How to: Writing transparent and semantic content

When writing digital content it can be tempting to add bells and whistles to give the content a specific tone or brand. But it’s just as important to ensure that your content is transparent, and uses clear terminology that appeals to your audience.

We use an analogy:

“If you’re selling baked beans, say baked beansnot rehydrated pulses in a tomato sauce’.”

So why is transparency so important?

Transparent content has multiple benefits, especially online. It is easier and faster for users to get an understanding of subject matter. Transparency gives the content more clarity and from a brand perspective, increases confidence by getting straight to the point. There are also clear marketing benefits. Transparent terms are the phrases potential clients use to search for products and services. So if your content is well written, and uses these terms in a natural way, your placement on search engines will be far higher.

How to write transparent, performance-focused content

The process below shows how to create performance-focused transparent content that performs well from both brand and service-offering perspectives.

  1. Define purpose
  2. Audience
  3. Define content type
  4. Define tone and voice
  5. Research terminology for widest usage
  6. Writing the content and semantics
  7. Cross linking and external links and references

1). Define purpose

Many content writers fall at this first hurdle. It’s all too easy to forget the purpose of the content you are writing. This should always be at the back of your mind. Focusing on purpose will help you to clearly define the type of content, tone and audience.

2). Audience

Understanding your desired audience is crucial. Different audiences have individual expectations and use their own terminology, with regional or industry-specific variations. A potential user in the legal sector, for example, will use different terminology to one in the financial sector. So, depending on who you are targeting, adapting the content terminology is very important. Defining the audience also helps you to see other sectors from outside of your own bubble. Remember the content isn’t for you, it’s for your clients.

3). Define content type

The type of content should be dictated by your purpose and audience. An opinion piece or case study may capture the interest of fellow legal professionals, whereas a ‘how-to’, checklist or info-graphic will engage potential clients.
Think about longevity. Some types of content have a short shelf life, but useful and educational content, through which you share your professional knowledge, will be continually used and referenced- often years after it was posted.

4). Define tone and voice

Think about how you want your content to be perceived before your start writing. If you get your tone right, you’ll soon build a loyal audience. There’s a great guide on MailChimp which gives insight into choosing the right tone and voice: http://voiceandtone.com/blog/

5). Research terminology for widest usage

There can be a little bit of psychology involved here. Understanding your audience and figuring out the search terms they use to find you can be tricky. But often the simplest phrases will be the right ones. Try to keep your search terms to the point, and don’t join them together to cover different areas, e.g. “Financial and Banking”. It is far better to have two separate pieces of content under the terms ‘Banking’ and ‘Financial’. You can also keep an eye on online search trends with tools such as Google Trends ( https://www.google.com/trends/) and the keyword checking tools in Google Adwords ( http://www.google.com/adwords/ ) to see what people are actually looking for.

6). Writing the content and semantics

Now you know your subject, audience and tone. But what’s the best way to create and structure your content?

Web users like to scan information – and structuring the content makes this easy. Use headings, lists, indentation, links, anchors, block quotes and general formatting to make content easier to read and reference. Also use correctly labelled images, info-graphics, graphs and charts and tabulated data-matrixes to make the data easier to scan and absorb.

Referencing a solid block of content can be difficult. Semantically structuring or nesting content under logical heading tags is both quick and easy, and has benefits from both a user and search engine perspective. This allows users and Google to accurately reference specific blocks of content. The key terms should be in the main headings and the supporting content in the sub headings as follows:

  • heading one: Commercial legal advice
    • heading two: Legal services
      • heading three: Cases
  • heading two: Lawyers

There are also some rules when structuring headings semantically. Never jump a heading just for formatting reasons, example:

  • heading one: Commercial legal advice
    • heading three: Cases (Jumping from a heading one tag to a heading three tag is a no no )

This is classed as being semantically incorrect, and will not do you any favours from an SEO perspective.

7).  Cross linking and external links and references

Share the love! If you want to add external links to articles and other references don’t be afraid of losing traffic. If you link to other valuable resources this will boost your SEO by placing you in a Google family of related, and authoritative, information.

In conclusion

Naturally written content will always be good content. But accurate use of terminology, tone, and formatting can greatly improve its performance and longevity online. Every well-written piece of content is a marketing asset for your chambers – so make sure yours is transparent or it simply won’t perform.

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