content that’s written by unskilled or unknowledgeable writers.
The Google search guidelines close by saying that low-quality content is reason enough for a quality rater to grant you a low page rating.
The takeaway: Make sure you’re always creating content with a high level of E-A-T. If your site doesn’t have the E-A-T that raters are looking for, you need to dedicate some time and effort to increase it.
C. How Can You Increase E-A-T on Your Pages?
One of the main ways E-A-T standards have been tweaked within the last few years: A bigger emphasis is now on the author/creator of your content.
The guidelines make it clear that any content needs to be created in an authoritative and expert manner. While there are “expert” websites in all niches, including food, industry, fashion, law, and medicine, Google makes no bones about it: When “expert” content is needed, true experts need to write it. 👩🔬👨🏫👩⚕️
This means the following:
Any high-quality medical advice needs to be written by individuals and communities with appropriate levels of medical accreditation.
Complexfinancial advice, tax advice, or legal advice needs to come from highly qualified, expert sources and must be updated and maintained on a regular basis to accommodate changing information, laws, and statutes.
Medical advice must be written in a professional fashion and, once published, must be edited, reviewed, maintained, and updated regularly in order to keep up with changing medical consensus and beliefs.
Pages addressing topics that can cost consumers thousands of dollars(investment platforms, for example) or that may affect the health of a family or individual (parenting sites, mental health sites, etc.) must be written by expert/experienced sources that readers can trust.
Pages with scientific information must be written by people/organizations with relevant scientific expertise. For topics where scientific consensus exists, producers should represent that consensus accurately.
News articles need to be written with journalistic professionalism and contain factually accurate information.
Pages on specific hobbies, like horseback riding or hockey, must also be written by people who are knowledgeable about the topic and can provide sound advice.
Recent updates to the guidelines also stipulate the content creator must have a positive reputation and adequate experience in relation to the topic about which they’re writing. In short, page authors/creators must also have a high level of E-A-T. (According to Mark Traphagen, two pages with basically the same information might be ranked differently based on the reputation and authority level of their authors.)
A. What Does It Take to Be an Expert Content Creator?
Now, upon reading all that, it’s likely you’ll wonder what constitutes an “expert.”
No, an expert doesn’t always have to be a credentialed, highly trained person (the exceptions: when they’re writing about medicine, law, finances, taxes, or other YMYL topics).
Google makes it clear that, in some cases, first-person experience can be a form of expertise, especially in settings where you don’t necessarily need formal training to have an extensive knowledge base, such as on hobby pages.
In fact, Google states that “for some unusual hobbies, the most expert advice may exist on blogs, forums, and other user-generated content websites.”
In these instances, what Google is looking for is a display of expertise.
Example 1: Say you’ve lived with diabetes for 22 years. You may be qualified to offer tips about coping with the disease (YMYL content) because you have extensive first-hand experience. However, at the same time, you would not be qualified to write a high-quality medical blog about the symptoms and onset of diabetes.
Example 2: On the hobby site The Spruce Crafts, expert crafters teach all kinds of techniques in informative blog posts. These are highly ranked because each writer has plenty of personal experience that qualifies them as experts. Take this post on “How to Knit the Garter Stitch”:
The author is an expert because of her years of personal experience. Her bio reflects this perfectly:
The Reputation of the Website/Creator
Finally, reputation plays a role in expertise, too.
There’s a whole section dedicated to this facet of expertise in the guidelines (under part one, section 2.6):
This information is not about how creators or websites describe their own credentials and expertise. It’s how the wider web (“reputable external sources”) views these things.
According to Google, these external sources that provide independent reputation information about a website or MC creator may include:
Ratings from independent organizations
Customer reviews (for these, content matters as much as the number of reviews available – one negative review or one positive review are not good sources unless you have a number of other reviews to compare it to)
B. Why is Google So Stringent About Expertise?
The search engine wants to ensure deep, broad, important topics get the necessary treatment so searchers can find accurate, useful information about them.
If the search results served up low-quality, untrustworthy content constantly, we would quickly begin to distrust and stop using Google to fulfill our information needs.
Example 3: Most kids in the U.S. learn about World War II in school. However, it would be absurd to believe this type of broad knowledge qualifies anyone to write an informative page about what it was like to live through it.
In the end, it’s important to think about what constitutes an expert for different topics:
How much expertise do you need to possess to write about a subject in a way that’s useful and valuable to others?
How much expertise do you need about a topic so you don’t lead readers astray or negatively impact their lives?
5. Supplementary Content
The importance of supplementary content (such as sidebar tips) is one of the most interesting features of the Google search guidelines. This content is supportive because it provides additional information to users alongside the MC.
Supplementary content can also include links to similar articles or anything else that can help the reader understand your page’s information. Pages with high-quality, useful supplementary content may be generally ranked higher than those without.
Allrecipes has good examples of pages with supplementary content (SC). On their recipe pages, you get the ingredients and instructions (the MC) as well as photos, recommended recipes, user comments, reviews, and serving information (the SC).
6. Lowest-Quality Pages
Some pages receive the “lowest” rating from search quality evaluators on principle. These types of pages are created with the intent to misinform or deceive users or may potentially harm them or spread hate.
Here’s the full list of types of pages that automatically get rated as the lowest quality possible:
Pages that promote hate or violence towards other people (like a specific group)
Pages that encourage harming oneself or others
Malicious pages (scams, phishing, malware, etc.), or pages with a malicious/extremely negative reputation attached to the creator/website
Pages that could spread misinformation, including content that’s obviously inaccurate, YMYL content that contradicts the consensus of experts, and content that propagates debunked/unsubstantiated conspiracy theories
Pages meant to deceive users, including deceptive page design (e.g., ads that look like MC)
“Lack of purpose pages” that have no MC, MC that is “gibberish,” or content with no apparent purpose
“Pages that fail to achieve their purpose”
These have the lowest possible E-A-T
May include copied or auto-generated content
May have content that’s inaccessible or obstructed
May have unsatisfying information about the website/MC creator
May have unmaintained pages, hacked pages, defaced pages, or spam
Google’s example of a page with lowest-quality is this deceptive site designed to imitate the ABC News homepage:
A. Copied Content
Google also specifies what they mean by “copied content” in this subsection (part one, section 7.2.4). Naturally, any content that is not original will get the lowest quality rating from a search evaluator.
