“Something more” could be Copyblogger’s unofficial content editing motto.
That’s what Copyblogger founder Brian Clark was getting at years ago when he wrote:
“It’s no secret we’re partial to writers and other types of content creators around here. That’s because it’s the creators who provide the engine for traffic, funnels, and conversion in the first place.
We’re not talking about any ol’ content that just fills a web page. Instead, we need to create valuable messages that engage, inspire, and motivate our prospects to become who they want to be.
In other words, a healthy dose of creativity that transcends marketing and becomes something more.” – Brian Clark
When a company fails to stand out, its marketing has a certain something less-ness going on. Its products or services blend in with all of the similar-looking options available.
This has nothing to do with the actual quality of a product or service. It’s how prospects perceive the offer.
What is content editing?
When you’re learning how to start writing, overcoming perfectionism is not an excuse to publish sloppy or uninspired content .
Content that works for your business is not only clear, accurate, and educational, it also gives insight into your values.
And if it doesn’t contain aspects that make it memorable, it’s not going to work — which is why professional writers value content editing.
Of course, memorable content doesn’t automatically lead to conversions. But forgettable content amounts to time and energy you spend on work that doesn’t move prospects closer to making purchases.
Memorable content makes an impact on your audience members’ lives … and when they’re ready to buy something you offer, your product or service will be the only reasonable choice.
Content editing revises an article into a winning presentation.
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10 steps to a powerful content edit
A “good idea” usually isn’t enough.
A good idea might fall flat when executed, or you could find out that the idea wasn’t all that great to begin with.
Similarly — and this is good news for anyone who feels pressure to have brilliant ideas on command — a mediocre idea can be developed into extraordinary marketing with the right care and attention.
You give an idea that care and attention while you edit your content.
So, I’ve simplified the content editing process into 10 steps. And I don’t think I’ve oversimplified how much effort these steps take, because each one has many layers.
They’re smart strategies that help turn your drafts into memorable media.
Any successful writer at work will be quick to affirm that average content is always the result of rushing an idea to completion, which leads us to Step #1.
Step #1: Leave enough time
This is the foundation for all of the other tips in this post, as well as the other 150+ articles I’ve written for Copyblogger.
It all comes back to leaving enough time for your ideas to mature and shine.
Creative content editing, just like writing, needs to be done in stages. We need to prepare for distractions, because creativity is … distracting. 🙂
Besides unanticipated interruptions during our work sessions, there are typical creative circumstances that we can anticipate.
I always get new ideas when I’m in work mode. Always. And most of the time they don’t fit into the article I’m currently writing or editing.
Nonetheless, I need to stop what I’m doing and explore my thoughts a bit, so I have something substantial to revisit when I’m ready to use that topic.
Just like you shouldn’t expect brilliant writing to pour out of you all at once, you shouldn’t expect one sole editing session to be transformative.
Step #2: Locate your content editing goal
What’s the most important thing to practice when you’re learning how to write a good blog post?
You should be able to succinctly state why you’re going to publish the piece of content you’re editing.
Reference your content calendar to identify how the article serves both your audience and your business.
That statement won’t go directly in your text most of the time, but it helps influence the message you’ll communicate.
Your blog post introduction should support your goal.
It’s your chance to answer the unofficial question going through every reader’s mind when they look at the beginning of an article:
“Why should I care?”
When you present a taste of the most important information right away, it gives the reader confidence that they’ll get even more of what they’re looking for if they keep reading.
Then the rest of the article can reveal more compelling details that provide a payoff for the time the reader invested in your content.
Step #3: Craft precise headlines
I read a ton of headlines every day. I read very few articles.
Two things are happening here. A headline either:
- Gives me all of the information that I wanted to know, or
- Lacks the persuasive details that spark my interest
Let’s look at the second case.
Your headline writing needs to convince a reader that the rest of your article is worth their time.
You do that with precise, descriptive language that speaks directly to a specific person. Headlines that appeal to “everyone” will actually appeal to no one.
Draft a headline before you write your content to help you stay focused on your main point.
Once you’ve completed the final draft of your content, you’ll write many different headline options. The winner will sell your prospective reader on that article.
To write better headlines, ask yourself:
- Who will benefit from this content?
- How do I help them?
- What makes this content special?
The answers to these questions most likely won’t produce the exact words you’ll use.
Rather, they’ll help shape your draft into an influential headline that reaches and connects with the people you want to attract to your content.
Step #4: Build powerful sentences
Some people think “clarity” and “creativity” can’t co-exist.
The trick is getting the order correct:
I didn’t accidentally duplicate the word “Creativity” above. When you follow that order, the result is accurate and meaningful sentences that resonate with your target audience.
For your first draft, you have to minimize any self-imposed pressure to be a good writer. When you aren’t concerned about getting everything in the right order, you translate creative concepts from your mind more freely.
I rarely write an article from the beginning to the end. This gives me the opportunity to naturally follow the thoughts I have.
Then it’s time to get clear. I rearrange sections of my writing to the appropriate order — while expanding incomplete paragraphs and deleting tangents.
