Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style (Maddy Osman)
5:30PM Aug 3, 2022
nielsen norman group
Today I am joined by Maddie Osman. Maddie is the best selling author of writing for humans and robots The New Rules of content style. Maddie started her content journey as a freelance writer and is today the founder and CEO of the blog Smith, which is an agency focused on SEO content writing and strategy for b2b technology brands. She's been recognized by sem Rush is one of their top 100 content marketers, and she's gonna be talking to us about that today. So welcome back to iThemes Training Maddy, how's it going for you?
It's going great, Nathan, I think this is our third one. So we're we're getting into a good cadence here.
Yeah, for sure. So we were talking in the pre show about your book was just released a couple of weeks ago. What was that like? The process of writing and publishing a book on Amazon
is wild. And I will say that it helped a lot to have some experience working with other authors. Like years ago, I had partnered with a friend of mine who does a lot of paid ads stuff. And so he did kind of like the paid side of things for these authors. I did like the organic content creation, and I really got to see behind the scenes what actually goes into a successful book launch. So I would not have felt as confident you know, giving it a try without that prior experience. But luckily, I have benefited from the experience of others and working with them. So yeah, it's crazy. It's a ton of work. I think the writing is actually the easiest part. It's everything else that takes so much time and Nathan, you have a book on Amazon too. So I'm sure you know, just as well as I do.
It is a lot of work indeed. Yeah. So if you haven't seen Manny's book yet encourage you to do that. I'm gonna drop in a bundle of links in the Whoops, that's not the right link. You can go to that link but it's just the hits the the code to get closed captioning, which is not gonna help you out at all. Let's try that link again. There we go. So today's slides are there. Also the link to follow Maddie on Twitter and the link to the book there on Amazon writing for humans and robots. So a couple of housekeeping notes as we get started today. We invite you to ask questions throughout. This is of course a live webinar unless of course you are watching it on a replay. In which case robots or we may just be Yes, robots. Indeed. Some days feels that way. But ask your questions and Mattie will be here at the end to catch those questions in a wrap up time. To do that, we ask that you use the q&a feature in zoom. It's right below the shared window. If you put your mouse in there, pop up in that q&a window and ask your question. Also, it's helpful just to keep that open because you can upvote the questions of others and we'll take those questions at the end in order of the votes so in the time that we have. So Matty, let's get started. I'm looking forward to talking about this subject.
Yeah, me too. And thanks again for having me once again. So today yeah, we're really going to dig in on the topic of my book, but also a topic that I think everybody here has either some interest or experience in as online content creators and consumers. So that's, that's really what it comes down to, I think is the idea of creating a great reader experience regardless of who your reader is. And I'm seeing your questions if for some reason we don't get to your question during the q&a on definitely reach out via Twitter, but I'm happy to answer as many as we have time for but with that, let's go ahead and get started. So Nathan already gave a great intro so I won't spend too much time here but I run the blacksmith we work with a lot of WordPress brands. So that's where you might have seen my name in the past is like a byline. We work for a lot of web hosts plugins, other sort of WordPress integrations. I would say our specialty is definitely translating things like developer speak into something that the layperson can understand. And act on because a lot of small business owners don't necessarily have time to dig into you know, all the ins and outs of WordPress and so what we try to do with the majority of the clients we work with is just make it a little bit easier to understand. So part of doing this is being very conscious of how we're writing, who we're writing for the audience, all the little elements that make up that final content piece. And so writing for humans and robots. My book is very much based on our style guide. I'm going to talk about that today. And it expands on it to not only share whatever style rules we have, but really context around them, why we do it that way. You know and also kind of the difference between you know, this is wrong, this is right and giving examples for that. So if that's something you know, that's, that would be helpful to your process. I would recommend checking it out. And we're gonna dig into a lot of the content today so you can get kind of a feel for what you would find in the book. So I wanted to start by just sharing how like how I got here because it's relevant in this discussion of writing for humans and robots and creating a content style guide for your brand, which is we're going to we're going to hint at why you should do that throughout and how you can do that. So I'll just kind of dig in here. So I started as a freelance writer, working hard writing a lot. I kind of started to hit the limit of what I could do on my own and I keep using this metaphor similar, but it's kind of I guess it's similar. It's kind of like writing I feel like it's kind of like being a misuse in some ways. It's like, you know, eventually like you just get kind of tired like your body just gets tired of all that labor more mental in the case of writing but
