Ask Your Prospective Web Content Editor the Right Questions

Thinking about hiring a web content editor? Whether the position is in-house or freelance, you need to ask your potential hire a few key questions. (See detailed sections below.)

Web Content Editor Job Description

A web content editor produces website content. This content includes text for site pages and blog posts as well as images and video that appear on the site.

As such, the ideal web content editor has excellent writing and editing skills, proficiency in a content management system (CMS), knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO), and proficiency with social media platforms.

In addition, this individual may need to have a command of the basics of graphic design and HTML. (But he or she doesn’t need to be a designer or a coder per se.)

What to Ask Your Prospective Web Content Editor

Writing Skills

Your potential hire should have excellent writing skills. What’s more, she should be able to prove it with a portfolio of work.

It’s possible, of course, that the applicant’s name doesn’t appear with the online content that she’s produced. (This is especially true if the editor has done work for hire in a freelance capacity.)

Still, bylines are ideal. Ask the applicant to send you links to 5 or 10 pieces of content that she has directly produced. This means that she’s written the text, curated the images, made choices about the placement of elements on the page, and so on.

Is the writing clear? Is the text written with a specific audience in mind?

Tip: Look for writing that is—at a minimum—clear, concise, and grammatically correct. Better still is writing that is engaging or persuasive.

Editing Skills

Editing skills are tougher to measure than writing skills. (In truth, everything that your applicant presents to you should be published work that—in theory, at least—has already been edited.)

You can’t see what work went into a given piece of content because the draft version no longer exists. And even if it does exist within a CMS that your potential web content editor has access to, he may not be allowed to submit it to you.

Your website content editor needs to have excellent writing and editing skills.

So what can you do? Ask the potential hire if he has anything in his portfolio that shows his editing skills—for example, a draft of a blog post in Word format and the same finalized piece online.

You can also ask if he has edited the writing of other contributors. Have him articulate the types of changes that he made to the original, even if those changes aren’t visible to you.

The changes in question can range from “English issues” (grammar, spelling, word choice) to modifications to keywords or section heads for SEO purposes.

Tip: If the applicant doesn’t mention anything from this editing checklist, then you should politely end the interview.

Last, the candidate should be able to explain the difference between editing and proofreading.

CMS Proficiency

A content management system (CMS) is what allows the editor to produce and publish digital content.

Your applicant should be at ease with technology in general. But it’s not absolutely essential that she walk into the role as an expert in the system that you use, whether that’s WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Squarespace, or something else.

In fact, the typical CMS is designed to be user-friendly, so any quick learner should have no problem working on a given platform.

Ask the applicant which CMS platforms she has used and what her proficiency level is with each. The following are just a few of the things that she should know how to do:

  • update content
  • customize URL slugs
  • change publication date
  • assign post tags to content
  • resize images
  • assign alt tags to images

SEO Knowledge

An applicant’s lack of any SEO knowledge should give you pause. While it may not be a deal-breaker, it could unnecessarily hurt your site’s traffic goals.

A good web content editor knows how to create a keyword strategy, which involves keyword research.

This is important especially for sites that are small or that haven’t been around for long. Their comparatively weak backlink profile means that they don’t get a lot of organic web traffic.

Established brands, on the other hand, may be able to get away with skipping on-page optimization. Their massive backlink profile likely already sends them plenty of organic web traffic.

In addition, a digital content editor should be comfortable testing and analyzing the performance of your site’s pages and posts. (If you have a dedicated SEO specialist on staff or on retainer, then ignore this part.)

Tip: If you run a small site or a new site, make sure that your web content editor knows something about on-page SEO! (Yoast makes a plugin that tests the readability of your content.)

Social Media

Anyone applying for the job of web content editor needs to be comfortable using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. (Almost 50% of all Internet searchers use YouTube.)

Social media: not just for friends standing next to a barn.

Ask your potential hire if she has had experience posting content on the above platforms as well as on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Experience posting personal content is better than nothing, but ideally she is adept at distributing company content via these platforms.

Tip: Hire someone who has run advertising campaigns on social media.

Graphic Design

This isn’t so much about graphic design as it is about knowing how to use graphic design programs.

The ideal candidate has used Photoshop and Illustrator before and can do the following:

  • change image resolution
  • crop and resize images
  • export images in desired file format
  • change font (as well as size and position of type) within infographics

Again, not knowing how to do the above isn’t necessarily a problem as long as the candidate learns quickly and feels comfortable experimenting with unfamiliar software.

Tip: Ask your potential hire to evaluate images on your site for proper dpi, dimensions, and quality. It will give you a clue about his knowledge and his artistic eye.

Your digital content editor doesn’t need to be an art director, but she should be comfortable with the basics of design programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Knowledge of HTML and CSS

Out of all the items in this post, this is the least important. I say that because the whole point of using a CMS is so you don’t have to code.

As such, your website content editor doesn’t have to be a computer science graduate. She just needs to be aware that the site’s look and feel come from code on the back end.

Now, occasionally, a content editor may have to make a change to the code. But this will be something minor, such as modifying the spacing after images or changing the default size of block quotes.

Tip: For major overhauls to your site’s design, consult a web designer.

Hiring a web content editor means asking certain questions. Once you have the right person in place, monitor your site traffic to check that your new hire is writing web content that works.

If you’d like to know what’s working well (and, more importantly, what isn’t), order a website audit. Then, when your English content is lighting up the Internet, consider translating it to really blow things up.

If you want to make your editor’s job easier, download our copy editing checklist.


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