In this episode we're going continue our series about building the perfect blog post and dive into the topic of editing your blog posts.
If you've been listening to the episodes in this series, it should be clear that we are treating each blog post as a strategic piece of content. We're not talking about 250-word posts with minimal value or insight.
We're emulating the processes that large brands utilize to make sure every post achieves a high-quality level.
In this episode you'll learn:
- Why to invest the time or money on editing
- The different types of edits
- Options for automating the editing process
- Options for outsourcing the editing process
- Three resources for learning more about the editing process
- Review the top 3 resources for learning about editing
- Download the editing checklist
- Customize the checklist to suit your needs
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Hey everybody, Dave Ziembicki here. Welcome to StrongStart.fm. My mission is to help you design, automate and outsource the technology of your online business. In this episode, we’re going to continue our series about building the perfect blog post and we’re going to dive into the topic of editing your blog posts.
This is a part of a series that started with episode 15 describing how to become great at every part of online business, and that episode talked about taking a big topic, in this case building the perfect blog post and breaking it down into its component parts. Then for each of those parts, doing research on how to become great at doing that particular task and then deciding whether that’s a task that you want to do yourself, automate or outsource.
On the topic of editing today, we’re going to cover three important topics. The first is why to invest the time and money on editing and whether you should even do that. Second, what are the options for automating the editing process and then third, we’ll talk about options for outsourcing the editing process. As always, I’ll be providing a checklist of all the best practices that we’ll cover in this episode and that will be available over in the show notes at StrongStart.fm/022.
Now, at this point, we’re almost at the end of our blog authoring process. Through the last couple of episodes, we’ve gotten all the way through to a full draft of our post. So if you recall, we’ve gone through research, keyword research, headlines, structure and copywriting, images and graphics, writing your conclusion and calls to action and now we’ve got basically a completed first draft of the entire post.
Now this is where some of the amateurs start dropping off what I call sort of the optimization phase. In the scramble to publish tons of content or to keep up with a content calendar, sometimes steps like editing, SEO, outreach and so on, they get skipped right. I mean, all of us have heard this guidance of, “you’ve got to publish content, you’ve got to do it consistently and you got to stick to a schedule” and while all that is true, if that’s forcing you to pump out low-quality content then it’s probably a self-defeating type of approach there.
So what I’m talking about is that if you’ve got your heart set on a weekly blog post, that’s a great aspiration but if that’s going to cause you to have to cut corners then you might want to move to twice a week. All the people that talk about being consistent, you know, most of them don’t say it has to be consistent weekly or daily or whatever it might be, it just has to be consistent on a timeframe that makes sense for you and your audience.
Now, even though I’m saying that, I’m guilty of this myself quite frequently. I am trying to stick to a content and calendar, I am trying to be very consistent and so it’s one of the reasons why I decided to do this whole series of post is because I’m going through and basically reevaluating my whole process end to end. For all of these things that I’m recommending in this episode, I am building that into my standard checklist and then from now on, I’m going to be doing it every single time I create a piece of content.
As you know by now, if you’ve listened to more than even one or two of this episodes, once I’ve defined how I want to do things and I’ve defined and documented that process, then I decide how much of that can be automated or how much of it I can outsource. In researching this part of the process, I’ve collected three sources for you that I’ll link to in the show notes over at StrongStart.fm/022. Actually, this time around, I really didn’t find a ton of good information out there on this. There are a lot of sort of fluff articles and post about editing and the value of that and so forth.
Luckily, right as I was beginning to record this episode, Copyblogger came out with a post that really had some good information in there, plus some links to some of their older content related to this topic that is really good. One of the first resources there that I’ll link to is an article from
Copyblogger about whether your blog needs editing and proofreading. Another one is from thebookdesigner.com, which is the four different levels of editing and what they are and we’ll talk about that in this episode, but if you want to dive deeper, you can go check out that source.
