Tag Archives: SEO

Flying solo: Focusing your website on your ideal client

In this Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford gets deep into the business of editing text for your website.

When it comes to the content of your website, there are four stages: the initial content creation of the text, editing it down to do the job efficiently, making it accessible and keeping your content fresh. Let’s take those in turn. (I’m not going to talk about using images in this article – but keep ’em relevant, keep ’em in small file sizes for faster page loading, use alt text for accessibility and be aware of copyright issues.)

Creating the initial content

To paraphrase Malini Devadas, of the recently (and, I hope, temporarily) mothballed Edit Boost, marketing boils down to (1) understanding what you do and (2) who you do it for, then (3) telling them about it.

Your website (alongside the CIEP Directory, for Professional and Advanced Professional Members), is the easiest place to demonstrate the first two, and do the third.

It’s clear that people don’t give your website much time to make a good first impression. I learned at the 2022 CIEP conference that websites have 50 milliseconds in which to do it.

Your content should therefore be attractive and engaging (how I hate that word ‘compelling’ in this context!), be easy to access in terms of language, layout and colours, and focus on the potential client.

So here’s the biggest piece of advice today: create an avatar of your ideal client, then write for them, specifically.

How can you help them? What problems do you solve? Why should they hire you?

It’s always about them, not about you. That should steer your writing.

Think not about what you offer, but about what your client needs.

Keywords are a big thing

These are the search terms that people use in browsers to find what they need. And as search engines have been developed to work with more natural language, so they now reward keywords that appear in natural writing, rather than being crammed in artificially.

Keywords come in three flavours, depending on their length. The shortest are short-tail keywords, and are a word or two long. Long-tail keywords are little phrases – five words or more in length. Medium-tail keywords fit snugly in between, at three or four words long. This flexibility means that using keywords of different lengths can still make the writing appear natural while getting good search engine optimisation – the SEO you hear bandied about.

Short-tail keywords are necessarily more generic: ‘proofreader’, ‘editing’ and so on. The longer the keyword, the more specific it becomes, which is why you need to know the keywords that people type into their search engines.

How do you find out the keywords people use?

There are a number of services available, some paid for, some not. If your website is live, Google’s Search Console will show you the keywords that people already use when finding your site.

Or you can simply search for your service in your browser (like most of the world, I use Google as my search engine, most of the time, anyway) and see what comes up at the bottom of the screen under the heading Related Searches or People Also Ask.

Google screenshot showing related searches

Google screenshot showing what people also ask

There you’ll see what people are typing into Google, which is what you want to incorporate into your content – somehow – so that you are found, too.

For instance, I’m a copyeditor. I don’t proofread – proofreading and I just do not get along. But I know that ‘proofreader’ is the catch-all term for what I do, and people outside the publishing industry will be searching for that, in all probability, or maybe for ‘editor’ far more than ‘copyeditor’. So, I lob ‘proofreader/​proofreading’ into my text whenever I can, even though I don’t offer that service. Google doesn’t read the negative!

Editing the content into shape

Once you’ve created your content (which you can, of course, tweak endlessly even after it’s live) you now need to make it look the part.

I buck the trend, as about 70% of my traffic is on computers, and only 30% on mobile devices (of the mobile devices, tablets barely get a look in. Most weeks, it’s just computers and phones). In most cases, those figures are reversed, I understand (I suspect it’s because I market to publishers and packagers, and people are searching during work hours at their desk; if you market to indie authors, I’d guess those figures flip over in favour of phones).

It’s therefore essential to think of how your content will look on a teensy-tiny phone screen, not just how it looks on your 33-inch monitor.

So that means subheadings (keyword magnets) for ease of navigation, short sentences and short paragraphs.

We editorial professionals do like our words. We use far too many of them (guilty as charged) so here’s a chance to practise your word-cutting on your own text.

