You have a clear idea in mind for a particular piece of content, you send it off to your writer, and it comes back looking nothing like you imagined. This happens to many business owners every year and causes lots of frustration. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. One of the ways to prevent this comes in the form of content briefs.
In this guide, you’ll learn what a content brief is as well as tips to make them perfect for your writers. This applies to whether you want to keep all internal writers on the same path or if you outsource all writing to an external party.
Essentially, a content brief is a set of guidelines for a writer to follow so that they can create content as close as possible to what you need. Like filters you might enter into an online search, it allows the writer some information as to what you require with a particular piece of content. As well as articles and blog posts, you might create a content brief for whitepapers, eBooks, landing pages, and more.
You might ask why you need to create a content brief, and the answer is that you don’t. However, you run the risk of encountering the problem we mentioned in the introduction. Without having a brief, you could continually end up with content that doesn’t match the purpose, resonate with the audience, or meet your requirements.
The beauty of writing and content creation is that it’s subjective. If you give ten different writers a basic brief, you’ll receive ten different articles in return. With a content brief, you receive content that follows the brand’s mission even if different writers produce your content.
Why is it important that your writers have a clear idea of what you need? For one thing, it’s frustrating for everyone involved if you have to keep requesting changes. If you are unclear, you will be delayed in posting the content as the writer will need to keep making changes even though they followed the initial brief. Ultimately, both parties waste resources making changes to the content.
Furthermore, a content brief ensures that you receive content that fits with the brand and speaks to the audience no matter who writes it. Even if you start outsourcing to a new writer, they can still produce something similar to your previous writer because they have guidelines to follow.
In this guide, we’re focusing specifically on an SEO content brief. Therefore, the brief itself will contain lots of information about keywords and the content’s purpose in your marketing strategy. Without guidance, the writer may fail to include the right keywords and the content may fail to contribute to your SEO plans.
Finally, another reason to write an SEO content brief is to encourage a positive relationship with all writers. With some guidance, everybody is on the same page (literally!) and you’re more likely to have a positive working relationship with external writers. If you find yourself going through lots of different writers, give them something to work with in an SEO content brief.
You should now understand the importance of an SEO content brief and what it’s designed to achieve. But how do you compile a strong brief that includes all the pertinent information? Here are some tips!
We’re going to break down the main requirements for an SEO content brief, and the first section contains content instructions. This could include the following:
Remember, this is your content brief, and you can be as strict or loose as you like. However, if you’re too strict, your writers will feel restricted in what they can and can’t do. At all times, try to allow writers some freedom to be creative. While some writers want an exact title, others just want an idea as a starting point.
In terms of format, this is to explain whether the writer is creating a blog post, eBook, whitepaper, case study, or something else entirely. It’s important to include information about the word count and audience too. If you want a 500-word article, put this in the brief. Otherwise, the writer could send back a 5,000-word essay. The audience is important because it tells the writer how they should write and position the whole article. You can’t expect to resonate with an audience if the writer hasn’t been told who is actually in said audience.
This section could also include search intent, resource links, and more.
How do you want the content to look? As an example, let’s look at this very article. It starts with an introduction, moves into an explanation of content briefs, explains the benefits of SEO content briefs, and then heads into the tips that you’ll need to get started (a fantastic structure, if we say so ourselves!).
If you have an idea of how you want the content to look, include this in the brief and the writer will know to follow it. The content structure section can include headings, sub-headings, bullet points, numbered lists, and any other requirements.
The difference between a content brief and an SEO content brief, in case you haven’t already guessed, is the attention on SEO. In other words, how the content will fit into the bigger SEO jigsaw puzzle and what you expect in terms of search engine performance. You might ask the writer to include certain keywords (and in particular parts of the content!), a meta description, title tag, and URL slug.
In some cases, you might even ask for a SERP simulation that shows how the content would look when present on results pages. Depending on your relationship with the writer, you could also let them in on the wider SEO goals. What are you trying to achieve with SEO? Where do you want to be in the search engines? How will their content contribute to this?
A good way to assist writers with the content creation process is to include questions for them to answer. Beyond knowing the audience, this allows them to understand exactly what the content should say and how it should speak to the reader. Alternatively, you can break this down into topics that the writer should cover in the article.
If you need a landing page, this section may include the following:
If you aren’t sure of the main questions yourself, use a keyword tool or look at the ‘People also ask’ box on Google.
The writer now knows the questions that the content should answer, but what do you want the reader to do after finishing? If the writer doesn’t know, how can you expect the reader to know? Potential goals include signing up for a newsletter, clicking through to another article, buying a product, requesting a demo, or contacting your team.
In truth, the CTA is linked to the funnel stage. These are two details necessary for a writer to create compelling content. Is the content designed for those just exploring their options, just recognizing a problem, or ready to buy? You need to tell the writer whether the content will fit into the top, middle, or bottom of the funnel.
We mentioned this in a previous section, but it’s a critical detail often left out of SEO content briefs. In marketing, we try to show customers rather than telling them that our products/services are the best around. If you adopt this mindset with content briefs, you can show writers exactly what you need with research links and content from competitors.
It’s one thing explaining everything you need, but it’s another to actually show them. As long as you have a professional writer, they won’t just copy this content. Instead, they’ll use it as inspiration and take the best bits from each to compile even better content.
Finally, understand that not all writers have SEO experience. Some writers have a passion and a talent for writing without a background in SEO. To make the SEO aspect of the content easier to understand, we recommend including an SEO cheat sheet with your content brief. In simple bullet points, explain what you need from the writer whether it’s meta descriptions, keywords, title tags, or headings.
If the writer has a good understanding of SEO, they will ignore the conjecture and appreciate the simple bullet points. If the writer doesn’t have an understanding of SEO, this could be the difference between returning a fantastic piece of content and something that you can’t use.
Use these tips and ensure your writers are on the same page when creating content for the brand!