What Is Content Editing? 9 Key Tasks

A content editor requires a diverse range of skills to prepare and publish a piece of website content today. In this article, we explain what is content editing?

Content editing describes reviewing a piece of online writing, so it's clear, concise and tailored to what the reader wants to find out.

What Does a Content Editor Do?

A content editor takes a piece of writing and publishes it online on behalf of a client, writer or a business. They manage the last step in the content production cycle before something goes live.

If it's a short piece of writing like a blog post or article, a content editor will check for grammar errors, add links, lay it out and publish on behalf of a writer.

If it's a longer piece of writing, say several thousand words in length, the writer is best off hiring an editor before sending it to their content editor. The same applies for anything require substantive editing.

Similarly, a content editor isn't going to help with a first draft of the early manuscript.

Let's cover their role in more detail.

1. Lays Out Web Content

A content editor will use a publication's content management system (CMS), for example WordPress or Kinsta, to lay out an article or webpage prior to publication. They may also use special landing page software like LeadPages or email marketing software like ConvertKit on behalf of their client.

2. Checks for Grammar and Spelling Mistakes

A content editor may scan some text meant for a webpage and fix any obvious mistakes. However, they're not specialized copy editors or proofreaders.

Unless directed, They won't change the meaning a piece of web copy substantially either. That's usually the remit of a development editor.

Copy editing refers to the revision of written materials, for example, the first draft of a book, so it's engaging, clear and concise. A copy editor will rewrite the text, a process also known as line editing.

Similarly, proofreading describes checking a piece of writing for punctuation mistakes, common grammar and factual errors. A proofreader includes relevant citations and confirms statistics and other sources, something a content editor rarely does unless you pay them extra and provide specific instructions.

Want to learn more about proofreading? Check out our proofreading tips.

3. Edits for the Web

A content editor breaks up long chunks of text with line breaks, paragraph breaks and sub-headings. They also use formatting techniques like bold and italics as well as sub-headings.

Breaking up long blocks of text like this ensures web articles are easy-to-read, as web visitors mostly scan rather than read a web page. It also ensures the readability of this text on tablets and mobile devices.

They will also scan the entire web page before publication and check for any obvious formatting errors, visual oddities and broken links. They'll also sometimes use copyediting software.

4. Sources Relevant Media

A content editor who copies and pastes a Google image into their website is probably breaching the photographer's copyright. This may apply even if they link to or reference the image in question.

A professional content editor knows how to sift through the wealth of web content and find stock images and video their clients can legally use.

They also sometimes use an editing tool or special software to create these images, for example, Canva. And they will know where to go for help, for example, a content creator (podcaster, YouTuber etc.).

5. Adds Media

A professional content editor doesn't think solely in terms of words. They also add images, video, audio and various forms of multi-media so that the webpage in question is engaging.

For example, someone laying out a podcast will perform the following steps:

  • Transcribe or get a transcription of the episode
  • Embed the podcast episodes on the webpage
  • Upload the transcript
  • Add a visual image with a suitable headline related to the show
  • Adds to an editorial calendar
  • Publishes at an agreed date

6. Follow the In-house Style Guide

Most professional web publishers maintain a style guide or refer to commonly used style guides like AP. A content editor will refer to this style guide when laying out or updating a webpage and ensure it's compliant.

For example, a website style guide may dictate that all headings should be in Title Case and not sentence case.

In this case, they will amend any headings to title case if they're incorrect.

7. Meets Accessibility Requirements

A content editor also checks that each article contains all the relevant information for people with visual or other impairments. Typically, they'll add alt tags to images and videos and write captions, as per the latest W3 accessibly guidelines. They will also flag or fix content on page that's hard to read or understand.

8. Adds Relevant Internal and External Links

A good webpage connects to other resources on the same topic, either on the same website or elsewhere. Similarly, a webpage may lead visitors further down the funnel towards buying a product or service.

A professional content editor will add these types of links, check they work and ensure they're relevant.

9. Optimizes a Web Page For the Primary Keyword

If a content editor is working on an article, they will check the article in question surfaces the primary keyword appropriately. For example, they will add this keyword to the:

  • URL
  • Headline
  • A sub-heading
  • In the body copy

Optimizing an article for search is a particular skill set that typically requires someone with SEO knowledge. However, a content editor can follow the basics once they have a checklist and some relevant information.

FAQs on What Is Content Editing

What is the difference between copy-editing and content editing?

Content editing describes preparing text, images, audio and video for publication, usually online. Copy editing describes editing lines or sentences in a manuscript or early draft for concision and clarity.

How can I be a good content editor?

Learn how to use WordPress and other popular CMS platforms. Develop a basic understanding of SEO and how to create or use media for the web. Think in terms of checklists and procedures. Finally, hone your attention to detail.

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