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How to nail your website’s tone of voice

When asked what I wanted to write about for my first official Yardstick blog, I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t have difficulty choosing a topic the team was on board with.

As a copywriter and Yardstick newbie, it’s been brilliant coming into an agency that values content as much as this one does, and really places it front and centre of a marketing plan. It was natural, then, that my first post is focused on the power of words – namely, how to use them to nail your website’s tone of voice.

Why does tone of voice matter online?

Put simply, your website’s tone of voice matters for the same reason your tone in real life does – it impacts how people perceive you.

Your website is pretty much the first place prospective customers meet you online (after the Google search results page, of course). It’s their entry point into your business, and your opportunity to make a good first impression.

A few other reasons why it’s important:

  • It helps you stand out from the crowd
  • It increases trust and familiarity
  • It shines light on the people behind the business
  • It helps people understand what you do/how you do it

How to develop your tone of voice

Getting your tone of voice right online is easier said than done, but it all starts with a bit of groundwork. Try giving the following a go:

Define your values

The best place to start is with your company values. After all, these are intended to be the foundation blocks of your business, there to guide you in everything you do.

You likely already have some in place, and if not there’s no time like the present to come up with a few. What do you stand for as a business?

Are you caring? Passionate? Do you strive for integrity and fairness? Are you in the pursuit of innovation?

Think about what this means for the way you conduct your business, for how your staff conduct themselves. This will influence the way you speak, and influence the way you write online.

Casual vs formal

This is one of the easiest bits to decide when it comes to developing your tone, and you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what works for you already.

Imagine a slider, with casual on one end and formal on the other. Whereabouts on the scale do you sit?

Businesses with a formal tone will likely talk in the third person and not use contractions – ‘we will’ instead of ‘we’ll’, ‘there is’ instead of ‘there’s’ etc.

It’s this tone that most old-school firms have gone with in the past. It can give across a sense of professionalism and authority, but also runs the risk of sounding overly corporate and putting up barriers between you and your reader.

Those using a casual tone are more likely to speak in the first person, with a more conversational style that reflects natural speech. This tends to have the effect of feeling more friendly and personable, but could perhaps be perceived as flippant.

Choosing which end of the spectrum your business sits will help inform the way you write the content for your website.

No need to stop at casual vs formal, either. You can map out your tone using a number of different dimensions, which will help to develop a more well-rounded voice.

Know your audience

It’s important to remember that when writing for your website, you aren’t writing for yourself but for your customers. They’re who you need to resonate with, and who you need to be speaking to.

If your audience is made up of mostly those in an older age range, they might prefer a more formal or respectful manner. A younger target audience might be more receptive to an informal tone of voice, the use of colloquialisms etc.

It’s also worth thinking about not just who your audience is, but what they want. If they’re ambitious with big dreams and goals, they’ll relate to a sense of passion and drive, while family-lovers might latch onto a more nurturing, empathetic voice.

Knowing your audience could help determine more accurately where you sit on the slider I mentioned above. But whoever they are, they’re real people – so try and speak to them as such.

This but not that

This is a great exercise for further fine-tuning your tone of voice, detailing what it is and what it isn’t.

For instance, you might say that you’re…

Enthusiastic, but not over-the-top 

Casual, but not unprofessional 

Friendly, but not over-familiar 

Humorous, but not silly 

Try it with a few different characteristics to really get down to the core of how you want to sound.

Consider different contexts

No one speaks the same way all the time. Our tone changes depending on the scenario and the circumstances, and this needs to happen on your website too.

Think about the subject and the format of the content you’re writing. For example, an irreverent tone probably won’t go down as well while discussing your fees as it will on a Meet the Team page.

It’s all about context, so always keep that in mind.

Having trouble finding your voice? Lean on us

As I touched on in my intro, it’s great to be in an environment full of content geeks and genuinely great writers – and we’re not just here to share that passion and amongst ourselves.

We can help you develop your own unique tone of voice for your website, and implement it in a way that encourages your audience to take action.

Just get in touch at [email protected] or call 0115 8965 300 to have a chat about your content.

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