In your final draft, creatively choose the right words that make up memorable sentences.
Speaking of the right words …
Step #5: Search for the perfect words
Your search for the perfect words is an ongoing part of the creative content editing process.
If you look at a piece of your content a year after it has published, you’ll likely find a word you’d like to replace with a more evocative option — even if you meticulously crafted your writing the first time around.
Here’s where to start this journey.
Look for words you’ve repeated multiple times and find synonyms for certain instances.
While writing an introduction to a post recently, I noticed I used the word “magically,” and then the word “magic” a few paragraphs later.
I strengthened that section of the article while content editing by changing the second instance of “magic” to “sorcery.”
A word you’ve jotted down quickly to capture a content idea can often be refined.
For example, I recently used the word “woo-woo” in a draft, but edited it to “idealistic.”
The more specific word choice reinforces the clarity and creativity I mentioned in Step #4. The change helps a reader effortlessly understand my intention.
Editors double-check the definition of a word when they aren’t 100% sure it’s used correctly.
Last week, I was 99% sure I used the right version of the word “bore,” but since I knew that word is commonly confused with “boar” and “boor,” I looked up the definition anyway.
This is not just a tedious task that’s necessary to avoid unintentional errors. It’s creative.
The more intimately you get to know each word in your content, the more confident you can be that you’re choosing the words that make an imprint in your reader’s mind. The words that give them something more.
Step #6: Have fun while content editing
Having fun is an underutilized content editing tool.
But you only have time to take breaks during your editorial review if you … leave enough time to have fun.
You’ve probably heard of the 24-hour rule for better writing: After you finish writing a draft, you wait 24 hours before you edit it. That way, you’ll have fresh eyes and catch more mistakes.
You can use the 24-hour rule within your content editing process as well — it’s not just for catching mistakes.
Taking breaks to do something fun, unrelated to your writing and editing, gives you space to make new connections that add depth and nuance to rough ideas.
It may sound counterintuitive, but many important messages for your audience will emerge when you’re not concerned about writing an important message.
Step #7: Customize your message
When you have a goal in mind for a specific piece of content, it’s important to remember that other people in your niche might have the same goal for a piece of content they create.
It should drive you to infuse your content with all of the special qualities only you can provide.
Is there something about your topic that’s difficult for most people to understand, but you have a simple way of explaining it? Or, have you spent time mastering a subject so you can now share your expertise in an unconventional way?
Look for creative ways to demonstrate why your business website is the best resource.
Now it’s time for a classic Copyblogger disclaimer:
Aiming for “memorable” is not permission to be a train wreck, disrespectful, or offensive.
None of those qualities build memorable content that builds your business.
Having a thoughtful point of view that satisfies your target audience — in ways that other content on other websites does not — is what memorable content is all about.
It stands out because it educates in entertaining, enjoyable ways.
Step #8: Mop up “unicorn vomit”
Unicorn vomit (noun): excessive text that lacks value.
It’s inevitable that some people will disagree with you or won’t particularly like your writing style … and those people might not be who you want to attract.
What you want to avoid is turning off level-headed, engaged prospects.
If your tone or language distracts your ideal readers from your message, you’ve crossed the border into less-effective-content territory.
For me, it comes down to respect. You want to grab your readers’ attention, but not waste their time.
To the untrained eye, unicorn vomit looks like aspects that customize your writing voice during content editing. But as Sonia Simone has put it:
“Sometimes well-meaning attempts to give your writing life end up producing writing that’s silly, trivial, cluttered, or condescending.”
Content editing is the perfect time to extract the goodness you intended and toss out the parts of your personal writing that may harm your credibility.
Step #9: Cut out (but save) tangents
Context plays a huge role when determining what is, or is not, excessive text that lacks value.
The trick is recognizing when information goes beyond the scope of a post.
Some of that unicorn vomit, such as a funny or heartwarming story, might fit perfectly in another article or content series.
I begin writing all of my articles in plain text files or Google docs, and I keep a section at the bottom of each one for all of the unicorn vomit I cut out.
When I review those sections later, I sometimes find great sentences for future articles or even blog post ideas — they just didn’t work in the original places where I wrote them.
Step #10: Streamline similar sentences
You often need to elaborate on a point to express yourself clearly, but one thing that makes editors salivate is spotting two sentences that repeat the exact same information.
The words in the sentences may be different, but the writer reveals nothing new.
Editors love these spots because our “you’re wasting your reader’s time” alarms go off.
When you edit your own writing, it takes practice to recognize common grammar mistakes, as well as the areas where you’ve repeated yourself.
Proofreading from the end of your document to the beginning can come in handy. It forces you to evaluate your words from a different perspective.
Try these 10 content editing tips today
I could have given you a longer list of content editing tips, but my goal for this post (see Step #2) was to provide a go-to process you could easily use the next time you edit a piece of writing. 🙂
If you simply focus on these 10 ideas every time you review a draft, you’ll sharpen the quality of your content. Then you can add on more steps that work for you.
What are your go-to content editing tips?
Share in the comments below!