Content style guide

 


Brand positioning

Concept: Make the web work for you

Where some embrace the bottom line, Web.com stands out by embracing the human element; the customer connections which, we believe, are the fibers of every business. This belief is the foundation of how our teams work with each customer, from big to small and everything in between. We listen, then apply our expertise to deliver solutions that strengthen our customer’s relationships, and ultimately, their business. We’re successful if we empower customers to connect with more, more often, and in more meaningful ways.

 

Every piece of content written for Web.com should meet the following goals and principles based on this brand positioning:

 

  • Inform & empower: People come to Web.com because they need our services and products in order to improve their business. The goal is to help people understand what Web.com can do in a way that informs them about our products and empowers them to make the right choice for their business.

  • Be a partner: Small business owners have a lot going on, and they’re looking for a partner to help them make the most of their online presence. The goal here is to work with them as their partner. Yes, we want them to buy our products; but, more importantly, we want to work together with them to help them succeed.

  • Be helpful: Our content should be helpful for small business owners. In addition to providing them with the information they need in order to make a decision, we should also give them opportunities to learn more. They are the expert in their business, so we need to be the expert in ours in order to be a helpful partner. The content should be helpful without being overwhelming.

  • Be human: The content should embrace the human element. Our customers are not just businesses that need our services; our customers are humans with businesses that need our services. 

 

These goals and principles are achieved by ensuring that the copy meets the following standards:

 

  • Be clear & concise: Use simple words and sentences.Some people read every word while others skim. Help everyone read better by grouping related ideas together and using descriptive headings and subheadings.

  • Have a clear purpose: Lead with the most important content. Ask yourself if the language would make sense to someone who isn’t an expert in our products and services. 

  • Be specific: Avoid vague language and get rid of what's not necessary.

  • Understand the audience: Tone can be adapted depending on the purpose of the content. For each content type (site copy, emails, blogs, etc.), determine what the reader is feeling in that scenario, what our tone should be, and best practices of writing for that scenario.

Voice & tone

Our voice and tone shape our content and help us communicate with our customers where they are - wherever they are on their journey. What is the difference between voice and tone? You have the same voice all the time - your voice is who you are. Your tone changes depending on the situation or context.

  • Voice: We are friendly, informative, thoughtful, and, most importantly, relate to our customers as humans. We want to write in a way that feels familiar, but not overly casual. 

  • Tone: Consider the context when choosing tone. For example, you might use one tone if you’re announcing a sale in a social media post, and a different tone when announcing an update to an existing customer in an email.

 

Tips for voice & tone

  • Use the active voice. Avoid passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.

    • Active voice: Web.com built a beautiful website.

    • Passive voice: The beautiful website was built by Web.com.

  • Avoid slang and jargon. Write in plain English. Our copy should be accessible to our customers. Jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords can be hard to understand or may come across as inauthentic.

  • Use positive rather than negative language. Tell the reader what to do rather than what not to do.

  • Use short paragraphs, headings, and lists. Don't use formal or long words when simpler ones will do.

Grammar & mechanics

Staying consistent with certain grammar rules and mechanics ensures that the copy is clear. It helps to maintain a steady voice across the brand.

 

Abbreviations & acronyms

Avoid acronyms when possible. Acronyms and abbreviations can confuse readers if they aren’t clear on their meaning.

If you must use an acronym, spell it out the first time it is mentioned, and specify the short version in parentheses. Use the short version for all other references. Do not insert periods between letters in an acronym.

 

Bulleted lists

Capitalize the first word of every bullet. Don't use semicolons or commas at the end of a list item.

 

Capitalization

We do not use title case. Simply capitalize the first word of a sentence/bullet, and use lower case for following words, unless they are proper nouns.

 

Contractions

Contractions can be used when it feels natural. Remember, we are relating to our customers as humans - so it’s important that we sound like it.

 

Decimals & fractions

Spell out fractions and use decimal points only when a number can't be easily written out as a fraction, like 1.375. When numbers are presented this way in copy, it’s easier for readers to process and understand the meaning.

 

Numbers

Spell out numbers zero to ten or when they start a sentence. Use numerals for numbers 11 and above. Numbers over three digits get commas where appropriate (1,000, for instance).

 

Phone numbers

Use dashes without spaces between numbers. For example: 1-800-123-4567. 

 

Punctuation

Apostrophes

The apostrophe is generally used to make a word possessive. If the word already ends in an s and it’s singular, you also add an ’s. If the word ends in an s and is plural, just add an apostrophe to make it possessive.

A common exception to this rule is its/it's. “Its” is possessive and “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.”

Colons

The first word after a colon should only be capitalized if what follows is a complete sentence.

Commas

When writing a list, use the serial or Oxford comma. The Oxford comma provides more clarity to the reader.

Dashes

When offsetting a phrase with a dash, use an em dash. Hyphens are reserved for multipart words and phrasal adjectives like “cost-effective” and “best-in-class.”

