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How Percolate Edits Blog Posts
Blog posts are bread and butter for B2B content marketers. Almost half of marketers at business vendor organizations consider blog posts the most important type of content for their companies, according to a survey cited by eMarketer.
There’s a lot that goes into effective marketing via blog post—creative idea generation, smart distribution, and stunning design if it’s going to be a graphic heavy post.
Editing, however, is an especially crucial stage. Before your content goes live, the editorial process is what makes sure you’re telling a story in the best way possible. Great creative can’t happen without a system that ensures consistent quality.
There are a lot of stories out there that succeed by virtue of a catchy title. At Percolate, we try to make sure a blog post measures up to the expectations set by a title. If you take the time to open one of our links, we want to make sure you don’t find mere clickbait and close the window.
Below is our process for how we strive to do that in how we edit blog posts. We hope you and your teams can use, adopt, and modify it as you see fit to improve content.
Phase 0: The Pitch
This phase is a sort of pre-editing; the better the pitch, the more feedback an editor can provide before writing. It’s easier to course-correct sooner rather than later.
Writers should answer the following questions to formulate a pitch:
The Title: What title ideas do you have?
The Point: In one sentence, what is the main point or thesis of the article? (e.g., “Game of Thrones illustrates how brands can effectively manage customer journeys.”)
The Plan: In two to three sentences, how will you prove or illustrate this point?
The Topic: Does this topic fall within our brand pillars—the broad topics we want to discuss on our blog?
The Originality: What makes this post different from other posts that Percolate or others have already written?
Phase 1: The ‘Deep Edit’
A primary editor will conduct a deep edit. At the overall content level, editors should check for four things:
Message. We don’t want to publish for the sake of publishing. Is there a clear, succinct thesis or point to the article? Does the story make good, original points that substantiate that thesis? Does it make sense for Percolate to speak on this subject? If the writer fulfilled the promise of his or her pitch, this should be in good shape.
Title. Is the title readable and exciting, while setting accurate expectations for what the post is be about?
Logic. A mere series of assertions is never persuasive. Does the story reach and argue its points in a logical way—for example, by explaining the logic behind a claim, or by citing research and facts? Backing up claims makes us authoritative; mere assertions make us sound confused.
Structure. Is the story told in a way that makes its logic and its points accessible to readers? Do readers go down a clear, easy-to-understand narrative? Retooling structure could mean switching the order of paragraphs, bulleting some sections or adding sub-sections when appropriate.
Brand voice. After reading through, would a reader feel like the tone of the article meshes well with the rest of our content?
Sections and Paragraphs
At the sub-section and paragraph level, primary editors should check:
Necessity. Is this paragraph really necessary? Does it advance the argument; if it were deleted, would it matter—or would deletion actually improve the story through brevity? Also consider whether it should be part of another paragraph.
Clarity. Is the point of each paragraph clear? Does the most important information start off the paragraph, or should the order of the sentences be changed to improve understanding? Or, should this paragraph really be two paragraphs?
Citations and argumentative logic. This ties back to ensuring that we don’t publish a series of assertions. Is the paragraph’s claim properly backed up by evidence or clear logic? It should be, unless it’s self-evident (usually not, if it’s an interesting claim). Are we citing credible, current sources (rather than, say, a random marketing professional’s blog post from 2008)?
Sequential logic. Does it make sense for this paragraph to go after the preceding one, and before the next one? Does the point it make belong here? A tip here: Try creating one-sentence summaries of each paragraph’s point. Then read those in order. If the result is a cohesive, logical paragraph, this is in good shape.
At the sentence level, you should check for a lot of the same things.
Necessity. Is this sentence really necessary? Does it somehow support the point of the paragraph, even if just through rhetoric? If it were deleted, would it matter—or would deletion actually improve the story through brevity?
Sequential logic. Does it make sense for this sentence to follow the previous one?
Clarity. Does this sentence make sense? Are too many things being communicated, and should it really be two sentences? (A tip here: much more than two lines probably means a sentence should really be two sentences.)
Authoritative voice. Our writing should try to be as bold as possible. To that end: use active voice to the extent possible. In addition, start sentences with the point (e.g., “According to the dictionary, circles are round” is bad. “Circles are round, according to the dictionary” would be better.)
Links. Make sure they aren’t broken—and make sure they add value and are germane to the highlighted phrase. Also make sure they don’t take up more than six or so words.
Grammar and spelling. Typos happen—but let’s do what we can to limit mistakes.
Not rhetoric and style. While we want authoritativeness and a tone that matches the rest of our content, we want to preserve the voice of the author as much as possible. When in doubt, make a stylistic suggestion as a comment for the author.
Phase 2: The ‘Sweep Edit’
After the deep edit, a secondary editor will then take a look with the same goals in mind—to “sweep up,” as it were. Any questions and comments raised here can then be resolved between the primary editor and the writer before publication.
A Process For Quality
Like everything at Percolate, it’s always under scrutiny and subject to change and improvement. But for now, it’s what we strive to adhere to so we can make sure we deliver content with a meaningful, sharp message.