Editorial Style Guide
We’ve created a unique editorial style that’s consistent with our content. Read this guide carefully and craft content accordingly.
The “Holy Sh*t!” Content Mission
We believe in quality over quantity. Anyone can pump out mediocrity at a breakneck pace, which looks impressive as a whole, but lacks quality and originality when viewed up close.
“Holy Shit” content is in-depth, entertaining multimedia stories or guides that are well designed, formatted, and easy to digest. They’re shareable because they rival everything else on the internet.
Swim University’s mission is to provide helpful guides to homeowners about pool and hot tub care. Articles need to answer every question a reader might have on a single topic using data we collect every day to inform what we write and improve. All content on our site can be improved is always evolving.
How to Research New Content Ideas
An article must fall under one of the following three categories, or it will not be considered.
- Pool and hot tub maintenance and care
- Health benefits of owning a pool or hot tub
- Pool and hot tub product buying guides
If questions arise from readers, the first step is to look for an existing post to update. If it doesn’t fit into an existing post, create a new one with the Content Layout Template (below).
We collect information from our readers in three ways:
- An ongoing pool and hot tub owner survey (Google Forms).
- Any questions that are asked every day (Email and Facebook).
- Search terms from SwimUniversity.com (Google Analytics).
Before you decide on a topic, look through these resources to gauge interest and specific keywords. Let’s look at all three resources for a common theme:
We’ve found a common problem of frogs in the pool. So this is the topic we’ll use as an example in the Content Layout Template. But first, let’s work on the headline.
How to Craft The Perfect Headline
A compelling headline will improve the ranking in Google because more people will click if it’s good.
Here’s the formula for crafting a headline:
- Find the most popular keyword phrase for the topic.
- Come up with a headline and keep testing.
1. The Popular Keyword Phrase
Just looking at how readers asked us about frogs in the pool is telling. Is it “frogs in pool” or “frogs out of your pool”?
Use SEMRush.com to do a search for both phrases and see which one is more popular.
It looks like both phrases get the same number of searches, so we have to get creative with the headline.
2. Create and Test The Headline
Use the Headline Analyzer tool from CoSchedule as a guide. It keeps track of all the headlines you come up with and scores them.
Craft a headline that uses all the words in both phrases.
With formatting, the winning headline is: Frogs In Your Pool? 5 Unique Way to Keep Frogs Out for Good.
NOTE: When dealing with lists posts, try adding more than ten items. However, in some cases, you may only be able to find five excellent solutions. Don’t add fluff just to bring up the list count.
Content Layout Template
While each article may require a different strategy, outline the base into five main parts:
- Why the Reader Should Care About the Topic
- The Science Behind the Problem or Topic (i.e., a deep dive into the chemistry)
- How-To Steps to Solved the Problem or Accomplish the Topic
- Helpful Product Recommendations
- A Quick Recap and Links to Further Reading on the Topic
1. Why The Reader Should Care
Start with a good headline and a compelling introduction. The introduction should emotionally engage readers by telling a story, giving them a reason to care about the topic.
The introduction gives an overview of the article and should be at least two or three paragraphs that include relevant keywords.
In the case of frogs in a pool, interview someone who has had this problem and tell their story. Or figure out the real issue.
Frogs seem like just a bother, but is there a more serious problem? Do frogs affect the chemistry and safety of the water, or are they just gross?
Spend time determining why people should care. Relate to their concerns so they continue reading.
2. The Science
Explain everything and anything related to the topic while making it easy to comprehend. Come up with a few hypotheses and research each one:
- Are frogs attracted to the pool because of algae?
- Do they like your pool because bugs are also there?
- Are frogs just falling from trees and your pool is just the biggest thing in the yard?
With a little research, figure out why this is a problem. Add graphics and videos to support these claims. Use them to give context.
3. How-To Steps
In this frog article, we’re going to lay out five different ways to get rid of frogs in the pool. These should be very detailed, step-by-step instructions that include graphics and video to clarify, if needed.
Mention and link to them in the How-To section if they’re required.
4. Product Recommendations
Now that the reader knows what they need to do, it’s important to lay out very specific products that will help them.
If there are no products to recommend, skip this part of the template.
5. Recap and Further Reading
Show them what the world would be like after they solve this problem.
Also, give the readers more information on this topic. For instance, maybe they’re having an issue with other creatures in their pool like ducks or bugs.