Ask yourself what that ideal client of yours wants to know, and will be willing to read. It’s not necessarily what you want to say …

Aside from being visually accessible in terms of paragraph and sentence length, structured around those easy-to-navigate subheadings, you’ll want to make sure the language itself is also accessible. Take a look at a couple of ‘Flying solo’ articles on just this topic: Good communication is accessible and Conscious language and the business-conscious editor or proofreader for some guidance on this.

Then pare away at your text until every word earns its keep – but don’t be so concise that reading it is hard going.

When you’ve finished, your text should be doing a shining job of demonstrating your editorial skills (showing, as much as telling) and speak directly to your ideal client.

Shaping the edited content

When it comes to importing your text to your website, think about possible formatting issues, as you would with any text that is to be published.

Incorporate white space, avoid walls of text and make sure it is easy to find the bit you want. Choose an easy-to-read font, that’s big enough to read comfortably, even on a phone.

If you have things you want your reader to click on, have a button if you can, rather than an in-line link. On my site, the button to email me is pretty visible – different colour, big but not ridiculous.

Accessibility

In 2021 I completely renewed my website, including an entirely new colour palette. One of the hardest parts of the build was to make sure that there was sufficient contrast between text colour and background colour on links and buttons.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are supported by many websites offering to check a page and give instant feedback. My web guy and I spent a couple of hours going back and forth making sure we found colours that worked with the palette I’d chosen (I’d already had my logo redrawn – no going back! But the Coolors site helped us find compatible shades) and passed all the accessibility tests. I see that new colour contrast guidelines are on their way.

Keeping the content fresh

Search engines much prefer sites that don’t look neglected. That means periodically updating your text, whether that’s small tweaks, complete rewrites of a page, adding items to a resources page, posting a blog article regularly, adding new testimonials or adding whole new pages.

Throughout all your updates, do keep that avatar of your ideal client in mind.

But every now and again, as your business grows and you develop as an editor or proofreader, do ask yourself whether your ideal client has also changed. If so, work out a new avatar and then review all your content with that paragon at the forefront of your mind.

If you are getting more firmly established in a niche, you may want to trim your offer to reflect that, and stop targeting the type of client who is no longer a good fit for where you’re taking your business.

If you are adding services – maybe you’re a proofreader who now also copyedits, or now offers manuscript evaluation or developmental editing – then you have a new ideal client. Or one ideal client per service. Again, keep your text under review with that or those ideal clients front and centre of your thinking.


Buy a print copy or download the second edition of Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business from here.

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by JESHOOTS.com, person on a computer by Andrea Piacquadio, both on Pexels, screenshots from Google.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Definite articles: Working with websites

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, a column devoted to the CIEP’s top internet picks, most of which are definitely articles. This time, our theme is working with websites – for clients and for yourself. The CIEP has recently published its own articles on working in digital formats, in ‘Flying solo: Focusing your website on your ideal client’, and ‘Talking tech: Web editors – WYSIWIG or code?’ If you’re a CIEP forum user, you can access our website-related forum wisdom in ‘Forum matters: Creating and editing web content’.

In this issue:

  • Client websites: Learn from the experts
  • Planning and creating your own website
  • Refreshing your site
  • Other platforms
  • If it all goes wrong

Client websites: Learn from the experts

Marketing tips

Websites act as shop windows. So when you’re editing what is essentially marketing copy, it’s worth learning from people who know about marketing. Copywriter Karri Stover, in ‘11 steps to effective website copywriting’, reminds us of the importance of plain language, understanding the reader, including essential information, and readability. On that last point, Stover links to a useful 2013 article by Carrie Cousins at Design Shack, ‘The importance of designing for readability’, which talks about design elements, from subheads (which should be simple, direct and frequent) to how hyphens can break readers’ concentration.

Understanding accessibility and SEO

If you’re working with websites, you should always have at least one tab open at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). This advises on web accessibility and is recommended as a resource on the CIEP’s Editing Digital Content course. Get started with ‘Easy checks – a first review of web accessibility’ and ‘Introduction to web accessibility’.

