What Is a Content Brief?
You’ve reached the point where you’re ready to get someone else to do the writing heavy lifting! Congrats! The issue is, they’re not in your brain. They don’t know exactly what it is you want them to write. You need to learn how to write effective content briefs for your blog writing team. That way you’re going to receive the content you want, to your specifications with minimal editing required.
Content briefs outline, specifically, what you’re hoping the content of the article you’ve asked them to write will include. The more detailed the brief, the more likely you are to receive it.
Why Do Content Briefs Matter?
Writers are good at what they’re paid to do. Writing! They are not going to know your SEO strategy inside out. They’re also not going to have an in depth understanding of your content marketing plan. They just need a snapshot into your business to be able to write for you, and this comes in the form of a brief.
Your own content brief will evolve over time and might even vary from writer to writer as you get to know how each other works.
These briefs are your chance to create a cheat sheet for your writer to refer to during the writing process.
How To Write An Effective Content Brief
Before you begin using a template, consider the purpose of the content. What do you want to achieve from it? Are there SEO expectations? Who is going to read the content? Is the plan for it to drive traffic somewhere specific? By asking yourself questions like these you’ll be able to articulate exactly what the writer needs to understand before writing.
There are some core areas that every writer will appreciate being briefed on. Some of what follows will be more relevant than others. It depends entirely on your goals and the purpose of the content, but they’re a very good starting point.
Search Engine Optimisation
Chances are that your content demands (and the requirement of outsourcing your writing) are because you want to build your site’s SEO performance to a better level. That is, arguably, one of the most popular reasons to start a blog. If that’s the case, you need to get explicit with your expectations on SEO. A quality writer will be able to easily incorporate SEO requirements naturally without sounding like a SERP-obsessed robot.
You should include instructions on:
- Keywords – get specific for the best results, many metrics might not mean much to the writer themselves to share exactly what you’d like to see.
- Keyword use – density and position
- Structure and formatting – header placement, bullet points, numbering, etc.
- Headers – providing these gives good structure to the article
- Links – both internal and external, ideally with anchor text
- Meta description
Remember that you control the final article, so if your strategy changes or you feel that an article requires a different keyword focus you can always edit it after delivery to suit a better purpose.
Structure and Format
Consider what is currently ranking and the format/structure that Google is favoring. Is Google placing lists or bullets at the top of the SERP? Is it selecting a snippet from within the content? Consider how you can deliver a better version of what already exists and structure the content around that.
Don’t be afraid to get prescriptive with your formatting requests. If you believe that a bullet list within a specific section will yield results then include it in your brief.
Odds are that you’re not going to be the first to be creating content on this topic. The core element is that you need to bring something unique and unusual to the table. You need to deliver new value to Google’s users. That will, in turn, earn you rankings.
That said, there’s no harm in referencing what is already out there. In fact, Google looks fondly at articles that reference already well-used content. You should include information on which competitors you’re happy to discuss and link to, as well as any specific references that you’d like the writer to include.
By contrast, letting them know who not to link to can save you editing time in the future.
Writers need to know what they’re expecting in terms of word count. Leaving it open-ended doesn’t help anyone. Chances are you’re not going to receive an article on time or it’ll be wildly longer (and more expensive) than you were expecting.
Setting a word count (based on your SEO research and current ranking articles) allows writers to pace themselves appropriately and stick to your budget. You should, however, be willing to allow some leeway on either side of the word count so that the article flows properly.
Style And Tone
Your brand voice is important. It’s jarring to a reader if suddenly they come across an article that doesn’t match your style and tone. If you’re looking for an informal, speech-like piece then let writers know. Most traditional writers will err on the side of formality than otherwise.
Letting the writer know the intended audience helps here.
List Links You Want to Be Added Contextually
Get specific with the links that you want to be included in the article. Share the actual URL and the anchor text that you’d like to use. Great writers will then be able to include these in a natural way that doesn’t look forced and, better yet, genuinely delivers contextual value to the reader.
No one likes to read a wall of text, therefore you’ll want to include visuals to break up the text. If you’d like your writer to source these make sure you’re clear where it’s ok for them to source them from. You should also include guidance on referencing images.
Remember that most writers aren’t graphic designers either. Asking for a full scale infographic to go alongside the article is likely way above scope and you’re not going to receive a quality product.
Writing briefs for writers might feel like as much work as writing the actual content itself at first. Once you’ve completed a few briefs and had quality content delivered, the process will become second nature. Before you know it, articles will be flowing your way consistently and effectively.
- The clearer you are in your brief, the more likely you are to receive your expected article.
- Get specific on important aspects like H tags and links.
- Don’t be afraid to vary your brief from writer to writer, everyone works in different ways.