Content lies at the heart of any effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, so what do you do when the content you write just isn't producing the results you need? That's where SEO editing comes in.
In this guide, we'll be covering everything you need to know about the principles, processes, and benefits of SEO editing so that you can begin to implement it in the pursuit of content that is better optimized to rank highly on search engine pages.
Understanding Google's Algorithms
The complete evolution of Google's 'retrieve and rank' algorithm iterations is far too long to describe in detail here, but one thing needs to be made crystal clear: Google is becoming increasingly semantic. That means Google is getting better and better at analysing content as a human would.
Rather than simply assigning a value based on keyword density and placement, since the development of the Knowledge Graph in 2012, Google is beginning to approximate subjective content valuations based on things like content relevance, context, breadth, and depth. Keyword stuffing isn't enough to get you on the first search engine results page. Your sentences have to make sense, and Google knows whether your content carries meaning or not.
With the 2019 BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update, Google's algorithms were equipped with the ability to more effectively understand intent and conversational context, in the form of long-tail phrases and questions. Google can connect users with webpages that address their queries even when user input terms aren't found on the page.
What does this mean for SEO editing? For starters, it gives editors the freedom to respond to problems within their content in more informative, interesting, unique, and engaging ways. However, with this freedom comes uncertainty. As well discuss in detail below, the process of SEO editing is no longer as simple as sprinkling in a few strategic keywords.
What is SEO Editing?
SEO editing refers to the process of editing written work to make it more appealing to Google's content crawling algorithms, thus increasing SERP ranking and traffic inflow.
The ultimate goal is to convince Google's crawling algorithms that a piece of content is worth ranking highly on SERPs. There are several factors that SEO editors need to consider when working to improve their content's value to both readers and Google's crawling algorithms:
Value might seem like a fairly subjective word to use here, but there isn't a better one. Think of it this way, a webpage is only worth suggesting to Google users if it addresses the query that summoned the page in the first place. A page's value (to readers and to Google) is how well it achieves this. Optimized content needs to be comprehensive, otherwise, it will be lacking in value.
Google is what's known as a semantic search engine. This means it is well-equipped to understand natural language and phrasing patterns. Simply throwing in a few strategic keywords isn't going to fool the system. SEO editing needs to add real, honest value.
That said, mentioning relevant keywords still helps Google understand your content better. A page's SEO power is partially dependant on whether or not keywords and phrases have been repeated often enough to be indexed by Google's content crawlers. According to most estimates, the ideal keyword density for an article or blog post is between 1% and 2% - meaning once or twice per 100 words of content. A big part of SEO editing is updating content to optimize its keyword density for target queries.
Editing old articles to rank better on search engines also involves creating an interlinking structure that is easy to crawl, provides a good user experience and makes sense. This means:
- Internally linking together pages that contain content that is relevant to each other. For example, these Amazon guides from MentorCruise hugely benefit from being linked to each other, as readers can go from one to the other. They pass important SEO juice to each other, which helps bring their search rankings up:
Through SEO editing, you need to convince Google that a piece of content is highly relevant to its target keyword or query and what search users want. Generally, this means optimizing the piece for one primary target query or keyword and 3-5 related long-tail queries or key phrases. These long-tail target queries should be located in headings which, together, form a rough outline of the piece. To illustrate, here's an outline from the top ranking article for the keyword 'content strategy':
- First Long-Tail Phrase: Your Content Strategy Matters
- Second Long-Tail Phrase: What Is a Content Strategy?
- Third Long-Tail Phrase: Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy
- Fourth Long-Tail Phrase: SEO Content Strategy Tips
A major facet of SEO editing is improving the informational breadth of a piece of content. This boils down to covering a wide range of related topics that address questions users don't even realize they have yet. Google loves broad content because it vastly simplifies the process of recommending content to users in response to queries.
Breadth can often be established by introducing keywords in a variety of different contexts that users are likely to search for. For instance, the outline provided above delves into content strategy in a variety of ways.
topical breadth goes hand in hand with topical depth, which refers to how deeply you go into a topic. Using examples, offering explanations, providing statistics and citations - all of these go a long way towards convincing Google's algorithm that a piece of content fully covers the stated topic or query.
How to edit your content for SEO
1. Have the right tools.
At its core, SEO is all about acquiring, interpreting, and adapting to data. SEO editing is no different, and having a deep bench of tools will make the more technical aspects of the process more intuitive. Luckily, there are a ton of tools available that help with various aspects of the SEO editing process. Here are a few examples:
- Frase - A powerful content creation web app and SEO editor that helps identify opportunities for improvement within a piece of content by offering insights into SERP competitors and analyzing keyword usage.
