The “t’s” may be crossed and the “i’s” may be dotted, but this alone doesn’t make for exceptional content. Proper grammar is only one component of great writing; of equal importance is how the words are phrased. Even the most compelling message can be lost amidst sentences that lack style, emotion and energy. Furthermore, content phrasing can have a large impact on SEO and search engine ranking. For all of these reasons, content phrasing is the final marketing “finesse” that should be placed on every piece of content that represents your brand or business. Here are several ways in which you can learn how to edit effectively for content phrasing.
First, identify your call to action. Even the best content will fail to convert visitors into customers unless it has a clear call to action. Take a critical look at your content. If you’re not able to identify this call to action within the first paragraph, this is a missed opportunity. It makes sense to place the call to action at the end of the content, since this is the “take-away” you’d like to leave readers with; however, it must appear sooner and more frequently than once at the very end. Instead, clearly announce your call to action right after introducing the main message. Ideally, this should be within the first paragraph. Then repeat this at least once more at the end of the content. Also try and weave it in to another paragraph or two, rephrasing it slightly to add interest.
Second, don’t be passive. Sure, this is great advice for life, but in this instance it should be applied to content phrasing. Content that feels dull, boring or uninspired most likely uses passive verbs instead of active verbs. Especially in the public relations/media relations world, professionals avoid passive verbs and replace them with active verbs as often as possible. First read this sentence: “Our custom web site was created by John Smith, our in-house web guru.” Now compare it to this: “Our in-house web guru, John Smith created our custom built web site.” The first sentence uses a passive verb while the second uses an active verb. It’s a subtle change, but goes a long way toward making content “pop.”
Third, bust out your dictionary. There are so many ways to convey the same message, so why settle for saying it the same way as everyone else? Use a dictionary and thesaurus to find synonyms that can replace overused and worn out words. Doing this also provides a benefit for search engine optimization (SEO). By using phrases that are unique and specific to your topic, you will have less competition for Google rankings and your content will appear higher in search results. For example, content focusing on the phrase “best social media strategies” will have far more competition for search engine ranking since it’s such a general and popular term. On the other hand, “best twitter strategies for hair salons” is a more specific way to approach the topic and will have significantly less SEO competition.
Fourth, get a second opinion. If you are the writer, it is hard to also be a critical editor to your work. Phrases that are awkward or unclear may not appear that way to you since you wrote them and understand them fully. It’s important to have a co-worker, friend, or professional editor review the content to draw attention to phrases that don’t quite sound right. Again, these may be phrases that don’t include a single grammatical error, but that doesn’t necessarily make them ready for publishing. A trusted second set of eyes (ideally someone who would also be considered your target audience) is invaluable for fine-tuning content phrasing.
Finally and most broadly, your content should reflect the overall voice of your brand. Look at any well-marketed brand and you should be able to quickly identify the voice or tone of the content that transcends all of their marketing materials. For example, MailChimp.com has a voice that is fun, casual and a bit sarcastic – and definitely a monkey theme! Once you work with MailChimp long enough, you begin to expect this voice and associate it with the brand. It’s memorable, but most importantly it’s consistent. The same message written without MailChimp’s distinct voice could say the same thing, but customers would be more likely to block it out and less likely to remember it. For MailChimp, their voice has become a point of differentiation. Their content is carefully developed and edited so that it always maintains this voice.
Good luck and happy editing!