What many people don’t know, however, is that Google doesn’t consider rewritten content original if it relies too heavily on its source. Google puts it like this in the guidelines:
“The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source.”
Content creators who like to “spin” content should thus tread carefully here.
7. Mobile Optimization
One of the first things SEOs who consult the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines notice is no less than ¼ of this huge document is dedicated to mobile search.
Check out this chart from “Part 2: Understanding Mobile User Needs”:
The chart underscores just how much people turn to their mobile phones for different tasks.
These tasks vary from simple to complex. As such, the Google guidelines are careful to lay out information about how algorithms understand and interpret mobile queries.
This focus on clarifying search queries is indicative of Google’s leaning toward voice search, which is becoming a search optimization priority. (In 2020, nearly half of all searches were voice searches. By 2024, 8.4 billion people will use digital voice assistants.)
Mobile search is one of the most important trends in digital marketing right now. Every page on a website needs to be optimized for mobile platforms to do well in search (but you already knew that, right?).
8. User Experience: “Needs Met” Ratings
In the user experience portion of the Google search guidelines (Part 3: Needs Met Rating Guideline), we circle back to mobile platforms. In this section, Google asks raters to evaluate the results of various search queries.
For example, the guidelines ask raters to consider mobile user needs and how helpful the result is for those mobile users. This chart in the guidelines illustrates the rating scale, from “Fully Meets” all the way down to “Fails to Meet”:
These ratings help Google understand how search queries are related to user intent, and how their search results are measuring up. For example, if a lot of low-quality pages that “fail to meet” user needs are showing up for a certain query, Google obviously needs to work on delivering better, more relevant and useful results for that query.
9. E-A-T Versus Needs Met
The guidelines make a clear distinction between “needs met” ratings and page quality ratings. The difference is important to understand.
“Needs met” ratings are based on both the search query and the result.
Page quality (E-A-T) ratings are only based on the result and whether it achieves its purpose. This means useless results for a particular query are always rated “fails to meet” – even if they have outstanding page quality ratings.
Think of it this way: A high-quality page with fantastic information about sea lions is useless to you if you actually want information about otters. If you searched for “otters” but got search results featuring pages about sea lions, your search needs would be unfulfilled.
Conversely, when considering page ratings, the search query is unimportant. This means high E-A-T pages can still have low “meet” scores if they are deemed unhelpful for a query or do not fulfill a user’s search needs.
According to Google’s guidelines, this page about sea lions would receive a high page quality rating, but may not necessarily receive a high “needs met” rating – that depends on the page’s relevance to the user’s search query.
The guidelines also state that when a user is searching for very recent information (like breaking news, for instance) a site can earn a “fails to meet” rating if the content is stale or useless for the user’s particular query. This means pages appearing in search results for time-sensitive queries featuring content about past events, old products, or outdated information will be marked useless and given a “fails to meet” rating.
While fresh content is important, older content can have a high E-A-T rating without sacrificing usefulness. This is true for evergreen content and “timeless” information.
For example, users who search for information about Ronald Regan will find biographical information useful, even if it was written many years ago. This is not true, however, for unmaintained or abandoned websites that feature infrequently updated or inaccurate content.
10. “Fails to Meet” Pages
“Fails to meet” content is a boat you don’t want to be in.
According to the guidelines, “fails to meet” content is helpful and satisfying to virtually nobody. The content results are unrelated to the query, filled with incorrect facts, or in dire need of additional supporting information. Because of these things, this content doesn’t meet a user’s search intent or need.
The guidelines go on to state that content may also be marked “fails to meet” when it’s low-quality, stale, outdated, or impossible to use on a mobile device. The guidelines also specify that it’s possible for sites to earn in-between ratings.
Here are a few examples of “fails to meet” content results for different queries:
As you can see, in the second example (for the query “American beauty”), the result is actually directly related/relevant to the topic of the search. However, because the result has unsatisfying content, it gets the lowest possible “needs met” rating.
In the updated guidelines, Google makes plenty of references to clickbait. Specifically, they don’t want to see it. Ever.
That’s because clickbait builds up a user’s expectations and then fails them spectacularly. This leaves the user dissatisfied, confused, and frustrated/annoyed, all things Google does not want associated with its search results.
In the section on “Low-Quality Main Content” (part one, section 6.2), the guidelines specifically mention raters should pay attention to a page’s title, as it “should describe the content.” If the title doesn’t properly do that or creates unrealistic expectations of the MC, Google says the page should be rated “Low.”
Here is Google’s example of a clickbait title that helps the page in question earn a low “needs met” rating:
“Planet Nibiru has appeared in the sky and DOOMSDAY is on the way” – clickbait much?
12. Medium-Quality Pages
In the guidelines, we have seen that raters may rank page quality anywhere from highest to lowest.
Google defines each rating and which characteristics exemplify that rating. One of the most interesting is the definition of “medium” quality pages (part one, section 8).
Google states there are two types of medium-quality pages:
Nothing is wrong with the page, but then again, there’s nothing special about it, either.
The page has high-quality characteristics mixed with some low-quality characteristics.
The first type of medium-quality page goes straight to the heart of what it takes to stand out in content. You can do everything right SEO-wise, but if there is nothing unique or special about your page/content, you can’t expect it to rank well.
From Google, here is an example of a medium-quality page. The website is a trusted source, but the content is merely “okay”:
3 Major Takeaways from the Updated Google Search Guidelines
Two of the biggest takeaways from the guidelines are the importance of mobile optimization and producing and publishing content written by an expert.
1. The Need for Expert Content Is HUGE
As Google made clear with their discussions on both E-A-T and YMYL, the need for expert content is huge.
Google values pages with high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Websites and content creators who champion these things by hiring and staffing expert writers will be rewarded for their efforts. This is especially true for YMYL pages.
