How to Write an SEO-focused Content Brief for Your Writers

Odysseas Pavlidis

Odysseas Pavlidis

Creating a good content brief is one of the most important aspects of creating a piece of content. Especially if you’re working with junior content writers — both freelance writers and FTEs (full-time equivalents) — your briefs should be clear and to the point. 

In a way, content briefs can help you have more control over the content creation process and an overall better workflow around the content that’s being produced. This guide will show you how to properly brief your content creators so that you can get the most out of your efforts.

You won’t find any hacks or secrets tactics in this guide. What we’re describing is our process for creating effective content briefs both for our clients and our own content creators.

Table of Contents

What is a Content Brief?

A content brief is a document that aims to pass on useful information on the creation of a piece of content to the creator of the piece. Efficient content briefing is an integral part of the content creation process and is an extension of any content marketing strategy. 

Content creators, content marketers, and digital marketing professionals need content briefs to understand what they need to include in their piece of content in order for it to satisfy search intent — in other words, to give visitors what they’re looking for. 

Besides including the key points the content piece should discuss, a content brief can also include a style guide — this is particularly important when you’re outsourcing the content creation process. 

The format of a content brief varies depending on where you create the content. For example, at MINUTTIA, all our content briefs are created in Google Docs, since this is the program we use for content creation – more on that in the next section.

Moving forward, we’ll break down the elements of our content brief — the one that we’re using here at MINUTTIA. 

Key Elements of a Content Brief

Before we delve any further, you need to be aware that this is our way of briefing both MINUTTIA’s content creators and the in-house content creators of our clients. This is part of our content creation process and we’re fully committed to improving that process as we move forward. To begin with, a typical content brief looks like this:

As you can see from the graphic above, our content brief template includes three sections:

  1. Content Instructions
  2. Content Structure
  3. SEO Information

Even though there are various blog post formats you can choose when creating content, content briefing remains the same; what changes is how the post looks. 

For example, in some cases you may have a list post and in others you may have an in-depth guide. This doesn’t affect what the content brief will look like. In other words, the process is standardized and doesn’t change. What changes is the content itself – based on the instructions included in the content brief.

In that context, let’s break down each of these sections to see what elements are included in each. 

Section #1: Content Instructions

These are general guidelines for the piece of content our writer is going to create. They include things like the title, overall format as we mentioned earlier, the audience – e.g. small business owners, the recommended word count, and more. 

Let’s examine each of these elements using the following scenario:

We want to create a content piece that aims to get organic traffic by targeting the term “PR strategy”. This is something that we did a while back for our beloved client, Respona. For obvious reasons, some information has been removed from the following content brief, such as the link to the video brief. Here’s the content brief in Google Docs format:

Make a Copy Here

Let’s break down the elements of this content brief. 

Content Piece Title

The title of our piece of content. This can be different from the title tag, which has to stay within certain limits in terms of pixel and character size so that it’s displayed properly on the  search engine results pages (SERPs). 

In our example, the content piece title is the following:

How to Develop a Successful PR Strategy In 2021 (Guide)

Coming up with this specific title for our piece of content was no accident. In fact, coming up with the proper title is part of our search intent classification process, where you basically need to take a look at the SERPs to understand what people expect to see when they search for a particular term in a search engine like Google. 

In our example, the results on the SERP as of today, Mon 28 Dec, look like this:

Even though it’s not exactly clear what the intent behind the target term of “PR strategy” is, we decided to use this title since it — for the most part — seems to be satisfying search intent.

Content Piece Format

The format of the content you want to create. Some of the most common and successful content formats are case studies, checklists, presentations, social media posts, whitepapers, blog posts, and more. 

Note that in most cases, when we’re referring to content briefs, we mean creating a brief for a blog post. What changes is the type of content we’re going to create.

In our example, the chosen content format is “Guide”. This is something that you can also see from the title that we’ve chosen for this piece. Once again, the format is heavily affected by the search intent behind the target term. Here are the main elements of this particular format:

Author’s Note: You’ll notice that there are some differences between the above graphic and the content brief we shared as an example a bit earlier. The reason for that is because we want to promote our client’s software, Respona, and thus had to include sections such as the one with the PR tools for your strategy. Keep in mind that the structure above is just a template. You can, of course, edit and adjust it to your own needs.  

In the following link, you can find a nice list with some of the most prominent content piece formats and download editable templates in Google Docs format that you can use right away.

14 (Downloadable) Blog Post Templates to Use Right Away

Content Piece Type

The kind of content we’re creating. Some popular content types are guides, list posts, case studies, infographics, and more. The guidelines we’re going to offer are heavily dependent on the content type we’ve chosen for our piece.

Audience

The audience we’re going to target. We don’t need to include specific information such as demographics, since we’ve already done that through our buyer personas, AKA customer avatars. 

We just need to set the tone of voice, messaging, and even writing style for the specific buyer persona/s we’re writing for, as well as define specific pain points we want to address through our piece of content — especially if we’re going to create a piece that includes commercial search intent

In our example, the audience is junior PR professionals who live in the US. If you think about it, someone who’s looking for the term “PR strategy” — our target term — is someone who isn’t familiar with developing and implementing a PR strategy for their business or for the company they’re working for. 

Thus, we have to make sure that the level of the piece is basic, with some advanced information to keep readers interested and engaged until the end. 

Even though the audience seems to be information that’s a bit obsolete, in reality it’s very important and should be very focused. In other words, every piece of content you produce should have a well-defined and specific audience. 

Recommended Word Count

The recommended word count is an estimation of the word count we’re going to need to write to be competitive on the SERPs if the content piece has the goal of driving organic traffic. The word count isn’t a randomly chosen number; rather it comes from doing competitive research and analysis.