you just, I just hit a wall that's that's what happened to me where I got tired of spending so much time on writing subjects and it just, I just knew that I couldn't do it forever, I guess is what I'm trying to say. So I started to think about well, if that's the case, then what am I going to do next? Because I still love this industry. I love writing. I love creating content. I just don't necessarily want to be the one who does all the writing. Does all the editing does all the client management, etc. And so because actually add a word camp, the last word camp us in 2019 that I had like an epiphany. Maybe it was just talking to other people and getting excited by what everybody else was working on. But I made the decision pretty much then in there that I was going to change my business into an agency model. And so then I had to think about well, how do I do that? Because I have my style of writing and if I want to hire people to help me then they have to understand that and they have to be able to effectively act on that because if there are no rules, there are no solid foundations below then I'm just going to be spending all my time being an editor instead of being a writer. And I think in both cases, it just wasn't what I wanted to do moving forward and so that's where the inspiration for our style guide the blog Smith style guide which I believe I have a link in this presentation for but I'm going to add it also to the chat here just so that you can see it. If zoom will let me maybe I'll just send it to you Nathan and then because I'm just not seeing the full pop up but I think it'll come up later and decides to at any rate. So we have this blacksmith style guide which is very comparable to something like APA style or other brand style guides that you might have seen that focus on writing specifically. And so I developed that so that I could hire writers and so that I could hire editors because I again didn't necessarily want to do that job as well. So started to hire writers started to figure out where my writing style was distinctive compared to you know, maybe some of the people that I was working with and just creating rules, you know, creating a reason for why we do things the way that we do them. And so the first editor I hired actually helped a lot with the original development of the style guide. And so we worked in tandem together, you know, worked kind of through writer pieces and we put this document together that was at the time, very basic, pretty high level. couple pages long. Now the blogs MyStyle guide is over 30 pages long, and I'm kind of bringing that up because I want to acknowledge that that might seem overwhelming. To somebody who maybe doesn't have a brand style guide defined yet, but I want you to understand that it's the result of many years of work with many people. And you know, we started somewhere too. So I just, you know, want to encourage you to use this as a reference for your own writing if it's helpful. You know, if there are things that you agree with, you can kind of just like take that and apply it to your style guide just as I did with APA style. But don't get overwhelmed because it's it's a work in progress and it's never going to be done is the other thing and I think that's another important thing to understand about content style is that things change. That's why books like The Elements of Style, it's still a mainstay, I have a copy on my bookshelf and reference it frequently. But what you know the Elements of Style didn't anticipate was the internet and so that's kind of where my book comes. into play. And also just the fact that things constantly change even what you know Strunk and White wrote in that book, many, many years ago, I think it was published in 1918. Even that, you know, the foundational rules stayed the same, but things do change and so does content style. So just to kind of like summarize this point here, when we established the blacksmith style guide, the early version, and then the later versions. That was when my business was able to scale to new heights because I no longer had to be the writer. I no longer had to be the editor. I could then assume a new role of like growth and branding, and all that good stuff. And, you know, it empowers us to grow further than we were at today because we're continuing to develop it. So we've touched on some of these points, but why should you bother with defining and caring about style? First of all foremost for me, I would say is getting the team on the same page and reducing time that you spend on edits. It's just it's something that it takes time anytime you develop processes. It's a high cognitive load to think about the process instead of just doing the work. That's That's true of any process. But what's also true about processes is that they save you a lot of time after you put them into place. So that's that's what we're talking about here. I think it's also a matter of by having proper style by caring about proper style, you can demonstrate professionalism, and expertise around your content publishing. And I think it comes back to consistency. And one example I could give is like, let's say that you have one article, and it's titled case, which is like every most every word is capitalized in sort of the sentence versus maybe you write another article and you publish it. And it's sentence case, which is just the first bullet or the first word is capitalized. It's kind of hard, I think, for people to consciously be like, Okay, that's title case, that sentence case and that's inconsistent. I think what's worse is that it's hard to notice that and to give it a name, but you do know that it's inconsistent. And so it's kind of like a user experience issue at that point. Like, why is it that like they didn't they weren't consistent with this thing. Maybe they're inconsistent with other aspects of style and the way that they run their business so I just think that consistency leads to trust. And, according to Robert Cialdini, who wrote, influence people buy from those that they know like and trust. So that's an important part of the buying process. And then the last thing we're going to talk about this specifically today is by defining style, you can more effectively reach your target audience. I think we're going to talk a little bit about readability for one thing and how that kind of changes like the measure of the college or high school level or grade level that you're going after. To some way correlates to specific audiences alike. An audience of PhDs is going to have different needs and wants and an audience of high schoolers for example. The other thing that we're going to talk about too is how things like tone of voice factor into reaching your audience. And so that's another thing that you can define in your style guide.
