How To Create Better Content Briefs for Your SEO Strategy

Bernard Huang
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    Content represents the core of many marketing strategies. And as more of the buyer’s journey takes place online, your content assets become a vital tool in building relationships with potential clients.

    When surveyed by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) in 2022, 71% of B2B marketers say content has become more important over the past year.

    More brands need more content. And to keep up with content strategies at scale, brands need multiple people collaborating on their content marketing strategy, production, editing, and distribution

    But as content teams grow, how do you keep everyone on the same page so the quality of your content stays consistent?

    One important tool in your kit is the content brief. It’s an essential document in the content creation process that can save you valuable time and create the type of reliable, high-quality content that gives you a unique advantage over your competitors.

    What is a content brief?

    A content brief is an essential document for content marketers. It outlines what your in-house team, agency, or freelance content writers should know when they create a piece of content.

    Most content briefs include basic information about the asset, such as the type of content, title, word count, and primary keyword. More in-depth content briefs may include a high-level outline of the copy.

    You can also use the content brief to define your target audience and the goal of each piece of content. The purpose for creating a piece could be to learn more, subscribe to a newsletter, or get in touch with your sales team.

    Who uses content briefs?

    Content briefs are most often used by marketing departments and agencies who work with writers and other collaborators. They are most helpful when you have multiple people, departments, or organizations involved in the creation of a content asset.

    For example, if you’re assigning a content writing project to another in-house team member, freelance writer, or external agency, the content brief contains your requirements. You can use it to provide the necessary context as well as specific directions and key details that a writer needs to provide a high-quality piece of content.

    That being said, writers and agencies may also provide their clients with content briefs. This typically happens when they’re pitching topic ideas. Using a brief helps them give you more information about what the final piece will look like.

    From there, you and your content creator can tailor the information in the brief before they get to work on the topic. Without this step, it’s easier to have confusion between team members. And that results in spending more time going back and forth on edits that could have been avoided.

    What information goes in a content brief

    Information to include in a content brief.

    Content briefs should provide enough information that your writer knows what you expect to see in a final product. Beyond that, you can add context that helps writers understand details like your brand’s writing style and the best way to address your target audience.

    Here are some of the basic sections to include in your content briefs.

    • Content type: What type of assets you want. This could include blog posts, white papers, case studies, or landing pages.

    • Objective: What you want the content to achieve. Content goals can include educating your audience, building brand awareness, and generating sales leads.

    • Description of audience: A high-level description of your target audience. If your business has several personas that you target, specify which one you want each asset to speak to.

    • Outline of requirements: Specifications of the final deliverable. Examples of requirements include word count, type of images, and specific internal links.

    • Brand voice and style: A brief description of your brand’s tone of voice. For instance, is your brand formal or casual? Should writers use humor or not?

    • Previous examples or examples of competitor content: Links to examples of content that you like, whether they’re created by you or your competitors.

    • How to make the content unique: Direction for how you want the writer to differentiate your content from top competitors. You can make the content unique by using tactics such as incorporating insights from subject matter experts, using new data to support claims, addressing a more specific target audience, and providing actionable tips.

    • Call to action (CTA): Whether or not the writer should include a CTA. You can also specify what the CTA should be and where to include it in the content.

    You can also tailor your content briefs to include more information that’s specific to a certain type of content. For instance, the brief for a search engine optimization (SEO) article should also include insights from your keyword research.

    Why you should use content briefs

    Benefits of using content briefs.

    To be sure, creating a content brief takes more time than saying, “Write me an article about the benefits of automating your supply chain.”

    At this point, you may still be wondering why you should spend time creating a thorough content brief. After all, one of the main benefits of outsourcing content creation is taking more work off your plate, right?

    The idea behind content briefs is all about investing some effort upfront to save time down the road and create better content. Briefs help you create a more efficient content production workflow and improve relationships with agencies or writers.

    Let’s take a closer look at what you get when you use content briefs in your production process.

    Clearly defines your audience and objective

    If you provide vague instructions for your content pieces, it’s hard to predict what you’ll get back as a result, since everyone’s interpretation can be different.

    Content briefs create clear expectations around who you’re writing for and what you want each piece of content to achieve. This gives writers the context they need to create high-quality deliverables on your behalf.

    Two important pieces of information include your target audience and the objective for each piece of content.

    Clarifying your audience helps writers communicate with your potential customers and create more engagement.

    For instance, if your writer understands your target audience’s biggest pain points, they can incorporate those into the content and create pieces that show how much your brand understands the reader’s challenges.

    Beyond audience information, content briefs specify the goal for each piece of content.

