“You know, you should really write the way you talk.” Sure, OK. But what does that mean? Is it professional for a brand to talk to customers like they’re old friends? How does it affect things like search engine optimization (SEO)? Pull up a chair, friend, and let’s hash it out.
Why Conversational Matters
Right now, every minute of the day, nearly 160 million emails are sent, more than 4 million YouTube videos are viewed, and nearly 4 million Google searches are conducted. By 2020, it’s estimated that for every person on earth, 1.7 MB of data will be created every second.
With such a connected world, it’s ironically becoming more difficult than ever to form lasting connections. But the good news is that these folks searching the web are yearning for brands worthy of their loyalty. More than 65% of people admit they feel emotional connections with brands and businesses. And, for most, what captured their hearts was the feeling the brand cared about them.
One of the easiest ways to make this type of valuable connection is to engage in authentic conversations. The voice you choose for that conversation should be rooted in your company’s values. Is your organization focused on transparency, helpfulness and innovation? Your brand’s conversational voice should be, too.
And, when this happens, something miraculous occurs deep inside your readers’ brains. As this Psychology Today article points out, conversations aren’t simply a way of sharing information. They can cause a chemical reaction.
“As we communicate, our brains trigger a neurochemical cocktail that makes us feel either good or bad,” explain the authors Nicklas Balboa and Richard D. Glaser, Ph.D. “‘Feel good’ conversations trigger higher levels of dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins and other biochemicals that give us a sense of well-being.”
A whopping 95% of our purchasing decisions take place in this subconscious area overseen by our emotions. And, among those emotionally connected consumers, 70% spend twice as much on the brands with whom they’ve bonded.
How It Can Affect Your SEO
You want to write so your audience will listen. But these days, you also want to write so search engines will listen, too. Do those two goals contradict each other? Sometimes. But not as much as you might think…at least, not anymore.
For more than a decade, SEO has centered around the keywords users plug in when they type a request into a search engine. These shorthand keywords don’t necessarily exist in natural speech. It’s quite the adventure to work longtail keyword phrases like “Austin web developers contract” into natural, conversational website copy.
But the game is changing, thanks to voice search.
A PwC study found that 57% of consumers who now use voice assistants like Siri and Alexa are using them to find information online that they normally would have typed into a search engine. By next year, half of all online searches will be conducted via voice search.
Content that’s written conversationally is perfect for this conversational voice search takeover. When you write your content in a way that seems to answer a casual question, you’re on the right track because your content actually will answer someone’s casual question posed to their voice assistant. (Among those who own a voice-activated speaker, 41% say it feels like talking to a friend or another person.)
Gone are the days when content that sounded “too human” would get you a terrible ranking in search results. Our AI overlords are better than that now and, frankly, they’re offended you assumed otherwise.
4 Tips to Start the Conversation
Get personal. You can’t have a conversation without two people talking directly to each other. Second-person point of view (using “you” and “your”) is a critical way to achieve this. With only a few exceptions, like press releases and white papers, second person is the way to go for online content. First person (“I” and, for brands, “we”) can be trickier to master, but it still trumps a detached third-person point of view.
Contract. You would not (er, wouldn’t) get very far in a conversation without contractions—like “it’s” versus “it is”—so embrace them when you write. In fact, using contractions can be one of the easiest ways to immediately transform formal copy into a conversational tone. The results with that one simple change are nothing short of remarkable. Suddenly stuffy, disjointed content is easier to read and becomes more understandable and relatable.
Vary your sentence lengths. Length matters, at least in this case. Too many long sentences can make copy confusing and boring. Too many small sentences can seem choppy and immature. A variety of short and long sentences gives the reader space to comfortably digest what you’re telling them, just as the cadence of a conversation would.
Read it out loud. You want your copy to sound like a conversational voice, even if that conversation is happening in the reader’s head. Thanks to voice assist, more and more people will have your content read out loud to them anyway, so it might as well sound as good as it looks. Always read your copy out loud to yourself. When you get tripped up, assume that’s where others will, too, and simplify your language in those areas. Replace tricky words and phrases and break down complex thoughts into smaller bitesize pieces.
Brands are becoming more “human.” Search engines are, too. Embrace the evolution by breaking down the walls you’ve learned to put up between you and the readers of your content. By simply using a conversational voice and writing conversationally, you increase your chances of cutting through the billions of messages being thrown at consumers daily.