Because YMYL pages are so important and have big potential to positively or negatively affect a reader’s life, Google puts them under heavy scrutiny. That means websites specializing in these pages absolutely need to hire expert writers and content creators. The price of not doing this is too high for both websites and readers alike.
Fortunately, when websites hire expert writers to improve their page’s E-A-T and to write important YMYL pages, more than likely, they will enjoy both higher rankings in Google’s index and a position as an industry leader.
2. Reputation Matters
The recent updates to Google’s Search Evaluator Guidelines underline the importance of website/MC creator reputation when determining page quality.
Google exhaustively goes over the different ways reputation can affect a page’s quality and stipulates the best ways to research this vital factor. For example, the guidelines recommend using third-party websites and sources to do research about websites and content creators/authors.
A few they particularly mention include Wikipedia, Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Amazon reviews, and Google Shopping.
Here’s the section mentioning the power of Wikipedia (part one, section 2.6.4). Google calls it a “good source,” and throughout the doc, mentions the linking of Wikipedia to other sites as a quality factor:
Google respects these sites’ opinions and will consider content low or high-quality based on BBB ratings, Wikipedia links and claims, and outside reviews/evaluations.
3. You Must Be Mobile-Friendly
Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly have a 0% chance of ranking well. Obviously, Google cares more now than ever about mobile-friendly pages – after all, nearly a quarter of their search evaluator guidelines are dedicated to mobile user needs.
Great content isn’t enough, so be sure that your entire website is optimized for mobile users.
4. You Must Create Content That Benefits Users
Imagine the inclusion of the concept of “beneficial purpose” in these guidelines as a huge flag waving in your SEO landscape.
It’s clear that Google is looking at it as the main determiner of a page’s quality. If a page has no apparent beneficial purpose for users, it automatically gets a low rating from search evaluators. That tells us a lot about Google’s user-first mentality, and also how we should be treating each and every piece of content we create.
Plus, the concept is reflected across Google’s other guidelines, including the brief but pointed Quality Guidelines in Search Console Help:
Take this as a sign you should be asking yourself, “What’s the beneficial purpose of this page?” for each content piece you create.
To Be SEO-Savvy, Don’t Stop at Reading This Blog Post
Look up industry content marketing and SEO authors, too, for some must-read books. For a few solid marketing reads, I recommend anything by Ryan Holiday, Jonah Berger, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, and Mark Schaefer.
As you upgrade your skills (with more skill comes more confidence), remember, people-first, never algorithm first — and it turns out, you’ll please both. Satisfy your users, make them delighted, and you’ll feel less like a confused marketer… and more like a winner.
To your mental clarity and success in the world of Google and all things content! 🥂
Maybe it’s chillaxing on the beach with a laptop and a martini while typing up your latest adventure? Yeah, that stereotype is about as old and tired as the content best practices from the last decade. (Not to mention unrealistic. Also, don’t take your laptop to the beach.)
Maybe it’s the endless to-do list-slash-content calendar that’s one more dismal thing you have to do to make your business run – and what’s it even do, again?
Oof. Hand me that martini.
Here’s a bit of news: if your ideas about blogging fall into either camp, you’re doing it wrong.
Here’s what blogging looks like in the 2020s, plus how to create long-form blogs that work FOR you (rather than being WORK for you).
Like a lot of things in the content world, the idea of long-form comes from journalism. There, it referred to a story that ran over the typical length – about 500 words (or about 14-16 inches depending on the paper’s formatting).
In content writing, long-form similarly refers to content that is longer than your typical content.
It’s hard to pin an exact number on that average because it changes.
In particular, it’s growing.
Let’s paint a picture. The phrase long-form content has floated around on the internet for a long time – the first mentions start around 1998. This was the early days of Google before we’d really figured out the true magnitude of the search engine’s power. In those days, long-form content referred to anything over 300 words.
That’s about the length of this section.
However, by 2018, the average had crept up to 1,100 words. Blog posts that went over that frequently ranked higher, got more engagement, and enjoyed more widespread sharing on social media.
And guess what? Marketers noticed. By 2020, HubSpot found that the average blog post was 2,164 words – almost double what it’d been two years earlier.
Blog posts have been trending longer for some time. Blog post length is creeping up over 2,000 words. Source: Orbit Media.
According to HubSpot, it’s anything between 1,000 and 7,500 words – buuut you want to hit 2,500 words minimum to get the most shares and backlinks.
However, according to Core DNA, your content doesn’t get to wear the badge of long-form until it’s a whopping 4,000 words (about 2.5 times the length of this article).
This brings us to another point…
When to Use Long-Form Content
If longer articles catch more eyeballs, win more clicks, and result in more shares, then longer is always better. Right?
Like everything, long-form content is a tool with some very good applications. Use it when:
You’re building pillar content. One meaty, well-researched article full of links to articles that deep-dive into subtopics can transform your content. Long-form content is excellent here.
You’re trying to outrank competitors with long-form content. If your competition is routinely posting 2,000-word articles, your little 1,100-word work of art won’t cut it. In these cases, long-form content combined with the skyscraper technique can work wonders.
The topic needs it. What’s worse than bad content? Content that fails to fully address the topic. If the topic needs 2,000 words, don’t try to squeeze it into an 800-word blog article simply because you have to publish four articles per month. You’re better off having your writer do one 2,000-word article that really delves into the topic than four 800-word posts that scratch the surface.
The content will land in front of the reader in the deeper stages of the buyer’s journey. A 35-minute read might be intimidating to a casual browser or someone with a short attention span. Target serious seekers with your long-form content.
You’re building authority or thought leadership. Long-form content helps improve a site’s Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness – or EAT, one of Google’s quality guidelines.
How to Create Long-Form Blogs That Everyone Will Love
So, you’ve got pillar content planned that will position you as an authority in your industry. Great! Here are four tips to follow when creating long-form blogs that will impress both your readers and the search engines.