In the screenshot by Clearscope below, you can see that the typical top 10 search results in this particular SERP has an average of 3,050 words.

Thus, even though that’s partially a generalization, we could say that we need to create a great piece of content that exceeds this average, to be considered as a trustworthy and reliable resource by Google in order to get a result among the other top results for that SERP.

In our content briefs, the word count is usually a recommendation. It’s highly affected by competition — especially if we want to create a piece of content that aims to acquire organic traffic — but, it’s also affected by elements like search intent. 

Search Intent

Most of the time, the search intent of our piece of content is determined by the term we’ve chosen to target. 

To learn more about what search intent is, as well as how to identify and classify search intent, make sure to take a look at the following piece of content:

What is Search Intent & How to Optimize for It [+ Modifiers List]

Clearscope Report URL

Clearscope is one of the tools we use when creating content. Since Clearscope integrates with Google Docs, it’s essential that we include the report URL into the content brief so that our writers can use it when creating the piece.

Relevant Content Pieces

Relevant content pieces are — in most cases — competing pieces of content that we’d like our writers to take a look at before they start creating the piece. At this point, you should explain that the writer shouldn’t be linking back to any of these pieces, as we’re basically going to compete with them on the SERPs. 

We include the relevant content pieces only as a reference for what’s considered good, based on the term we’re going to cover. In some cases, those pieces of content are the ones that Clearscope identifies as the best content based on our target term.

In our example, we’ve included relevant pieces of content from our client’s blog, because they could be used as reference inside the piece. 

Video Brief

Creating a video brief to verbally communicate your guidelines is a great way to explain certain aspects of the content creation that aren’t included in the brief. For example, through your video brief, you can pass on your guidelines regarding internal linking, e.g. where and how the writer can search for internal links, or give additional information on the subject matter.

Author’s Note: In our example, the link to the video brief – we use Loom – has been removed. 

Section #2: Content Structure

This is the selected structure for our piece of content. Our structure is affected by the type of content we’re going to create, as well as by the competing content pieces. 

Introduction

The introduction of our piece of content is what usually comes before the table of contents. It’s how we explain what the visitor can expect to learn from our content piece. It has to be as short and descriptive as possible to draw the attention of our visitors and get them to read further.

Even though we usually include general guidelines on how to create the introduction of our piece of content, in our example we’ve actually gone ahead and created the intro so that you get an idea of what we’re looking for. 

The following intro for a list post on Canva alternatives by our client, Visme, is a great example of a precise, descriptive, and enticing intro that draws attention and makes the visitor want to read further. 

Table of Contents

This is our navigation for the page, meaning that it allows visitors to jump to specific sections or parts without having to scroll through the whole piece. Very often, a table of contents helps in getting more visibility on the SERPs, meaning they’re highly recommended.

Sections

These are the sections that we’ve chosen to cover with our piece of content. A proper content marketing brief should include not only the main headings – H2 headings – but also the subheadings – H3 and H4 – we want our writers to cover, with specific guidelines on each section and subsection.

Conclusion

The conclusion is the closing part of a piece of content. Here, we could include any calls-to-action (CTAs) that may be relevant to what we’re covering, as well as prompting visitors to read relevant resources on our site.

In our example, the title of our Conclusion is “Now Over to You”, as a way to prompt readers who made it up until this point to take an action that’s a) relevant to the piece of content itself and b) useful for them and, of course, for us as the creator of the piece. 

Author’s Note: In our example, we’ve created the final section so that you get an idea of what we’re looking for. 

Section #3: SEO Information

These are SEO elements that may or may not be visible on the page that can play a role in our piece’s organic performance.

Title Tag

The title tag of our piece of content is the title that searchers on search engines like Google see. The title tag may not be visible on the page, but it’s an important part of on-page optimization for our piece of content, or any other page for that matter.

Meta Description

The meta description is a small piece of text that explains what the searcher can expect to find if they were to click our result on the SERPs. This is something — once again — that isn’t visible to visitors on the page. In many cases, even if we create a meta description for our piece of content, Google will auto-extract excerpts from the piece’s body to better match the searcher’s intent.

SERP Simulation

This is a simulation of what our piece of content will look like on the SERPs. Our simulator of choice is SERPsim.com.

Here’s how the simulation for our content piece will look like:

Author’s Note: The SERPsim isn’t 100% accurate when it comes to visualizing how your search result will look on the SERPs. Very often, Google extracts excerpts from your piece of content – both on-page and meta – and will display it in a way that’s useful for the searcher, based on their search query. In that context, you can, of course, visualize your result, but you need to keep in mind that it may not be displayed exactly as you see it in the simulator. 

Target Keyword

This is the target keyword, since the piece is actually targeting a specific term. 

URL Slug

The URL slug is the part of a URL that helps us identify a specific content piece or page on a website. Our URL slug has to be short and easy to read.

Our Content Brief Template

At the following link you can find the template we’re using when creating content briefs for our content creators as well as for our clients’ content creators. You can adjust it to fit your own needs and use it for creating briefs faster and more efficiently. 

Make a Copy Here

Conclusion

Writing great content is a result of many contributing factors. Keyword research is one factor. Creating a good brief is another. Actual content production is yet another. 

Even though we can’t say that one factor is more important than the other, it’s obvious that content briefs are essential to helping you cover your writer needs and answer any possible questions before they arise. 

If there’s one takeaway we’d like you to have before leaving our site, it’s that content briefings should be an integral part of your content marketing and overall SEO strategy, but that’s not only it. 

There are many roles and processes contributing to creating new content that can resonate with your target audience.