I believe it was Shakespeare who said, “What in a good brief? A brief by any other name would be an outline.” Perhaps my modern interpretation of Shakespeare doesn’t translate well for the SEO and content inclined people of today, but you know what does?
An excellent content brief!
But what makes for a highly successful content brief? Sorry to say it isn’t Shakespeare, but it definitely involves these five elements.
1. User Intent
One of the first things I learned when it came to using a content brief was understanding the user intent of the brief you are creating. The questions within the brief should help guide writers toward creating content that answers the user intent. If you aren’t able to instill user intent into the brief, your writer will be hard-pressed to create content that aligns with it.
On that note, it does not hurt to add an area in your brief that specifically addresses the user intent. You’ll save the writer time on gleaning out user intent by doing so and it reduces the likelihood that the content created won’t match the user intent.
As many a company outsources their content creation to independent contractors, it is vital to communicate in detail the who, what, why, how, where, and when to their writers.
2. Focus Topics
Focus topics are the newer and better keywords. Where one used to create briefs around broad topics like, “Marketing” or “Content Optimization”, nowadays, you want to be choosing focus topics that center on what we talked about above–user intent.
Google cares about the topics you focus on and the content you create around them. If you want to be the authority on “marketing”, you’ll need to learn how to target the focus topics around it i.e. “how to market”, “what are marketing strategies”…etc.
When giving writers briefs, make sure you are including both the main focus topic as well as related topics. You want your writers to include the focus topic and good supporting related topics in their content.Want Google to recognize your authority? Focus your writing on one subject and cover it extensively.Click To Tweet
Google will recognize your authority when you write continuously about a subject with in-depth material. Think of topical authority with focus topics like a family tree. You start off with two main people (pillar focus topics) at the beginning, and from there, people (topics) branch out, but they are all still related to where it all began.
3. It’s all in the detail
Detail matters. Be specific with your brief. Make it clear what you want the article to be about and how you envision the journey of the user reading the article. Do you have research, infographics, or other articles that will help your writer better understand how you envision the content?
The more you can give your writer to see the vision of the content you have in mind, the better. What’s in the brief matters as much as what goes along with it. You can add comments about why you want to see certain subheadings or titles.
If you want something done a certain way, make sure you put it in that brief.
On another note, if you spend a lot of time customizing every single brief, consider a brief template. If you can spend a lot of time creating a brief, you may as well be writing the article, and that isn’t the point.
It should go without saying if you are writing an article, you need to have links. It’s not just about the great content you create, but how you connect it too.
Make sure to include some excellent external links and internal links in your brief. It will help your writer continue to follow along with the subject material too when they see the content in those links.
Links can also help with your rankings. Just make sure you don’t link out to direct competitors in the SERP for your focus topic. A good SEO content brief should always include appropriate links.
All links are not created equal. If you’re not taking advantage of MarketMuse Content Briefs and need to manually source internal links, read Kevin Indig’s post on internal link optimization.
5. Questions and Word Count
There are times when I’ve been assigned to write an article about subjects I’m not really familiar with. The easiest time I had in writing those articles was when I received a brief that provided some of the top questions users would have about the article’s focus topic.
It helped me see the path to writing the article. Questions can range from something as simple as, “How do you make hamburgers” to “how did the hamburger come to America” depending on how you envision the article to look.
Sometimes, those articles also came with a word count limit whether for budget or just space reasons, and my briefs would only contain a few words for guidance.
It’s okay to have articles and briefs that aren’t meant to be long. This isn’t a wrong method, but you should consider that Google does put weight into well-informed, comprehensive content.
If you haven’t established your authority over a topic, and your competition is writing lengthy, quality pieces of content around you, you’ll need to step it up. As someone with experience in writing 500-word columns, I can tell you there isn’t a lot you can do in 500 words when you’re trying to explain a subject like engineering.
Here’s an extra tip:
6. Don’t Lose Your Creativity
Remind your writers that working from a content brief doesn’t mean they can’t be creative. This is a common mistake many a content marketing team forgets to tell their writers.
Writers want to deliver a piece of content that hits the mark with everything in the brief, but they don’t always understand that means the content brief can also be a creative brief.
Good content has to be creative. It needs a voice. A content brief is an outline, a guide, for your writers. It shouldn’t impede creativity.
Nothing is a catch-all, so be realistic that you’ll still want to check in with your writers and edit the content they produce, but if you use the above 5 elements, you should see a lot of success with your content briefs.
Written by Loren Bornstein