Are Holes in Your Editing Process Costing You Sales Leads and Online Revenue?
If your content is intended to generate sales leads or online revenue, the best results come when the content, no matter how well written, receives thorough and skillful editing. But often, even organizations that know the value of good editing fall short because of flaws in their editing process. This article discusses ways to simplify and streamline that process, enabling you to publish website, marketing and sales content that significantly encourages conversions.
What Do Sales Prospects Look for in Your Content?
This may sound like a simple question — but do all the people who edit and review new content know the answer and have the same answer? If not, the editorial team may be working at cross purposes, resulting in final content with mixed messages, multiple messages, muddled messages or no message whatsoever. In general terms, prospects want:
- Clarity — Prospects are in a hurry and don’t have the time to unravel an overly stylized message. Never forget David Ogilvy’s sage advice: “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”
- Conciseness — Prospects, especially reading on a mobile device, want the information as quickly as possible.
- Authority — Prospects must know they can believe what they are reading.
- Relevance — Prospects have time only for content that addresses their needs.
- Direction — Prospects don’t mind a nudge. Content that suggests (or tells) prospects what to do next and why they should do it saves them the trouble of figuring it out for themselves.
Editors must keep these points in mind so as not to blur, exaggerate or unnecessarily lengthen or shorten the content.
Editors Must Know Their Roles
Different types of editing are required in a thorough editing process:
- Substantive editing examines overall clarity, accuracy and persuasiveness. Does the content make sense? Is anything missing? Will it maximize conversions?
- Copyediting is a more tactical review, focused on clarity, concise language, style and tone, grammar and punctuation.
- Fact-checking is concerned with the accuracy of factual statements.
- SEO editing focuses on keywords and other aspects of content that maximize the content’s potential for high organic rankings on Google. This is extremely important to drive relevant traffic to the website, increasing the lead pipeline.
All the editors and reviewers touching content need not be concerned with each type of editing. To vastly improve the efficiency of the process, coach editors on where to focus. The two most important points are these:
- Editors other than the proofreader need not be concerned with grammar and punctuation errors. Proper editing of these matters requires specialized training; furthermore, several editors making multiple (and probably inconsistent) proofreading edits confuses and slows down the individual with the thankless task of consolidating those edits into a revised document. The efficient way to handle proofreading is discussed later in this article.
- Business owners and staff members are often the best judges of informational accuracy and persuasiveness. Left on their own, these people may tend to make random edits, push their department’s agenda or feel as though they are wasting their time. However, if they are asked to concentrate on fact-checking or the sales effectiveness of the content, they will make valuable contributions — and just as important, prevent content from getting hopelessly bogged down in editorial disagreements and multiple rounds of reviews.
Check Facts Early
Factual statements in the content should be checked as early in the editing process as possible. Presenting editors with incorrect information is obviously inefficient since they will have to edit the content again after the information has been corrected.
But while timing is important, it isn’t everything. The fact-checker must be properly directed:
- Does the fact-checker know the approved online sources for verifying and supporting statistics and factual statements?
- Does the fact-checker understand which facts need citations, and how citations should be formatted (e.g., hyperlinks, footnotes)?
- Does the fact-checker know who to contact within the organization to verify facts?
- Does the person within the organization responsible for verifying facts know the fact-checker may be reaching out?
Point #1 is far more important than it looks. Sloppy fact-checking undermines the revenue-generation power of content. The Internet abounds with bad data, contradictory data and data that seems but is not truly relevant to the factual statement under review. Allowing incorrect or poorly supported facts to creep into your marketing content ruins authority, credibility and overall brand perception.
Give the Writer SEO Inputs with the Assignment
Sometimes the SEO field is criticized for rendering content awkward and ineffective with unnatural or excessive keyword placement. This editorial issue is easily resolved by giving the writer SEO inputs as part of the assignment, rather than having SEO content forced into the material at the end of the editing line. SEO inputs often go beyond keywords, depending on whether the content is part of an SEO campaign and what type of content is involved. Critical SEO copywriting inputs include:
- Primary keywords. The writer should know the one or two primary keyword phrases that must appear in the content. The writer should also know roughly how many times to repeat these keywords and where they should appear (e.g., the title, subhead, body). Today, keywords need not be repeated to excess, so the writer should have no difficulties weaving them into the content naturally.
- Word count. Word count can be an issue for SEO; if so, the writer must know the target before the writing begins. This prevents irrelevant, wordy content from being tacked on at the last minute, undermining the conversion power of the published material.
- Hyperlink text. The text in hyperlinks — especially for links pointing to URLs on the organization’s website — matters a great deal for SEO. Sometimes having keywords in that text is important, but other times it’s important not to. Without clearly directing the writer, delicate and time-consuming editing of hyperlinks may be required down the line.
Speaking of down the line, the last part of the editing process should be proofreading. All other revisions should be completed and approved before this finishing touch is applied. The problem with proofreading earlier is that when new substantive edits are incorporated after proofreading, grammar and punctuation may no longer be correct.
Publishing content with incorrect grammar and punctuation is a serious problem. Remember that prospects are looking for ways to exclude an organization from buying consideration. Proofreading errors are a convenient filter, justified or not. Beyond damaging revenue generation, poorly proofread copy diminishes authority and brand perception.
In the ideal editing process, content moves directly from the proofreader to the digital publisher, print publisher or the person uploading the content into the organization’s website.
Control Periodic Updates
Applying an efficient editorial process to new content is relatively easy. But one of the biggest holes in editing opens when existing content is involved.
For instance, a product manager notices a few specification updates are needed on the website’s product page. The product manager sends the webmaster an email with some new content, and the webmaster makes the updates in the CMS. Job done.
But the job has been done incorrectly! If seemingly innocuous updates such as this are made without editorial review, they will pile up until the company website is riddled with grammatical errors, sloppy writing and factual misstatements — and no one in the organization will even realize it.
Make sure this hole is plugged. Otherwise, sales leads and online revenue will go down the drain.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales and management experience, Shorr has written for leading online publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and for the American Marketing Association.