Parentheses

Punctuation goes outside of parentheses when the parenthetical is a part of a larger sentence, and inside when the parenthetic stands alone. For example:

  • Customers notice a difference in traffic right away (and their sales improve).

  • Customers notice a difference in traffic right away. (Though they do have to stay the course for sales to improve.)

Quotation marks

Use quotation marks to refer to words and letters, titles of short works (like articles or blog posts), and direct quotations. Punctuation goes inside of quotation marks.

For example: The customer said, "I noticed a difference in my site traffic right away."

If you need to use a question mark with quotations, consider the function of the question mark itself. If the question mark is part of the quotation, then it goes within the quotation marks. If you're asking a question that ends with a quote, then it goes outside of the quote.

For example: Who was it that said, "If you build it, they will come"?

Semicolons

Semicolons should only be used when separating one sentence that could be broken into two complete thoughts. An em dash can be used instead when listing items that use a comma.

Spaces

Separate sentences with a single space.

 

Commonly confused words

For many people, the main spelling problem is similar-sounding words that cannot be flagged by spell-check.

Here is a handy list of some commonly confused homophones and some examples of their use.

  • accept, except - “I accept everything except for failure.”

  • advice, advise - “I need your advice. Will you please advise me?”

  • affect, effect - “This does not affect me. The effect is minimal.”

  • cite, site, sight - “I need to cite the information from the site so it is not out of sight.”

  • complement, compliment - “I want to compliment you on your hat. It’s a great complement to your jacket.”

  • counsel, council - “I require some advice and counsel. I will consult with the council.”

  • its, it's - “It’s not possible for me to remove its logo.”

  • lose, loose - “My dog is on the loose! I don’t want to lose him!”

  • personal, personnel - “It’s nothing personal. We need to make some personnel changes.”

  • principal, principle - “He may be the principal engineer, but I am going to stand by my principle.”

  • setup, set up - "I love my office setup, but it took so long to set up."

  • stationary, stationery - “That envelope is not moving, so it’s stationary. But it’s an envelope, so it’s still stationery.”

  • than, then - “He is taller than me. If I grow, then I will be taller.”

  • their, there, they're - “They’re over there with their children.”

  • to, too, two - “I have to go to two meetings, too.”

  • whose, who's - “Whose hat is this? Who’s going to claim it?”

  • your, you're - “You’re out of your mind.”

Web copy elements

Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings are there to organize the content for the reader. This is why they should include the most relevant keywords and highlight the main purpose of the page.

Headings and subheadings are written in sentence case for the Web.com brand. 

Headings and subheadings should be organized in a hierarchical fashion. An H1 is above an H2, an H2 is above an H3, and so on.

  • Headings (H1) should let users know what they're about to read. They are appropriate for page titles, blog titles, and the like.

  • Subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) get more specific. They can act as a scannable tour guide through the content as users decide what they want to explore further.

 

Lists

Lists are a helpful way to put a lot of information in a compact space.

Lists can be used to outline steps, groups, or sets of information. Give context for the list in a brief sentence. Number lists when the order is important, like the steps of a process. If the order isn't important, you don't need to use numbers.

 

Buttons

Buttons should direct the user toward an action. The language should be clear and concise.

The copy in the button should match the desired action. The text should clearly describe what action the user takes when they click them.

For example:

  • Log in

  • Sign up

  • Subscribe

  • Learn more

  • Call now

 

Forms

The title of the form should be clear and concise. It needs to quickly explain the purpose of the form. The form text should be brief.

 

Social media copy

Our social media channels build relationships with our customers and audience. Since we are joining them in their "social" space, we need to be mindful about how we engage with our audience on social media.

Social media channel tone

  • Twitter: Text updates with links, evergreen content, helpful info. There is an opportunity here to engage with followers in a more lighthearted way when appropriate, as long as it remains within the brand focus.

  • Facebook: Evergreen content, helpful info, mentions of special days/occasions/events, helpful and/or inspiring images. This is generally engagement with existing customers.

  • LinkedIn: The more buttoned-up side of the brand. Helpful info for small business owners, links to blog posts, evergreen content.

  • Instagram: Images for engagement with helpful and lighthearted copy. Evergreen content, mentions of special days/occasions/events.

 

Blog posts

Blog posts can be a great way to engage with current customers and get new ones. Blog posts should be helpful, informative, and engaging. Keep the content concise. Write with a clear purpose, and connect each paragraph to the main idea.

Follow the guidelines for grammar & mechanics.

Remember these tips for voice & tone:

  • Use the active voice. Avoid passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.

    • Active voice: Web.com built a beautiful website.

    • Passive voice: The beautiful website was built by Web.com.

  • Avoid slang and jargon. Write in plain English. Our copy should be accessible to our customers. Jargon, acronyms, and buzzwords can be hard to understand or may come across as inauthentic.

  • Use positive rather than negative language. Tell the reader what to do rather than what not to do.

  • Use short paragraphs, headings, and lists. Don't use formal or long words when simpler ones will do.