Where Should Keywords Sit in the Editorial Process?

Chad Harwood - Jones

Sep 20, 20174 min read
Where Should Keywords Sit In the Editorial Process?

Let’s start by revisiting an old joke. A SEO walks into a bar, bars, pub, public house, Irish pub, drinks, beer…

And so it goes on. This little gag may have been doing the rounds for a number of years, but it doesn’t mean that it is any less relevant today. Sure, old fashioned keyword stuffing is all but dying out, but newer issues such as semantic search and content cannibalization mean that the phrases you use in your copy still have enormous significance on SEO performance.

However, this article will not focus on the ins and outs of keyword placements – such as how to choose the best terms, or how many times or which variations should be used. That has been covered many times and in a substantial amount of depth. Instead, here we will be looking at who should be in control of adding your keywords to the page, and why.

Growing Content Teams

As everyone knows, the SEO world has become much more complicated over the years. As the industry has become more content-focused, many teams are now mirroring traditional editorial departments. There are copywriters, editors, and production editors, or delivery managers. Depending on the size of the task at hand, there may also be researchers and editorial or SEO assistants – those that help with admin such as uploading and image sourcing – or even fact-checkers.

 At Ad-Rank, here is how our team may be set up on a typical medium-sized content-led project. It is worth noting that depending on the volume of work, the content strategist role may be combined with the SEO executive. 

editorial structure

Naturally, each of these specialists typically has its own strengths and weaknesses, such as an SEO’s talent for keyword research or an editor’s attention to detail. Over the years though we have found that even great writers often struggle with keywords. If you give them a phrase to include, it can still look forced. Take this example from a past project:

 “The best time for Florida holidays are from November to May as this is the dry season, but you'll still find the place busy in the peak summer months when temperatures reach as high as 32C.”

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that bad. It is certainly miles ahead of the keyword-crammed copy of yesteryear. Yet the inclusion of “Florida holidays” is still slightly jarring – it is not completely natural language, which is our overall goal.

One way of resolving this, of course, is training. We have held numerous workshops for new recruits on keyword insertion, running over different scenarios, and practicing smoothing the copy. Overall, the results have been good, largely due to the talent and receptiveness of our writers. Another alternative though is to handle this at a different stage of the process altogether.

 Changing Keyword Integration and Publishing Plans

 Previously, our activity for keyword insertion was as follows:

  • Keywords are defined by SEO/content strategist.
  • These are worked into the production schedule by the content delivery specialist.
  • The content, including keywords, is created by the writers.
  • This is double-edited and then sent for client approval.
  • The pages are added to CMS, if required.
  • Publication!

This is a pretty standard workflow, and one that I expect will be familiar to many of you reading this article. However last year, we began to experiment with a different method.

Instead, we tasked our editors with adding keywords after the content has been created, using the following process:

  • Keywords are defined by SEO/content strategist.
  • These are worked into the production schedule by the content delivery specialist.
  • The content is created by the writers with no keyword guidance.
  • The pages are double-edited.
  • Keywords are inserted by the editing team.
  • Content is sent for approval.
  • The pages are added to CMS, if required.
  • Publication!

This may seem unusual but we have seen a number of benefits, including more natural copy, less back and forth between editors and writers, and faster delivery. There are several reasons for this.

The Reasons and Results

First, by removing the focus on the writers to integrate keywords, we have removed what many saw as a stumbling block. This gives a sense of freedom that maybe wasn’t there before, giving productivity a welcome boost. Of course, this could be seen as simply taking one task from their list and adding it to another.

Editors, however, have a much broader sense of a project, viewing multiple pages at a time, as well as the benefit of being a stage removed from the copy. This distance also leads to efficiency too – once the processes are in place, it is far more effective to insert keywords across pages in quick succession rather than, as a writer must, wait for inspiration to take hold.

Perhaps the most important point to make here though is that the pages in question are tightly aligned to the relevant keywords. Using our previous example, adding “Florida holidays” and its variations to a page titled “Florida holiday guide” is going to be much easier than one that is less focused or broader, such as trips to Disneyland. Planning, as ever, is key.

Our Process vs. Your Process

Finally, we would like to state that the above process is not flawless. Each team is different, with a different mix of experience across roles. Regardless, there may be a lot to be gained from reviewing your keyword strategy, even if the focus is on how it sits in your workflow rather than the phrases themselves. 

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Chad Harwood - JonesManaging Director at Ad-Rank Media
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