How to create a solid content brief
Figuring out how to start an article or blogpost is one of the hardest parts of writing content; it’s uncommon for businesses to outsource their content creation to experienced writers. This is where a content brief can come in handy, but often we struggle to provide writers with necessary direction when you need quality content for your marketing purposes.
Rather than continuing to go back and forth with your writer which eats away at your day, costs you more in revisions and could potentially annoy them; we are here to provide you with the basics of what makes a strong content brief. Once you learn these basics, you are able to create a content brief template which makes it easy for you in the future. In this article we will walk you through specific criteria we feel is necessary to include in your content briefs and explain which particular sections/information you need to be adding to get the best possible content for your marketing needs.
So what is a content brief you may say? It is a document compiled with ALL the information a content creator needs to execute a piece of content you require. These briefs are best when there is a combination of editorial direction and content strategy to ensure every piece of content is both well-written and enhanced to drive SEO results.
What does a good content brief do?
Making time and effort in creating a precise content brief is probably one of the greatest investments of your time and energy. Handing over content creators a thorough brief gives them the best chance to create something that is fitting for your brand.
There are a multiple benefits of putting in more effort into your content brief;
- It ensures the content creator is focused on the areas and topics that are most important in your content.
- It encourages your content to be more accurate and effective for your audience.
- Saves you SO much time and stress when proofreading the content as you can use your brief as a guideline when checking.
- Your content brief clearly sets out your expectations which is crucial.
Now let's get started! Yay you’re ready to write your content brief! These steps will ensure you have all the information the content creator needs.
Start off your content brief with the basics, this is probably going to be duplicated in all of your content briefs. The deadline is the most important aspect so be sure to keep it clear as to when you are expecting the first draft and the final draft. Here at Contrast we have also added in a section where we clarify how many revisions we expect this content to be completed in. The next step is to specify the word count; which is pretty straightforward, you should consider including the maximum and minimum number of words for your content just to be extra clear. You may also be paying the writer per word so you must ensure you give them boundaries else you may end up paying more than you bargained for!
The most important part of this section is ensuring that your content creator knows what your brand does and values. You want to make sure that you are saving their time; by adding brand details to your content brief saves them hours of scrolling through endless amounts of pages on the company’s website. If you want to make sure you are being as clear as possible and ensure the content creator has everything, you can create separate documents about your company which you can link to in your brief.
The company details is of course one of the most important parts of your brief! Ensure that you have all the correct information about the company in this section of the brief including any relevant names and titles, any key messaging and insights in your products and services. It might be useful for the content creator to receive the elevator pitch which will help them understand how you position yourself within that particular industry or sector.
Tone of voice
Tone of voice is also crucial in your content as it ensures that your readers know it’s your work! You must reiterate in the brief about how your brand communicates with its audience; whether that be serious, commercial or friendly. The style of writing should also be addressed within your brief and be sure to consider what language you want to include. Many content creators will often ask to see samples of what your brand has written previously so they can stay in line with your tone; so it’s great to link a previous blog post or external document within your brief. This is a fantastic article if you want to find out more about tone of voice in detail.
Now this is where we get down to all of the crucial information that will ensure your content will shine! Be sure to be as thorough as possible in what you are expecting in your content so you aren’t having to send back a lot of revisions.
This will let the content creator know what type of content you are looking for; whether that be a blogpost, white paper, service pages or even infographics! Contrast have gone even further and added in a link to another doc which explains what each type of content is by sending them to examples we like to follow which we have found really helps the content creator get it right the first time round.
We then move to content tacitic; this is where you can explain content you want to achieve for your audience whether that be an interview, expert guide, a round up or graphic. This is also included in our document where we link examples of the standards we want our content to be like.
Adding a page title doesn’t have to be finalised but it is a great indication for the content creator to refer to. Include a few examples of titles you like or any keywords you feel need to be included which helps the writer create the perfect title for your piece you require.
Pretty self explanatory but it is important you get this section right as this will be what your article is all about! The writer should be able to get a better understanding of what you require in your content and will also help them with the approach they need to take with the brief.
Be clear about what you want your piece of content to achieve so that the creator doesn’t steer away from your objectives. If you write down the goals of what you want your content to achieve then the writer is most likely to follow them.
No one knows your audience like you; so take time to make sure the content creator is well aware of who you are targeting and why that particular audience. Be sure to include a paragraph outlining your intended target audience and ensure you are specific in the brief if you have more than one audience. If you have a persona document; add this into the brief too as this will give the content creator a thorough context of who your target audience is.
Including pain points into the content brief ensures the creator knows exactly what you want to go into your content and what high intent keywords you want to include to drive conversions and traffic to your content. This is also great for you to refer back to once the content has been done to ensure everything has been added and helps you prioritise.
