Expert interviews, Styleguides
We’re all trying to grow our website traffic. In times when the economy is dipping and companies are looking at decreasing marketing spend, growing organic inbound traffic (i.e. people who visit your site without seeing a costly ad) is especially important.
That’s why we’re sharing this interview with Ben Culpin. His team has been able to increase their site traffic by cleaning up their content voice and website style. Ben is a content marketer at WakeupData, an ecommerce feed platform based in Denmark. He focuses on creating materials which help online retailers and digital marketers to sell more online, through effective optimization of their product feeds. In this interview, we talked about content writing, their processes, and how they use a styleguide to improve all their marketing work.
Q&A with Ben Culpin, content marketer
1. Thanks for taking the time to talk about styleguides! First, can you introduce yourself, your work, and a different brand whose style you love or feel inspired by?
Thanks for inviting me! Firstly, my name is Ben and I work as a content marketer at WakeupData. We offer a platform to help ecommerce businesses manage all their product data in one place. My work focuses on solving common pain points, creating valuable client cases, and answering industry questions.
There are so many brands whose style I love! When creating our styleguide I was really inspired by Udacity, but I also like sites like Search Engine Journal, Hootsuite, and Nerd Marketing when it comes to website and blog style.
2. What does your company’s content process look like? Where is your styleguide used in that process?
The content creation process involves a lot of primary research to establish factors like intent, audience, keywords, competitor coverage, etc. From there we brainstorm possible concepts and ideas for titles and subjects that our content will address.
Myself or one of the marketing team members will begin drafting the content, followed by discussion of different approaches, SEO structuring, keyword targeting, and general editing from other team members. Once everyone is happy with the content, it’s scheduled to be published alongside social media and newsletter posts.
Our styleguide therefore plays a key role throughout the content writing process; it’s used for establishing the voice, tone, and language during the first stages of drafting and for editing the content. The final step of publishing requires the creation of social media text, graphics, and flashcards, so the styleguide also plays a role here in ensuring the copy and images match our guidelines.
3. Why is a content styleguide is important for writers?
I think a styleguide is important for myself and other writers as it ensures we are consistently approaching content from the same place. Using our styleguide means we know that our work will be the same across all our sites, channels, and platforms, regardless of subject or author. It helps us easily achieve a single voice which we know our audience can engage with and relate to.
Conversely, it prevents us from losing time debating what should be included in content, as our guide states in black and white what can or cannot be done.Our styleguide prevents us from losing time debating what should be included in content, as it states in black and white what can or cannot be done.Click To Tweet
4. Have you seen usage of your styleguide positively change your content or business outcomes?
Since publishing our re-worked styleguide last year we have definitely seen positive changes. Sessions on our site and blog domain have increased by 50% as a more understandable, approachable tone in all our content has been implemented.Sessions on our site and blog domain have increased by 50% as a more understandable, approachable tone in all our content has been implemented.Click To Tweet
Furthermore, the number of inbound leads from our content has increased. More potential clients are attracted to a consistent style across channel touchpoints (social media, website, email) which matches their buyer persona.
5. What drove the need to create a styleguide at your company? Who made the decision to start creating it?
Our first styleguide was created a few years ago, when we re-wrote all our website copy and began to regularly write and publish blog, newsletter, and social media content.
Our chief operations officer made the decision to implement a styleguide as he anticipated (correctly!) that over the coming years we would be expanding our team of writers, using freelancers and interns, all of whom would need an easy-to-access way to match our style.Our chief operations officer made the decision to implement a styleguide, as he anticipated (correctly!) that over the coming years we would be expanding our team of writers.Click To Tweet
6. Who uses your styleguide? What types of content does it govern?
Our styleguide is referenced by all content writers and marketers in our team, plus our graphic designer. Alongside this, we circulate it to guest writers, to ensure they match our voice, tone, and approach to content.
The guide governs everything in which our brand is heard: website text, blog content, email newsletters and nurtures, webinars, ebooks, and social media posts.
7. People often worry about what’s “worth including” and what’s not. What’s included in your styleguide today?
Our styleguide includes:
- Typography and fonts
- Type hierarchy
- Personality, voice, and tone
- Word lists
- US spellings with examples
- Prose styles
- Final writer’s checklist prior to publication
8. How does your team make decisions for your styleguide? Who are the stakeholders?
Our styleguide was created through a combination of research and our brand’s preferences. I carried out research on the subject, watched help videos guides, and spoke to experts from other businesses in our niche (both via LinkedIn and face-to-face conversations) who had also produced styleguides.Our styleguide was created through a combination of research and our brand’s preferences.Click To Tweet
The stakeholders for our guidelines comprise the marketing team, content writers, graphic designer, platform UI/UX designer, COO, and our CEO. Each one of these team members has a say in the decision making process and the final say will always be decided by the whole team with a vote.
We also make sure to check the styleguide and evaluate its effectiveness in our quarterly reviews (based on pre-set KPIs), so we regularly re-format the guide. I make sure I add extra details when they’re needed. Not massive changes each time but beneficial to make sure the guide is as good as it can be.
Our marketing team recently brought on a number of new members who are putting the styleguide to use every day. Observing it from their perspective has helped me realize where it could be simplified or worded differently in order to make it easier to follow and use.
10. How do you encourage or ensure writers use the styleguide? Do you ever make changes?
I make sure the guide is easily accessible from our CMS (HubSpot), so all stakeholders can access the guide quickly. I also circulate the guide to all freelance or guest article contributors to ensure they know our approach from the start.
11. Any final words of advice for people who are trying to decide if they need a styleguide at all?
If you’re in doubt about creating a styleguide, you should go ahead and do it. Even if you’re just starting out, sooner or later you will need one. It makes sense to lay the groundwork now and get your ideas and wishes on paper now.
We created ours with the knowledge that over the next few years our team would grow significantly, our website would be re-written, and our blog expanded. That styleguide has been a vital part of our expansion. Having it on-hand when we needed it has saved us a lot of time!Our styleguide has been a vital part of our expansion and having it on-hand when we needed it saved us a lot of time!Click To Tweet