A content brief is like an instruction manual for a piece of content you’d like a writer to create. You wouldn’t try to put together a new bookshelf without instructions, and much like those instructions, content briefs offer guidance on what a draft should look like.
Content briefs streamline content operations and keep everyone involved in the draft—writers, editors, managers, etc.—on the same page about what to expect from the written copy.
What Is A Content Brief?
A content brief is a document that outlines everything someone would need to know about a piece of content they’re creating to ensure the result is what you’re looking for. Content briefs give more in-depth guidance than a basic outline (in fact, they contain outlines), and a good content brief will cover any questions someone might have without putting the creator in a box.
There are two major subjects to cover in a content brief: SEO objectives and guidance on the assigned topic. SEO objectives include recommended links, keywords to use, and word count.
Topic guidance includes information like comp articles, an outline, questions to answer, intended audience, and tone.
Create and distribute the content brief before the writer works on the draft so the brief can act as a guide.
Why Are Content Briefs An Important Tool For Your Agency?
Content briefs are an important step of the content approval workflow, and there are a few good reasons why.
First and foremost, content briefs keep the content’s brand voice, tone, and direction aligned. These things help reduce rewrites, saving your business time and money.
Having everything laid out in a content brief will also keep everyone dealing with the content on the same page about the draft’s purpose, direction, and expectations. This alignment is especially important for agencies working with clients and having multiple people working to edit and optimize a draft.
Finally, a good content brief will ensure the writer includes all necessary information in the written copy. This information includes SEO keywords, links, information that covers the topic, and information that makes your copy stand out from the rest of the competition.
How Do You Write A Content Brief?
Building a content brief may seem intimidating, but you only need to include a few key pieces of information to ensure effective content. Don’t be afraid to add items that aren’t on this list if you get feedback from your team—each business is different.
Title and Summary
The tentative title and summary, or draft objectives, will aid writers in pinpointing what’s most important to focus on in their work. These will most likely be the first pieces of information on the content brief your writer sees and will be what spurs their brainstorming sessions as they begin their research.
The title and summary will ultimately guide your writer. During the writing process, from preliminary research to final edits, they will always refer back to the title and summary to ensure they’re on track.
Even if it seems trivial or repetitive to have keywords and a title, it’s still important. Writers may not know what angle to take in their copy without a working title and summary. Unfortunately, this issue is not easily corrected with basic editing and may require a rewrite.
Keywords are how search engines categorize the copy businesses post on their web pages, making it a cornerstone of SEO strategy. You should always include keywords and key phrases in a content brief so the writer knows exactly what the article will be about. You’ll also want to have your number one keyword or phrase in the potential title.
You can also include how often the writer should use a keyword or phrase but try not to go overboard—especially if you’re using hyper-specific language.
If you’re unsure which keywords or phrases to include in a draft or want to expand your pool of related keywords, SEO writing tools can assist with just a click of a button.
Outlines are the most important tool in your arsenal for avoiding rewrites. Outlines guide writers on how exactly to break down topics in a way that’s consistent with your brand voice and the other copy on your (or your client’s) website. An outline will ensure that all points about the subject are weighted accordingly and executed as planned.
For example, say you’re working with a client who owns a bakery, and they’d like a blog post on cupcakes. Without an outline, a writer may spend too much time in the article talking about cupcake decorations, or they may forget to mention cupcake wrappers or alternative flours that the bakery offers. Either mistake leads to major edits or rewrites, which costs your business time.
Outlines are great if you want to include tangential information to differentiate yourself from competitors—a writer researching on their own may not know exactly what information to include. An outline is also useful if you have specific points you want to hit that aren’t included in competitor articles.
Target audience is super important because it informs the structure of your article immensely. If you have a piece in mind targeted at a beginner, how much time you spend on the basics will be different than targeting an expert.
Typically, the phrase “target audience” refers to how much expertise the intended audience has about a subject before reading this article. Make sure that your outline/heading suggestions and descriptions reflect this.
The target audience for a draft is another piece that informs the overall tone and vibe of the copy. A target audience with less familiarity with the topic may need more explanations regarding jargon, whereas experts won’t likely need as much assistance.
Style Guide and Guest Post Guidelines
This facet will vary based on what’s going on with the article submission. If these content briefs are for just your website, you only need to include your own style guide, which should give pointers for tone and voice (conversational vs. formal, for example). If your guest post client doesn’t have guidelines, just include your style guide.
If your content briefs are for guest posts, include any guidelines that the guest post domain has listed for their guest posts. Note these changes within the content brief and link to the guidelines directly so the writer can note any specificities unique to the guest domain.
Noting deviations from the norm is especially crucial if you’re working with a client with certain expectations in tone, editing tool use (like Grammarly), and other quirks. Being clear about this will go a long way in preventing rewrites.
Links: Internal and External
Every part of the content brief is essential, but this is one of the most important things to include. If there are specific links you want to be included, put them in the content brief. You may wish to incorporate anchor text, which is the text that is made into a link within the draft. Anchor text isn’t a necessary thing, it’s just something to keep in mind if you have SEO requirements.
If there are essential links, you must include a note saying they’re non-negotiable. If writers have more wiggle room, give guidance accordingly. If there are embedded things that you want to include, like a specific video or something unique to your brand, add that. All of these inclusions will help your writer draft more cohesive copy.
Internal links can be a great way to convey the tone and overall brand vibe you want. Try to choose internal links that mimic the overall idea you have in mind.
Competitor articles will help your writer understand what to include in their draft, what to leave out, and what new information they can incorporate to make it stand out. You’ll want to suggest the highest-ranking articles that use the same keywords or keyphrases you’re targeting.
Competitor articles also help your writer get a feel for the subject. This can be important if it’s not a subject they’re knowledgeable about pre-research. A good competitor article combined with your outline and summary will guide research and help the writer see what information is good and relevant (and what can be left out).
These articles also give your writer something to aim for in measuring success with their writing, which can boost morale.
Leveraging AI tools can save you lots of time when creating your content briefs, from understanding what keywords perform well to building the brief itself.
AI tools can generate topic ideas and keywords based on what a business offers and what has a history of performing well. These tools save time brainstorming and streamlining ideas, which means you have more time to give attention to projects that need it. Plus, thanks to AI, you may stumble on an idea you’d never even considered before.
AI is also great for creating outlines. AI tools like Narrato, with its SEO content brief generator and AI writing tools, can help you easily dig into subjects, pulling up information that competitors might not have thought to list, and making your copy stand out. These tools can also format your content briefs to whatever template you desire, saving you even more time.
Who Should Use Content Briefs?
Content briefs should be used by any business that works with SEO content writers. They’re very useful if your company works with multiple clients with different content needs. Still, businesses that are only managing their own SEO copy—if there’s lots of content and/or writers to juggle—may find content briefs useful.
A content brief is especially important when working with remote content writers. Remote writers can’t just pop into their manager’s office to ask questions about what they’re writing, so ensuring your remote team knows exactly what the assignment is can streamline the entire writing process.
Content briefs are an invaluable tool for any business that uses long-form copy in its marketing strategy by keeping everyone on the same page about draft expectations. Remember to balance SEO measures like keywords with editorial guidance when building a content brief template.
For more on digital marketing, including SEO content, check out Godot Media for tips, tricks, and strategies.
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Author Bio: Silver Stephens – Freelance Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager