Your content marketing strategy is in place, and you’re ready to start publishing high-performing content. Before your writing team can transform your vision into reality, though, they need a road map to keep the content on track.
A detailed content brief provides valuable direction to writers and editors so the final copy meets the goals you’ve set. In this article, I explain what goes into an effective brief and how to write one. Plus, I’ve shared a content brief template you can adapt for your own needs and a content brief example that illustrates what this essential document looks like in action.
What Is a Content Brief?
A content brief is a document that outlines the key requirements of a piece of content, providing writers with instruction on what the piece should include and how it should be shaped from an SEO and branding perspective. Each brief should discuss elements such as the objective of the post, its intended audience, targeted keywords, word count, and tone.
Content briefs serve as a checklist to ensure each piece of content meets on-page SEO requirements, from meta descriptions to internal linking. They also reinforce standards for brand voice, formatting, and style. With this reference document in hand, team members can work toward the same purpose, and any writer, whether in-house or freelance, will have the necessary information when writing a blog post.
What Should You Include in a Content Brief?
A content brief makes it easier for writers to meet your expectations. The more precise the instructions, the less guessing a writer has to do about the angle or scope of the content. It takes some time to create a good content brief, but it’s a worthwhile investment. You’ll have fewer headaches — and revisions — later.
Your content briefs should include the following.
The project name identifies the piece and can help focus the subject matter. A generic name such as “June Blog Post” might be accurate, but it doesn’t provide insight into the topic. “Summer Staycation Ideas” is more descriptive. For the most clarity, provide a title to work from, such as “5 Summer Staycations for Families in Seattle.”
Ideally, your team is working from an editorial calendar with set deadlines. Indicate the due date for the draft so the writer knows when to submit it and the publication date so the team knows when it goes live. Deadlines encourage a steady output of content and are especially important for seasonal or time-sensitive pieces.
If your team is creating a lot of content at once, consider adding the deadline to the project name to ensure nothing gets lost in the shuffle. “Summer Staycation Ideas – due 5/25” will keep the deadline front of mind.
Let your writer know whether to create a blog post, social media post, landing page, how-to guide, or another content type. This basic but critical information is the starting point for writing and informs how the message should be delivered.
The content category indicates where on your site the piece will be published. For example, the post you’re reading is part of the Victorious blog, but more specifically, our ‘Content Advice’ category. This information shows writers where the final product will live so they can explore similar pieces and write to the same standard.
Similarly, if you’re publishing a guest post on another site, provide the link to the writer to give background context.
The target audience is the intended consumer of the content. As explained in a previous blogging tips post, you need to understand the audience to create relatable content. Provide demographic information, job titles, or buyer personas to help writers customize the piece.
Indicate whether the content is intended for customers at the top, middle, or bottom of the sales funnel. Customer needs vary depending on where they are in the buyer journey — they may be starting to consider solutions or are ready to make a decision. Your content will perform better and engage readers if you match the content to their search intent.
Every piece of content should have a purpose and drive your business toward its goals. Let the writer know what you want the piece to accomplish. You may want to educate readers on a topic, offer a solution, differentiate a product, or persuade readers to take action. I’ll discuss objectives more in the next section.
Tone impacts how a customer relates to a piece of content, and on a broader level, how your brand is perceived. Let writers know whether to write in a conversational or formal tone, or in second- or third-person point of view. You can also provide information on your brand’s voice, whether it’s sophisticated, encouraging, approachable, humorous, or inspiring.
Provide a list of primary and secondary keywords to be incorporated into the copy, and guidelines for keyword usage based on your SEO strategy. You might ask that a primary keyword be used in the title and first paragraph, for example, and that secondary keywords be used at least once.
Word count is the length of the piece. For SEO content, the word count should be comparable to top-ranking pages for the keyword. Provide enough word count to address the topic comprehensively, and offer the writer a little leeway.
SEO content requires an optimized page title, meta description, and H1 to help search engines index the page. Specify the word or character count for the meta data, and instructions for keyword usage.
It’s always helpful to know the pages you’re competing with for keywords. Provide competitor URLs for research purposes so writers have an idea of how the topic is being covered.
Add a list of trusted resources to the content brief for research purposes. This is especially useful for niche topics if you’re using a writer who doesn’t have a background in the subject. The final product will be more accurate and authoritative if based on credible industry sources.
Specify any internal links to be incorporated into the copy. Internal linking helps search engines and users discover other pages on your site. Pick a few pages that readers might be interested in, such as a product or service page, sign-up form, or blog post. If possible, include the anchor text to be used.
An outline is an overview of key sections of the article. You can provide a broad outline of the sections to include, or detailed headers, subheaders, and points for the writer to flesh out. An outline is the best way to ensure the final copy satisfies your needs and hits all the main points you need covered. Use a blog post template to streamline your efforts.
How Do You Write a Great Content Brief?
As you can see, effective content briefs contain a lot of moving parts. I’ve included a content brief template at the end of this guide to help you gather and organize information for your blog post or article more easily.
As you perform your content research, simply add the information into the template. At the end of the research process, you should have a good idea of what the content needs to achieve, and the basis of a comprehensive content brief to guide your writing team. Content brief examples, such as the one included below, can give you an idea of what an effective brief looks like when completed.
Here are tips for conducting research and gathering information for your content brief.
Analyze SERP Results
Once you’ve completed your keyword research and identified a target keyword, delve a little deeper to get insight into the type of content Google feels is a good match for the query. Content research can help determine word count, content type, and key points for your outline.