1. Break Out the Statistics!
Did you know that blogs are considered the fifth-most trustworthy source of information? And having statistics in your blogs is one of the easiest ways to boost that trustworthiness rating.
Statistics have a lot of benefits, especially when they’re unique to your business. They give your readers some brain candy, and they prove to Google that you’re an expert in your industry.
Compile unique statistics to give to your writers whenever possible.
Emphasize fresh statistics (within two or three years, depending on your industry).
2. Diver Deeper into Topics
Are there 26 blog posts already on the topic you want to write about? Think about another way to attack the topic.
Differentiating yourself in the search engine does more than just give your readers something fresh. It also sets you apart from the competition by showing original thought leadership – you aren’t just rehashing what someone else has already said.
Take advantage of revision policies to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.
4. Plan Your Content
Remember: quality and consistency are better than quantity.
Consistent quality over time brings success. There’s no other way to do it.
Publishing long-form content is a powerful way to outrank your competition in the SERPs, but nothing will save you if you’re publishing inconsistently.
However, inconsistency becomes a bigger threat when you’re publishing longer pieces. That’s because they take longer to research, write, and edit than shorter pieces. In my experience, that catches a lot of people off guard.
You may be used to writing 800-word blog posts every Tuesday and Thursday. However, turning one of those into a 2,000-word post is the same amount of work as adding a third post for the week.
The easiest way to get around this? Planning.
Account for word count in your content planning so you know exactly how much work you’ve really got. Likewise, it will help you figure out when you need to hire a writer and accommodate their work pace plus any revisions that need to happen.
Even better? It’ll help you see where you’re headed with your content over time … but hopefully, you already know that because you’ve got a content strategy.
14 Reasons Hiring a Copywriter is Your Best Idea Yet
Let’s take a look at 14 great reasons why you should hire a copywriter. Ready?
1. More Time for Your Morning Coffee (Or Anything Else You’d Rather Be Doing)
One of the main reasons why you should consider hiring a copywriter for your content needs is simply because you will have more time.
This means you can spend your time drinking your favorite cup of coffee or tea in the morning ☕, or spend more time on another aspect of your business. Creating consistent, engaging content can take up a significant amount of time, and copywriters are a great way to save that time. Expertly trained copywriters are able to write excellent copy quickly while still hitting the mark you want.
2. A Professional Copywriter Can Perfectly Capture Your Services
When you hire a professional copywriter, you aren’t just getting someone who can write amazing pieces, you’re hiring someone who can capture your services. Copywriters are trained to learn as much as they can about various industries to make sure they write quality content. In addition, many industry-specific copywriters out there have special training, making them perfect to write for your niche audience.
3. Never Worry About High-Stakes Copy Again
Sometimes, you need copy that does some seriously heavy lifting.
Maybe you have a big product launch coming up, so you need tons of enticing, persuasive copy that encourages customers to buy. Maybe you’re publishing a mega blog guide that you poured a ton of resources into, and you need a headline that gets people to click and start reading. Or, maybe you invested in Facebook ads and you really need some great ad copy to make the investment pay off.
Whatever your situation, sometimes you can’t mess around with amateur copy. In cases like these and many more, you need to hire a pro copywriter, one with experience and results behind them, to get the job done and churn out that ROI.
4. Grammar Issues, Begone
Not everyone is skilled with grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and that is usually perfectly fine. However, when you’re writing web content, you want to make sure every aspect of your copy is perfect for the big Google machine, not to mention your reputation as a brand and/or a professional expert in your field. You know if you’re a strong writer or not, and it’s a good idea to make sure you hire a copywriter if you are not strong.
Copywriters have various degrees in fields that require great grammar, which means they will be able to craft expert material for you, Google, and your readers. In addition, many copywriters also have copyeditors on speed-dial who can look through the content to catch any little mistakes that do make it through. Grammar is vital for great SEO, so make sure you always have excellent grammar simply by hiring a copywriter.
5. A Copywriter Knows How to Write Persuasive Content
When writing for the web, persuasive copy is a must. However, not everyone has the talent to create persuasive content that helps pull customers through the sales funnel without coming across like a 1970s used car salesperson.
Copywriters know the importance of creating persuasive content for their clients without focusing heavily on sales-speech, because we know this can easily turn your readers off. When you write your own content, it might come across as far too sales-y for your readers, simply because you don’t have the expertise to walk the fine line between being persuasive and sales-driven. Beat the doubt on whether or not your content is too persuasive (or not persuasive enough) by hiring a writer who can create expert copy that will turn readers into customers quickly and easily.
6. There IS Such a Thing as Being “Too Close” to a Topic
You might think being very close to your industry is helpful when it comes time to create copy, but this can actually be detrimental.
First of all, when you’re too close to your industry, you might not realize just how confusing your jargon is to newbies or those outside of it.
Second of all, when you’re writing about your own business and services, you might find it hard to be objective enough. We all think we can be until it comes down to it, and then we begin questioning and doubting, which you don’t want reflected in your content.
When you hire a copywriter, you’re able to have someone write about your services in a great light without focusing heavily on jargon, making your content easy to understand and enticing.
7. Copywriters Know the Importance of Variation in Content
Writing content for real readers, not just SEO, means you need variation, especially when it comes to content length. While longer content is still the most popular with Google, you should also have different lengths, such as a short piece of 350-500 words or a medium-length piece of 800-1,500 words, to give your readers the ability to choose the content they prefer to consume.
Someone on a commute might be more likely to read a short content piece while saving the longer ones for their lunch break or after work. You need to give your readers both options. A copywriter can make sure that each and every piece of content is written to different lengths to provide that ability, while still maintaining the same high quality standards.
8. A Copywriter Knows How to Craft Different Content Formats
Creating copy doesn’t just mean writing blog posts and web content, but also creating copy for multiple formats. You can find copywriters who have training in creating copy for infographics, videos, and images that help drive engagement on your social channels and blog. In fact, a copywriter can easily write a blog piece that can then be broken down into different formats, which repurposes your content and gets it out to a wider audience.
