Hello, my name is Taylor, and I’m an over-editor.
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, right?
I know I am not alone when it comes to being critical of your work. It is so easy to be your biggest critic when it comes to your content because it never seems good enough. As I picked away at my most recent content editing challenge, I had a major lightbulb moment.
After editing a guest blog post for more than sixteen hours, I realized that I will never be completely content with my finished product.
But it also made me realize, if you have a thorough process for writing your blog and monitoring guest bloggers on your site, you won’t be like me spending oodles of hours editing a single post. With a well laid out game plan, the big picture content ideas become clear, and you will spend a significantly less amount of time editing and fixing the post to hit your intended outcome.
This recovering over-editor would like to be your sponsor by sharing 6 content editing tricks, saving you time and simplifying your editing process.
Although time is my most valuable resource, I spend a significant chunk of it every week writing. That’s because I know how effective content marketing can be for a business. —Neil PatelClick To Tweet
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How To Direct Your Writers (And Even Yourself) To Meet Your Goals
1. Brainstorm your content and plan your outlines first to be more productive once you start writing.
Before I started writing, Nathan and I took to the big white board walls in our office (how cool right?!) and brainstormed what I was going to write about for this very post. This is a great way start all of your writing processes.
We knew we wanted to write a post about editing your content. But holy buckets, you can take that hundreds of different directions. So after we thought about our target audience, and picked a pet peeve of mine when it comes to editing—being your own worst critic/never being satisfied—and we were ready to go.
Whether you are blogging for the first time or you have been blogging since before the dawn of the Internet, brainstorming your content ideas will help you narrow down your topic and even come up with other future posts as well.
The visual gives a big picture idea of where you want your blog to go, beginning with an outline to ensure that you stay on topic. Staying on topic in the first place prevents future content editing later on.
Because trust me I know how easy it is to get off topic.
Put it into action:
- Get some awesome colored pens. (maybe that's just me)
- Write down everything that comes to your mind for a specific topic.
- Circle what you could put together into a post.
- Narrow those down into a concise list in the order of an outline and move onto point #2.
2. Pick the best headline for your content before you write to stay on point.
Picture this, you're a head honcho of a company and you are interviewing two men (or women, scenario applies either way) for an open position.
The first gentleman walks in, he is wearing suit and tie. He is holding a brief case and looks prepared, most likely you already have a very positive impression and want to learn more.
Then candidate number two walks in wearing sweat pants and a dirty tee shirt (picture PigPen from Charlie Brown). After your first impression of candidate number one, are you even going to waste your time on the interview?
This idea is the same for your headline, it is the first impression for your content. So why would you not put in the time and set yourself up for failure?
Choosing your headline before you write will help you write to fulfill the prophesy, instead of just writing on a general topic. Headlines often draw attention to the hook that draws readers in, which is super difficult to edit in later on.
When your headlines are awesome but your content stinks, you'll be able to tell with an extremely high bounce rate.
Our culture is so Go, Go, Go that if you don't catch them instantly, you've most likely lost a reader.
This is why using tools such as our headline analyzer is so crucial for your blogs success, it will grade your headlines and give you suggestions on where you can improve, such as by shorting the headline or adding a power word.
Put it into action:
- Use the headline analyzer to write ~25 headlines.
- Target headlines that use "how to", "5 reasons why", or "questions" to help your headlines perform better.
- Pick your top three and use these to make different social media messages so it doesn't appear that you are lazily posting the same message over and over.
3. Target a keyword so your content stays on track.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking, "I don't need a keyword for every post. Google will figure it out."
Just tossing your content into the Web and hoping it lands into the lap of your perfect target audience, as amazing as that would be, is just not realistic. Think of targeting keywords as a content distribution method that works automatically when you target it right from the get-go.
It's all a matter of effort. If your content is important, it should be important to you to do everything to make sure your blog succeeds. It only takes an extra 10–15 minutes tops to target a keyword.
At CoSchedule, we use Google's keyword planner and Moz's keyword difficulty tool to help us target keywords. This gives us a competition rating for our keywords (low, medium, and high) and also helps us track on average how many people are searching for that keyword every month.
Our goal is to target a term with medium or low competition and somewhere around 100 monthly searches before we write on a specific topic.
Keywords help us know that people already care about our topic. If no one cares, why would you waste your time writing about it?
Put it into action:
- Choose a keyword for every post you publish. Pick the keyword earlier rather than later so you don't have to go back and rework your post around the keyword. Editing keywords into posts not written to target them is super tough and time-consuming.
- Use tools like Google's keyword planner, Moz's keyword difficulty tool, SEMrush, Keyword.io, or others to help you pick a keyword based on popularity and competition before you write.
- Make sure your keyword targets a specific audience that is looking for answers. Think critically about how people searching for your content will react to it to gauge your bounce rate. Targeting a popular keyword is great, but if your content only hints at a solution, editing the keyword into your posts doesn't provide the youtility they're searching for.
