This guest post is by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.
Your blog needs a voice.
Like Pavarotti, it can resonate with power that is full of sophistication. Or, like Dave Grohl, it can scream and shout with disenfranchised angst. It can even sing sweetly like your grandmother or quietly hum in the background like the Andy Griffith Show theme song.
But make no mistake. If you are going to build a tribe—if you’re going to relate to your audience and make a difference at all—your blog will need a voice.
Why your blog needs a voice
Your blog is not you. It is not your personality. It does not have your brain or your body or the sum of your life experiences. It cannot think for itself. It doesn’t have a soul.
But it needs a voice.
Your blog, regardless of how you’ve branded it, is separate from you. It can, by no means, represent all the complicated nuances of your persona.
Even if your blog is about you, it’s not you. It can’t be. Your blog is an entity that is separate from you and needs to be treated as such. Give it a voice. And make it unique.
A blog’s voice is exclusive
If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably already realized that there are certain topics on your blog that get more attention than others.
You may have even seen that people have started to associate your blog with a certain idea or theme. You may have vented on your blog in a burst of uncouth sarcasm and anger only to find that your influence grew, albeit accidentally. You acted ridiculous, and your audience loved you for it. Who would’ve thought?
These are all examples of blogging voices.
A voice, with respect to your blog, is a feel or style evoked in your writing that causes the reader to personalize what she is reading.
Your readers begin to construct a person based on the voice of your blog. And
when that happens, your blog ceases to be all things to all people and becomes something very particular to a certain group of people.
And that is okay. That is the whole point.
How to create a voice for your blog
If you’re already blogging, look back at some of your most popular posts and ask yourself, “What kind of mood was I in when I wrote this? What emotions am I portraying here?”
Observe the vocabulary you used, even the punctuation and formatting style. These are all essential elements in creating a voice for your blog. The trick here is replicate what you were doing when you were successful and do it again (and again).
If you haven’t started blogging a lot, you can start from scratch: ask yourself what you want your blog to sound like.
The voice of your blog should be a natural tie-in with its goal. Here are some examples:
- If you are selling real estate online, your blog voice might be personal, attentive to customers, and professional.
- If you are doing technology reviews, your voice may be snarky, clever, and terse.
- If your blog is a personal blog about your life, your voice might be sincere, passionate, and vulnerable.
A good exercise (whether you’ve been blogging for a while or are just getting started) is to brainstorm a list of 10-20 personality attributes that you want your blog to have, and then cut it down to three to five key aspects that represent your blog’s voice.
The next time you write a post, consult that list and use it as a checklist to ensure you’re writing style fits the personality you’ve created for your blog.
If you’ve effectively created a voice for your blog, you will inevitably exclude some people (because you simply can’t write for everyone), but you will also create a more loyal readership.
A writing voice on your blog will strengthen your brand and give you focus. Furthermore, it will create a lasting impression with your readers, allowing you to better fulfill the long-term goals of your website in a more sustainable
Does your blog have a unique voice? What does it sound like?
Jeff Goins is a writer, innovator, and marketing guy. He works at Adventures in Missions and blogs at Goins, Writer. You can connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.
Good post Jeff! It is really important to keep yourself in the background while writing your blogs or communicating your ideas.
I am trying to create that voice for my blog…still trying to gauge what my readers are looking for…but slowly trying to get there.
Thanks, Vishal. In my opinion, your voice is uniquely you — it’s not something that your customers defined, but something you do and stick to. Good luck!
Also, just be yourself and people will respect you more for that!
Well said, Zach!
I love the process of finding a unique and authentic voice when writing. It’s a way of bringing the look, feel and values of your personal (or corporate) brand to life through words.
Don’t be afraid to have some fun with language, to be ‘speakerly’ when you write, and above all be absoloodely true to yourself, because consistency with your online voice is the key and – after all – there’s no one else like you out there!
Agreed, Sarah. Thanks for the comment!
What a great post! I find having a consistent and genuine voice draws people in to engage. I have a high comment rate on my blog and a regular following. Many retweets of posts I tweet about too.
Thanks. Glad it helped.
If you are unique and write your blog posts un-adulterated by any other styles/perspectives, then you could easily establish your voice on your blog. In short, being YOU does this, coz everyone is unique. This simple principle works great for me to find my blogging voice :)
Thanks, Jane. Totally agree. For me, it’s harder to be consistent being myself when thousands of people are listening. It’s a discipline.
