What do you think would happen if everyone sent out the first, second, or third drafts of their write-ups? Nothing dangerous, of course. But, if you’re one of the few people in the universe who frowns at writing errors and inconsistencies, you’ll have a poor reading experience. Every. Single. Time.
Without content editing, reading would be much more complicated than it already is. Consequently, absorbing information would be almost impossible or something only patient and brilliant people can do. If you don’t want to put your reader through an awful or below-average experience, keep reading.
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What is Content Editing for SEO, and Why Should You Care?
Content editing for SEO is the difference between a brain dump of ideas and a carefully packaged piece that ticks all (or most of) the reader’s and search engine’s boxes. There’s a never-ending argument about which is more complicated between SEO writing and SEO editing, and as someone who does both, I’ll say editing for SEO is more complicated.
Web content editing for SEO means checking for grammatical and factual accuracy, structure correctness, style appeal, keywords, and readability. It means transforming any piece from meh to WOAH. So, if you’re thinking punctuation, paragraphing, spelling, relatable stories, keyword research, etc., you’re in the right headspace.
Editing means you have to show double empathy – to the author of the piece and the intended reader. If you’re not the author, you need to make sure you’re not projecting your writing style onto the article and that you satisfy the topic’s intent. Sometimes, it’s difficult to resist the urge to rewrite the entire content when trying to suit a certain standard. I’ve been there, but I was brave (return it with suggestions or rewrite, cos quitting wasn’t an option).
The good news is, like every digital or complicated skill, it’s learnable, and this article will teach you how.
Why is SEO Editing Important?
Content involves any format of passing information – text, image, or video, but this piece focuses on written content. Regardless of the kind of writing you’re into, editing is important. That includes technical documentation, science writing, academic writing, blog writing, fiction writing, and so on. These are some of the benefits of web content editing for SEO:
- Easy readability
- Visual appeal
- Satisfies both the skimmers and in-depth readers
- Better performance and organic reach
- Global acceptance
How to Edit Your Content for SEO (My 9-Step Editing Process)
The following steps describe my SEO editing process from scratch; I promise, it’s not magic.
Read from top to bottom
I’m assuming you already know what the piece is all about, who it’s intended for, and its main purpose. Regardless of who the author is – you or someone else, the first step is to read from the perspective of the intended audience. At this stage, you’re not removing or adding anything.
At the final full stop, your main question should be, did it solve my problem? If your answer is yes, perfect! If not, it means the content has issues, and you have no business fixing commas, adding paragraphs, or trying to get keywords in. Your next step is to try to identify where the flaw is – at what point did it stop making sense and why?
So many things could have gone wrong. It could be that the writer deviated and probably started ranting, or they forgot the simplicity rule and started using unnecessarily technical terms, or they started explaining a concept and stopped midway, which made the transitioning to the next point difficult. It could also be that more than half of the sentences were too long to understand. Whatever the problem was, try to fix the message before you move on to the next step of content editing.
Conduct research to check for the usage of abbreviations, quirky phrases, humour, etc.
Editing for SEO also means checking writing style for slang, acronyms, etc. Did the writer fancy abbreviations so much that they assumed any reader would easily understand? Were they right to abbreviate, or is it better to spell out each term?
It’s like how I’ve used SEO here. The idea is you won’t find this article unless you’re searching for SEO editing tips, which would imply that you at least know the full meaning of SEO to be search engine optimization.
Little tip: If you’re doing technical writing, don’t abbreviate right off the bat without first explaining what it means in earlier paragraphs.
Other things to look out for are quirks and humour. We can all agree that not everyone has a sense of humour, but that doesn’t mean writers can’t have fun with their work. As an SEO content editor, it’s not your job to remove quirks just because you don’t like them. You can only confirm that it’s not offensive and that at least a few people (target audience) would get the joke. If it fits, all good.
Correct facts or ask for sources
Numbers are great, right? They’re attractive, powerful, punchy, and most importantly, they arouse curiosity. Sometimes, people go a little too crazy about the numbers and make claims with no origin. Remember that SEO depends on trust and originality as much as it likes keywords and meta tags. In other words, if it’s not right, don’t add it.
