Skip to Content

Elements of a Highly Successful Content Brief

10 min read

A content brief serves as a roadmap for effective content creation. It provides critical direction a writer, ensuring that they understand the objectives, tone, and style required for the piece. Without it, they’e left to their own device, trying to intuit exactly what’s required. By clearly outlining the expectations and goals upfront, a content brief enables writers to produce content aligned with the brand’s voice and needs of the target audience. 

A well-crafted content brief plays a vital role in optimizing the content creation process. It acts as a central source of truth, fostering clarity and understanding. It allows all parties involved to be on the same page from the start, reducing the risk of misinterpretation or misalignment. “Get it right on the first draft and not the third rewrite,” is what I like to say.

How a Well-Structured Content Brief Can Streamline the Writing Process

Using a well-structured content brief can greatly streamline the writing process, leading to more efficient and effective content creation. Here’s how:

  1. Clarity and Direction: with a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved, the content creator can focus and prioritize their efforts. Plus, the brief reduces the risk of content going off-track or losing its purpose.
  2. Time and Effort Savings: content production increases significantly whenever a brief is used. Writers spend less time researching and brainstorming ideas. There’s also less need for unnecessary back-and-forth communication and revisions.
  3. Consistency and Cohesion: when everyone is on the same page you reduce the likelihood of inconsistencies in messaging or tone. This cohesive approach contributes to a unified brand voice across different content pieces.
  4. Stakeholder Alignment: a content brief acts as a tool for aligning stakeholders’ expectations. By providing a clear overview of the content’s objectives and requirements, it minimizes the risk of misunderstandings and enables smoother collaboration.
  5. Enhanced Content Quality: a content brief empowers writers to create high-quality content that meets the desired KPIs. By clearly defining the objectives and key messages of the content, a brief enables writers to craft helpful and relevant pieces.

Elements of a Content Brief

In order to realize those benefits, there are specific elements that a good content brief should include. Once you’ve settled on which elements to use, turn it into a content brief template  to reap even greater efficiencies. Here are those items:

  1. A clear and concise project description: outline the purpose, goals, and scope of the written content. A detailed content brief should provide additional insights into the target audience, including their preferences, pain points, and aspirations. key messages maintains focus and delivers value to the audience.
  2. Content objective: along with any key messages, these should be clearly define to ensure focus and deliver value to the audience.
  3. Tone and style of the content: this plays an important role in audience engagement, so don’t overlook this. Highlight the desired tone, style, and language. Link out to your style guide where a content writer can get more details.
  4. Formatting and structure guidelines: these are essential for enhancing readability and user experience. The template should provide instructions on the use of headings, subheadings, bullet points, and paragraphs. It should also specify any formatting and image requirements, too.
  5. Word count: specifying the desired length of the content helps structure it accordingly.
  6. SEO details: it’s how you turn a brief into an SEO content brief. Keyword research, topical coverage, and SEO considerations are integral to aligning the content with the overall SEO strategy. The template should include instructions for keyword incorporation ensuring that semantically relevant topics receive a proper degree of coverage. Understanding the search intent of the audience is crucial in developing content that meets their needs.
  7. FAQs: including a section for questions to answer helps ensure that the content addresses specific points or queries that the audience may have.
  8. Internal and external linking suggestions: help establish connections within the website and provide additional resources.
  9. If applicable: the template should provide suggestions or references to relevant sources.
  10. Finally: it should include a clear deadline and delivery instructions.

Structure the Outline

Compelling and effective content requires a well-structured content outline. Think of it as a roadmap for your writing process, ensuring that your content is organized, coherent, and easy to navigate for your readers. 

I used to create an outline starting with my main sections, break that down into subsections and then adding what points I want covered. Now I use MarketMuse AI to generate the outline and then edit it to my satisfaction. Regardless of which approach you take, you still have a human-in-the-loop. That means you need to understand the process of creating an outline and what constitutes a good one.

Create Logical Sections and Subsections

At the very least, an outline should have sections — in some cases you may even use subsections. This approach allows you to break down your content into smaller, more manageable chunks, making it easier for your readers to consume and digest. Each section should cover a specific aspect or subtopic related to your main theme, while subsections can further delve into supporting details or provide additional examples. By structuring your content in this way, you create a logical flow that guides readers through the information in a clear and organized manner.

