If you’re an editor, you know the frustration of having to redo content or send it back for several revisions amidst a tight deadline. The truth is that even the best writers and content creators can turn in a bad job. This often happens because the content writer was not given a content brief or didn’t understand it. You can blame it on the content writer’s unprofessionalism, but if they didn’t understand the brief, the fault is partly yours as an editor.
If you’re in a hurry and want to quickly see what should be included in your content briefs, make sure to check out our content brief template available for download through the link below.
Download Our Free Content Brief Template
What is a Content Brief?
A content brief is a document usually prepared by the content editor, the content strategist or the content manager, to guide a content writer on creating a piece of content. A content brief contains details such as titles or topics, word count, SEO keywords, brand style and tone, a content outline and much more. Content briefs are essential to the success of your content marketing strategy.
Content briefs aims to:
- Clearly state your expectations for the content writers
- Pinpoint the most critical areas of the content
- Save you time and money during the editing process
- Help the content writers make content that is accurate and effective
- Encourage the writers to do a thorough job
A good content brief is short and precise in its instructions. Sometimes as a content strategist, you might be tempted to give the content writers more information than needed. This might do more harm than good. For example, if you give a content writer a 15-page brief for a 300 words article, chances are they won’t read it.
Suppose they read the whole 15 pages. You still risk the writer missing out on critical points needed in the content. You also risk losing a content writer because your work requires too much preparation. With that amount of preparation, a writer will have to pay a writer more to make it worth their time.
Creating a short and useful content brief can take time to master. In fact, most experienced journalists and editors say it might take a couple of years. But, the bottom line is knowing how to strike a balance when giving your writers information.
You should also know that content briefs vary depending on the project. For example, let’s say you are working with content writers. Your content briefs will depend on the following:
- The content type
- The target audience
- The purpose of the content, for example, providing information, call to action, and much more.
Besides striking a balance with the information, it’s best to focus the content briefs on what works for you and your business.
How to create a Content Brief?
To help you create effective content briefs for your writers, here’s what you should consider:
1. Company or Client Description
Your writers need to know who they are writing for. Give them a brief account of the company’s back story and any relevant products and services they should know about. The information allows the writer to know a company’s position in the market.
If you decide to provide an URL to the website, you can specify where writers should find specific information.
2. Target Audience
This usually takes a line or two to describe the content brief. Note that clients can have more than one target audience, and when this is the case, mention all of them. Audience information is vital to a writer because it determines the language to use in the content. Not understanding your audience can have a negative impact on your SEO efforts, as your content is less likely to address their needs.
Some content strategists prefer including the location of the target audience. For example, let’s assume you are creating content for a client in Dubai. Letting the writers in on this information helps them tailor the content to fit readers in the Middle East. For instance, they will use statistics, examples, lingo, and other minor details to fit the audience.
3. The Purpose of the Content
This is where you provide details about what you want the content creator to include. What do you want your target to know about the company, its products and services? What angle should your content creator lead with, and what message do you want the reader to take home? How does it fit into your overall content marketing strategy?
If you have any relevant links to similar content, you can include them in the brief for referrals. A professional content writer will do their own research, but it might not match what you’re looking for. This might also be frustrating for the writer since they are likely to include content you didn’t necessarily want. This, as you may know, leads to unnecessary revisions.
4. Buyer’s Journey Stage
Most websites don’t create articles purely to educate readers. They have vetted commercial interests as part of their content marketing strategy. That’s why it’s also helpful to know the stage of the buyer’s journey your content targets.
So when you’re preparing content briefs for your writers, you should be aware of the three main stages of the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness: Your prospect is researching to understand their problem. Example of article: “Why is my website not ranking“.
- Consideration: Your target reader is researching ways to solve their problem: Example of article: “How to enhance existing content to rank well“
- Decision: The prospect has decided on the course of action to take to solve their problem. Example of article: “What are the best content optimization tools?”
If your blog post fits into the awareness stage, you may not recommend your paid product just yet. Instead, you can have a section in the blog that points readers to content that ushers them into the consideration stage.
People in the consideration stage may be looking for actionable insights. With this knowledge, you can improve the blog by also creating a helpful checklist or detailed tutorial.
Additionally, if you are writing content for the decision stage, you can get clues on how to structure your blog post to offer recommendations about your products more naturally. For instance, if your article covers “What are the best content optimization tools,” you can have an additional headline that lists the limitations of available tools and how your product or services address them. Finally, you can leave a clear CTA in the conclusion.
5. User Search Intent
Users have different intentions when they conduct search queries on Google. This is what’s called the user’s search intent. The goal of your articles is to match that search intent. Here are a few examples:
- If someone searches for “How to train a dog” their intent is informational
- If they simply search for “Facebook,” their purpose may be to navigate to the website.
- Someone looking for “Top vacuum cleaners to buy in 2021” may have a transactional goal.
- Someone searching for “Hotels near me” may have the intention to make an in-person visit.
6. Brand Style and Tone
Brands must maintain their style and tone when it comes to content marketing, and this information should be part of your content briefs. You can hire multiple content writers, and they can all maintain the same quality when given the correct information. The best way to give this type of information to them is by providing examples.
There are many ways to describe the tone. For example, the tone used in articles could be formal, informal, informational, and informational but friendly and much more. A professional writer might understand what you mean and know which style to adopt when writing content, but it is advisable to provide examples that will help them understand the brand’s tone.
Next, be clear on the point of view you want the writer to use. That is, decide if your pieces are best written in First Person, Second Person, or Third Person. Usually, using the second person is best because it’s engaging. It also makes the reader the protagonist and pulls them into the story.
When you’re preparing content briefs, it’s also essential to provide a style guide, especially if you want the content piece to have visuals. You can specify where to get the visuals and what type of visuals you want to include in your articles. You can also specify how you want numbers, currency, and other signs included. For instance, do you want them spelled out or as signs? Ensure that you list the common errors that most content creators make to ensure that the one you hire does the right thing.
Examples also help give the content creator an idea of the format. Besides getting the style and tone right, the content format helps establish a brand’s general style. When everything is consistent, the reader can easily tell your content from that of your competition since they already know the tone, style, and format you use
7. SEO Keywords
SEO keywords are necessary if you want to optimize your content for Google and other search engines. This means the writer has to write targeted content. However, this doesn’t happen magically, so be sure to focus your content on a primary keyword or topic, and identify all semantically-related keywords or sub-topics. You will need to think about keyword frequency, which refers to how often each keyword should be mentioned. You may also mention in your content briefs which keywords should be included in a heading (h1, h2, h3 or within a meta-description).
For example, let’s say you have a skincare blog and you chose to write an article that focuses on the topic of skin care for dry skin. A content brief software like Zenbrief will identify patterns across top ranked websites for the topic “skincare for dry skin” and extract the main keywords and related keywords. For each keyword, Zenbrief will give you a frequency range and will tell you whether you should include that keyword in a heading.
For example, “dry skin” and “skin” 15 times”, the main keywords of the article, should be mentioned more than 15 times and appear in a heading, while the keywords “hyaluronic acid and “moisture” should be mentioned 3 to 6 times. As mentioned, Zenbrief will also give you a list of related keywords so that your content piece appears more natural. For example, “dry skin routine” and “dry, itchy skin” are both related to “dry skin”.
Don’t over-do it though. Keyword stuffing, or filling your pages with needless keywords, is condemned by search engines and is likely to lead to search penalties. In fact, the ‘crime’ is so bad that Google could remove your page from search engine result pages commonly referred to a SERPs.
Instead, follow the best keywords practices such as organizing your content into silos or keywords clusters, assigning each page a specific topic or subtopic, not writing more than three hundred words per section, and using the appropriate keyword density, around 2% or keyword-level frequency ranges if the tool you use provides it. For example, Zenbrief provides a contain editor that helps you figure this out.
8. Titles and Word Count
As you may have guessed, titles aren’t made equal as some will effortlessly capture a reader’s attention while others will repel readers. The trick is to offer value in your title and clearly tell the reader what they should expect when they read your article. Also, keep your title within 60 characters. Lastly, avoid giving your content writers the freedom to choose unless they have mastered the art of writing great titles.