If the writer didn’t cite any source and you couldn’t find anything close, ask for it or cut it out. Not everyone is fascinated by numbers, but if those few number-loving people (like me) decide to trace your statistics and find nothing, they’ll be disappointed. It might not mean much the first time, but if it keeps happening, those tiny little Google monitors will notice the dissatisfaction, and down goes the trust you’ve built over time.
Rewrite where applicable, remove fluff, and read again
This part of content editing is where you rephrase a 30-word long sentence to 15 words because you can and because it doesn’t lose its meaning. It’s where you remove “in order to,” “for the purpose of,” “due to the fact that,” and other similar phrases. It’s also where you remove unnecessary repetition of points, which often happens when a writer is trying to meet word count expectations and has run out of things to write.
If the writer is relatively good, you may not have to spend much time here, but even the best writers make mistakes like this occasionally. So, with a different eye, it’s easier to spot them and take them out. After this step, read again from top to bottom. The trick is to remember that editing for SEO is about giving value.
Structure with punctuation, bullet points, headers, and spaces
This step is strictly for visual appeal and smooth reader transitioning, and as you’ve noticed, it’s not the first thing to do. I mean, what’s the point of adding a question mark if you’re going to delete the entire paragraph eventually?
For most content types like blogs, articles, and documentation, content editing for SEO requires using headers and bullet points to make the piece easy to skim through. For fiction and essays, it means falling in love with white space and using it as many times as necessary.
Punctuations help communicate tone and tell readers the relationship between words, sentences, and paragraphs. Bullet points make it easy to follow instructions or remember specific facts about a concept. For instructions, it’s best to use ordered bullet points, as in 1, 2, 3… to tell the readers that if 1 doesn’t work, 2 won’t work. If you’re simply making a list of items, dotted points are fine as long as there’s no sequence.
Headers are majorly for skimmers, which probably account for 90% of your readers. It allows readers to skip to any section of the content, find precisely what they need, and move on with their lives. Spaces ensure readers don’t bounce out two seconds after they find the content, not because they found what they needed but felt bombarded with so many words.
As a content editor, structure editing, or, as some people call it, copyediting, is crucial for a successful output. If you don’t factor these in, the entire piece will fail on many levels.
Check for keyword usage
After structure and content message, the next step in content editing for SEO is to check for keyword usage. Simply using `Ctrl + F` on Word or Google Docs will tell me everything I need to know about keyword density and distribution.
Editing for SEO means you’ll have to pay attention to the location of primary keywords in the entire piece. The rule of thumb is to have an even distribution across all sections, so it doesn’t feel stuffed. Then, secondary keywords can appear randomly or more intentionally. If they don’t appear as much as you’d like, you can find creative ways to insert them. Similarly, if they seem too much, you can substitute some primary keywords for secondary ones.
Either way, keyword stuffing is a NO-NO.
Read also: How to do your website SEO yourself
Check for simplicity, tone, and style fit
Here, you’re thinking about two things. First is the choice of words and active and passive voices. The second is the brand and its existing method of communication with its audience. Are they funny and sarcastic? Or direct and professional? The success of the piece also depends on it.
Think about it. There’s a tiny chance that the piece you’re editing for SEO will be the first of its kind on the internet. If at all it is, it won’t be the only one ever to exist. That means the long-term goal in content editing for SEO should be to have a lifetime value and resonate with that fine segment of the market that loves the brand’s method of communication. So, no matter how many thousand people write about it, it’ll still serve the brand’s target audience.
Some brands have a detailed style guide for writers and editors. If you’ve edited and proofread as a freelancer, you may be familiar with it; it makes this part easy.
At this step, you’ve completed the major content editing and used some relevant software, like Grammarly, to pick up on errors you may have missed. If you did everything right at the initial stages, all you’ll need for on-page SEO is to insert some internal and external links, add meta descriptions, improve your URL (link to the page), and add a featured image like the one on top of this piece.
Usually, there are tools that simplify the on-page SEO editing process. I’m familiar with WordPress as a content management system (CMS), and the plugins I’ve used are Yoast SEO and RankMath SEO. They tell you how often your keyword appears and flag it if it’s too much or too little. They also rate the URL, image alt text, title tags, links, and paragraph length. Yoast SEO even tells you if you’ve used too many passive voices and if you used enough transition words, like in addition, finally, etc.