Then another one from lifewire.com, which is titled What Does a Blog Editor Do? That one is much more advanced, I mean, that’s a little bit more for scenarios where you’re a business or a brand and you’re hiring someone to effectively be like the editor and chief of a larger scale blog. That’s obviously not a scenario that most of us are going to be in but I thought it was an interesting read just so that you can see what some of the larger brands and businesses that are out there that are in the content business do and why we’re modeling our process after that but doing it in maybe a little bit more nimble way by doing, like I keep mentioning, some outsourcing and some automation and so forth. Again, check out those sources and the links to those will be over on the show notes.
Diving in, the first topic we’re going to talk about is why invest the time or money on editing. Now, again, if you’ve been listening to this episode series, it will be clear that we’re treating each blog post as more of a strategic piece of content. When I’m talking about the perfect blog post, I’m not talking about sort of a 250-word post with minimal value or insight, just something that’s there to sort of fill the space on your blog. We’re talking more about this, the really good, epic, or keystone, or flagship, whatever you want to call it type of content that hopefully is going to be the focus of your posts.
As I just mentioned, we’re emulating some of the processes that large brands utilize to make sure every post achieves a high-quality level. The way they do that is by basically dividing up the work and allowing specialists to do each part. Now, obviously there will be a core writer or a content creator but often the things that we’ve talked about, like headline writing or SEO or in this case, editing, they’re often different people or even entirely different groups in that process flow or in that workflow of getting a piece of content from initial idea all the way through to publish.
Again, even those of us that are sort of a one man or one woman show or solo entrepreneur, we could still emulate that and basically get some of the benefits of having specialized focuses on each of this different parts of the publishing process. The content that you and I read or that we aspire to emulate is really the sum of hundreds of different steps that all contribute to the final quality of the output. Now, when it comes to editing, there’s a number of different types of edit but generally I break them down into two different categories.
First there is sort of the proofreading element and this is really just fixing obvious spelling and grammar and punctuation types of errors and stuff like that. While that’s hard to measure, having those types of errors in your content shows your readers that you really don’t value quality. You didn’t take the time to proofread it or to have somebody else look at it or to use some of the tools that we’re talking about. You know, each time, there’s a little error like that in any of the content that you create, it’s a small hit to your overall brand image and those can add up over time.
One or two in frequent errors aren’t really the issue. The issue’s going to be when your content consistently has this types of errors. No matter how good of a writer you are, a simple proofreading edit pass is pretty easy to do and it’s going to find a lot of basic errors. I know when I’m working on a piece of content, you know, especially after I’ve gone through lots of different revisions and iterations and all these types of things, you’ve just been in it so long that you’re not going to be able to spot these types of errors. It almost always requires a second set of eyes or a piece of automation to do some of those basic proofreading types of scenarios.
Then beyond proofreading, there’s other types of edits that move a little bit higher up the value chain and that’s where the editor actually starts looking at the content. As an example, you know, proofreading edit is not going to cut our sentence length down or reorder a paragraph or change the structure of the content to make it more clear. That’s something that real human editor needs to do. These higher level edits can be called different things. Sometimes it’s called a content edit, a copy edit, a substantive edit or other similar terms, there isn’t really a standard definition that I could find but there is a clear jump in the value and also the cost for that type of edit.
Those are probably more what you and I would think of when we say the word “edit”. It’s just sort of is a natural evolution of that particular topic. These are the second set of eyes, the objective reader of your content, they’re going to help answer questions, “Are my ideas getting through? Is my content too verbose? Am I using too much jargon?” Basically it’s all the questions that is difficult for us to answer ourselves as the authors because we’ve been staring at this content for days or weeks at a time.
The larger and more important your content, the higher the value of a good editor is going to bring to that content. So for social media post, I’m not going to use an editor but if it’s an 8,000 word epic blog post then I usually will and for something like an ebook or a physical book, obviously you would spend the money and take the time to work with an editor. Those are just some examples to think about when you want to move from just a simple proofreading pass all the way up to more of a substantive edit. Even though editors are fairly widely available, editing is not cheap, especially as you move up the scale towards more of those substantive or copy edits. There is going to be an investment required.
