Posted by KameronJenkins
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
As an SEO Manager, you’re responsible for growing your company’s organic search traffic. You’re working with your dev team on some technical improvements, but you notice a big slice of the opportunity lies with content. Your company has a content team, but you notice they’re not using keyword research to inform their articles. You’ve tried to send them keyword ideas, but so far, they haven’t been receptive to your suggestions.
Or how about this scenario?
You’re a marketing director at a startup. You know that you need content, but don’t have the expertise or time to do it yourself, so you ask your network for recommendations and find yourself a freelance writer. The only problem is, you’re not always sure what to assign them. With little instruction to work off of, they produce content that misses the mark.
The solution in both of these scenarios is a content brief. However, not all content briefs are created equal.
As someone who lives with one foot in content and the other in SEO, I can shed some light on how to make your content briefs both comprehensive and beloved by your content team.
Let’s start by agreeing on some terminology.
What’s a content brief?
A content brief is a set of instructions to guide a writer on how to draft a piece of content. That piece of content can be a blog post, a landing page, a white paper, or any number of other initiatives that require content.
Without a content brief, you risk getting back content that doesn’t meet your expectations. This will not only frustrate your writer, but it’ll also require more revisions, taking more of your time and money.
Typically, content briefs are written by someone in an adjacent field — like demand generation, product marketing, or SEO — when they need something specific. However, content teams usually don’t just work off of briefs. They’ll likely have their own calendar and initiatives they’re driving (content is one of those weird roles that needs to support just about every other department while also creating and executing on their own work).
What makes a content brief “SEO-focused”?
An SEO-focused content brief is one among many types of content briefs. It’s unique in that the goal is to instruct the writer on creating content to target a specific search query for the purpose of earning traffic from the organic search channel.
What to include in your content brief
Now that we understand SEO-focused content briefs in theory, let’s get into the nitty gritty. What information should we include in them?
1. Primary query target and intent
It isn’t an SEO-focused content brief without a query target!
Using a keyword research tool like Moz Keyword Explorer, you can get thousands of keyword ideas that could be relevant to your business.
For example, in my current job, I’m focused on creating content for retail store owners and others in the brick and mortar retail industry. After listening to some sales and support calls on Gong (many teams use this to record customer and prospect calls), I might find out that “merchandising” is a big topic of focus.
So I type “merchandising” into Keyword Explorer, add a couple more helpful filters, and boom! Tons of keyword suggestions.
Pick a keyword (check your existing content to make sure your team hasn’t already written on the topic yet) and use that as the “north star” query for your content brief.
I think it’s also helpful to include some intent information here. In other words, what might the searcher who’s typing this query into Google want? It’s a good idea to search the query in Google yourself to see how Google is interpreting the intent.
For example, if my keyword is “types of visual merchandising,” I can see from the SERP that Google assumes an informational intent, based on the fact that the URLs ranking are largely informational articles.
Dovetailing nicely off of intent is format. In other words, how should we structure the content to give it the best chance of ranking for our target query?
To use the same keyword example, if I Google “types of visual merchandising,” the top-ranking articles contain lists.