I like the tip about pinpointing the emotions felt when writing your best posts.
My most popular posts come from the heart. I could care less about how people are going to receive it, because I am not concerned with seeking approval. My intent is to share my unique take with my audience and enjoy the heck out of the process.
I always feel light, but energized before writing my guest posts. I work my way through the post itself, the title, the resource box. I make sure to do everything with care but in the same respect, I don’t stress over each nuance of the delivery.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Ryan. Glad it helped. My most fulfilling posts come from the heart, as well. It’s nice when readers reward this, but it doesn’t always happen (for me). Regardless, I feel great having written from the core of who I am.
I know what it feels like to develop an online voice, and I’ve successfully done so. Only problem is, it’s on Twitter. It (and Facebook, where I actually get feedback) have completely drained away my energy for developing a voice for my blog. I should search ProBlogger for a post about that.
Thanks, Rick, for the comment. I try to keep my voice on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook consistent. So I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that. It will require more energy, but if you have a voice already established, it’s just a matter of applying it to your blog. Let me know if I can help! Feel free to contact me via Facebook or Twitter. (Links in byline of post.)
When I first started my blog, I didn’t have a plan or purpose. There was no direction, and I certainly didn’t give any thought to the voice I would be conveying to my readers. My post topics were wide and varied. I wasn’t even sure what my niche was until one of my readers told me that people come to my blog because it’s lighthearted and personable. Seems that it took an unsolicited statement like that for me to realize what voice my audience was hearing.
As you said, I did notice that certain topics generate more and varied responses than others. Sometimes when I write about something that is different than my usual posts, I see comments from people who have never visited before, while those who are regular readers had nothing to say. It’s an interesting science to say the least.
Thanks, Matty. I think most of us start out this way – sounds like you’re doing the right thing by experimenting and seeing what works. I’d be interested to know what type of voice gets the best response. Remember: the voice of a post is not just the audience to which you’re writing or the topic you’re addressing.
It’s hard for me to find my blog’s voice. It changes a lot depending on the season and my mood. Maybe that’s why I don’t retain followers :)
It could be, Carl. It’s all about expectations — when someone reads a post by you, they get a certain impression of who you are. That sets their expectations for what they’ll read next time. If it’s not consistent, they don’t feel like they know you. Blogging is just one conversation in which you participate, so sometimes some of the nuance of your personality can be lost, which is completely fine. The trick is to find an honest voice that can remain fairly consistent (without going flat). I’m happy to help, if you need it.
I love your choice of topic!
This is my fourth blog. I have sold 2 of the blogs I owed earlier this month.
I must say that it was a struggle to find my voice on some of my blogs.
The first blog I lauched in 2007 had a definite voice, but it took time. For the second blog I started in 2009, I had a defined voice from the get-go.
The third blog was the struggle and I believe I never found my voice because I was not 100% clear as to where I was going with that blog. In the end, I really stopped writing there because the topic didn’t make my heart sing. I even hired a virtual assistant to help me with the content, but even that didn’t really help and I still found the tone of the blog quite borring.
The 4th blog which is a video blog has a VERY definite voice. In fact, my guests (I interview successful women entrepreneurs and some of the top business coaches in the world), help me give the tone to the blog.
I must say, in my case, the 4th time is the charm.
I absolutely LOVE the direction of my blog and I have never enjoyed my work as must.
I receive praise and support from the people I’m interviewing + I get to connect with some of the most brilliant minds.
I know that in time and as i receive more feedback from readers, I will change things here and there, but overall, the voice on this forth blog is exactly what I want it to be.
Thanks so much for a great post.
Thanks for sharing, Krizia. Sounds like you’ve been very experienced in this.
I really like the idea of creating personality attributes that I want my blog to be. I also really like the idea of examining my most popular posts and figuring out how I wrote, what I sounded like, and what the tone of the blog was.
This will help me a lot as I mold and shape my voice (brand?) into what I want it to be.
What do you think about Podcasts? If a blog has a podcast associated with it does it change the tone? I realize that podcasts need a voice and tone as well, but since they are the speakers, wouldn’t that effect the blog’s voice as well?
Hey Alex – my thought is that your voice is consistent, regardless of the medium. With a podcast, you’re going to be able to express more nuance of your voice, but it should “sound” like your writing. Does that make sense?
For example, if you’re snarky and make pop culture references in your blog posts, then you should do the same in a podcast.