According to research by Backlinko, where they analyzed over 11.8 million searches, an average page on google should have at least 1,447 words. However, keyword research, your competitor’s word count, and the title you choose also determine how many words you should include. For instance, if your competition has at least 2500 words on a piece of content ranking number 1, it’s in your best interest to follow suit. We’ve covered the importance of word count in another blog post: how long should a blog post be for SEO.
What if other sites have the same title as what you want to use? In truth, you will have a chance to rank if your content is of higher quality and the ‘right’ length. Although there are other factors to consider, your content writers will easily handle these two.
9. Provide a Content Outline
Content outlines come in handy, especially when writing long-form articles. This is because they make the content creator’s work easier by helping them focus on the main points in each section.
For example, your outline can include lists, tables, headings, and subheadings. You can further specify the mark up to be used (h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 or h6), the font type and size for the headings and subheadings so your content can be aesthetically pleasing to the reader.
How many headlines should you put in your content outline? As a rule of thumb, a new headline is required after every 250 words or less. This helps your reader scan your content more easily.
Each headline should not be more than 70 characters and include keywords. If you’re lacking inspiration on which sections to include in your content outline, check your competitors’ outline on search results. You may also take a look at Google’s People Also Ask box to see what questions people need answers to. Dedicating sections of your content to answering those questions only improves the relevancy of your content.
A tool like Zenbrief can help you quickly scan through the outline of a competitor content. It also extracts the questions most often asked on Google.
10. Meta Description, Meta Title, Title, Slug
As good SEO practice, you should specify the article’s title tag, H1 title, meta description, and slug in the content brief. Do this long before you start writing the actual article — not after. It will prevent the details from becoming an afterthought. Follow these guidelines:
- Meta title: up to 60 characters and with the main keyword
- H1: up to 60 characters
- Description: not more than 150 characters, contains variations of the main keywords
- Tags: 2 or 3 tags, especially relevant if you’re using a CMS such as WordPress
11. Visual Content
Using visuals in your content has a direct correlation with improved search rankings. How many pictures should you use in your blog posts? Well, you may follow a general recommendation like using at least one image in 250 to 500 words. If you manage to have more pictures in your SEO writing, all the better. It’s also expedient to create original graphs and graphics for your content marketing. There has been some controversy with tables, with some factions stating that they are simply bad for SEO and shouldn’t be included in articles. As long as you’re using tables to present data more efficiently, there’s no reason not to use them.
12. Internal Links
As you prepare the SEO content brief, review your existing content to find articles to include as internal links. Internal linking is important as it can help you improve your blog’s topical authority. You may also suggest internal links to optimize your old content for SEO. To find relevant internal links, think about which other articles provide more details about a subtopic mentioned in your content. If you’re using Zenbrief, you can get a list of relevant internal links suggestions for a given topic. This can help you save a significant amount when trying to build internal links between articles on your blog.
13. Related Articles and Additional Reading Recommendations
When preparing your content brief, you can include external links to articles that help facilitate the writer’s research. You may even list specific resources under individual headlines. Your content marketing strategy should have room for outbound links. They allow readers to get more information about particular topics. The consensus is that outlinks to high-quality sources may even provide a slight SEO boost.You may list additional reading resources separately at the end of the article or include the outbound links throughout the article.
14. Text and Paragraph Structure
Readability matters a lot when it comes to SEO. The text needs to follow precise rules and pass readability tests. For this section, you may state the maximum number of sentences or words for each paragraph. If you’re using Zenbrief, you may indicate the minimum readability score the blog post should aim for. You can also specify the paragraph style such as mandating the availability of one core sentence with one idea and several elaborating sentences for each paragraph. Go further and ensure that there is a requirement for the use of short and simple words.
How Zenbrief Can Help You Generate Content Briefs
Zenbrief is a content optimization tool that uses AI to help content managers and content strategies create comprehensive content briefs. Using our tool’s Content Brief feature, you can automatically generate content briefs and tailor them according to your specific goals. Then you can share them with your content team. Your writers and editors can rely on our tool’s Content Optimization Editor for the content creation process.
As a content strategist or content manager, sometimes you think it will be easier to do the work yourself. That’s why we’ve created a free content brief template that contains everything you’ve learned in this article.