As we discussed last month, there are many things that go into an effective content marketing strategy. From your target audience to your overall marketing goals, there are multiple aspects of your overall strategy that will influence what kind of content you put out, and you can solidify the overall feel and brand of your content with a custom content style guide.
If your organization puts out any kind of written content, you should be utilizing a style guide for all of your content, particularly if you have a team of multiple writers and marketers all creating their own content for your organization.
Many businesses like to choose an existing style guide, most commonly the Chicago or AP style guide, to serve as their house style guide for all written content. Using existing style guides as a base is a great way to start off your style guide, but it shouldn’t be your endpoint. No one knows your organization and its goals better than you do, and having a style guide created by your team, for your team is the way to ensure that everything you create is in line with your brand.
Statistically, content creation is the most effective SEO technique, leading to a 434% increase in search engine-indexed pages compared to sites that do not create and publish content. As we’ve discussed in our other recent blogs, it’s important to have a concrete content marketing strategy, and part of that is having a content style guide.
Why Do You Need a Style Guide?
First, let’s clarify what a style guide is. Style guides are often thought of as synonymous with SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), but while the two are similar and often go hand in hand, they’re not quite the same.
- An SOP is a set of instructions on how to do something.You might have an SOP for project management, the content publication process, SEO, social media sharing, or any other processes that your organization carries out.
- A style guide is a bit more specific than that – it’s a set of standards for the writing, formatting, and style of content for a specific domain, whether it’s a business, publication, academic institution, or industry. It’s not just a set of instructions; it has a creative component to it as well. Where an SOP tells you what to do, a style guide tells you how you should do it.
There are many reasons why you should have a style guide for your written content. Let’s take a look at a few:
- Creating consistency. It’s likely that you have more than one person creating written content for your company, and it’s even more likely that all of your writers have their own unique styles. Having a style guide that establishes your business’s tone, voice, writing style, and overall brand (say, whether they should refer to the business as Neilson, Neilson Marketing, Neilson Marketing Services, or NMS) will ensure that you create content that is consistent across the board.
- Saving time on editing. This goes hand in hand with creating consistency in your content. Rather than spending hours editing all of your content, you can establish a set of standards that all content should meet before being turned in. That way, you only need to do a quick read-through and edit of content instead of having to completely rewrite an off-brand article.
- Addressing frequently-asked questions. Whether they’re stylistic or technical, some questions are likely to come up from your writers. Maybe they want to know your stance on the Oxford comma. Maybe they want to know what they should call the business (full name or abbreviation). Maybe they aren’t sure if making pop culture references or using certain terminology (like slang or other colloquialisms) is acceptable. If you’re noticing certain things constantly coming up from your team, add them to your style guide and let them know that their questions can be answered there.
- Providing industry-specific information. Your team may be talented at writing, but they may not have as much experience in your field as you do. If you write specialized content, it can be helpful for your style guide to include industry-focused information and certain key terms and lingo so they will know how to write for that niche.
- Optimizing for search engines. There are a number of things that make a piece of content SEO-friendly, and many of them are surprisingly simple. If you let your writers know how long their content should be, when and how to use focus keywords, what the approximate keyword density should be, how many internal and external links to use, how to format a call-to-action (CTA), and more.
Get Started on Your Style Guide
Obviously a style guide for marketing will not be the same as an academic style guide. Writing style and the mechanics of language aren’t important, but for many marketers, they aren’t a priority.
The ideal content style guide will provide guidance for both linguistic style and marketing integration. As we’ve discussed previously, managing to strike that balance between writing for search engines and writing for your readers is something that many content marketers and writers struggle with, and your style guide should give your team the tools they need to create content that will satisfy both needs.
A good style guide will include the following:
- Formatting guidelines
- Spelling and grammar guidelines
- Target audience
- Tone and voice
- The content’s purpose
- Overall style
- Words to use and to avoid
- Page formatting
- Keyword usage and density
- Internal and external linking
- Length (overall length as well as sentence and paragraph length)
…and anything else that you think is important for your content!
When it comes to online marketing for insurance agencies, content is one of the key elements to effective online marketing, and a style guide can help your content go from good to great. A style guide is about more than just the words you use and how you structure your sentences. A comprehensive, well-crafted style guide will ensure that all of your writers are creating content for your organization that is consistent, well-branded, SEO-friendly, efficient, and high-quality. Need help developing your content strategy? Our digital marketing services, including content marketing, are here to help you out.
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