This is a great way to cover all your bases while giving people the ability to choose how they wish to consume their content. Copywriters exist with training in all areas of content formats, as well as ones who specialize in specific formats to make a greater impact. Whichever way you go, a copywriter can help you create all the different types of content you need.
9. Copywriters Keep Up-to-Date With Every Google Change
Google is great for helping people find your business, which boosts your revenue. However, it can be hard to keep up with every little change the search engine giant makes to its algorithm. There seems to be a new update every month or so, and lately there have been some mega changes that everyone needed to be prepared for. Whether it’s the major core update of 2020 or something a smaller, a copywriter will be on top of all these changes. This will help you get the best, most up-to-date content and SEO to better your copy and website.
10. When it Comes to Hitting the Target, Copywriters are Regular Katniss Everdeens
Hitting your target audience can be trickier than it seems, and no matter how much you do, you still might be missing the mark. Professional copywriters are great at making sure they hit their client’s target audience with every piece of content, bringing in great, organic traffic from Google and your social media channels. When you bring in more traffic, you have a higher chance to convert visitors into leads with even more content. Hiring a copywriter to write copy for you is like hiring Katniss Everdeen to hunt for food or to support your side of the rebellion.
11. You Will Get Fresh, New Content All the Time
Publishing fresh, new content regularly is a vital part of staying relevant online, and you need to make sure you always have it. It can be easy to use the same content across your website, making it feel streamlined and taking up less time. This, however, looks sloppy and many of your readers will not appreciate duplicate content. In fact, Google doesn’t appreciate it, either.
As I mentioned earlier, hiring a copywriter will save you time, and this is one of the many ways that can happen. A copywriter can write consistently fresh, new content for your web page, keeping duplicates out of circulation, making your site a high quality, Google-approved page.
12. A Copywriter Can Make Anything Sound Exciting
I’ve had a few clients come to me and ask about how a copywriter can make their boring subject or niche market sound exciting and enticing. They don’t believe it is possible, but it never hurts to try. When you hire a copywriter, however, it becomes more than possible to create engaging, exciting content for a yawn-worthy topic.
The good news is that not only can a copywriter make your product or service interesting, but also all businesses do have exciting aspects that a copywriter can highlight. You can trust a copywriter to locate and use the exciting elements of your industry while also coming up with great, new ideas for incredible, impactful content.
13. Copywriters Can Help You Generate Organic Traffic and Bring in Sales
Organic traffic is something we would all prefer to have instead of needing to pay a lot for ads. While ads are still an important aspect of any online presence, if you generate more organic traffic, you’ll find you’re likely to have more legitimate customers. In fact, organic traffic can lead to quick sales, as well as helping you keep the clients you bring in.
Copywriters can help create content that drives organic traffic such as creating content for social media, AND content that keeps visitors on-site once they reach your landing pages. When you get organic traffic, your revenue is likely to bump up significantly, and you will really enjoy getting to meet all of your new, wonderful clients. Remember, build a relationship with them once they start showing up to keep them coming back!
Being social is yet another vital aspect to any online presence.
A copywriter can help you create a perfect social media presence by creating engaging, epic social media content that drives clicks and interaction with clients. If you hire a social media copywriter, you will begin to notice that you have more interaction with your clients, which will help when it comes to word of mouth marketing.
Leave It to the Wizards of Words
As you can see, a copywriter is a great idea for every single business when it comes to creating excellent web copy.
Leaving your content in the hands of capable word wizards will help improve your copy and website, bringing in great traffic and clients.
Looking for expert copywriters that can write engaging copy for any industry? Express Writers has a team of expertly trained writers who can provide your biz with the copy you need for your web pages and social media to shine.
We earned nine new backlinks and more than 20 new comments on this piece alone after we updated it.
As you can see, revitalizing your old content helps keep your site up-to-date, on-trend, and in plain sight of Google’s site crawlers.
But what about your loyal readers? Trust me, they will thank you for being a reliable resource for the latest and greatest content.
Blogs are now the 5th most trusted source for online information. By staying up to date on the latest information and revamping your old content, readers know they can count on you to keep them in the loop.
Besides, you’ve already invested the time and effort to create them, why not make them all that they can be?
You know that hairstyle your dad or your uncle rocked for years?
Well… It’s not quite on-trend anymore.
Blog posts are a similar situation. You can still love them, but times have changed and so has the information online.
It’s likely that, no matter the topic, there exists new and potentially better information about that subject you so diligently researched.
So, stay on trend! Schedule in the time for researching and updating, and see what else has surfaced since you posted.
How to Update Old Content: 6 Essential Steps
Okay, I’ve convinced you. You’ve decided to refresh your old blog posts.
But should you start now? And if not now, when?
Everyone asks me this question! The answer is, if you have two or more years worth of content, and you haven’t updated anything within that time frame, you’re missing out on valuable leads that could become conversions.
Make it a priority to schedule time to update your blogs every quarter. I recommend updating at least 5-10 pieces per quarter for optimal results.
This adds up to some serious ROI if you make the commitment.
If you’ve decided the time is now, get your editing pickaxe in hand. ⛏️ Let’s take a look at your previous masterpieces to see what’s worth updating.
1. Find the Right Content to Update (Audit Your Content)
A great place to begin a content audit is Google Analytics.
There you can find metrics like bounce rate, social shares, and time-on-page. These will help you determine which previous posts are the best-performing, and thus worth updating.
To start, open your Google Analytics account. On the left-hand side, go to Behavior.
Then, click the Overview button. Next, navigate to the bottom right of the page and click view full report in the bottom right-hand corner.
On the next screen, there will only be 10 posts by default. You can change this by going to the bottom of the page and editing the Show rows option to any number you like: 100, or even 5,000.
Then, return to the top of the page and click Export.
Boom! You now have a perfectly organized list of your posts.
From here, look closely to determine which posts have the highest conversion rates, the largest amount of traffic, and the lowest bounce rate.
These are your golden nuggets that keep visitors engaged.
But what if you don’t use Google Analytics, or what if all your posts have similar stats? Not a problem — there are other ways to determine which posts you should focus on.
