10-Step Checklist for SEO Content Editing (with Guided Reports)
SEO content editing (a.k.a. optimizing content for search engines) is a critical practice because it ensures your website content can compete with what is already ranking in search results — move to the top positions in results pages — and drive new traffic to your site.
Our content optimization software, Clearscope, was designed exactly for this task: you run a report for the keyword you’re targeting and paste your piece of content, then our reports guide the editing process.
Clearscope Content Reports show you suggested headings and outlines, relevant keywords to include in content, FAQs, SERP themes, and more. We display real-time content scores so you can monitor progress as you edit.
We also put together a checklist to follow when performing this edit — so by the end, you can feel confident that content is tailored to user intent and hits all the criteria to perform well in search engines. Let’s get started!
You can also request a free demo of Clearscope or explore our platform here.
1. Create a content report for the target keyword
First, open Clearscope and run a report for your target keyword. Upon opening the report, you’ll see:
A list of terms and phrases to include in your content.
The recommended content score, word count, and readability grade.
You can also toggle through the report to look at suggested outlines, questions to answer, and themes to cover. This gives you a high-level overview of the content angle and important topics to touch on. Then you can approach the edit with a little more context on what the post should include.
Let’s take a look at a report for the keyword “content refresh SEO”:
Here, you can learn more about the important details to cover, get an idea of how long the post should be, and gauge the average readability level. Then, you can…
2. Paste your content in the Clearscope report to see how it scores
When you add your content to Clearscope, we’ll immediately show you:
Which terms and headings you’ve already covered (we’ll even highlight them in the text so you can make strategic edits without removing relevant details).
The current content score, word count, and readability grade.
From there, you can filter the report suggestions by “Unused” to see all of the information you haven’t yet covered.
Now, we can measure how our content stacks up against SERP results and determine what’s missing. Reports provide clear direction to effectively optimize content, so you’re not guessing about what to edit in hopes you’re touching on the right details.
Pro Tip: We also have an integration with Google Docs so you can link your Clearscope report and make direct edits to your existing document.
Then, you can continue through this checklist when editing content:
3. Check the title of your post
Make sure that your post’s title is engaging and catchy. Think about what appears in the SERP: does your title seem more attractive or attention-grabbing?
You should also check that the title clearly indicates what the content covers so readers aren’t surprised or confused once they get to your website. Then, it’s more likely that readers will stay engaged with content, rather than bouncing away.
In addition, use proper headings for titles (H1) and include the target keyword in the title.
4. Compare your outline and headings with what’s suggested in Clearscope reports
Are you capturing the big-picture details and talking about relevant topics, products, and solutions? Do your headings include recommended terms and phrases?
It’s a good idea to include the keyword, or related keywords, in headings. But be careful to avoid keyword stuffing — Clearscope’s suggested headings help you create more variety in your outline.
Also, think about the order of headings — are you prioritizing the most relevant, important information? You should aim to deliver the core message right off the bat, then you can incorporate extra details later; this demonstrates immediate value, satisfies search intent, and keeps readers interested in your message.
As we mentioned with the title above, you should also pay attention to headers — use H1s for titles, H2s for main sections, and H3s for subheadings. You can also weave in H4s, if necessary, but you should avoid overly-convoluted outlines.
5. Begin weaving in the “missing details” to round out your content and fully satisfy reader intent
Once you review your outline and have an understanding of how you need to “fill in” content, you can begin weaving in the unused terms and phrases. But we should mention, this step shouldn’t require heavy editing — if you thoroughly research the topic before writing content, you should already have most bases covered. This edit should be viewed as a “polish” where you add extra detail to the core information, or refine the existing content.
For example, in our screenshot above, we can see the content already scores a B+, so it doesn’t require major remixing to achieve the recommended A grade. If content scores lower than a C-, it may be worth going back to the drawing board and performing a comprehensive edit.
Once you bring your content to the recommended grade, you can proofread and conduct a more comprehensive spelling and grammar check. As you edit, think about the flow, tone, and natural language — content shouldn’t sound overly optimized or robotic.
Pro Tip: FAQs are a strategic way to weave in “supplemental” information, and make sure you’re touching on all important details, without completely reorganizing the original content. We also recommend including FAQs because they can increase your likelihood of appearing as a snippet.
6. Include internal links with clear anchor texts
Once you’ve completed the bulk of the edits, you can implement other content optimization strategies to improve rankings.
First, we suggest placing internal links throughout your post (using clear, strategic anchor text).
Internal links direct readers to other pages on your site where they can continue researching the topic or learn about your brand. There are two benefits of internal links:
They create structure across site content and show Google the relation between resources. Creating these connections can boost your content’s credibility, and improve rankings for both the new content and all of the web pages linked within.
They can improve the user experience and keep visitors engaged on your site longer, as readers can easily click on related pages and keep reading.
But you can’t just place internal links anywhere they might seem relevant; the key to seeing success from internal links is to use smart anchor text.