    With top-of-funnel pieces, you may be more concerned with educating your audience about a specific topic. At the bottom of the funnel, however, you may want to highlight how your product can solve a particular need.

    Reduces time spent on revisions

    Content briefs provide clear expectations and instructions, which means your final deliverable will be closer to what you wanted.

    Without briefs, there can be a lot of wiggle room for interpreting instructions, and this can lead to more time spent back and forth on the editing process.

    Instead of having a process where you can receive a draft and publish it as scheduled, you’ll spend more time clarifying the expectations you could have included from the beginning.

    Over time, this creates a frustrating experience for both sides, making it difficult to build a strong relationship with your content partners.

    Depending on your writer’s rates, additional edits can also become costly. This is especially true if you have creators that use a time-based billing rate.

    Aligns multiple team members and leadership

    Using content briefs to get everyone on the same page empowers team members and stakeholders to ask questions early on.

    Detailed content briefs are especially helpful for keeping leadership and other departments in the loop. If they want to change the objective or topic, it’s easier to do that early on rather than having them decide against an asset after it’s been created.

    Outlines all project requirements

    Content briefs also serve as a checklist for writers and editors by outlining all of the elements for a final piece of content.

    For instance, if you want writers to create a quick social media blurb introducing an article, you can add that to the brief. Other project details may include the expected submission date, publishing date, and word count limits for individual elements like meta titles and descriptions.

    Content briefs give everyone on the team a single resource to use for reviewing requirements. Without them, you’ll have people sifting through chat messages or emails to make sure the final asset includes all the agreed-upon elements — hardly an efficient process.

    Improves content consistency

    According to the CMI survey, only 19% of B2B content marketers strongly believe their brand provides customers with a consistent sales journey.

    Without consistency, you can miss out on valuable opportunities to strengthen customer relationships, build credibility, and convert leads.

    When it comes to creating consistent content, content briefs are a valuable resource. This is because they include information such as your target audience, brand writing style, CTA details, and required elements for each content piece.

    Briefs can be especially helpful if you work with multiple content creators and want consistency between their pieces because everyone receives the same level of detail in their instructions.

    Over time, your readers will learn to expect the same level of quality from your brand, resulting in higher levels of trust and engagement.

    How to write a content brief

    To write an effective content brief, break it into sections and fill in the relevant information your writer will use to create their first draft. Using templates and content optimization tools enables you to create more consistent briefs in less time.

    Content brief templates

    You can create internal templates for different types of content. Using a predefined structure makes it easier for you to create briefs faster. Plus, it means your writers and other content creators will know what to expect from your content briefs.

    You can check out our guide on how to write SEO content briefs, which includes a template to get you started.

    Content optimization tools

    Once you’ve created the content brief template, it’s time to fill in the information. One way to streamline this process is by using a content optimization tool like Clearscope to help you outline your brief.

    Clearscope offers powerful research tools that cut down on the manual work involved in creating a content brief.

    You can start by using the Keyword Discovery tool to learn more about your search terms. You’ll get quick access to related keywords, search volume, competition level, and cost per click (CPC) data.

    Clearscope’s keyword research for “supply chain process.”

    Once you’ve narrowed down your primary keyword, create a Clearscope report to generate further insights, such as:

    • Related keywords

    • Typical word count

    • Recommended reading level

    • Common citations and sources

    • Headings used by competitor articles

    • Top questions to answer about your keyword

    • List of top-ranking competitors with word count and content score

    Clearscope content editor dashboard for “supply chain process.”

    Instead of looking at competitor pages or using a multitude of keyword research tools, you can get all the information you need in one place.

    Elements of a good SEO content brief

    Content briefs can be especially helpful for writing SEO content because you need to communicate project requirements and keyword research insights.

    Here are the elements you should include in an SEO content brief.

    Target audience

    As a best practice, be sure to describe the specific target audience you’re creating content for in each brief. If you have a large audience with multiple market segments or buyer personas, clarify which audience you want each piece of content to address.

    Examples of useful audience information can include:

    • Job titles

    • Pain points

    • Professional goals

    • Role in the buyer’s journey

    • Level of technical expertise

    These details give your writer valuable information as to how to create the best content for your readers.

    Primary keyword

    Your primary keyword is a major foundational aspect of any piece of SEO-focused content. Make sure to clearly define it in your briefs. Typically, you want to stick to one target search term, but you can include variations, especially for long-tail keywords.

    This is helpful to have so your writer can optimize the article and improve on-page SEO by including your target keyword in content elements like alt text, meta titles, and meta descriptions.

    Related keywords

    In addition to providing a primary keyword, it’s helpful to specify related (or secondary) keywords. These are terms that writers should include in the body of the article but aren’t as heavily featured as the target keyword.