Generate Captivating Heading and Subheadings

Creating clear and logical headings is another crucial aspect of a well-structured content outline. Headings act as signposts that guide your readers through your content and give them an overview of what to expect. It’s important to ensure that your headings accurately reflect the content that follows and are written in a concise and informative manner. Clear and specific headings not only help your readers navigate through your content but also assist search engines in understanding the relevance and hierarchy of your information. 

If you’re using MarketMuse, use the topic model to guide you in creating the heading. Their mentions within heading titles further cements the semantic relationship of the individual sections to the overall theme of the content.

Crafting engaging subheadings is equally important in capturing your readers’ attention and encouraging them to dive deeper. Subheadings provide a glimpse into the content below while breaking up long blocks of text, making your content more visually appealing. To make your subheadings truly engaging, consider using action-oriented language, posing thought-provoking questions, or using descriptive and compelling phrases that create curiosity and intrigue.

Specify Key Points

Incorporating key points and supporting information into your content outline helps to ensure that you cover all the necessary elements and provide a comprehensive understanding of your topic. Key points are the main ideas or arguments that you want to convey, while supporting information provides evidence, examples, or explanations that substantiate those points. By including these elements in your outline, you can ensure that your content is well-rounded, informative, and persuasive.

Include Relevant SEO Elements

If you’re looking to create great content for both humans and search engines, you’ll need to include SEO elements in your brief. That’s what makes it an SEO content brief. There are several key elements to consider when optimizing content for SEO, including optimizing page titles, meta descriptions, and using internal and external links.

What about keywords?

You’ll see a lot of articles talking about using a primary keyword and maybe even a secondary keyword in the content brief. Not me, I think in terms of topics. I’ve written previously about the difference between keywords and topics which you can refer to. So we’ll leave it at that.

Optimizing the Page Title

This Zyppy study shows that Google rewrites page titles 61% of the time. While they’re often minor, I don’t like spending time when I’m not confident I’ll be rewarded. So why not let MarketMuse AI do the work?

If I don’t like it, I can get it to generate another one — as many as I like.

Optimizing the Meta Description

A meta description is a concise summary that appear below the title in SERPs. This description provide a sneak peek into the content and often influence users’ decision to click through to your website. It’s not a ranking factor, but… By optimizing your meta descriptions with relevant keywords and a compelling call-to-action, you can improve click-through rates and drive more organic traffic to your website. 

According to an Ahref study, Google rewrites meta descriptions a majority of the time. Given that situation, and the fact that I find the task to be very mundane, I let MarketMuse AI do the work.

I’ll get it to generate a few options and pick the one I think is best.

Optimizing Internal Links

Internal links play a vital role in improving website navigation and SEO. By incorporating internal links within your content, you can guide users to relevant pages on your website, enhancing their overall browsing experience. Internal links not only help users easily navigate through your website but also distribute authority and relevance throughout your site. This can have a positive impact on SEO by signaling to search engines the importance of specific pages. 

When using internal links, it is important to choose anchor text that accurately describes the linked page, ensuring that it aligns with users’ search intent and improves the overall coherence of your content. MarketMuse offers internal linking recommendations with anchor text that’s driven by the topic model. It’s an easy way to build out tightly thematic clusters full of relevant content.

In addition to internal links, external links also play a significant role in content optimization. By including reputable and authoritative external links, you can enhance the credibility and authority of your content. These links provide additional context, supporting your claims and adding value to your readers. 

When incorporating external links, it is essential to select sources that are reliable and relevant to your topic. This not only improves the user experience by providing a broader range of information but also signals to search engines that your content is well-researched and trustworthy. Once again, MarketMuse offers linking recommendations to authoritative and suitable external sources.


A comprehensive content brief plays an instrumental role in the content creation process and creating an effective content strategy. By including relevant keyword research and search intent analysis in the brief, content creators can optimize their content for search engines. This helps in increasing organic traffic, improving search engine rankings, and attracting more potential customers. Moreover, a well-crafted content brief also focuses on enhancing user engagement by incorporating elements such as compelling headlines, engaging introductions, clear calls-to-action, and valuable insights. By keeping the user at the forefront, content creators can create content that captivates and resonates with the target audience, driving higher levels of engagement and interaction.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.