One way is looking at which of your posts are evergreen.
Evergreen content is content that will provide unique value for your visitors, generate traffic, and result in conversions for the foreseeable future.
If you’re unsure what falls into that category, think about the pieces that took you some time to craft. Examples include how-to guides, frequently asked question posts, and resource lists.
2. Edit and Update Inaccuracies, Typos, & Wording
After the sifting and searching, you now have a handful of great posts ready to be updated.
And, wow! What a treasure trove you’ve discovered.
Although the hard work may seem like it’s over, don’t stop there. It’s time to refine your posts into something even better.
To begin, choose the first blog to update and read it carefully.
Do you still love it? Are any of the facts outdated?
Did you cringe at any of your wording?
Are there any typos?
If so, start the process by fixing those small imperfections. These minor changes can mean the difference between conversions and a high bounce rate.
Also, keep in mind that your writing style may have changed over time. Try to edit the piece so that it reflects your current style.
And as you read, don’t forget to take formatting into consideration.
If your blog was a bit clunky or if there were a few too many large blocks of text that don’t exactly scream “Read me!”, think about breaking those sections up.
By creating easier-to-digest sections, it will pull your reader through your piece and encourage them to keep reading.
A few issues that can happen with older blog posts: You might be linking to content that no longer exists, or the topic and discussion may not be as relevant as when you originally posted. This can increase your bounce rate, plus, citing outdated research can significantly hurt your position as an “expert” in the field.
If you find any links that lead you to a 404 page or to outdated posts, update them with the relevant content or simply remove them.
This lets Google know you’re on top of it and makes it more likely that your content will rank higher.
If your links are still as bright and shiny as when you first posted, consider adding new external ones.
Can you find new research that wasn’t available before? If so, linking to those articles can boost your credibility and increase your viewership.
Better than adding external links is adding internal links to your content. You likely wrote another article that relates and can help provide additional resources. Add that link in! It just might be the information your readers were looking for.
I know when I’m reading a piece that has already grabbed my attention I almost always click on their links to check out what other gems they have waiting for me. By adding internal links, you not only encourage your readers to remain on your site but it also increases the likelihood that they will share your work.
According to a Microsoft study, the average attention span has fallen to a mere eight seconds. Eight seconds is all you have to captivate your audience and convince them to stay.
For this reason, it’s imperative to examine your title to ensure it’s the best it can be — it’s your first and sometimes only opportunity to engage your reader.
Once you think you’ve got something eye-catching, don’t simply trust your gut. Give it a test run.
To do so, try the AMI Institute’s EMV Headline Analyzer. It’s a useful tool for any writer that ranks your headline according to how well it resonates with your audience based on three key types of appeal: intellectual, emotional or spiritual.
It also gives you a percentile score which indicates how powerful your title is. Most professional copywriters’ headlines will fall between 30%-40% range, while the most talented will have a 50%-75% score. Test yours to see where you land. If it’s not quite right, keep trying.
If your blog is mostly text and there are little to no images, you may want to consider adding a few more. Images help the reader stay actively engaged by breaking up content.
They’re even more important in terms of memory and recall. One study found that, after three days, participants could only remember 10% of information they heard. But, when that information was paired with an image, participants were able to remember 65% of it.
This is why images are a huge component of any successful blog’s goal to maintain viewership.
There are two final components of any successful content update. These are your meta content and your call to action, or CTA.
Meta Titles and Descriptions
Your meta content is a combination of two items — your meta title and meta description.
The meta title is the headline that appears on search pages when users search for you or any content related to your site.
Your meta description is the small blurb beneath your site’s title on Google’s search page which tells readers what they’re about to click on.
The critical meta title and description are a must for optimal SEO. These can also be the deciding factor between a user clicking on your site or choosing one of the thousands of others available to them.
While there are many strategies regarding how to optimize, the main goal is to be specific.
In the example above, our meta title is Why Blog? 52 Incredible Blogging Statistics to Inspire You. This is highly specific to our topic and interesting to the reader. Bonus: It has numbers! Numbers are great to draw readers’ eyes.
If your post is about options for gardening services in Southern California, the meta title should not be something generic. For example, “Gardeners for Your Home” is an extremely weak meta title. A better option is one that is not only location-specific, (e.g. Southern California) but one that also includes keywords. “How to Find the Best Gardener in Southern California: 5 Steps to a Great Partnership” is not only specific but contains all of the keywords associated with your content.
This lets both the reader and search engines know precisely what your site contains. By using targeted language, it increases the chance that you will rank higher and viewers will choose your site.
Your meta description should also be similarly crafted. It is an extension of your title and should contain a small snapshot of carefully selected keywords and phrases that relate to your page’s topic.
The last and arguably most important factor for creating conversions through your content is your call-to-action, or CTA.
These can be placed within a sentence, like the one above, on a button on your site, or on a pop-up window within your blog that encourages the reader to take action in some way.
Businesses spend countless dollars each year researching how to effectively leverage the color, position, and wording of their CTAs so they can get their customers to the next section of their sales funnel.
Here’s an example:
Each of these two buttons is a CTA, but they both have one goal: Transform a visitor into a customer. The only difference lies in the wording. One focuses on stoking enthusiasm and curiosity, “Everyone loves us.” The other acts as a mirror, encouraging you to “Try it now.”
While using scarcity to induce a feeling of FOMO is effective — like “Buy now before we run out” — what’s more effective is knowing your audience.
Why? Because it fits their brand and their product. By knowing who your readers are and what they want, you can craft CTAs that are lightyears ahead of the average “Buy now,” button. Then, sit back and watch the conversions roll in.
By creating an enticing CTA within rather than just hoping a reader will take action, the chances increase exponentially that they will like, subscribe, or purchase that ebook you worked so hard on.
If you need some inspirational tips on how to write a CTA that’s guaranteed to generate conversions, check out our blog about how to write a sensational CTA after you finish here.
Republishing: How to Show Off Your Updated Content
Congratulations, you’ve done it!