    Including related keywords in your brief provides more context about which subtopics you want the writer to cover to optimize your content for search engines.

    One type of related keyword that can help improve your visibility on search engines is the featured snippet keyword. Featured snippets are special search results that provide a quick answer to the search term, and they usually appear above all other results.

    Featured snippet result for the keyword “supply chain process.”

    If you’ve identified any featured snippet keywords related to your topic, be sure to include them in your brief. This way, your writer knows to incorporate them into headers and provide a brief answer that improves your chances of landing the snippet spot.

    User intent and buyer’s journey stage

    User intent, or search intent, is the primary goal that people have when they search for your target keyword. You can get an idea of the keyword’s search intent by looking at the search engine results page (SERP) and seeing what type of information the top-ranking results provide.

    For instance, when you search for “supply chain process,” the top results discuss what the supply chain is and go over the stages in the process to help readers understand how it works.

    Google SERP for “supply chain process.”

    But, if you change the keyword slightly to “supply chain process software,” the top results include lists of supply chain management tools along with user reviews. This shows that the searcher wants information about products instead of learning the steps involved in the supply chain process.

    Google SERP for the keyword “supply chain process software.”

    Related questions

    In addition to addressing the main user intent, covering related questions helps generate more thorough content and establish your brand as an authority on the topic.

    Here are a few ways to find related questions:

    • Search your primary keyword and see if there’s a “People also ask” feature.

    • Review competitor pieces to see what questions they answer. Keep an eye out for frequently asked questions (FAQ) sections.

    • Use SEO content optimization tools like Clearscope, which shows Google’s “People also ask” questions, along with topics from additional sources like forums and discussion boards.

    Clearscope Research tab for “supply chain process.”

    Word count range

    Provide a target word count or range for the content piece. This can change depending on the objective of your content and the complexity of the topic.

    You can manually calculate a word count range by analyzing the top results. But Clearscope’s Editor automatically does this for you every time you generate a report.

    Clearscope Editor view for “supply chain process.”

    Suggested headings

    Headings and structure are important SEO elements that affect search crawlers’ ability to understand your content. They can also make your pieces more reader-friendly.

    You can include suggested headings to provide some structure and to make sure that your secondary keywords get included.

    To get an idea of what’s ranking, you can use Clearscope’s Outline feature to see the headings of the top-ranking pieces. You can also sort the keywords in the Terms tool to show which terms appear in headings.

    Clearscope related heading terms for “supply chain process.”

    Over time, if you have a good relationship with your writer, you may not need to include this information in every single brief once they’ve come to understand your style and heading expectations.

    For instance, let’s say you specify secondary keywords in your brief. You can use the instructions to tell your writers that you want them to use secondary keywords as subheadings in the article. This way, you only have to include those terms once in your brief.

    Brand voice and style

    Including a description of your brand’s voice and style in each brief can help reduce editing and rewrites based on tone. This doesn’t have to be super complicated — a few words describing your tone should be enough.

    If you have a style guide or other document that outlines your brand guidelines, you can include a link to it instead of rewriting this information.

    Call to action

    Let your writer know if you want to include a specific call to action (CTA) and where it should lead. As a best practice, try to limit each piece to one major call to action.

    CTAs are often tailored to where your target audience falls in the buyer’s journey, which should help define the ideal next action. For instance, a top-of-funnel CTA may be “subscribe to the newsletter,” while middle- to bottom-of-funnel pieces might lead customers to schedule a demo.

    Additional SEO requirements

    Finally, include an SEO content editing checklist that specifies which additional elements you want your writer to include and your editor to check for.

    Examples of additional SEO elements to ask a writer to add can include:

    • Meta title

    • Meta description

    • Slug/URL

    • Image/visual requirements

    • Internal links (including specific internal links you’d like included and anchor text)

    • External links (let the writer know if there’s a maximum number)

    This way, you don’t have to go back and ask for additions to the content during the editing stage. Instead, you can focus on any small tweaks you want to make before publishing it.

    Final thoughts: How to create better content briefs for your SEO strategy

    Content briefs help marketing teams create more consistency in their production processes by clarifying expectations and keeping everyone on the same page. Whether you work with an agency, freelancers, or an in-house marketing team, using content briefs is an excellent way to create a solid foundation for each project.

    A great content brief can give your writers and content partners the information they need to deliver a draft that’s ready to publish, saving you valuable time.

    If you want a content optimization tool that can help you create comprehensive creative briefs in less time, explore Clearscope today.

    Written by
    Bernard Huang
    Co-founder of Clearscope
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