- Examine the first page of SERP results for the keyword. Are the highest-performing pages mostly blog posts, in-depth guides, or videos? Survey the pages to see what format is commonly used so you can structure your content to best answer the user’s search intent. If the top pages are mostly long-format articles, you probably need to provide the same level of detail in your piece. Similarly, if comparison articles or reviews are surfacing, people using these keywords are likely close to making a purchase. You’ll need to provide comparable information to help in their decision-making.
- Review these pages to see the questions they’re answering and how well they cover the topic. This will tell you the general information Google expects a page to contain. In the outline section of the content brief template, note key points to address. You should also look to see what expertise you can offer that these pages are missing. Remember, your goal is to create a piece that’s even better than what’s already out there.
Identify the Best Resources
As you sift through high-ranking pages on the topic, list ones from reputable industry sites that stand out as expert and authoritative. Don’t limit your search to the first page of SERPs. Some authoritative pages may be further down in the search result listings. Consider respected publications or professional associations.
You can also search for content from trusted sources such as government agencies by using “site:.gov” in the search box. Or search specific sites for the topic. A health website, for example, should turn to the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for trustworthy information and statistics.
Provide these links in the resource section of the content brief template as a starting point for the writer’s research.
Pen Your Objective
Now that you have a good idea of the types of pages that rank well in search results, determine your article’s objective. The objective clarifies who the content is for and what it should achieve. It should tie into the target audience, buyer journey, and your overall business goals.
Start by considering the takeaway for the reader and the benefit to your business. I’ll use the example of an executive recruiting agency targeting the keyword “chief marketing officer job description”. The agency has decided to focus on tech companies as a customer segment. Their objective might be to write evergreen content targeted to an HR professional in a SAAS company. Because the customer is at the top of the funnel, it will be a general informational article to help the reader understand CMO job duties at a tech company, while building overall trust in and awareness of the recruiter’s services.
For additional inspiration when developing an objective for your blog post, refer to the content brief example below.
Use the Objective To Lay Out the Structure
The next step is to determine how to organize the subject matter to best achieve the objective. Depending on the scope of the topic, you might choose a how-to guide with chronological steps to explain how to complete a task. A listicle might be your best bet if you’re touching on several points related to a theme. And, if you’re creating a resource on a topic, you might decide to present information as a glossary or cheat sheet.
Review top-ranking pages for your desired keyword and compile a list of subtopics to explore. Organize these subtopics in the outline section of the content brief to ensure all important points are addressed. You can provide:
- General points to give the writer freedom to shape the article as they see fit
- Specific section headers and instructions to make sure there’s a logical structure and nothing is missed
You’re almost done! Before distributing the content brief, give it a final review for logic, flow, spelling errors, and typos. Pretend you’re reading it for the first time. See if the instructions make sense or if anything is missing or contradictory. It may be helpful to have a colleague take a look with fresh eyes. Once the content brief is polished and finalized, send it to your team and begin the process of executing your content strategy.
Content Brief Template
The following content brief template includes all the components I’ve mentioned. Take the time to fill out each row. This will help ensure the final piece has the appropriate tone and includes all the information you want. Give your writer a copy of your style or voice guidelines to ensure the content aligns with your brand.
You can view the content brief template here. Make a copy or download it for personal use.
Content Brief Example
The following content brief example is for a fictional company in the pet clothing industry. While the company is fake, I’ve taken the time to create a real content brief for a blog post on the best sweaters for chihuahuas using the template I just shared.
|Project Name||Best Sweaters for Chihuahuas|
|Content Type||Blog Post|
|Content Category||Pet Sweaters|
|Target Audience||New chihuahua pet parents who know they want to purchase sweaters for their chihuahua but who aren’t sure what to look for in a sweater. Interested in providing only the best for their furry friends.|
|Customer Stage||Bottom of the funnel|
|Objective||The objective of this article is to highlight our top chihuahua sweaters and share what makes them good for small dogs so consumers feel confident in purchasing one for their pups. |
This post should highlight when products are easy to put on, comfortable for dogs who aren’t used to sweaters, the appropriate season for use, and other valuable points about the sweater. By sharing tips about how to dress a chihuahua, we can position ourselves as a trusted source for pet parents.
|Tone||Fun, friendly, helpful, informal|
|Keywords||Best sweaters for chihuahuas, best sweaters for dogs, best dog sweaters, best dog sweater|
Include primary keyword as close as possible to the beginning of the header; 20-70 characters; 10-13 words
|15 Best Sweaters for Chihuahuas for Style & Comfort s|
Contains primary or secondary keyword; no more than 60 characters
|Best Sweaters for Chihuahuas & Dog Sweater Tips|
Include primary keyword; 110 – 155 characters
|Not sure how to pick the best sweaters for chihuahuas? Read our blog to learn what to look for in a dog sweater, including our top picks!|
|Other Resources||– www.example.com/dogs/|
|Internal Links||Links to specific products, links to dog sweaters for other breeds (Generally, I would put the actual links in my doc using the anchor text I want. However, since this is for a fake website, I don’t have any real ones to share.)|
|Additional Notes||Please use AP style.|
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Score Great Content With an SEO Content Writing Service
Detailed content briefs with outlines lead to better landing pages and blog posts, but they also take time to create. If your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to create content briefs or quality content, partner with a skilled SEO agency. As part of our SEO content writing services, Victorious can create detailed briefs for your writers or write optimized landing page copy or blog posts. Learn more about how our SEO services can support your business goals — schedule a free consultation today.