You braved the journey into your content gold mine and came out with some incredible pieces. After a bit of hard work, they are now gleaming. 💎
Now comes the fun part: republishing your updated content and sharing it with the world.
How to Republish Content in WordPress
Republishing your updated content is a relatively simple process in WordPress. Here’s the way we do it for the Write Blog. (There are probably a lot of ways to approach republishing old content, but this one is simple and works well for us.)
First, navigate to the blog post you’re updating in your WordPress dashboard. (If you have hundreds of blog posts, or even over 1,000 like we do on the Write Blog, you’ll need to do a search to find the right post.)
Hover over the post title with your mouse pointer. Click “Edit.”
The next screen will display your WordPress editor of choice — the Classic editor or the new Block editor. You’ll be able to tell you’re in editing mode by what you see at the top of the screen. In Classic editor, you’ll see “Edit Post.”
And in Block editor, if you click on the pencil at the top left of the screen (“Modes”), you’ll see you’re in edit mode.
Note: You are now editing a live blog post — one that’s already published. It’s important to keep the post live and NOT unpublish the post or set it back to “draft” form. If your post is quite old and already has an SEO presence, this is purposeful, so you don’t lose your rankings, break any links, or create a 404 error.
Edit and update the post according to our six steps outlined above. As you update, to save your changes, continually hit the “Update” button. Don’t worry about anyone potentially seeing the post mid-update. If the post is old, the likelihood is small.
Once you’re finished editing, it’s time to republish your post so it appears at the top of your blog. Go to the line that says “Published on:” and hit “Edit.”
Change the date to the current one (or change the publish date to whenever you want the new post to appear). Make sure to set the time, too! Then hit “OK” and the “Update” button to save your changes.
And that’s it! Your updated content should now appear at the top of your blog. Anyone following your blog via RSS feed should see it show up in their blogroll, too.
Should You Change the URL?
Now that you’ve updated that content, should you change the URL?
As a general rule, I recommend NOT changing the URL of updated posts, just because you don’t want to inadvertently create any broken links anywhere.
However, each situation is different.
If your post drove lots of traffic before the update, you’ll definitely benefit from leaving the URL as-is to retain your SEO advantage. (Think backlinks and Google rankings.)
But, if your post views are low or nonexistent, a new URL could rejuvenate traffic, as a shorter URL tied to stronger, high-volume keywords can be beneficial. This video from Surfside PPC explains the logic in greater detail:
Updated Content is New Content
Once your content has been republished, it’s time to share on social media.
If you’re worried your audience won’t respond to the post because technically they’ve already seen it, stop and relax. It’s important to remember that this is not the same content anymore. You’ve transformed it into something useful and relevant.
It’s also good to keep in mind that the value of your blog is not in the immediate viewership achieved but in the potential thousands who will visit in the future.
By following our simple steps above to keep your blog updated, you’ll boost your visitor count and earn consistently higher traffic numbers to your content.
Make Your Old Content Sparkle
If you’re still looking for new ways to update your old content after doing all of the tips above, consider a few of these extra steps to repurpose it.
Do you have a podcast or will you be featured in one soon? Think about how you can integrate your piece into the recording or mention it as a resource.
Do you have a YouTube channel? Try rewriting your content as a video script or mentioning a small snippet to encourage listeners to give it a read.
If you have an active email campaign that keeps your readers engaged with your site, use it to show off work they may not have seen yet. Take an excerpt from the post you’re revamping and include it in your next newsletter. Then, create a CTA that encourages readers to “Check out the whole article” and provide a link.
Remember, updating your old content gives it brand-new life. So go out there, find your old content gems, and give them the glow-up they deserve. They’ll shine brighter than ever with a little TLC. 🌟
So, if you have your brand voice on lock, you’ll more easily connect with your target audience, build trust, and convince them to buy.
Unfortunately, some of the most common mistakes I see in content writing have to do with botched tone of voice or point of view.
From clients we work with, to students in the classes I teach, to writers I talk to – a misunderstanding of these two fundamental writing concepts continually rears its head.
The problem is, misunderstanding can lead to major gaffes in communication. (Can you say disappointed, annoyed customers?)
These are tricky concepts if you don’t know the rules and logic behind them. Luckily, learning about tone of voice and point of view isn’t too hard. Plus, the massive results you’ll earn are worth it: a more consistent brand presence that will draw your customers to you, consistently, time and time again. 🔥
Let’s get into it.
Your Guide to Point of View and Tone of Voice: Table of Contents
What Are Tone of Voice and Point of View?
1. Tone of Voice 2. Point of View
How to Use Tone of Voice and POV Correctly for a Better Brand Presence
1. Choose Your Tone of Voice from the Four Dimensions, Then Refine 2. Don’t Go Too Far with Tone of Voice 3. Choose Your Words Wisely
Your Tone of Voice and Point of View Define Your Brand
First up, let’s clearly define the meaning of point of view and tone of voice in writing.
1. Tone of Voice
In communication, tone of voice determines how the writer comes across to the reader. What emotion(s) come through? How do they feel about the audience they’re writing to?
Tone of voice directly affects communication no matter where or how you’re talking.
In speech, the literal tone and pitch of your voice convey how you feel about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.
Likewise, your writing tone of voice has a direct impact on how your audience interprets your meaning and intentions. In writing, however, the key is word choice. The words you use, and the way you phrase them, define your textual tone.
Look at these tone of voice examples for an imaginary editing service. They convey the same message, but each has a different tone:
Sympathetic tone:Writing is hard. If you need help refining your prose, we’re here for you.
Witty tone:Writer’s block is as much fun as sitting in gridlock traffic for an hour. We get it. We can help you get unstuck.
Direct, straightforward tone:We’ll refine your writing, correct your grammar, and make your work shine.
Angry/combative tone:How the *$&!! did you get into this line of work with so little talent?! You obviously can’t write, so what CAN you do?
(That last example isn’t copy so much as harsh commentary, but it’s a good taste of how your tone of voice can change drastically by adding in a few all-caps and extra punctuation. This is a prime negative tone of voice example.)
A good synonym for tone of voice is writing style.