Great, actionable tips provided here. Yep, I do have a blog voice.
Some days it’s brazen like Madonna, some days it’s sweet like Norah Jones, and other times I’m that English teacher that you had back in high school that kept you on your P’s and Q’s. :-)
Hah! Love the analogies. Do you see that certain types of voice are more effective than others?
By the way, I have a post on my blog today that goes a little more in depth about how to find your writing voice. It’s a simple, 10-step exercise. It may help some of those of you who are searching for your voice.
I started my blog a couple-three months ago and am still fine-tuning it and developing its/my voice. I love your tips on brainstorming attributes and plan to do that with some mindmapping right away.
To tell the truth, I’ve been a bit at sea as to this particular topic and was glad to see you address it.
Great post and great advice!
Wow, this is a great challenge and one that I starting to look at more and more.
Great stuff Jeff.
Good post. I’d only add that your “voice” is more than the sum of your vocabulary, writing style, tone, etc. When you write a blog, your “voice” includes what you choose to write about, how you format your posts, your color-scheme, who you link to, how often you choose to make updates, and so much more. In short, your blog’s “voice” is the entire essence of your blog.
Shawn Blanc wrote a great post on this topic here: http://shawnblanc.net/2011/05/voice/
Is it ok that I’m currently thinking the voice of my blog is a bit like Bjork’s “it’s oh so quiet”… with her sweet and cajoling soft voice, all romantic (I’m a wedding blogger) – which then blasts out cymbals and shouting for the chorus?
I can see some of my contemporaries have very clear voices – and I love the comparison with music: Rock n Roll Bride is (for me; she might disagree!) the Clash. Love My Dress blog is a jazz singer with a husky voice in an ultra-sophisticated club.
Oh dear. I’m either Bjork or Kate Bush. Think I need to check out your post about finding your voice! Thanks Jeff :)
I’d go with Bjork, Claire. :)
Voice or a unique style does not come so easily and it is the voice which has been making novelists and other writers so uniques. Of course blogging can be said a modern form of writing but tactics are same as in other forms of literature.
Great to see you over here! Really enjoyed this post. I believe that when your writing has a strong voice, it will show through no matter what topic you write about. Some of the blogs I enjoy the most have the strongest voices. Even if a post is about a subject that isn’t relevant to me personally, I can still hear the voice of a good writer.
Well said, Marianne. Thanks for the comment.
I think figuring out what kind of a mood you were in when you wrote a post and coming up with personality aspects to represent my blog’s voice are great ideas.
I think I let my voice come across pretty well in my blog, but since it’s new, it hasn’t quite settled yet. There are some posts that are more serious than others, but both of my readers :) seem to respond better to the lighthearted voice. I’d never realized that before–thanks for the help!
You’re welcome, Amy. Glad it helped.
Great post, but I’m really struggling with one part of what was said. I just launched my blog today, so the possibilities are endless and reading this gave me a lot to think about. But I’m stuck on this part:
“Even if your blog is about you, it’s not you. It can’t be. Your blog is an entity that is separate from you and needs to be treated as such.”
Even if my blog was about one topic, one niche, and one part of my life, I would hope that everything I write is a part of my persona in some way. Especially when I open up and share details about my life — it would be difficult for me to make that “separate” from me, when I put my heart and soul into a blog post.
In a world where everything seems impersonal, I want to make everything as personal as possible!
It can be personal – just realize that your blog will have its own unique personality, different from yours in some respects.
What a great post! I’m relatively new to blogging, and what you say about a blog needing a clear voice is so so true. No one can be all things to all people, it’s better to focus on the audience that “get” what we write and what we do. Trying to appeal to everyone unfortunately never works, whether in blogging or in business.
I am going to follow your steps to ensure my blog maintains its clear voice, also good for giving my readers and subscribers a consistent feel to each and every post, even though the topic itself may vary significantly.
Great ideas and a unique perspective. Lots of actionable points. Thanks man
You’re welcome, Robert. Thanks for the comment!
My blog is transforming into it’s own character gradually. I like the idea of taking three -five personality attributes and using that to create my own unique blog voice.
Thanks for the great advice. I want to build ‘the voice’ you said , with my blog.A unique blog voice can always attract readers.
Thanks for the post
Thanks, Chris. I’m glad it helped. Good luck!
