With the scope and breadth of today’s talent pool and the availability of outsourced expertise, it’s not that hard to find SEO pros for your business. For the very same reasons, hiring highly-qualified content writers isn’t particularly hard, either. But to find a content writer who’s able to incorporate an understanding of SEO while writing in a way that effectively sells? This is the real challenge.
If you’re facing this dilemma, here’s some good news: you’re not totally powerless against it. You can definitely help your writers strike a balance between SEO and good content—and this is by crafting a style guide that’s:
What exactly is a style guide?
In a nutshell, the style guide we’re talking about here is a document that guides your writers in effectively writing SEO-friendly content for your website (or your clients’).
The guidelines in the document must be detailed yet concise. They have to clearly define your expectations of the writer’s output without overwhelming them with unnecessary fluff. Writers don’t need to know the ins and outs of SEO or, say, detailed descriptions of how your brand operates.
In the style guide, you have to focus on defining the message you want to impart, the tone and language to be used, and who the target readers are, among other things.
In this article, we’ll teach you what you need to learn in order to craft an effective style guide for your writers.
How would your content writers benefit from a style guide?
It’s not unusual for us to hear complaints about finding consistent writers. You know the feeling—one day you’re receiving amazing output and the next day you’re left utterly disappointed by the submission you got.
It’s easy to play the blame game and immediately assume that the writer you’d hired simply isn’t good enough. But in reality, you’re probably contributing to the problem more than you think.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, I know. But consider this:
- You go through the hoops of hiring a content writer online.
- You provide them with the topic, relevant URLs, keywords, tone, and word count.
- You call it a day and wait for the output.
- You receive the submission.
After step 4, you’re either left utterly satisfied or you aren’t—and then you try to salvage the situation by imposing major edits on the material.
The latter doesn’t sound very efficient, does it? We all know how hit-or-miss situations should be avoided like a plague for the sake of your business.
This is where the style guide comes in. If the 4-step procedure outlined above rings too close to home, it’s definitely time for you to reconsider your SOP. You have to give particular attention to giving your writers the right instructions. When you don’t, they’re left to their own devices and are then forced to improvise for all of missing information and directions themselves.
Giving your writers a style guide sets them up for success. They’ll be provided with everything they need to know to get the job done right each and every time. This should effectively eliminate problems regarding inconsistent quality—because now, they know exactly what you’re looking for.
Keep in mind that your writers, like the rest of the human population, aren’t mind-readers. No matter how skilled or experienced your writer is, can’t use it as a reason to expect that they’ll magically know exactly what you want.
So, how do you create an effective style guide?
Understanding the principles behind successful SEO content is one thing. But knowing how to relay that knowledge into clear and effective instruction is another.
SEO pros may have a fine grasp of what it takes to write SEO-optimised content, but many of them simply don’t have the expertise needed to produce materials that are optimised for conversion, as well.
Employing a style guide is the key to bridging this gap. With it, you’ll be able to utilise your writer’s copywriting talent while ensuring that SEO is also optimised and not neglected.
To create this fine piece of work, you have to outline these 11 key concepts:
- Define the brand’s mission.
- Content objective. What purpose are you trying to achieve with the content?
- Relevant words. Are there taglines, phrases, or words that are associated with the brand?
- Define and describe the brand’s focus audience.
- What tone does the brand want to convey to connect to its audience?
- What style of writing fits the brand?
- What problem does the brand aim to address and how will the content help solve it?
- Establish the different platforms used to drive traffic into the content page.
- How would you like the content to be organised?
- Define the specific type of conversions you’re trying to achieve through the piece.
- Run through what’s expected of the writer. Is he/she expected to do keyword research? Are there tools—such as SEO analysis platforms—that are required for them to use?
Along with the things mentioned above, you should also include relevant details about your target page format, such as:
- If you’ve already defined a title, indicate it here.
- Describe the formatting and length for the meta description and title tag.
- Include the required keywords and keyword density (if any).
- Word count. Word count—pretty self-explanatory.
- Paragraph length. How many sentences should each paragraph contain?
- Keyword placement. Describe how and where you want the keywords to be used.
- Establish the formatting and number of H2 and H3 tags, if needed.
- External links. Number and nature of external links, if applicable.
- Internal links. Number and nature of internal linking per page.
- You can include an outline of the sections of content for clearer instruction.
- Should CTAs be included in the text? If so, how many and where should they be placed?
- Other details. Describe extra requirements in this section, such as the use of snippets, numbered or bulleted lists, and anchor links.
As mentioned, you don’t necessarily have to have everything listed on your style guide. Just determine which guidelines are relevant to the specific content. If there are areas where the writer is free to exercise their own decision-making, indicate it clearly in the expectations section.
Now that you’re familiar with the magic of the style guide, it’s time to put your learnings into action. Sure, creating one may be an extra step for you to accomplish. But it’s an extra step that will help save you numerous headaches (and time and money misuse!) in the days, months, and years to come.