Primary and Secondary keywords
When writing content for your website, you need to make sure that you think about SEO: this means thinking about the search terms that people will be looking for that you’d like your article to appear for. You can find these terms by doing keyword research. In previous years, you’d have been encouraged to add these keywords as many times as possible to rank, no matter how unnatural the content sounded - that was a long time ago though now. These days, your content must have primary and secondary keywords that your piece revolves around - this means that looking at the difficulty scores and monthly search volumes (again, as highlighted in the guide featured above) you can decide which terms you’d like to try to rank for. By targeting and actually adding these keywords to your content, you are most likely to rank higher on search pages, particularly if they are placed in prominent positions such as headers and subheaders. Whatever you are writing about there will be dozens of ways that searchers are typing these terms into search engines, so making sure that there is a healthy mix of keywords in your copy is vital both for search engines, and for people to read natural, human sounding copy that relates to what they searched for. In this section of your brief give the creator a list of keywords and urge them to use them as naturally as possible within the content - these can even be used as subheadings so make sure that you are clear! Again, I cannot stress this enough, make sure that your copy reads naturally, the day of the keyword is almost over in its purest definition - just make sure that your content is relevant and mentions terms that people are likely searching for, if your content is vague and uses abstract or bizarre prasing, there are going to be less people searching for it, so use common sense. Think of it as writing an essay or letter but never mentioning the topic and skirting around the point - you need to make it clear to both people and search engines what this page is about by actually including it within the content like you would in a conversation.
The Searcher Intent
Your content brief revolves heavily around the target audience and we are assuming as a business you have already recognised and developed your businesses buyer personas like we have here at Contrast. Whenever someone uses a search engine they are usually wanting a question to be answered. You need to ask yourself why people are going to be looking for this particular piece of content and this needs to be reflected in your content brief in order to assist the content creator. Searcher intent is a crucial aspect as Google simply states it as their mission to provide the most relevant content which is why you really need to consider adding this into your content brief. You will also save everyone a lot of time by doing this for both you and the content creator.
There is always going to be competition, even if you are wanting to produce something a little into the unknown. Adding competition to your brief will set the expectations you want in your content. This will also help the content creator get some inspiration from and to see what other brands are doing within their content.
Include any of your top performing pages (the relevant ones) within your brief that you want to link to that particular content. Not only will this strengthen your SEO but the piece will have the opportunity to rank higher within the search engines. For example, if you take a look into your Google Analytics account, you’ll see the pages which get the most traffic or the pages that lead to the most conversions - depending on what your aims are, if these pages are relevant, you know that a person would benefit from seeing them and you already know that they work, link to them.
If you need images within your content be sure you are clear on precisely what you want. Include examples of visuals, screenshots or any tables you may require and where you prefer where abouts in the content you would like to include them.
URL structure is important for SEO so it is important to include this in the content brief; the right URL will also improve user experience. Be clear in the brief about how you want it structured with the relevant keywords so that whoever goes to publish the content know exactly the permalink to use instead of using the auto generated one created on the CMS.
Call to Action
Most content serves a purpose so you don’t want your audience to read your content all the way to the end and leave the page without taking the next steps! Your objectives from above will enable you to write a clear call to action you desire. To write a great call to action, start your sentence with a strong verb such as ‘subscribe’ or ‘buy’. State in your brief what you want your audience to do once they have read through your content so that the content creator can include it within the piece, whether that be; commenting, downloading a resource, booking a consultation or subscribing.
Be clear to the content creator whether you are adding in a content upgrade; this is something the creator can refer to within their content. A content upgrade is a bonus piece of information your readers can get access normally to if they give you their personal details like their email address. This not only is beneficial for the reader who gets the extra piece of content to further enable them to implement what they are trying to acheive, but then you as a business, have their contact information for you to either contact them further or keep adding them to the mailing list where you are able to send them more content and offers.
Meta data is crucial for on-page SEO purposes and must be considered when creating content for your website. First you need to clarify in this brief whether this needs to be created for your content.
Firstly it is important to get the meta title right; as this defines your content. It will give readers a quick insight into the content and how relevant it may be to what they are looking for so include as many relevant keywords as you need to. The meta title should be between 60-50 characters so that when it’s displayed in the search results, the readers will be able to read what the content is about. Google suggests including the company name within the title at the beginning or end which you can see in the example below.
A meta description is HTML that describes the content that you are uploading to your site. This will appear in the search engine underneath the content’s title which enables readers to get an insight into the content without clicking on it. Note that there is a recommended character limit when writing meta descriptions; it should be approximately 150 -160 characters or less. If you craft the perfect meta description; it can have the power to improve your click-through rates which ensures more traffic to your site.
Last but not least; the final point in your content brief should be outlining what you want to include in your excerpt which will be another description of your content but a lot longer than the meta description.. The excerpt will be used on your blog feed to entice users to read it and will give them an insight into your content before clicking on it.
So there you have it! Now you will be able to write an awesome content brief; whether that be for your colleagues in your team, freelancers or someone you have outsourced.
As promised, YOU can get access to the content brief template our team uses here at Contrast. Feel free to email us if you have any further questions or any other sections you feel are missing in our content brief template.