So who are these guidelines for maybe maybe you've heard yourself and what I've said so far, and maybe not and so I want to be clear that there are multiple different applications I've probably talked most about this first one which is freelance writers who work with clients, but it's also people who work in house with clients who have a content team and they're collaborating with that team or they're collaborating with external parties. And then it's also I think, just as relevant for people that make content for their own projects. Like maybe you're a solo content creator, but it comes back to that idea of consistency and making sure that instead of, for example, like going back into Google Docs and searching like okay, this is how we do this one thing. It's in your style guide. It's in a section that it makes sense why it's there. That's that's just a lot simpler process, I think, than having to constantly second guess yourself and go back and dig in and find evidence of the way that you do things. So that's, that's why to bother with this at all. And I think it's also worth just giving a definition of what a brand style guide is, because I think that there are different definitions even within like the world that we all operate on this webinar, like you know, for many of us working in like web design and that space, a brand style guide, I think, for people who like that's your main job web design and things like that. You're thinking mostly visually, and that's, that's fine. What I'm talking about is visuals and written content. So we're just kind of like adding on to what that baseline idea is of when you're working with a brand and you're you know, putting together their colors and their typography and their logo and, and whatever. That's an important piece of this because visuals are just as important in my opinion as the written stuff. But here's my definition. A brand style guide is a reference for writers and editors and your clients perhaps can use to understand how and why to do things. A certain way on behalf of the brand. I also want to share a couple ideas for how a style guide can help with different aspects, different types of content, so the blacksmith style guide and compasses. I would say most of the things that I have on the screen here most of these types of content. We do have a separate style guide for social media because things like character count come into play, image guidelines and dimensions. Hashtag use emoji use those are kind of somewhat unique to social platforms. And the way that we interact on social is different than what we would do to create content for a blog or any book or an email sequence. But I wanted to just give you some food for thought here in terms of like you might start with one style guide and like truly we have one main style guide. But you might think about depending on these different mediums that you're active in on behalf of your branch on behalf of yourself, you might consider also creating separate style guides or even subsections of your style guide to address those unique situations.
I also wanted to just define the two users we're talking about today, humans and robots and kind of like what do we need to care about in terms of these two users? So first of all, there's the humans, they are the most important user because they are the ones that can buy from us. And so they respond to empathy. And that's that's an important aspect of getting them to buy from you. So those are kind of like the most important details about humans. For robots. Robots are not so much a user as the medium that connects users that connects you with your end audience. And so they are not sentient. They cannot buy from us at this point. But they respond to things like descriptiveness and intent matching and we'll talk a little bit about how you can optimize for that. But again, at the end of the day, humans the most important Google's algorithm continues to get more contextual as of the Bert algorithm update that was a big one for understanding of phrase, both forwards and back and how all the words kind of like relate to each other. And so things like exact match keywords and keyword stuffing. That was a tactic many years ago, but it's basically because of Bert and other things. It's just it's no longer relevant. Google doesn't need us to do that in order to understand the context of our query so we can focus mostly on that human. It's just that there are a couple things we can do to also help the robot and so that's kind of what I'm sharing is how we can appeal to the human but use the robot to get in front of them basically at the right time. So I have a couple of content rules to help understand things that might be worth your focus things that might be worth adding to your blog style guide. Just things to kind of chew on so the first one is content. I don't know if I wrote this right. But um, okay, so define your distinctive brand voice. So we're talking about tone tone of voice, this spectrum. I love this. It's from Nielsen Norman Group. They are a consultancy. That's mostly focused on the user experience. And I would highly recommend checking out this article when you have a chance because it kind of talks about how they created the four dimensions of tone of voice that you see here. And so basically, it's a spectrum funny versus serious formal versus casual, respectful versus irreverent and enthusiastic versus matter of fact, Nielsen Norman Group went through like dozens of different terms to describe similar ish things to what you see here, and they essentially distilled them and they said, it's not it's not going to capture nuance, but you can effectively define your tone of voice across these four spectrums. And so what it kind of looks like, for example, on the blog, Smith client intake form when we are trying to understand the best way to work with a new client is that there's like five radio dots. It's funny, serious, you know, there's the extremes. There's like in the middle, and then there's like, sort of funny, sort of serious, where things where the fact that this doesn't capture nuance becomes a problem, or I guess, like additional effort that you have to put in is for things like let's just say, you know, your brand is kind of like Wendy's and you're sarcastic or you're snarky. Those are adjectives that you use to describe your brand. Well, that to me, it doesn't feel like funny or serious. Maybe it's in the middle, but it's like really a different thing. And so like in our intake form, we asked that question, we have them fill out the dimensions, we have them add any details that might be relevant to understanding