4. Break it down Neil Patel style.
Most 21-year-old women fangirl over some movie star or hunky sports player. Not me, I fangirl over Neil Patel.
Man, if I could produce content like he can...his consistent quality is just magical. He not only writes quality content. He writes quality content fast.
On a normal week, I can write 5,000 maybe 7,000 if I'm feeling super inspired. Neil on average writes 17,000 weekly!
That is 3,400 words a day of pure gold.
Neil gives a list in his post How to Double Your Writing Speed Without Lowering Its Quality that will help you write faster. Think about the same hacks applied to content editing:
- Get your typing up to speed
- With days containing writing posts for your blog, writing guest posts, writing downloads, and so many other pieces of content, it's crucial to write as quickly and concisely as possible. Try checking your speed. If typing isn't your strong suit, try delegating the larger writing projects to another member of your team to save time.
- Don’t forget your ideas: Make a list
- This is exactly what we did in the graphic I posted earlier. Not only did we brainstorm, we took a picture of our ideas so that we don't miss a big idea that we came up with.
- Get rid of distractions
- Use tools like Evernote and Google Docs to work offline. At CoSchedule, we have an app called HipChat that helps us communicate with each other though IM and video chat because we have offices in different cities. Sometimes, when it comes to distraction-free editing, turning off the distractions is just what I need.
- Outline your post beforehand
- For example:
- For example:
- Research comes first
- As much as I tell my mom that I know all, I don't. There is always someone with a new idea that can help you write your content to cover as much ground as possible. Don't go in on a whim and just write, do some research first and make sure that you come across as a credible source for the content you are writing. Think about the skyscraper technique and how successful that has made some bloggers out there.
- Write first, edit later
- Editing can sometimes be enough to drive you crazy. Don't consistently go back back and edit your content as you write it—this can also lead to over editing. If you write your blog first and then go back and edit in one fluid motion, your content will come out cleaner and you'll save more time.
- Take (smart) breaks
- In our Bismarck, North Dakota, office, we have a basketball hoop, mini trampoline, darts, and Legos to go and blow off some steam and avert your eyes from the computer screen just to help us to refresh and recharge before we keep trucking on.
- Give yourself a deadline
- Giving yourself a deadline keeps you from over-editing your post. Just like overworking dough and batter in cooking, the same can be done with your content. Use a deadline to make sure your content is just right. Done is better than perfect.
- Write during your most productive time
- Many of us agree that we are more productive at night than during the day. Even Patel says he does his best work after 8 p.m. Use your most productive times to your advantage. If you're not a morning person, don't rely on the morning of your deadline to crank out a blog post. Go get a coffee instead.
- Use simple words
- Using big words might have worked tying to impress your professors in college. But on average, your reader reads at a fifth grade level. If there is not a need to over-complicate your writing, why waste time doing so?
This easy checklist is just a nice reminder of things to post on your bulletin board while you are writing to help keep you on the right track. By the way, they're all in the free content editing download available in this post.
5. Reread the post to make sure it meets your content standards.
Read though your post after you write it: Is the post quality content?
If you get to the end of the post and think, "Man, I have some editing to do to bring this up to the standards of my content," you might be better off just pitching it. If it's a guest post, you may want to provide additional direction to your author and push the editing back onto them.
Don't be like me wasting 16 hours making someone else's words fit the content standards you're looking for.
At CoSchedule, we use task templates to help keep everything organized and keep everyone on track. Because on average we have 3–4 people working on content at any given time, it's super important to keep the puzzle pieces falling in the right places so we are able to hit our deadlines.
Here is an example of the task template we used for this post specifically:
From submitting the fist blog post draft to sending out the A/B test, everything is in there and everyone is assigned tasks and a due date.
6. Before you post, look over the large edits.
Next, focus on the big edits like polishing and optimizing:
If at any time you realize that any of these are not staying true to your keyword and target audience, go back and redirect your content to come full circle. Again, your readers will notice that your content it not what they believed they were getting and leave or bounce away from your content.
Some things we look for in this step include:
- URL or slug matches the keyword
- Page title includes keyword near the beginning and inspires interest
- Meta description sells readers on why they should read the content
- At least 3 headlines are available for A/B/C testing on Twitter and in emails
- Graphics and visuals break up long strings of text to give readers' eyes a break from black and white
- Downloads are available to help readers put what they learned into practice
Finally, before you pull the trigger you want to do one last read though, even have another set of eyes read though as well and make sure that your grammar is up to par.
There is nothing worse than the grammar police coming and throwing your spelling errors into the comments section.
Misspellings and inconsistency hurt your credibility. Keep it clean and concise and watch your readers start seeing you as a trustworthy source for your niche.
But. There is a reason this is the last thing to focus on. Quality content, great stories, awesome messages, helpful advice—all of that is more important from the beginning. You can always clean up grammar later.
How Do You Edit Your Content?
It may seem overly simple, but sometimes this is just the advice we need to help us get our editing back on track. Thanks for reading, and if you know someone who could really benefit from this post, please share it!