SurferSEO does something similar for keyword appearance. The only difference is that it uses primary and secondary keywords, as well as associated phrases (they’re called LSI keywords), to predict your content performance.
Hit the publish button
Finally, publish your piece. Some people think that publishing is where content editing for SEO ends, but they couldn’t be more wrong. You know how as a writer, it’s normal to overlook silly little mistakes because your brain corrects the mistake as you read? Something similar happens in editing.
You might have omitted something while editing or mistakenly hit the enter button and put an unnecessary paragraph in the middle of a sentence right before you hit publish. The easiest way to catch this mistake is to view the post as a visitor and read or scan through it. I’ve never found a paragraph error, but occasionally, I’ve spotted spelling errors in words with multiple Ms or Cs in the middle.
Read about other SEO elements for content creation.
So, you go back to edit and update. And that’s it!
6 Content Editing Tips to Improve Your Blog Performance
Understand the distribution platform
It’s pretty straightforward. The way you edit for Facebook and Linkedin is not the same way you edit and optimise for a website. You can use emojis to make bullet points on social media without feeling weird about it. Most people would rather use typical alphanumeric characters on websites than emojis.
Know your audience
This goes without saying, and even though I’ve mentioned it earlier, it calls for emphasis. Your audience should guide the writing and editing process of your content. The easiest way to do this is to understand the problem and try to empathise with them throughout the piece.
Define your keywords
SEO is a keyword game. Use Google and other keyword research tools to get keyword ideas and related keywords that you can strategically insert into your piece.
Don’t edit once
Need I say more? It’s a bad idea to write once and send it out without a second look. The same rule applies to editing for SEO. Edit thoroughly the first time, take a short break from it and do the final checks before publishing.
Use available content editing software
There are many SEO writing tools with free versions that will significantly improve the final copy of your work. Use them if you can’t go premium.
Read similar pieces and compare
Reading allows you to fill content gaps and thoroughly answer questions your target audience still has about a topic. It also gives you an idea of the kind of content that currently ranks in terms of structure and body and how to match and beat them.
If you’re interested in more tips on writing, editing, and SEO as a whole, follow us on Twitter for cool tips and tricks.
4 Content Editing Tools/Software I Use
- Google docs/Ms Word: These writing tools are programmed to flag punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors. I’m still not sure how people write with them and end up submitting something with an overwhelming appearance of red lines. Negligence? I’m a big fan of Google Docs because if I’m working online, it tells me if my American/British spellings are consistent. You don’t want to mix those – on your site or your client’s.
- Grammarly: Grammarly has a free and paid version. I’ve used both, and they go a long way to fixing grammar, punctuation, simplicity, sentence structure, and passive voice. To get the best out of it, remember it’s still a robot, so it could flag some slangs or words you deliberately added. In other words, it’s not always right.
- Hemingway app editor: It grades the simplicity of your piece and tells you what sections to improve for better scores. I don’t know why I feel like mentioning this, but even Neil Patel recommends this tool.
- Read-aloud apps: This isn’t compulsory, but I recommend it. A tool like read-aloud TTS on Google Docs helps me listen to what I’ve written/edited. If it doesn’t sound right coming from the bot, it probably doesn’t look right either, so I pause and fix it.
Editing is a Patience Game
It took 3-4 hours to edit this thoroughly, and it may still have little errors hiding somewhere in a sentence. But if you’ve read this far, I’ll take my chances and say you had a smooth and pleasant reading experience. Yay for me!
Some people say they hate editing. What do you find most challenging about content editing for SEO? Share your thoughts, questions, and opinions in the comment. I know it’s a lot of work, so if you need help with editing, send us a message or find me on Linkedin.
An experienced freelance SEO content writer and editor. She helps individuals and businesses communicate effectively with their audience and also improve their organic reach with relevant content.
She's an author of several short stories and a devoted lover of the paranormal and fantasy world. Asides business and lifestyle, she also writes about life science and technology.
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