It’s also essential to have an understanding of SEO (search engine optimisation). Michelle Bourbonniere gives a useful overview of what it is and how to do it. Marieke van de Rakt of Yoast has also written a long blog about the importance of content in SEO. Trickery with links is long gone as a way to improve rankings. These days, SEO is firmly about quality content, as Marieke testifies.

Planning and creating your own website

Every website needs to be planned, and Malini Devadas’s podcast episode ‘How to create a client-focused business’ is a good start in working out how the elements of your offering, including your website, fit together. John Espirian adds to this by taking the long view with a 30-month mindset.

Whether you create your own website or outsource that process is a big decision. A blog by Startups explores the options. If you’re keen on doing it yourself, John Espirian discusses setting up your own website in an article from the archives that includes plenty of useful tips and links. However, as Michelle Waltzman suggests in ‘Stressed about your to-do list? 5 times you should outsource tasks’, if you keep putting it off, you don’t know where to start, or you’ve tried it and it’s gone very wrong, it might be worth considering asking someone else to help you.

Even if you outsource the creation of your website, you’ll have to write it. Apply the same marketing, accessibility and SEO principles that we covered in the ‘Client websites’ section above. You might also commission some photography. Sophie Playle describes how she did this in ‘Branding my editorial business: Working with a photographer’. If you’re working with images that are already created, take a look at Chicago Shop Talk’s article ‘Crediting images at an author website’ for principles and tips.

Once you’ve covered the broad brushwork of development, content and images, make sure the little things also look great, including any URLs.

Refreshing your site

If you created your website some time ago, it’s important to interrogate it every so often to ensure it’s working as hard as it can. Luckily, if we forget, ACES, the society for editing in America, keeps us on our toes with articles like ‘Is your website referral-worthy?’ by Molly McCowan and ‘When was the last time you updated your website?’ by Nate Hoffelder. Nate also wrote the helpful ‘18 questions to ask when refreshing your editor website’. If 18 questions are too many, Annie Deakins suggests six website features you should check.

One editor, Letitia Henville, recently went beyond checking and fixing to supplementing her current site with a digital tool for academics, which received 4,000 views in its first three days. Not everyone has the time or resources to do this, but Letitia includes a list of less ambitious alternatives: ‘blog post, webinar, infographic, video, app, tin-can phone or whatever other medium may reach your client population’. As tempting as the tin-can phone is, many editors find that their digital resource of choice is the humble blog, and if yours is ailing Louise Harnby has four ideas to fix it. Recently on Twitter, Lynne Murphy (@lynneguist) recommended a piece about how to keep online readers engaged in long articles. If your blogs are on the lengthy side, take a look.

Other platforms

Don’t forget Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook as part of a digital content strategy. You can see Instagram at its best in ‘The 15 most Instagrammed bookstores in the world’. TikTok has recently been credited with changing the publishing industry as high-profile book lovers share their favourite reads with users. But if all these options make you feel dizzy, Mel Edits has some sage words about timelessness in ‘5 rules of content that will never change’.

If it all goes wrong

Finally, Chicago Shop Talk has helpfully published an article on how to ‘take back’ an online error that could be useful if you’re working with websites or on other digital platforms. One advantage of the internet is that amendment can be instant. In certain circumstances, though, amendments have to be acknowledged and explained, for example if a vital word like ‘not’ has been omitted in a prominent place in the original text, giving entirely the wrong impression and alarming people.

We’ll leave you to think up your own examples.

Thank you for reading. Why not follow the CIEP on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for more useful content for editors and proofreaders?

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header by Sigmund, person with mobile phone by by Jonas Leupe, both on Unsplash

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

The basics of SEO for editors and proofreaders

Have you come across the term ‘search engine optimisation’, or SEO, and wondered what it means? Or perhaps you have a vague idea of what it is but you’re not sure how or when to use it? If you write or edit copy that will be published online, it’s useful to know some SEO basics to make sure your content ranks well on search engines. Rosie Tate explains how you can add value to copy that’s destined for the web.