- Google Search Console (GSC) - A suite of tools that allow SEO editors to accurately track the keywords their sites are ranking for. Similar tools - like those offered by Ahrefs, Semrush, Keywords Everywhere - are typically only able to make estimates, while GSC is able to provide the raw data SEO editors need. To illustrate the data disparity, here's a comparison of a monthly search volume estimate provided by Keywords Anywhere and GSC's raw data:
- Google Analytics - A suite of tools that offer insights into the users who make up your site's traffic rather than the technical aspects of your site that lead to the traffic.
2. Structure your edit around data.
The SEO editing process begins by seeking out data to use when structuring your edits. This means checking on GSC to see what keywords your page is currently ranking for and then selecting 2 to 5 keywords or phrases that you want to rank higher for. These will form the foundation of your optimization.
Once you have these selected, analyze the piece for things like keyword density and placement. With regards to keyword placement specifically, take note of the variations and contexts that keywords appear in. Are they relevant to the topic? Do they add depth and breadth? Questions like these will help structure the editing process and facilitate improvement.
3. Research top-ranking SERP competitors.
With your foundational research complete, it's time to move on to competitor research. The goal here isn't to copy your competitors - it's to expand on their good ideas while filling the gaps in knowledge they've left open.
Frase is a fantastic tool for competitor research because it automatically compiles a list of competing pages based on the content you'd like to rank for. From there, it analyzes what question these pages answer and provides insights into what information users might still be looking for. Here's how it looks like for this article being written:
4. Reoptimize your content.
Once all the research is out of the way, you should have a clear idea of what is holding your content back in SERPs. If your That means the actual editing should be relatively easy!
Here, it's important to note that SEO editing is almost always more than just editing. Improving a piece of content will almost always involve adding additional points or explanations that lead to greater breadth or depth.
Frase helps you with making your content more relevant to what searchers want by assigning an SEO score to your content based on the top-ranking pages for that query. The higher your SEO score is, the more relevant your content is, and hopefully the higher your chances are of ranking for that target query. This system almost feels like a game where you feel compelled to reach a higher score.
5. Add internal links
Last but not least, remember to add internal links to the updated content AND to direct other relevant pieces of content to this newly edited webpage. After all, links are the way that websites interact online and having an effective internal linking structure can maximise the chances of your content ranking higher for relevant queries.
When should you edit an existing article or create a new one?
Let’s get our definitions straight:
- SEO editing is the process of improving your website's search engine rankings by making changes to existing web pages rather than creating new content.
- SEO writing is the process of creating fresh SEO content through a new webpage and URL
- SEO rewriting is replacing the content of a page with a new one.
Obviously, all three practices overlap extensively in their goals. So, if you're trying to rank higher on SERPs, are you better off editing existing content or creating new content from scratch?
SEO editing is better when...
- The content ranks poorly BUT is engaging. A low bounce rate and a high average time on page are evidence that people are getting value from your content, even if it's ranking poorly in SERPs. In this case, SEO editing will allow you to improve your page rank without risking the value that the page is already providing.
- The page wasn't made for SEO reasons, but is getting search traffic.
SEO rewriting is better when
- The old content almost acts like a placeholder text. Sometimes when businesses are in the early stages of development they produce some content that is far from optimal. If the page is starting to rank, consider rewriting the whole article but keeping the same domain URL.
- The content ranks poorly AND isn't engaging. This is the opposite case to the one mentioned above. If your content is ranking poorly and visit analysis hints that people aren't engaged when they do find your page, it's probably time for a rewrite.
SEO writing is better when...
- The content is ranking for the wrong keywords. When content is ranking for the wrong keywords, it's symptomatic of a much larger error in the keyword or topic research stage. Usually, the best way forward is to create a new page that is more relevant to the query.
- The content isn't capitalizing on lucrative keywords. If you stumble upon some potentially lucrative keywords through GSC, it may be time to create more relevant content to target them.
SEO editing is a powerful tool when it comes to getting the most value out of your content. The principles and practices involved are relatively easy to understand and implement, and the rewards for doing so are frequently on par with writing SEO content from scratch. It's important to understand the process of SEO editing so that you can recognize opportunities to capitalize on its benefits in the pursuit of better content.