Point of view (POV) is perhaps more confusing for some people than tone of voice. Let’s clear the air.
Point of view refers to the narrator of a piece of content and their particular perspective. This is the person who’s telling the story, relaying the information, or reporting the events. Everything is told from this person’s point of view.
However, sometimes the narrator is not the writer, and vice-versa. The writer may assume the POV of someone else, essentially stepping into their shoes and writing from their perspective. This can be a different person, character, or entity (such as a brand or organization).
Whether you’re writing as yourself or writing as someone else, you’ll use different types of POV:
This type of POV is the most personal. With first-person, you’re writing directly from your own experience (or directly from your chosen narrator’s experience) using words like “I,” “me,” and “mine.”
Example: I know writing is hard. For me, I had to read and write every day before I became any good.
First-person POV also can be plural, i.e., one person speaking on behalf of many. In this instance, you’ll use words like “we,” “us,” and “our.”
Example: We know writing is hard. For us, the key was to read and write every day to improve our skills.
The 1st-person point of view is one you’ll see most often in personal stories, where people are describing their experiences. You’ll also find it in modern fiction writing. Ann Handley uses first-person writing to great effect in her blog posts:
Writing in second-person means you’re talking directly to the reader, using words like “you,” “your,” and “yours.”
Example: You can learn to write well. It just takes a bit of practice. Soon the skill will be yours to command.
Sometimes, first and second-person POV can intermix – you can write both personally and directly.
Example: I know how difficult writing can be. You don’t need to be intimidated, though. You’ve got this!
This is the most common type of point of view you’ll find in online content writing. See this example from Brian Dean of Backlinko for inspiration:
Finally, third-person POV means you’re writing from an outside perspective.
You’re not talking directly or personally, but rather describing what others see, do, or think, like you’re watching them from afar and reporting all you see. You’ll use words like “he,” “she,” “them,” “it,” and “they.”
Example: The team didn’t know how to write well, so they enlisted a good editor for her guidance and feedback.
This POV is most often used in formal or professional articles and reports. This article from Reuters is a great example of a 3rd person POV:
How to Use Tone of Voice and POV Correctly for a Better Brand Presence
Tone of voice and point of view are essential to understand for better content. More importantly, choosing ONE tone of voice and ONE point of view to use consistently across your content will equal a more defined, recognizable brand presence online.
So, how can you do it? Here are some tips:
1. Choose Your Tone of Voice from the Four Dimensions, Then Refine
If you haven’t decided how you want to relate to your audience in your content, now is the time.
How do you want to sound in your communications? What feels right for your brand, product, service, image, etc.?
“We decided to design a manageable web-specific tool that content strategists could use to create simple tone profiles for a company’s online presence. Our goal was to identify several tone-of-voice dimensions that could be used to describe the tone of voice of any website.”
These are the four dimensions:
Formal vs. casual
Funny vs. serious
Respectful vs. irreverent
Enthusiastic vs. matter-of-fact
Each dimension is represented by two extremes (e.g. formal at one end, casual at the other). You could choose a tone that’s one of the extremes, or decide to fall somewhere between the two.
Additionally, using a mix of dimensions is a good way to further refine your tone. For example, your brand tone of voice could be funny, casual, squarely in-between respectful and irreverent, and matter-of-fact.
Once you define each of your dimensions, you can then choose more specific words that further describe your brand voice. For instance:
Funny: Playful, punny
Casual: Chatty and friendly
Respectful/irreverent: Witty, kind
Matter-of-fact: Direct, outspoken
Once you’ve refined your tone of voice this far, it’s easy to choose a corresponding point of view to use in your content.
First-person: The least formal; relatable, subjective; storytelling emphasis
Second-person: The most direct; helpful, guiding
Third-person: The most formal; professional, knowledgeable, objective
You’ll make your readers feel the exact opposite of what you want.
This is easy to do when you go too far with tone of voice.
For example, maybe you decide you don’t want to be merely funny – you want to be HILARIOUS. So, you use exclamation points like they’re the only option, you constantly make ham-handed jokes, and you attempt to be light-hearted no matter what.
Or, maybe you want to sound professional and intelligent. You take care to always be serious, only use 3rd-person POV, pull from a rigorous vocabulary, and create a rule where your sentences must always be at least five words long.
Do you see how, in both scenarios, you’re going too far with each tone of voice?
In the first case, you won’t come off as a comedic genius or even funny – instead, you’ll sound unhinged, wacky, and uncaring.
In the second case, you won’t impress anyone. You’ll drive people away from your brand with your cold aloofness and condescending style.
When implementing your tone of voice, balance is a necessity.
Don’t rigidly stick to your chosen tone of voice when it doesn’t make sense. There are times to be serious and times to be more formal, even if your overarching voice is casual and funny.
Be human in your communication with your audience. Use common sense.
Don’t get set in your ways. Formal doesn’t necessarily equate with wordy. Informal doesn’t mean you must only be brief.
As we said, tone of voice and point of view in your written content is all about word choice and punctuation.
Keep your point of view consistent. Don’t insert “I” and “me” into a blog where you’re using third-person POV. Similarly, don’t refer to people as “they” when you’re writing in second-person, and so on.
Use the vocabulary that matches up with your chosen tone of voice. The tone of voice you’ve defined comes with its own vocabulary. For example, if you’re a brand like MailChimp, your voice is simple, straightforward, and warm. See how their word choices reflect this?
If “love” and “heart” don’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, I don’t know what will.
Remember the definition of tone of voice. Your tone of voice determines how you come across to customers. Always, always think about how you might sound to them when putting together your content and copy.
Need help honing your online writing skills and correctly using tone of voice to snare your audience? Check out the Unlearn Essay Writing course.
Your Tone of Voice and Point of View Define Your Brand
Who you are online (or who you want to be) is demonstrated through your point of view and tone of voice. The perspective you speak from and the emotions you stir up in others will define your personality and presence.
Understand what each of these writing concepts will mean to your brand, then define them. Finally, keep them consistent across channels to build better relationships with customers.