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What's Your Website Tone of Voice?

Posted on Aug 4, 2019

I recently submitted website copy to a client who said what was most important in re-launching their website was the overall tone of voice. It wasn’t that the website content was relevant, engaging and technically correct – it was ALL of these including tone of voice.

I found that comment provocative and it lead me to review other websites that I’ve worked on over the years to see if their tone of voice is still consistent.

Drum roll … was there still a consistent tone of voice in the websites that I launched over four years ago? Often, no. But, from what I could read, that was fine. Here’s why. All the top level pages haven’t changed much over the years. The content is still relevant, engaging and technically correct and written with one voice because the website top level pages were all written at the same time. What had changed were pages presenting new products or services written at a later date, and blog sections due to different people contributing new content.

Does having many tones of voice on a website diminish its readability or effectiveness? Yes.

If you go to a website and feel like several people are talking to you with a different tone the content can become confusing or distracting and make your brand message not as strong as you’d like it to be.

How do You Get the Most from Your Current Website Copy?

Great website content should be easy to read, scan, have strong calls to action and make an emotional connection.

What’s most important is that the needs of your target audience are always being met through the value you are providing through customer stories, examples and applications.

If the news or blog section tone of voice varies – that’s OK because many site visitors are used to having guest authors or other contributors participating in blogs. For the rest of the website, I’d recommend conducting a site audit.

What’s a Website Audit?

It’s an in-depth review of all the pages on your website done at one time by a single person. You are looking at content through a fresh perspective using agreed upon guidelines for editing. In particular, I find it useful to:

  • Ensure the use of headers, subheads and bullet lists are consistently used so content is easy to scan.
  • Check that all photos have descriptions and are optimized for download.
  • Adopt one form of grammar and punctuation and update the website so it’s consistent. 
  • Check if the content becoming stale or dated? Update or delete it. Google now rewards companies for removing out of date or no longer relevant content by ranking your site higher in search engines. It’s called removing index bloat and it has a strong impact on your SEO rankings.
  • Is the content keeping pace with changes in technology or the market in which you compete?
  • Is there a call to action? What do you want the site visitor to do after they read content on your website? Contact you? Book an appointment? Register for a webinar? Have you made it easy for a site visitor to do these things?

Of course, what’s imperative in ensuring the tone of voice is consistent for your company is to have one person conduct the audit. It is also helpful to have a messaging document as a guide through this process. This document outlines:

  • Target audience – who are you writing for?
  • Problem in the industry today?
  • What is the ideal solution to this problem?
  • What is your organization’s unique way of solving this problem that only you can lay claim to? Can you articulate this in less than 20 words and 50 words?
  • Do you have three to five problem supporting statements that help ‘tell your story’?

As you re-read pages throughout the website, start to compare the content to this document to ensure that it’s still relevant and that your target audience can relate to what you’re saying. Also, ensure that you are adopting a consistent, over arching tone for the company’s brand messaging. Is it formal? Conversational? Very technical?

I have found that the more your tone of voice is conversational in website copy – the more approachable your copy becomes regardless of how technical the subject matter might be. Creating curiosity with your website visitors so that they will want to learn more is one of the most effective methods for encouraging them to take action.

I often test website copy with someone outside of the industry to read copy on a site to see if it still makes sense to them.

Business to Business (B2B) website copy can be very difficult to read and sometimes it’s downright boring.  Familiarity with terms and acronyms in your industry is good but ask yourself can anybody else read it and does it make sense?  Don’t get bogged down using industry terminology and using it all the time. Ensure that acronyms are written out at least once on a page. After all, SME can mean Subject Matter Expert in one company and Small to Medium Size Enterprise in another.

Reap the Rewards of a Consistent Tone of Voice

Your message is what you’re trying to communicate to your target audience. Your tone of voice is how you communicate it. When that tone is consistent, you naturally create website copy that is engaging and appealing to your target audience.

Find your tone of voice by measuring the value of your content by using a messaging document that has been created before conducting a website audit and keep referring back to it to ensure that your content is speaking to the right level in an organization. It’s essential that it is completed by a single person to ensure consistency and then given to a group within your organization for review to ensure that it does read well.  

Remember that a great tone of voice can inspire desirable emotional responses by the people you want to connect with on your website – and emotional responses play a big part in human decision-making. In fact, it’s been proven that people remember how they feel about a brand or experience and being memorable helps your company break through the all the noise on the internet. So if they feel nothing, they remember nothing.

Tone of voice can help your website visitors trust you, believe in you and connect with you. Good reasons for ensuring you have a consistent tone of voice today and into the future when writing website copy.