Now, in the short term, this investment is probably not going to have any visible return on investment, the ROI builds over time as you consistently create higher quality content. If you think about the brands that you admire today, they did not start out day one with great reputations. It takes weeks, months and years of consistency for a brand element like quality or style to really take hold. Since not all of us can afford a substantive edit across all of our content, I break the process down into a couple of steps from super low cost up to the high end and you can basically choose where on the spectrum you want to be for whatever point in your business you are.
The next topic we’ll cover are options for automating the editing process. One part of the editing process, that proofreading phase that we talked about, is pretty easily automated. For the tools that I’m going to talk about in the section, I’ll include some screenshots and links over in the show notes at StrongStart.fm/022. One of the most simplistic examples is you know, if you use Microsoft Word or some other word processor or even the basic WordPress editor itself, there is some basic spellchecking built into that and then in word, there’s also some basic grammar checking.
That’s actually recently been updated so it does a little bit deeper checking than it has in the past. That’s pretty much the same with some of the other word-processing applications that are out there.
[0:10:12.7] DZ: The absolute bear minimum that you should do in this phase is at least edit your text of your blogpost in something that’s going to do basic spelling and grammar checking and then we’ll talk about some more advanced scenarios in a second.
If you like to edit directly in WordPress and you happen to use the jetpack plugin suite on WordPress, there is a module called “spelling and grammar” that adds that basic spelling and grammar checking into the WordPress Editor, and it doesn’t just rely on what your browser will do with basic text.
Now moving out from there and what I generally recommend is you can also add a tool like Grammarly to your portfolio of tools and that’s both a web based tool, it’s available as a chrome extensions and also as a plugin for Microsoft office. It also actually has a full desktop app, which brings some deeper spelling and grammar checking capability. There’s a free version of Grammarly and also a paid version. The free version has about 150 different critical grammar and spelling checks and then the premium version adds another hundred or so advanced checks, vocabulary suggestions, genre specific checks and also plagiarism detector.
Now, the premium plan goes for, I think it’s as little as like $11 a month. For about $140 a year, you can effectively automate that proofreading and grammar checking phase of the editing process. To me, that’s pretty much a no brainer. Minimally using the free version which is going to be better than what you find in most of the word processors and then personally yeah, I’ve gone ahead and bought the annual plan there for Grammarly and what I’m trying to do is make sure that in my checklist, one of the steps that I do is go run through and put all of my text through that tool and make any fixes or anything like that before I put it into my draft and publish.
Now, there’s a couple of different ways that you can use Grammarly. With the chrome plugin, basically anytime you’re typing a text box anywhere inside the browser and in this case you know, inside of the WordPress post editor, there’s going to be a little Grammarly button there which is going to bring up their user interface and it’s going to mark up the text and make suggestions as to any spelling or grammar issues that you should change.
That’s pretty much the easiest method to use with Grammarly, if what you like to do or your preference is editing, your post directly in WordPress. As I mentioned, if you’re editing in Microsoft Word, there’s a Grammarly add in that you can add to Word and if you’re editing anywhere else, basically whenever you want to do a Grammarly check.
You can basically copy the text from wherever you're editing, paste it into the Grammarly site or the desktop app and then all the errors and suggestions are going to be displayed on the right hand side. Really, just grab the text from wherever it is, plug it in to the site or the app and then you’ll be able to make the files there and then just paste it back into whatever editing tool that you're utilizing.
The second tool that I wanted to talk about is called Hemingway App and while Hemingway App does some of the spelling and grammar checking, its primary focus is more on the overall readability of your content. So it’s moving up a level a little bit from Grammarly in terms of sophistication. There is both a free and a paid version. The paid version is just that you can get the desktop application. The free version is pretty similar to Grammarly in that you basically just go to the Hemingway App site and you paste your text into the site and then on the right hand side, you’re going to get all the suggestions and scores related to the readability of your content.
