Using Passive Voice in SEO Writing
SEO writing prefers easy readability. Generally, active voice is much easier to read and understand than passive voice.
Though the passive voice is commonplace in scientific and technical writing.
So how do you work around it? Keep reading this article to find out.
Active vs Passive Voice
Hasn’t it been too long since your studied English grammar?
Here’s a refresher!
The sentence structure in the English language is subject, verb then object.
How that comes into play in active voice and passive voice, let’s find out.
The sentence structure remains the same when writing in an active voice.
The subject performs the action, the verb indicates what action is being performed and the object is affected by that particular action.
Hence, in active voice, the focus is on the subject.
Here the subject comes before the verb and that makes the sentence direct with clarity in tone.
When you are writing in the first person, it is better to use an active voice.
Here’s your tip! If you are confused during writing, ask yourself two questions to determine whether it is an active voice.
What is doing the action? Who is doing the action?
That will help you determine if you are following the active voice sentence structure.
- Nadia ate the apple
- He likes cars
- She hated the show
In a passive voice sentence structure, the construction is inverted.
Now the subject is acted on by the action verb.
The object which is the receiver of the action becomes the subject instead.
The outcome of the sentence comes first.
The conjugated form of to be follows in different ways such as was, were, is, are, has, and had been with a past participle of the verb.
Lastly to know who did the action, by the person/subject is added.
- The apple is eaten by Nadia
- Cars are liked by him
- The show is hated by her
- When we came back, the show had been finished
Avoid using passive voice in SEO. even if it sounds fancier.
More on that later!
Importance and Benefits of Active Voice
While comparing the two, it is obvious that active voice is easier to understand.
Content on the internet should be accessible to the masses.
Passive voice can be complex to comprehend.
It makes the text more complicated hence it requires more effort to read.
Active voice is direct, therefore, it is easier to persuade people and call to action.
It allows you to captivate readers by speaking directly with them and they eventually take the action as you desire.
As the delivery through active voice is direct, it is also authoritative and straightforward.
The emphasis is usually on what the company, its products or services can do for the customer.
The way you write your content makes the company credible and trustworthy.
As your content will pack a punch, and have a straightforward and direct approach, it can entice viewers to take action.
You will also gain their trust, confidence and credibility.
Engaging to Read
Content that engages readers is fun and persuasive.
Using active voice and verbs is simpler, hence, it can be more enjoyable to read.
Moreover, it helps to convey information in a quicker and easier to understand manner.
That too hooks and interests your readers till the very end.
It is Concise
In this fast-paced world, everyone likes to the point, concise and meaningful content.
Writing in active voice gives just that.
It does not waste words, you get a clear and concise concept in a few words.
Clarity Impacts SEO
Remember, humans are not the only ones reading your content.
Algorithms scan your content and clarity here can impact how you rank for the right keywords.
Humans can be more forgiving than algorithms when it comes to language.
So write clearly for them to grasp your content and related keywords.
Affect on SEO
While clarity is important, does writing in a passive voice really affect SEO?
At least these two are not directly a ranking factor.
Though since active voice is generally not as complex, it is a better option for text perception and understanding while increasing readability.
There may not be bigger changes in your rankings when you change the text from passive to active.
However, the algorithms and search engines such as Google that read your content impact how it is correctly interpreted.
Complex sentences are naturally harder to interpret correctly.
This in turn affects the behavioral ranking factors which contribute to the growth in SERPs.
Though, readability and ease of understanding are factors that keep your users engaged.
Easier to digest and understand content keeps the reader engaged.
As your potential customers are engaged, they are also probably easier to persuade.
On the other hand, content that is in passive voice will be drawn out, complex, difficult to understand and also harder to read.
How will it keep the customer’s attention when it is not simple enough to understand?
If they get lengthy answers and solutions rather than quick ones, they will back out soon.
Instead, you should try to keep them on the page once they have landed.
Address their pain points simply and concisely using an authoritative but also trustworthy active voice.
Google values content that is clear, accurate, information-rich and useful.
What should not have in it is sloppy text with several grammatical and spelling mistakes.
Hence, websites that have content with the highest scores of readability usually rank higher in the SERPs.
Therefore, you may not see the direct impact but in the hindsight, it affects your website’s ranking, sales and credibility.
Writing in Passive Voice
Given everything, it is fairly difficult to write your entire content in only active voice.
While you can make changes, there are times when it is more appropriate and suitable to write in a passive voice.
Thus, do not shun away the passive grammatical structure, rather analyze when it seems to fit the sentences. Let’s find out when it is okay to write in a passive voice.
Keyword and Competitor Research
Who performs the action is unknown or irrelevant
When the subject is unknown, it is unnecessary to write in active voice.
For instance, “The race was completed this month.”
We do not know who completed the race so it is useless figuring that out and converting the sentence into active voice.
Neither is it known.
So when the performer of the action is unknown or irrelevant, it is better written in passive voice.
You will find this more often used in technical writing.
The subject is intentionally hidden
The message can be clear even if the subject is not obvious.
For instance, “By the time you came, your salad was already eaten.”
Here, no one knows who ate the salad.
Thus, passive voice can help keep the identity of the subject or performer of the action in question hidden.
This is useful in sentences that are vague purposefully.
A little vagueness is also part of writing.
The outcome holds more weight than who or what performed the action
Here the emphasis is more on the result rather than the entity that performed the action.
For instance, “The building was destroyed by fire”.
If you change this sentence to active voice, the emphasis changes from the building to the fire.
However, the emphasis should remain on the building destroyed.
Thus, keep the emphasis of the relevant sentence in mind before choosing the voice that suits it.
Changing Passive Voice to Active Voice
More than passive or active voice, it is important that your content is valuable and easy to understand.
Used correctly, even passive voice can be easy to understand.
Similarly used incorrectly, according to the context, active voice can be harder to decipher.
To aid your writing, you can use tools such as Grammarly, Semrush Writing Assistant, Yoast and Hemingway.
These can guide you about the specific text that is passive and what percentage of your overall content is so.
Some of these may even guide you on how to reconstruct your sentence.
However, if that option is not available, you can refer to the following points.
For instance, if you have the sentence:
“A mistake was made by the creative team.”
- While looking at this sentence, first identify the structure. It should have a Be and past particle which in this case is “was made”.
- Next find out the actor that is performing the action. Your hint is what comes after by. It’s the “creative team”.
- Look for the past participle i.e. – “made”.
- What is the tense of the structure? Look at the form of the verb to know. “Was” is past participle.
- The actor now needs to be the subject, put the verb in the same tense as the be verb, and change the position of the object or receiver at the end.
Thus, this sentence becomes, “The creative team made a mistake”.
Use these points to change your sentences from passive to active often.
Writing in passive voice is not entirely avoidable.
Some sentences and their context require it.
Therefore, create a balance.
Write in active voice most of the time for the ease of the reader but include passive voice when it is necessary, even though sparsely.