why they pick that part of the dimension. And then we also asked like, Are there additional adjectives you use that maybe differ from these extremes? So I think that's a really excellent exercise for any brand that hasn't defined your tone of voice or maybe hasn't gotten this granular. I think that's one quick win that you can take away from today and just write it out. I've done it for the blacksmith. I'm probably due to redo it. Again, since we're thinking of kind of updating our branding a little bit. But yeah, just an excellent resource from Nielsen Norman Group and a lot to think about for your brand. I want to talk a little bit to about thoughtful language because I think that relates back to your brand too. It's like how do you come across online? Who are you perhaps intentionally or unintentionally alienating and how can you mitigate that? So a couple ideas here, first of all, to be concise and cut fluff. That was definitely a big takeaway from the Elements of Style, as we've previously mentioned. And so an example I can get through this is something like, instead of saying, words, like simply or just simply open the app, just open the app, go with open the app cut. The filler doesn't necessarily add value at all. I'll give you a couple of other examples as we go through here. Another thought here is that strong verbs are better than adjectives. So instead of words like or freeze, like we're very excited, we're thrilled. Kind of more quickly gets to the point more effectively because thrilled and very excited. It's almost the same thing, but thrill just says it quicker. And then using inclusive language is another I think really important consideration for anybody who creates content for the internet just because of the nature of the internet being global what whether your audiences or not if you put it on line, you know people can find it. And so one way to use inclusive language is to think about writing with people first language so instead of describing somebody who has some sort of hearing, disability or issue or something like that, you would say, instead of like a blind person, it's like a person who I'm looking at my notes here. Instead of something like a deaf person, a person who is deaf, you lead with the fact that they're a person first, not their disability or their whatever issue that they're dealing with. So the blog Smith, part of the blacksmith style guide, we do have a section on inclusive language, language, and then we're also working on a separate style guide because for some clients, this is really important. We want to get it right for all clients, but for some clients, the nuances are super important. So something to think about with how you're communicating with your audience as well.
On kind of the flip side, related to what we just talked about, some things that you want to avoid are things like words that insult the reader's intelligence so clearly, obviously, it's it's like they're coming to you to learn something. So you might know the answer. It might be obvious to you, but what you're really saying to somebody else who's you know, coming to your how to article to learn something and you say, obviously, this is how you do this. You're basically saying like, You're a dummy so definitely want to avoid that. Also words with ambiguous meanings. So saying something like many students or whatever do this. It's a lot less clear than saying For example, 50% of students are bankers or whatever. And then another thing that relates to things that we've already said with like the clearly the obviously simply just are words that don't add value. So saying something like fortunately, again, it's just like, you don't know what that person's experiences are like, what would be fortunate to them and it just doesn't really say anything anyway. So it's worth cutting. Okay, so the Flesch reading ease scale, it's just worth bringing this up. I know I alluded to it earlier. And just the idea of considering readability. So this scale this formula is based on taking the average sentence length, and also considering the average number of syllables per word to produce some sort of readability scale. So the ideal target for the average internet audience is something like seventh to eighth grade reading level as measured by this you can use tools like Hemingway, or content optimization tools. Like clear scope, and they will tell you you know what the average reading level of your content is. Again, it might change depending on your audience, but just be cognizant of who your audience is and if you need to make adjustments. So content Rule number two is to create consistency was formatting and parallelism. So I have a little bit of a pop quiz for everybody in the chat here. I want you to try to determine how many instances of parallelism are in this example. And just to give some context, parallelism is kind of what I was talking about earlier, like, do all the it's about consistency, like do all the articles you write use title case, or do some of them like accidentally use sentence case you know, for this, just like a clue I guess I can give you is, whenever we're using like bullet points at the blacksmith we have a lot of style rules about them. And one of them is like, do we use periods at the end of the bullet points? If so, everyone should use that. So take you know, I'm going to give you like 2030 seconds here to just try to kind of count the aspects of parallelism that are in this and then I'm going to share with you what my count was and then we can kind of like compare to the example here, but this example is kind of like a typical blog Smith example when we're writing like a how to article about WordPress and again, it's, we can create trust, we can build trust by being consistent. So that's why this is important. So I'll go ahead and give the answer then. So I counted six, maybe even seven because I think it combined one, but first, the label for each step always has bold formatting. So if we go back step one, step two, step three, each step is labeled to show that it's part of the same sequence sub one sub two sub three, and is followed by a colon consistency. specific user interface elements, which the reader is instructed to interact with also have bold formatting settings and reading. The word following the step number is an action verb and also the text after the colon is capitalized. So log, navigate click. And then finally, like I said, each bullet point ends with a period. So it's kind of amazing to like look at this example and see how many ways you could be inconsistent. That's the whole reason why I'm bringing it up right now.