Anchor text should give readers a good idea of what the linked post is about before they click in; this reduces the risk of them immediately clicking back and leaving the page (which can have the opposite impact, and hurt page performance). You should also try to anchor associated keywords so linked posts have an increased chance of ranking for related topics.
It’s a good idea to include a handful of internal links in your content, but be careful of adding too many and “stuffing” the post.
Check out our guide to learn more: 5 Effective Internal Linking Strategies to Improve Your SEO
7. Include at least one external link to a related (credible, authoritative) site
Your content should also link out to credible resources on the topic — this builds content authority and shows Google that you’re referencing reliable sites and accurate information during content creation.
Clearscope reports show you common citations to include in your content, but you can also gather external link ideas by looking at search results and thinking about the resources you use in your research.
Before adding external links to content, use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to check the health of the site you want to link to.
You should only link to sites with high domain authority and strong backlink profiles — this means that Google deems the site credible, and as a result, may view your content as more authoritative. That can translate into higher rankings and help you move to top-ranking positions more quickly.
Again, you should use clear anchor text when placing external links, so readers understand where they’re clicking to.
Learn more: Topical Authority: The What, Why, and How (Don't Ignore It)
8. Include supporting media with alternative text (alt text)
Plan to include images, infographics, videos like webinars, or other in-line media to supplement your content.
Visuals are useful in cases where you want to illustrate complex ideas or explain long concepts, but aside from those cases, they’re universally helpful in breaking up long walls of text and making content more readable. Plus, research shows that content with visuals receives more engagement and earns more shares — which can boost SEO and search rankings.
It’s best practice to include alt text with all non-decorative media.
Alt text has 3 primary purposes:
First, and most importantly, for those that use screen readers or other assistive technology to know what is on a page (meaning that those who are visually impaired or have another cognitive disability can still understand the context of the images on your page).
Google (and other search engines) can crawl the alt text to understand the relevance/context of the image.
For situations where the image doesn't load, there will be relevant text in its place.
9. Complete the final edit, check internal links, and finalize image placement
Once you have links and images placed, you can begin a final review of content. Read back through the post and:
Perform a brief spelling and grammar check (again) to guarantee you’re delivering high-quality content.
Assess the tone and flow to make sure there’s no clunky or robotic language.
Make improvements to readability — look for long sections of text and break them into smaller sections, add bullet points for lists, and include bolding to emphasize important ideas.
Insert call to actions to drive conversions from content (like form fills, demo requests, or actual sales).
Add a table of contents to your intro, especially for lengthy posts, so readers can skip to the section that most interests them.
Once you’re happy with how the content looks and sounds, you can move on to publishing… and the last step!
10. Draft the SEO title & meta description with target keywords
When publishing content, make sure to include target keywords in both the SEO title and meta description.
The SEO title is the title that appears in search results, and the meta description is a quick blurb to describe the content (though sometimes Google will pull a snippet from your on-page content to show here).
In a lot of cases, you can use the on-page title as the SEO title; you’ll just want to use a title-checker tool to make sure you’re within the recommended pixel length. If the on-page title is too long, you will need to brainstorm a shorter version. You can also use these tools to make sure your meta description meets the length requirements.
Now, you should be ready to publish the content to your site.
Extra: Monitor and refresh published content to maintain SEO
Google’s algorithm is changing every day, and new content is always popping up — so even if your web pages perform well in search results, and drive new traffic and conversions, you still need to keep an eye on content to prevent performance from slipping. You can’t stay competitive if you remain static.
Clearscope provides an easy way to monitor content via the Content Inventory dashboard.
Here, you can:
Add all of your existing site pages (and paste new URLs as you publish content to your site).
Add target keywords for each page.
View real-time content scores for all web pages.
Access SEO reports to update content if scores slip.
This supports your content strategy by providing the insights to update and refresh content as necessary. You don’t have to slot in updates at random intervals, or worse, wait to update until after you notice posts fall in rankings. You can get ahead of updates and slot them into your schedule when our tool suggests. (And our reports show you exactly how to refresh content.)
Note: We also have an integration with WordPress, so you can refresh content directly in your CMS — simply link the Clearscope report in the post page and follow our recommendations to re-optimize content.
Learn more: What Is Content Decay? Plus 5 Top Strategies To Address It
Get Started with Clearscope
Clearscope reports are handy for content writers and editors because they provide clear-cut direction to optimize content for target keywords, and they streamline the editing process because:
We’re careful to only include the most important recommendations so we don’t overwhelm you with hundreds of boxes to check.
Our list of keyword recommendations is also succinct, and we use NLP to understand variations of terms and phrases (which can help you maintain a natural flow and avoid keyword stuffing).
We provide user-friendly tools to research competitors and perform SERP analysis so you can gather background on keywords/topics and understand how your content compares.
See how Clearscope supports content marketing teams and writing workflows by scheduling a free demo. Or, you can explore our packages here.
Director of Marketing, Clearscope
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