Try to link to another post on Swim University, but if there’s an incredible resource outside the site that readers MUST see, link to that.
Readers shouldn’t scan through unnecessary and long sentences to get information. We recommend using apps like Grammarly to make your writing is easy to read and concise.
Avoid long introductions and unnecessary words to increase word count. Each sentence should have a purpose.
- There should only be one space between sentences. Case in point.
- Paragraphs should be short. Two to three sentences to help break up thoughts and look better on the website.
- Avoid adverbs like the word “basically” at the beginning of sentences.
The body of the article highlights actionable advice, ideas, and suggestions. The article should include:
- Subheadings (H2 and H3 tags): to break up the content and signpost what is coming next.
- External links: contextual links out to relevant, supporting, or interesting articles (keep in mind when you’re adding an external link that they are links are to high-authority websites). Please ensure all external links open in new tabs.
- Internal links: contextual links to previous relevant articles.
- Quotes: quotes from appropriate sources or snippets from other articles.
- Images: screenshots of relevant charts, infographics, and images. Images should be royalty-free or credited.
Tone and Language
Articles should be written in the first person, using “we.” We refer to our readers as “you.”
Articles should be friendly, as though you’re talking face-to-face with a real person. Use conversational language style, as if you’re explaining something to a friend. Never condescending or rude. And family-friendly at all times.
You should write from a position of strength and experience. But this should never come across as arrogant. Our audience is intelligent and engaged.
Avoid using technical speak. Instead, use natural, plain language (unless the article addresses a specific technical question). Please use US English spelling throughout. Examples include:
- Purchase = buy
- Receive = get
- Require = need/want
- Represents = is/are
- Assist = help
Explain acronyms and initialisms when they first appear on the page. For example, the acronym CYA must have the explanation in parenthesis: CYA (Cyanuric Acid) or PPM (Parts Per Million).
Use contractions when possible:
- We will = we’ll
- You are = you’re
- It is = it’s
- That is = that’s
Length and Formatting
We strive to create written content that is at least 2,000 words or more. Studies show that posts with 2,000 words or more get more engagement and search engine traffic.
All article headlines and sub-headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.) should follow The Chicago Manual of Style:
- Capitalize the first and the last word.
- Capitalize nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinate conjunctions.
- Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions.
- Lowercase the “to” in an infinitive.
- You don’t have to use full stops at the ends of headings or sub-headings
You can use this tool to help with title capitalization.
Paragraphs should include these elements and rules:
- Bulleted or numbered lists (full stops are not required at the end of bulleted sentences, but should be uniform).
- Bolding for important words or phrases.
- Proper use of italics.
- No overuse of exclamation points(!!!).
Internal and External Linking
There are two types of links: internal and external. Contextual keyword hyperlinks should be utilized rather than featuring the full URL, for example:
a recent Twitter report reveals…
a recent report on http://www.twitter.com reveals…
When using any of the following words in your content, be sure to format them this way:
- Inground Pool (instead of “in-ground” or “in ground”)
- Hot Tub or Portable Spa (instead of just “spa”)
- Above Ground Pool (instead of “above-ground”)
- Salt Water Pool (instead of “saltwater”)
- CYA for cyanuric acid (instead of “cya”)
- PPM for parts per million (instead of ppm)
- TDS for total dissolved solids (instead of tds)
- Swim University (instead of “SwimUniversity.com”)
Adding Helpful Images
The minimum image size is 800 pixels wide, and there’s no limit to the length (especially for infographics). But try to keep the height of the image under 450 pixels.
Every post should have at least one master image. But all other images should ONLY be used to illustrate a point or to give context.
All images from outside sources must come with an attribution (name or URL) that we can reference under the photo or at the bottom of the post.
Adding Useful Videos
Videos must be uploaded to YouTube ONLY so that they can be seen by on all devices.
Videos should ONLY be used to illustrate a point or to give context. Avoid videos that are of poor quality and don’t help the reader address the reason they’re reading the article.
Examples of poor-quality videos include:
- Hard-to-hear audio.
- Hard-to-see visuals.
- Recorded on a smartphone or in standard definition.
- Not long enough to give the reader a thorough understanding of the topic.
For our example of getting rid of frogs in a pool, a YouTube search will result in no helpful or well-made videos, and is now an opportunity for us to make our own.
Ready to Get Started?
This style guide is routinely updated to ensure the best content for our website. If you have any questions, please email [email protected].