Basically, what Hemingway does is it scores each sentence and paragraph in terms of readability. How long it is, how complex it is and it provides an overall score for the entire content to let you know as the overall readability of this text or this piece of content, is it high, medium or low?” It gives you a numerical score there. It will also suggest simpler phrasing or alternative sentence structures and things like that. I ten to write overly complicated sentences and long running paragraphs and twisted logic and things like this. This tool helps a lot with pointing out those situations.
Those are the types of things that Grammarly or a normal spelling and grammar checker aren’t going too pickup. In general, I like using both of this and that’s really the recommendation and what I want to include in the default version of this process and the checklist which is basically a run through Grammarly to fix all of the simple spelling and grammar checks. And also run through Hemingway app for the sentence structure and the overall readability. The other thing I hadn’t paid too much attention to until I started doing the research for this episode was the desktop version of the Hemingway app.
Now, that app is a onetime cost of $20, that’s pretty inexpensive and it basically brings a number of interesting features like the ability to export your draft right into WordPress, the ability to do offline editing and save your draft offline. Like if you’re in an airplane or a train or something like that. It does have simple text formatting in there like bold and italics and also the ability to export the text in html or mark down. What do I recommend out of all this options? Well, again, for my proofreading and edit pass, I’m going to use that combination of Grammarly and Hemingway.
For short form content, I do usually edit directly in the WordPress editor. With the Grammarly Chrome extension, what I would do is enable that at the end of creating the draft and then go in and fix all the basic spelling and grammatical errors. I don’t generally like having all of that stuff on as I am actually doing the writing because it gets distracting. Now for longer form content, I don’t really like editing and WordPress for a number of different reasons. I just don’t like the way it saves drafts infrequently or you have to click the button yourself. There is the potential to lose things plus there is just a lot of distractions in that environment. For the long form content I’ve tried a number of different options.
But since I have taken another look at that Hemingway desktop app, I’m going to try that out for the next couple of weeks. The nice part of that is that it’s a really distraction free editing environment where basically there’s nothing there except the blank screen. You can turn off most of the user interface. There is a button that you click that makes all of its recommendations go away. So you can just sit there and write and then when you are ready to get recommendations on how to maybe simplify or improve the readability, you just turn on the other tab and you will start seeing all of the recommendations.
It does let you do basic things like format the text with bold and italics and stuff like that so it’s got everything you would need in form of a basic text editor.
[0:16:13.1] As I mentioned, the one nice thing about it is that you can export the text directly into WordPress and you can also export it to HTML or this other format that’s called marked down. Now if you’re not familiar with that, I will cover that in a future episode. It is a pretty exciting, I don’t know if I’d call it technology because it’s pretty simple but it is a really interesting approach, which basically is a format for exporting text with formatting where the format is a 100% text. So what I mean by that is let’s say you want to make something a word inside of your sentence bold.
Well if you are in Microsoft Word or any kind of Word processing type applications, you’re going to click a bold button and then behind the scenes, it’s in some weird XML format or some kind of dedicated file format. The way you do that with mark down is you can do that in a pure text editor and all you do is basically put an asterisk in front of and then asterisk after the word that you wanted bolded and that indicates a mark down format that that section should be bold and then any application that can understand mark down now understands “okay when I render that content I’m going to make that word bold.”
So it gets a little bit geeky but the reason why this is an exciting approach is it’s a way of storing your text that is independent from all of the different applications that you might use it in but that it maintains all the different formatting elements that you might have. So that way if you are copying between the WordPress editor and Microsoft Word or Google Docs or whatever these things may be, a lot of times there’s just formatting issues that show up there.
But as all of them start to be able to understand how to import and export mark down, you now have a standard file format that is a 100% text based that maintains the formatting. So in any event, if you do edit in Hemingway app, that’s one of the side benefits is that you can save your work in this mark down format, which is about as future purpose as you can get for someday when you might want to use some other app.
