Styleguide FOR

Writing for search

Writing for search engines and writing for humans have become one and the same thing. Providing clear, trustworthy content, that uses relevant human language, will give those that need it the best chance of finding it through search.

Search engines are becoming ever more intelligent. They're getting increasingly good at recognising a searcher's intention based on the words and sentence structure they use, and matching it to a list of highly relevant content.

There are some things we can do when creating content to support this powerful matching process. These techniques are also known as search engine optimisation, or SEO.

User needs

Users are looking for the information that most clearly responds to their needs. Search engines help them to find it. Before you start writing anything, you need a good understanding of what your intended reader is looking for. What's their problem, and how can we best help?

By writing content that's tailored to our users' needs, we can help them to find relevant information and support quickly and easily via external and in-site search engines.


If you have a lot of information to share on a topic, think about how you can best structure it into easily digestible sections. What level are people searching at? Are they looking for broad, top-level information or more granular in-depth specifics? Does each section require its own page? Or a few paragraphs with a descriptive subheading?

Headings and subheadings

Subheadings help a reader to easily scan content and find what they need, which is especially important in times of distress. They also provide search engines with more information on what the content is about. Text formatted as a heading 1 is assumed to provide the most important information, followed by heading 2, and so on.

To support this, headings should be simple and descriptive. They should also be short. Try to limit yourself to 40-60 characters.

Choice of language

Use everyday language that reflects how your user would speak. For example, if users are more likely to google "why do I feel really down", than "why am I experiencing feelings of sadness" (which our research shows they are), we can adopt a similar vocabulary.

Using the same kinds of words as our users makes it easier for search engines to match their needs to our content.

Read Writing about mental health and Writing about people for more information on the sensitivities around choice of language.

Voice search

People no longer only search for content using the written word. Voice search is becoming increasingly common. This means we should be aware of the importance of writing like we speak to support this growing way of searching for information.