So let's talk about content rule number three, which is to spell brand names with care. And I have another example for you here. But first, a quote from one of my absolute favorite books I've ever read, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. So he says a person's name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language. And I think like if you're like me and your emails like MADI at your company, or whatever, and people still email you and spell your name wrong or give you like another name. It's just like, I don't even know how you did that, but I'm insulted and just don't really appreciate it. So let me give you like a more tangible example or another tangible example, which the first one probably everybody here has, you know, shaking their head at when you've seen it done incorrectly in the real world, but it's WordPress capital P Dang it, not WordPress, lowercase p. And it's amazing to when I see like people, like building integrations with WordPress, like popular SAS tools or whatever and they like still spell this wrong and it's like you're integrating with it. You should probably know how it's spelled. But anyway, another really popular one is HubSpot. People always spell it with a lowercase s. Even people who like work with HubSpot, not necessarily like employees, but like agencies or whatever or people who did their certifications and it's like that is bad look. And then the last one for proper spelling, another popular one. And what's interesting about this one is that the first two examples kind of follow this format of like two words push together. The second word part of that brand name is capitalized, but that that's not true. Of MailChimp. And so like people always spell MailChimp with a capital C, but it's actually a lowercase c. So it's confusing, right? There's a lot of ways we can get this wrong to what I use, but we use it the blacksmith is we use Grammarly premium subscriptions for every writer and editor on our team because they have the style guide feature where you can customize and you can put in and say WordPress like we do it with a capital P same thing with HubSpot. MailChimp is different but you could specify the correct spelling of the brands that you write for and about frequently so that you don't have to guess you don't have to you know, look it up. It's just there. And my tip for you too is if you're trying to figure out what the right casing or punctuation or spacing or whatever is in a brand name, go to their website footer. Go to their social media like their Facebook or their Twitter. Um, sometimes it's inconsistent. And I think that's a good use case for you to potentially reach out to that brand and say like, I have no idea how to spell your name because it is one way on your footer and one way on your social sites. I see it off and then it's just hard to watch. Okay, we have two more rules. Content rule number four is to skip the free stock images. And I have an example. This This woman is on so many brands, social posts, but recently I saw it on a brand that I use as a SaaS tool it's like the hero image on their website. And I remember thinking like, it's just, it's so in honor in distinctive because everybody can use this image. It's a free image. Everybody has used it. That's why like you've probably recognized that by seeing it right now. But because everybody has access to it because it's a free stock image. It is not representative of any brand and why would you want to waste valuable website real estate or, you know, ineffective social posting efforts on something that is just so copyable I guess so. What can you do instead, I have a couple ideas that will show you it's not going to play but the first idea is to include a fun relevant GIF and I think it depends good kind of goes back to that like bring in tone of voice like are you more of like professional like formal, then this might not be a good example or idea for you. You could still use gifts to show how to use like your software tool though. So it's less of like a funny gift. It's more of like a useful gift. But if you are, you know a funny brand or silly or whatever like this could be a really good thing to include in your content. Another thing is like including relevant YouTube video, and what that does is it tends to increase people's time on page so it increases engagement to some extent depending. The other thing is like it doesn't have to be your video, maybe there's a concept that you don't have time. It's kind of outside of the scope of the content you're creating.
And or a concept that you want to expand on to like a video could be a good way to do that without kind of taking away or like adding more writing about stuff you don't really want to write about. Branded statistics for me are necessary for understanding numbers and context and especially if you're trying to relate one number to another if I see it in text, it doesn't make sense to me. But if I see it like this using tools like sativa for example, which we have a premium subscription to because it's just such a great data source. That's another good great way to display information. And I think if you have like your own original studies or original stats to share that having these branded images will make it easier for other people to link to it. To share it on their own social networks. It's it helps with engagement creating things like art and brand expert quote images. So if you ever interview subject matter experts, I think this is a great thing that you can provide where it's like branded to you. It kind of is like thank you for doing this and also encourages them to share it. And so what I suggest is like headshot name, title company, and then you know, whatever like quote, like a pull quote or something. Another idea in general is like screenshots, but specifically examples to prove a point. So this was like an example from some article I wrote a while back about it was like the first email you get after receiving a purchase so as ideas for ecommerce businesses to make those emails more interesting. So that's, I think, like fresh examples. There are sites that you can go to that like curate emails, for example, or landing pages. So whatever's relevant to you find a good source of that or sign up for all the emails or whatever, and then find fresh ones. Don't reuse what's already out there. And then again, for like the WordPress articles we write, taking screenshots, annotating them is a really effective way to help guide people towards whatever their desired action is, and it's it's easy to do it you don't have to be a graphic designer to create an effective annotated screenshot I made this one in CloudApp. And then it's it's also a matter of like, yeah, like, if you're like me, you're not a graphic designer. I understand design. You know, I know what I like. I know how to ask for what I like, but I don't necessarily know how to create it myself. Think about working with a designer or an agency. Like design pickle, they create a lot of content for us for our clients. And you know, like something like this is something that they made that was a nice, branded graphic for a client and I think another just quick note is we try to avoid tables and content. People are on the fence as to if that's like a deprecated SEO element or not. I just tried to avoid them. And so the way that we can do that was by instead creating an image. We're kind of wrapping up here. The flip side of like the image thing, what I showed you is mostly for humans, but from the robot side. You want to be thinking about using descriptive keywords for your image labels so that robots can understand the nature of those images, both the search engine spiders but also the screen readers who are helping people with access issues to understand the nature and the context of the images you include in your content. So my suggestion is to incorporate primary keywords into the following key signal areas, such as like alt text and file name, or probably the most important image title. Sometimes WordPress just like fills that out automatically. I don't really change it, but I'll add it in if there's nothing there. And then I think like the key here, is, again, you're weaving in the keyword into a description. You're not just like plopping in the keyword and calling it done. So our last content role today is to consider robots when writing titles for humans. So let me explain this a little bit more. I think that you can. I think I saw a question about this maybe earlier. If not, it comes up often. And that's the idea of like, our robots going to take our jobs as writers, there's all these GPT three AI tools that have come on to the market. My opinion is first of all that they're nowhere near the level they need to be to take over. They can't they can't effectively write with a brand tone of voice in mind. They can't. They can't effectively format content.