What is SEO?

You edit or write the most fabulous copy and it’s published on a website. That’s great. But if it doesn’t appear in search results on search engines like Google or Bing, it’s unlikely to get much interest. Few people are going to simply stumble across it.

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, involves ‘optimising’ web pages to improve their position in search engine results. It can make the difference between a web page being found – and therefore read – and simply lurking in a lonely corner of the web. This is why SEO is such a big deal: the higher a website appears in the search results, the more people will see it.

So how do we optimise online content? There are several things you can do to increase the chances of a page being ranked well by search engines. If you want to give it a go without getting too technical, the following tips are a good place to start.

Use keywords

Let’s say you’ve been asked by a client to work on their website copy. They sell organic chocolate. The first thing to do is identify the main search terms, or ‘keywords’, that people actually type into Google when they’re looking to buy this product.

There are lots of free tools you can use, such as Keyword Generator. If you type in ‘organic chocolate’, it tells you that there are 700 monthly searches for this in the UK. It also gives you related search terms, such as ‘organic chocolate bar’ and ‘raw organic chocolate’. Choose one main keyword per web page and make sure this is used in the copy. You can also embed other keywords throughout your content.

Include your main keywords in headings

Headings act as signposts that guide a reader through a web page and make it easier to read. They also help Google to understand what the web page is all about, so include keywords in headings to help your page rank well.

You’ll need to strike the right balance between using keywords and ensuring the copy reads well. Beware of ‘keyword stuffing’, or copy crammed with keywords to please search engine algorithms. Headings should summarise the content on the page in a clear, informative way, and content should flow naturally.

Use links

An external link is a hyperlink that directs the user to another website. As well as being useful for readers and helping to give your website credibility, these can also give SEO a boost. External links help search engines determine the usefulness and quality of a web page. The search engines use metrics to determine the value of external links, including the trustworthiness and popularity of the site you’re linking to, and how relevant it is to the page you’re linking from.

Coming back to our organic chocolate example, if you link to an interesting article about how cocoa is grown, this can help Google figure out that your web page is about chocolate – and will therefore help to rank the content more favourably.

If you’re working on a whole website, it also helps to use internal links, or links between the different pages on your websites, where relevant. These help search engines determine how the content on your site is related and the value of each page. If there are lots of links to a particular page, search engines will see this as important and prioritise it when it comes to SEO.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. For instance, someone might advertise your services and include a link to one of your web pages, or you might write a piece of content for someone else that includes a link to your site. Backlinks are important for SEO because they help give your site authority, and search engines will favour pages with lots of quality backlinks. A backlink from a respected, high-authority website is better than one from a site that receives very few visits. So if you’re involved not only in editing or writing a website but also in promoting it, do some research on how backlinks can help to get your site found.

Play around with some online tools

There are lots of online tools you can use to make sure content is optimised. Here are three of my favourites:

Google Trends: This is a great free tool that shows you how much a term is searched for on Google over time and suggests similar trending topics.

Answer the Public: Enter a keyword to see what people are asking about around this topic. This can give you some great ideas if you’re planning content (and some interesting insights into the human mind).

Surfer SEO: OK, so this one isn’t free, but if you’re serious about SEO, you might want to give it a try. It includes a content editor where you paste in your copy and it tells you exactly what you need to do to optimise it.


The above merely scratches the surface of the world of SEO. If you want to dig deeper, there’s a wealth of free information out there. Good luck getting that content found online!

About Rosie Tate

Rosie Tate is co-founder of Tate & Clayburn, a London-based company that offers copyediting, proofreading, copywriting and translation services to clients worldwide. A first-class Oxford University languages graduate with an MA in Documentary Filmmaking, she’s an experienced editor, writer and producer, having worked for Oxford University Press, the BBC and Save the Children.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: SEO letters by NisonCo PR and SEO on Unsplash, chocolate by Vie Studio on Pexels, Google by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.