Jeff, you’re so on point. Finding your voice will help find focus and maybe even a niche if you’re still a wondering, undecided blogger (like myself)! It takes discipline to commit to a single voice and not allow your mood to dictate which ‘voice’ you’ll be using for varied posts. Right now, I think some posts on my blog reflect the ramblings of a mad woman, while others are pretty responsible. I guess trying to find the balance between the two will hopefully be my recipe for a successful blogging experience :)
Thanks. Best wishes!
Great advice. As someone who’s been writing articles online for years but just now getting serious about blogging, these tips are good to hear. Thanks!
Thanks, Chris. Glad I could help! I’ve been blogging for years now and just stumbling on to some of these truths.
Great post, Jeff! I think this is always something new blogs struggle with because they feel they have an image to uphold and can’t go off the ‘professional’ path. While in reality, the most popular blogs I’ve seen around, are the ones that have a personality, style, banter, terse, sarcasm, in your face, etc.
My best posts have come from me being myself.
Simply put, they’re honest and it’s clear that they’re representing the blogger’s true voice and not just trying to be a cop out.
Like you said, you can’t cater to everyone, so when all else fails, do what you momma always said, “just be yourself.”
Exactly. Glad you listened to your momma, Morgan. ;)
If you have more than one blog do you think it is a good idea to develop a voice that matches each one, or should you try and use one consistent voice style across all the blogs?
Tough call, Denys. It depends on what your “brand” is. If your brand is your name and you’re just sharing different content on different platform, then the voice should be somewhat consistent. However, if the brand is the blog, then I’d recommend tweaking the voice to fit the unique content for each blog. Hope that helps!
I wholeheartedly agree with this article, because it is perhaps my biggest struggle when it comes to blogging. I tend to automatically filter myself when I write, and often times my own voice gets drowned out.
Other times the opposite happens, and I find myself being so bombastic and realize I have gone off on a tangent that is unrelated to my blogs theme, and I end up having to do some major editing to make it post-able on my blog. So it’s always a fine balance.
My blog is about personal development, which is a tricky area, I often have topics I want to talk about that just don’t fit with my topic.
Hey Jonathan – I struggle with this, too. I think that it takes time to find the right mix of you and what relates to the audience. Keep poking; you’ll find what you’re looking for.
That is why I created a separate blog, where I write with my own voice and it attracted many readers than the blogs i have writing since 3 months.
I have seen some bloggers who write fake earning reports etc, but, I have decided to post my monthly online earnings report frankly. (As I earned $0 in affiliate marketing till now, and showed in my report)
very Inspiring article. You read my mind Jeff :)
Thanks! I’m glad it helped. As you noted, authenticity is essential to developing a voice that people can trust.
I have a voice,but at this point it is more like a wisper.I still have to learn a lot about blogging.
It may be time to raise your voice!
I want you to know that I was delighted to read this guest post. It is just what the doctor ordered.
You are right on the money here, and I am sure your post resonated with a lot of people.
Me, I tend to get bored with “old wine in new bottle” and “same old, same old” kind of blogs. Such blogs I find kind of boring and dull, so I skip to the next page. Worse, I may avoid such blogs altogether.
When I read a blog, I want the writer to take a stand. I want to read stuff that shoots straight from the hip. I want a writer who is not afraid to express his/her opinions or articulate views that are unique. The voice should be original, even sarcastic. We love Mark Twain because he was the one, true, American original.
Sure, some writers will offend, but you can’t please all the people all the time. If you write only to please others, when are you going to do justice to what you feel and think? It’s a bunch of baloney to play it safe all the time. In that case, you have nothing really important to share and your readers are gonna switch off.
I want to read a blog that has the author’s stamp on it. That stamp needs to be eccentric like Woody Allen. That stamp needs to be as idiosyncratic as Robbin Williams. I wanna read a blog with some muscles like Arnold S.–oops, bad example, but you catch my drift? Right?
One guy who excels at this game is the redoubtle, the one and only–who else?–Johnny B. Truant. Truant is the guy who writes so regularly for this blog, by the way, that he has become the stalker-in-residence. Bloggers like Johnny can make you laugh all the way to the bank, even if you have no money.
Not all blogs need to be funny, but there has to be something unique or different about them. Cheers.
Very well said, Archan. You’re right – a voice needs a personality.
your post came at just the right time mate. I’ve been struggling a bit with finding what it is, exactly, that one of my blogs is all about. It’s feels like it’s on a continuing journey from quite a wide and broad topic to something that’s more specific; but where exactly it will end up is a source of some debate, soul-searching and research.