They can't art direct visuals. And so for all those reasons, and then they're not empathetic. So the content they create, you might glance at it might kind of make sense, but it's questionable as to if it gets you to act, if that's the point of it. Um, I think that AI tools at this point in time really can be helpful for writers and so there's something to be afraid of. And I think one of the things they can do is to help you come up with things like title ideas. So my thought is that you can start with robots. You have to you know, know what your topic is, but can feed a topic until like these GPT three title idea tools generate a list, figure out what you know, what of that list is usable, rewrite it a bit with some human empathy and then run it through one of these tools, which you see on my slides here, which are headline analyzer tool. So the first one is from CO schedule. There's this EMV headline analyzer tool that focuses on like motions, and then share through which is like similar to the CO schedule one and it just gives you they all give you different ideas for how you can continue to refine your title ideas. So I think it's where we're like the GPT three tools really are beneficial is I think, like, creative work is hard, right? And like sometimes inspiration is fleeting. And what I think the tools like this can do is they can help kick start it, so they're not going to replace you. They're not going to do your job for you, but they can kind of get you moving and thinking. I'm just a couple other ideas here from sort of the robots sort of the human side of things. But when you're creating a title specifically for search that may or may not be different than the page title that humans see when they land on your blog. There's different schools of thought as if they should be different, or if creating a different version for humans and robots ultimately leads to confusion if they land on that page, and they're like, Okay, well, where was the title that I saw in search, so just something to think about? But when creating effective titles for search that get clicks, so that's kind of the human side of things, but it's also the robot who's recommending them. At any rate, a couple of things to think about and one of them are the main thing here really is adding some information brackets were relevant to the end of your SEO title. So like, for example, if it's like a certain format of content, you could say like, it's an infographic it's video, it's podcasts. Or maybe you're creating some like affiliate content and you have a special promo code and so adding the nature of that discount to your title might convince somebody to click your review over somebody else's because they know that with your review, they're going to get a nice deal if they decide that they want that product. And then another thing that comes up I think often in the content we're creating because we we have been doing a lot more rewrites lately where people will take like content from a year ago or something and it's you know, very stats heavy and it's making bold claims. about the best way to do something for you know, whatever a year. Then adding something that says updated for whatever the month and year it was updated, helps people in search to understand if that really is the most up to date resource for them. And then finally, if there's something like something that they can take away after, after they read the article, like a template or checklist, I think that's also like a compelling bracket to add.