So for me, it’s going to be that combination of edit and Hemingway app, make my adjustments and corrections there. Do a run through of Grammarly for the spell checking and the grammar and then that’s basically the way that I am going to automate the proof reading side of the editing process. Now at this point, you may be wondering, “Is this going to be valuable?” Or maybe you think you are a good writer you’re not going to have a lot of these issues. So I suggest doing especially since both of these app type free version is take a piece of content that you have already written and published and go run it through both of these tools.
Basically open up the Grammarly site, the Hemingway app site, copy the text out of wherever it is today, even at your WordPress post, paste it right into the window of those two websites and then you’re going to see how does that content rate on those different dimensions? So does any of these replace a need for human editor? Unfortunately not. However, if your budget doesn’t enable you to hire an editor, these tools will still significantly improve your content. If you can also hire an editor, then I’d still take a pass through these tools as it doesn’t take very long and it’s also going to enable the editor to focus more on the substance and content edit.
So in addition to automation, there is also some options for outsourcing the editing process. At the higher end of the spectrum, you can outsource the entirety of the editing process. In fact, this is almost the textbook definition of something that you should outsource. A task you likely don’t have the skills or time to do. That is certainly true in my case, outsourcing the editing process generally is going to take one of two forms. You can find an individual freelance editor on Fivrr, or Upwork or something like that or you can use an editing service.
Where for either per word or subscription fee, the service provider will use an editor from their pool to work on your content. Generally I prefer going with services whenever I can. It can be a bit complicated managing individual freelancers and making applications for them and interviewing them and all of these other stuff and that takes time. For something that is relatively commodity like editing, I like service providers there. so I don’t have to worry about all of that part. I just evaluate a service provider once, use them and then if I like them and they’re doing a good job, just keep using them and they can worry about hiring and managing the staff.
That said, if you do find a gem on Fivrr or Upwork, you might be able to get great quality at a lower price. Now as you might expect, the pricing and quality of this services are going to vary widely and in general, the higher the quality, the higher the cost is going to be. I did some research on a number of different providers. The cost components are usually a price per word along with some kind of timing factor and obviously, if you need a more rapid turnaround or a rush order, there is going to be an additional cost for that. What’s nice is when something like blogging and you are fairly disciplined with your content calendar and you batch your content, it usually will be no problem.
If it takes an editor two, three, four days or even a week to get back to you with an edit because that piece of content might not be on your content calendar for another month or two or more. So that scenario where the benefits of good processes and discipline and managing that content calendar, they start to compound in areas like this where you might be able to find a much cheaper editing service because you are not putting that rush order on.
Some of the services also offer different types of editors and different services for different types of content. So as an example, the edit for a blog post is going to be different than an edit for a doctoral dissertation or a journal article or some piece of formal research. It’s also the same thing, you know, there might be a difference in an editor for let’s say technical product reviews or sales and marketing content and these types of things. There is a lot of different types of content and therefore there is potentially different types of editors.
At the higher end with some of these services, we can also get the same editor assigned each time so that they will grow more familiar with your style and others let you even define “a house style”. So if there is a certain phraseology that you want to use, or certain types of words, or a certain tone or style and you want to make sure that the editor is not taking that out or sort of dumbing that down, some of these services let you define that type of style guide and the editor will make sure to refer to that style guide before they make any particular changes. That way they are editing in a way that you had in mind.
There are dozens of these different types of services out there. A couple that I looked at I’ll link to in the show notes over at StrongStart.fm/022 but a couple are editorworld.com, Scribendi, Editorr and Wordy.com. For my research, I found that the cost of these types of editing services range from two cents to eight cents per word in general, with a couple of these different variables that I have talked about around turnaround time.