Trouble is, at times, I feel that within the niche it’s in – PHP, there’s so much choice of topics and so many other blogs and sites. Your post has given me great food for thought to help me make it more unique and original. Just don’t want to sound like “yet another PHP/tech blog”. Think I’ll take your advice and just be me.
Thanks for the comment, Matt. This is where writing in your own unique voice is essential. You may write on a topic that others are already covering, but if you do it in a unique way, people will love you for it. If it helps, you might want to walk thru some of these exercises that I list: http://goinswriter.com/writing-voice/
Voice?? never heard before,anyway great post Jeff.Thank you so much for the tips!
Thanks, Donny. Glad I could introduce you to the concept of writing voice. Would love to hear about what you write and what kind of “voice” you have.
Thanks so much for this post, just what I was looking for. I’m in the healthy living blog/foodie blog sect and I find myself experimenting with different “voices” to see which one fits for me. It’s a mix what people like, some love the sarcastic posts, others like the photo-heavy ones, and others like the more emotional/personal ones. I just don’t want to fall into the trap of taking another blogger’s “voice” in an effort to become more popular.
Thanks, Lindsey. Good call. That’s quite a temptation, but the truth is that your readers can usually tell when you’re being yourself and when you’re trying to be someone else. As painful as it is (I know this from personal experience), it’s best to be yourself. Sometimes, we don’t like ourselves as much as we admire other writers (especially famous people), but then again, it’s not about us, is it? It’s about serving our audience, and part of that means being comfortable with who we are. Thanks for the comment!
I LOVE this post it is so true, so many blogs and books for that matter write about I, I, I and its not about you its about your readers. Personally I believe just like any business you have business branding and a personal brand they are differently HOWEVER the must be aligned with values etc to be successful….On the flip side to the people who copy other people’s work and format and voice it will never work because its not their voice.
Exactly, Renee! Well said. It’s about being authentic and selfless. You totally get this. Thanks for reading!
Ya the article is very important and helped me a lot and lot. Because I never known about Voice of the Blog. And I didn’t know how to choose a Voice for my blog. And thanks to this article I found answers to my all questions about Voice of the Blog…. and Thanks Again Jeff!
Thanks… and you’re welcome. You have to be intentional when it comes to voice. Good luck!
I would name it “style” rather than “voice”. Unless you have podcast.
Thanks, darkduck. Good point, but I used “voice” because it’s about more than style. It’s about the “sound” your writing makes when people read it. They may not be able to actually physically hear you, but your words should have a unique flair as they read them. They should be able to recognize your unique personality from all other writers. I appreciate the comment!
Hi Jeff, As newbies, we are still learning about voice and how to develop it. This post is very helpful in defining voice and a great how-to. We have much to learn but we are willing. Thanks for your post.
Thanks, Dee! Glad we could meet here. I appreciate your reading my blog. It’s fun to connect – let me know if I can help you as you develop your own voice more!
I agree that the writer’s mood is quite important when it comes to setting the optimal editorial tone; confident, happy, upbeat, and not totally late night crazy. Consistency of the selected/exercised tone is quite important for establishing a connection.
Thanks, Meri. I appreciate your thoughts! We are all unique, so why do we often try to sound the same?
Congratulations on this fine guest post on the mighty ProBlogger!
As far as I can tell, your blog has an engaging voice that is personal and unique. I always look forward to more!
Thanks, Peter. You’re a great encourager.
Hi Jeff, really enjoyed this post. I feel that finding a voice for your blog is critical. So many bloggers start off and simply copy others which leads to their blogs failing due to low levels of interest and traffic numbers.
I really liked the point about excluding some people on purpose – better to have a loyal readership of a few hundred than 1000’s of people who really couldn’t care less.
Exactly, Jamie. The irony is that the more you narrow your focus, the wider your audience gets. As you write for a specific person, you find that your readers will be more loyal to you. They’ll feel as if you are speaking JUST to them. People love feeling special, and the truth is that the world is a huge place, so that when you write for a specific set of people, you end up writing for a pretty large group.
Excellent point, a lot of people don’t make a conscious decision about voice.
One of the most entertaining SEO blogs I have seen covers black hat methods. The writer is very snarky and swears a lot, which for me fits the image I picture when thinking about intelligent practitioners of black hat SEO
Thanks, Brandon. You’re absolutely right – your voice can complement and even augment your content. Thanks for sharing!