So last last slot here is just that. You can use expensive SEO tools we use a traps it's kind of like our main All In One SEO tool. Not everyone has the budget for that. And I think that you don't necessarily you need it if you want to get really granular with what you're trying to do, and get stats and data around keyword difficulty and monthly search and all that. But if you're mostly focused or again, like don't have the budget but want to use search data to inform your content approach, my suggestion, and we do this, in addition to H refs is to look at what Google is saying about that topic. So you kind of like type in your topic, you know, kind of like the primary keyword that you think it's going to be or something like that and the first thing in the top right is Google Autocomplete. So it kind of builds off that key word you like kind of like the exact phrasing but then adds to it. So those are other ideas for your content and might be other ideas for future content pieces. There's also the people also asked in the bottom left hand corner. And so these are real questions real searchers have that's what all this is, is real search data. And those are things to help you structure like your subheadings or sections, and just things to make sure that you answer so that your content really is helping this sort of target searcher you're going after and then finally, the last thing on the bottom right are related searches. And it's kind of like autocomplete, but it doesn't necessarily use the same phrasing. So again, it's stuff to maybe include in your content or maybe consider for future content pieces. And I think that's how really both humans and robots can help you create something that can perform well in search. So once again, if you liked what you heard today, and you want to dig in more, there's 22 chapters we've touched on aspects of five of them today. My book is writing for humans and robots. It's available in Kindle and in print. What's interesting to me is that the print has outsold the Kindle so far, and I think it's because people want to have it as an on hand reference book because the book doesn't necessarily have to be read in any certain order. There are there's like a writing for humans writing for robots and putting it all together. There's sections but I think and what I hope is that people are using it, you know, like, oh, today I'm dealing with visuals. So I'm going to flip to that part. So yeah, I think with that being said, Nathan, I'm done with the official presentation. Anybody can get in touch with me it was my email here. Just don't call me Mandy. It's Maddie. Otherwise, I'm just gonna delete it. But and then you can also always reach out to me on Twitter. All right,
there you go. All those links are there in the chat area. i If you pop that window open, you'll see the link to access today's slides. The link to follow Maddie on Twitter, the Amazon link to buy the book the style guide that Maddie referenced, and the replay link will have this replay up about an hour after we wrap up today. If you're watching this on the replay, those links are bulleted down in the webinar description if you want to grab those. Okay, we do have several questions. Here are some good ones. If you haven't taken a minute to pop up in the q&a window and upvote the questions you'd like to have answered. Do that right now. We'll start off with one from Ed Mata. You mentioned some of these throughout the talk but What software do you use for optimizing your content?
Lots. So H refs is where we kind of, I would say start the process and we narrow in on a primary keyword and then and other like related keywords. We also use content optimization tools like phrase kind of at the beginning and clear scope. More near the end. We also use other tools that we just kind of play around with it's not a part of every content piece that we make but like market Muse is another one that's in the same vein. They use slightly different technology. So sometimes you get different keyword suggestions. Definitely use that Google search data. And yeah, there's some other like bits and pieces there depending on the project, but those are kind of the main ones.
Yeah, really good. I'm going to answer my own question here. One of the things you shared right toward the end was the the infographic that was like a table and you talked about how you know tables. are kind of up in the air. They've been around. I'm old enough in the web world to have designed websites using tables back in the day. That was the thing. Anybody else want to admit that? You know, there was a table phase that some of us went through. So now one of the things though, is particularly with accessibility, how do you deal with image or text and an image like that that could create an accessibility issue?
Yeah, I think that's why it's important to use those alt tags really effectively. So if you are using types within the image, then you should make that part of your alt text and or you can also add a caption so if it's something that benefits from like everybody seeing not just like the robot to the screen readers, and I think that's another effective way to do it, too.
Yeah, really good. Okay, Beth, this is the best question. There's no strongly held opinions about this at all, but how do you feel about the new trend of omitting the Oxford comma?
I hate it. Yeah, it changes meaning. So we we like swear by the Oxford comma. That's yeah, personal but also professional opinion.
I could not agree more. And you now have a new fan in Beth Livingston who's writing in all caps in the chat. Okay. Another question from that. How do you feel about the new trend also of putting titles like h2 in below in sentence case instead of title case?
I think I prefer that actually. Because like, the way that the blacksmith's style guide is right now, at least for like, the blacksmith own website. I think we use title case. And so it's like, I look at it sometimes and I like hate it but I want to be consistent. And so changing it means changing everything. And so that's like that's another thing too. It's like I'm probably overthinking it, right? Like I could just change it and move forward and you know, maybe like make those edits later. And I think that's like, totally reasonable, but I probably won't change it until I'm ready to edit everything.
Yeah, yeah. So the comment in the chat is Oh, you just lost Beth now. So Beth is on the other side. Of that one. So you made a friend you lost a friend. That's how good right it's interesting though. When you do title case, in a heading. Sometimes you get those words where you like do it and you spend like 30 seconds in your mind wondering do I capitalize that like you're like why I like the possessive. Is that capitalized or not?
Is and capitalized? Yes. Yes. Right. We actually use a title case converter tool. I think that's literally the domain is title case converter. tool.com. Cool. Just let Yeah, just like don't even think about it. Just just pop it in because that nobody knows.
It's interesting. We have a client one of our oldest clients actually on the agency side that she got so tired of the she's a writer, got deal tired of dealing with is this capitalized or not. She just capitalized his everything. It's like That's my style. I'm doing it and you can't say anything about it.
