Every brand that focuses on content creation and has a content marketing strategy in place, has one goal in mind.
They all want to publish optimized content, and reach as many people as possible, aiming to engage them, and convert them into becoming customers.
However, there is one area where the most successful publishers stand out from the rest. They all have editorial guidelines, which dictate their publishing standards.
But what does that mean, you ask?
Let us find out.
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What Are Editorial Guidelines?
Editorial guidelines are a set of rules that determine the style, and structure of your content.
They help to maintain brand consistency across your publications, and can serve as a reference point for when content team members are wondering how to approach a certain topic or case.
For instance, the editorial guidelines could include whether you write in American English or British English, the types of images you include, and the structure of your posts.
All this sounds good and all, but you are probably wondering how to write and execute such a plan?
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How to Write Editorial Guidelines in 7 Easy Steps
- Know Your Audience
- Explain the Goals of Your Content
- Determine Your Tone of Voice
- Clarify Your Main Topics and Types of Content
- Set Content Length
- Include a Style Guide
- State Your Linking Strategy
1. Know Your Audience
How do you know what to write, if you do not know whom you are writing for? That is at the heart of every content marketing endeavor, knowing your target audience.
The same goes for writing your editorial guidelines. In fact, this ought to be your first step when crafting your own guidelines, since it, more or less, dictates how you will write everything else on your list.
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2. Explain the Goals of Your Content
The next step to writing your editorial guide is to think about the goals of your content. What is the main focus of your content? What do you want to accomplish?
The goal could be to:
- Generate leads or email subscribers.
- Build trust and loyalty with your audience.
- Connect with your customers.
- Raise awareness for important causes.
- Create demand for your product or service.
Or any other goal that is important to your business, and answers the objective: “This is what we want to achieve.”
Of course, setting your goals upfront will make it much easier for your writers and content team to know the purpose of your content, and adjust their writing accordingly.
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3. Determine Your Tone of Voice
The tone of voice you choose for your brand is the pillar on which your entire content strategy will revolve around. It builds your brand identity, and establishes a connection with your readers.
It is mandatory to tell your content creators the tone of voice you want them to follow. What is more, the tone of your brand should be consistent across all channels – social media, blog, landing pages, etc.
Having said that, there are many types you can use for your brand. You have serious, humorous, informal, professional, conversational, and so forth.
Whichever you pick, make sure that it fits your brand personality, and think how it would resonate with your target audience.
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4. Clarify Your Main Topics and Types of Content
Of course, you cannot write about everything. Not only will such an approach confuse your audience, but it will also be bad for your E-A-T score.
Therefore, you should clearly point out what your main topics will be, and what type of content you prefer to be created, based on said topics.
For instance, if your website is focusing on marketing, your main topics can be: SEO, email marketing, social media, advertising, etc. The main types of content could be blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts.
Alternatively, if you are a more business-related organization, you can choose to publish more white papers, and reports, relying on the more serious tone of voice they convey.
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5. Set Content Length
How long should your content be, is a common question among content marketers. The truth is that it depends on the type of audience you want to reach.
For instance, busy business people will likely not have the time to read 1500-2000 word articles.
However, your buyer persona might be people that are very detail-oriented, meaning you will need to publish thoroughly researched, longer content.
In all cases, keep in mind that the length of your content is not just something you throw dice to decide. Quite the contrary, you should always let your readers guide you.
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6. Include a Style Guide
Number 1 and number one have the same meaning, right? So do yourself a favor and favour. Because both are correct.
Still, using both terms in the same text, or interchangeably in various content, can be irritating.
This is all part of what a style guide should address. To be fair, the only thing that does matter here is the consistency. Pick whether you will be writing in American or British English (based on your audience), how you will write numbers, will you use the Oxford comma, etc.
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7. State Your Linking Strategy
Links are important. Links provide additional information that leads to other resources, be it on your website, or on another website. Links are also a crucial part of search engine optimization.
Still, there are a few rules you need to set, regarding how the linking will be done on your pages.
- What is the minimum amount of links?
- Which websites should you never link to (competitors)?
- What is the criteria for external linking?
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What Are the Benefits of Editorial Guidelines?
Okay, so you might be doubting the significance of having editorial guidelines, let us show you how it can help your content team and business.
- Provides consistency. Having editorial guidelines makes writers consider the smallest details when writing. This helps you achieve that much-needed consistency, and ensures that you are always using, for instance, the Oxford comma or American English.
- Helps collaboration. Sometimes more than one person is involved in the creation of content. In such cases, editorial standards make it much easier for everyone to follow the same rules, and be on the same page. Otherwise, if you have two writers writing the same article, one might use a humorous tone in the beginning, while the other finishes the piece with a serious tone.
- Filters guest writers. Do you accept guest post contributions? Surely, you must have received more than a few emails with people asking for the chance to publish an article on your website. It is much easier to filter such requests, if you have guidelines that definitely say what you accept and what not. We, at DevriX, also have article submission guidelines.
- Eliminates distractions. You want your readers to be able to fully focus on your content. You do not want them to focus on the typos you have made, or the inconsistent usage of certain words. In order to be 100% sure you will achieve the first scenario, just use editorial guidelines.
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Over to You: Do You Need Editorial Guidelines?
Ultimately, whether you decide to use editorial guidelines or not, is entirely up to you. However, in all cases, a serious publisher must meet certain editorial standards, thus it would be easier for all, if you have such guidelines written down somewhere.
Just as an example, why do you think that a serious, renown publisher like BBC has editorial guidelines? It’s because they want to publish optimized content of the highest quality. And that’s something everybody should strive for no matter the tone of voice or the topics they cover.
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