The better ones have pools of editors native to the country or language that you choose. So obviously I live in the United States and so I want a native English speaker being the one that is editing my content in general. Now a couple of cents a word doesn’t sound like a lot until you do the math. So if you’re doing a 5,000 word epic blog post, the editing cost from that can range anywhere from 100 to $400 just for the edit.
Now after doing the research, I chose Wordy.com to use for two of my posts. I’ve really liked the different services that they did offered. They do have native US people as their editors and they also have UK I think in a couple of other countries and really, I just like the combination of price and the services that they were going to offer. They did have some things that were specific to blog post editing and allowing you to give them a little bit of a brief about your style and then their turnaround times were good for non-rush orders. So for one of my definitive guides that was I think it was about 6,000 words the cost for edit was about $400. So obviously we need to do a lot of thinking before we invest that kind of money on a single blog post.
I definitely don’t recommend this unless you have a monetization plan in place. As an example, are you going to invest in the marketing of the blog post that you are creating? What I mean by that is are you’re going to run ads to it? Are you going to do influencer outreach? Are you going to leverage all of your social media channels to really promote your blog post?
That’s the first step because if you are just going to write a post that goes out to minimal traffic, then it’s obviously going to be a waste of money. You are spending $400 on an edit for that. Does your blog post have a lead magnet or a form to generate email opt-ins? There is a value to getting email opt ins so there might be a return on investment there.
And then the big question is, does the lead magnet or your blog post associated with a sales funnel that leads to a paid product or program? If the answer to those are yes then it probably makes sense to invest in a good edit pass because you are going to be putting the time in to promoting the blog post and it’s got a path towards actually generating some revenue for you.
Now if your post aren’t going to have those things if you don’t have a monetization plan in place then generally I would stick to just the automated proofreading and editing path and not spending the money on a professional editor or service at this point. The thing to remember is that you can and probably should go back to your older post.
Once you do have a monetization plan in place and then you can update the content because one thing you have to remember and this is the phase I’m going through right now is when you start out, you’re going to have minimal traffic. If you keep consistent and you are delivering good content and you are consistent over a long period of time and you are building your audience, at a certain point you are going to see really significant increases in the size of your audience.
Those people that are now fans of your work are going to go back and read your older stuff. So even though it might be two years since I’ve wrote some of my original blog post, as my traffic starts to pick up the people that are fans of my content are going to go back and read those things so I can absolutely go right now to some of those older posts that are pretty good and pay to get those edited because I’m going to have a monetization path in place.
[0:25:38.5] And I’m going to have updated content and I’m going to have an increase in readers that are going to check that stuff out. So for me right now since I’ve been in the middle ground there, I’m really only investing in the full edit paths for my definitive guides and they do have lead magnets and are list builders for me and some of them have the beginnings of the funnels to the paid programs That I’m developing like the membership site that I’m going to be launching later this year.
So I am pretty close to having that full monetization path in place and then what I’ll do most likely is I’m going to use professional editing for most of the content that I do. So before we wrap up, let’s do a quick review of an action plan for this episode. First, as you are building your blog authoring process along with me in these episodes, definitely add an editing phase to your process.
Second at a minimum, before you publish run the text of your post through the free versions of Grammarly and Hemingway app and make the suggested improvements. It’s going to really significantly improve the quality of your content with a minimal time investment. I mean really, it only takes an extra 10 or 15 minutes to do depending on the size of your blog post.
Third, as you start to see value in that consider upgrading to Grammarly premium or the Hemingway desktop app and that’s pretty much what I’m doing right now and fourth, if you have a monetization plan consider using one of the better editing services for your important or strategic content. Again like the epic post or definitive guides or things like that.
[0:26:54.3] And then finally, be sure to head over to the show notes at StrongStart.fm/022 to download my free checklist that outlines the full editing process for blog post that we talked about in this episode. So I want to thank you for joining me today. If you’ve been enjoying the content here on StrongStart.fm, it would greatly help us out if you could give us a quick positive review over on iTunes.
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