I think that's a choice too. And I'm not like against it, but I think that why the whole light title sentence case thing is even like a point of conversation is when you look at a title, case title and all those capital letters. It is kind of like somebody's like think about it on social media and they write a post and every word is capitalized. It takes so much longer to read and understand what they're saying.
It really does. It really does. Okay, Chris has a question. How did you establish the people first language style guide? Did you work with any specific organizations or agencies?
Not at this point. Um, what we did was there was an editor on my team, we have three editors right now. And I would say that it's kind of like a pet project of hers. It's something that we care a lot about and we have guidelines in the blacksmith style guide. We're but she recognized that there was an opportunity to create expanded guidelines. And so that's been really like a project that she's spearheaded. And then we've started to look the other editors and to just like finish flushing it out. But I think it's it's just a matter of being like a student of all these different online spaces. There is this Facebook group that I'm active in what's called like conscious style and language. So it's a matter of, I think, for us at least immersing ourselves in all these resources and whenever we see something that we could potentially add to our main style guide, or even to this more like inclusive language and plain language guidelines, sub style guide, then it's like, we're just trying to be students of everything that we see basically.
Yeah, really, really interesting. Let's see what down the last couple of questions. So if you have a question that you haven't asked Maddie yet, and you'd like to do, so drop it in the q&a. Let's see another question here from Chris. What do you think about the practice of using the word please like please fill out the form or please click the button.
I don't know if I have an opinion. It's nice to be nice, right? Like, please and thank you should it be part of your language? It might be a case where it's like, one of those things that I talked about earlier where like, maybe you're taking away from conciseness. So I think it depends like, what is the nature of the element where you're using that language and would it benefit from maybe simpler language?
Yeah, that's a tough one. It could also be a function of organizational style. Do we do we say please,
right? Yeah. Who is your audience? What's your tone? You know?
I mean, you could say, do this. Dang it, you know, I mean, if that's your style, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. But the cons depends. Questioning from Manu, is there a chart of areas like regions or countries language culture of the reading ability? So like, if I'm writing for this area, is there some standard there that you're aware of?
Not that I'm aware of, and it's hard to because I think the distinction is more it's it's maybe less about readability. It's more about specific language in that case, and it's an I think I talked about this, but it's just the idea of like, you're writing for a global audience. You want to be like aware of how things could be misinterpreted and so I think it's just like a matter of trying to, you know, surround yourself with people from different cultures and understanding if and when you say something that is really offensive, you know, like, how do I codify that into my style guide so that it doesn't happen again?
Yeah, for sure. Okay, we got one last question here from Beth Beth says she just bought your book. Yay. Thanks. She wants. She wants to know if you're going to work camp us.
I am an actually for anybody. Either here live today or watching the replay. I will be giving a workshop there. It's going to be different and similar to what we talked about today but it will be focused on creating your brand style guide. So definitely if if either you have something but you want to expand it or you just haven't kind of like touched on this yet in your organization. We are going to like you will leave with a started brand style guide.
And the question following up from death was Can she bring her book and get you to sign it?
Of course I'll bring your Sharpie.
There you go. Man, this has been great. A lot a lot of actionable things here is we're wrapping up any final thoughts?
Um, I think at the end of the day, like the reason why I created the blacksmith style guide and then the book is like an extension of that is because I want us all to care about the reader experience and I think that the more content that we create, the higher of a need there is for this. There's already so much out there and you know, everybody wants to like do their own take on things and that's fine, but you have to think about like, what is this adding? And also like, am I respecting the reader? I? I care a lot about our clients, but I think I care about the reader, at least as much, if not more. And I think you should do.
Yeah, great stuff. Great stuff. So people are thanking you in the chat using various misspellings of your name just because that's what you get with our folks here. So we really appreciate your time today. Maddie, I thank all of you for being with us as well in the audience. Hopefully it's a good investment of your time and you got some good things to pick up on. I mean, the style guide alone is really, really great and I would highly encourage you go ahead and use it. Yeah, absolutely use it. It's a great jumping off point, even if you want to tweak it and change it for your organization or whatever it could be. And you know what, you know where this I was just about to land the plane, but you know, what a great use of that style guide. I know many of us work with nonprofits. And there's like 8000 people in nonprofits that communicate on social, how great would it be to just, you know, slightly modify that style guide for the organization and make it available to help nonprofits communicate with some consistency
100% Yeah, so many applications. I think not not just blog stuff.
Yeah, for sure. Okay, now, actually this time, thanks, Maddie. Appreciate you being with us. And thanks, everybody for being with us. My name is Nathan Ingram. From everybody here at I iThemes. Have a great rest of the week. I'm back here for office hours tomorrow at one o'clock until then. Have a great evening. We'll see you back here on iThemes Training where we go further to get
everyone Thanks Nathan.