Content writers are like wizards. Give us any topic and we’ll produce a piece of work that will help attract leads, promote your products, and rank your site higher in Google. We come from all walks of life and all professional and academic backgrounds. But there are a few skills besides great writing abilities that most professional content writers have in common:
One thing we can’t do is read minds.
Which is why briefing your writer is just so gosh-darn important.
What Is a Content Brief?
How it sounds. It’s a document that lists out everything a writer needs to create a piece of content. And if it’s an amazing content brief, your writer can get started right away without needing to send a bunch of emails with follow-up questions, or worse, deliver something that doesn’t meet your or your client’s expectations.
Either way, not effectively communicating all the content requirements in the brief can end up stretching your budget.
Why Are Content Briefs So Important?
Where do I start? Well, besides possibly saving you time and money, a content brief will:
A Basic Content Brief Includes…
So, now that we’ve established just how important a content brief is to your team of writers, let’s take a look at what a basic content brief should include:
We’re assuming you’ve already done your keyword research. This content brief is the outcome of your research. The target keyword is the main phrase your writer will use within the content. While it’s vital that this word is included in the copy, best practices dictate that it should represent no more than 2% of the word count.
Having said that, your writer should include this exact keyword in their H1 tag.
While it’s not strictly necessary to include this bit in the content brief, it’s helpful for the writer to know what the URL will be. It should also include your target keyword. It also helps whoever is in charge of posting the content to simply copy and paste the URL from the content page to the CMS.
The recommended word count will also likely be a result of your keyword research. If you notice that your main competitors have written articles about the same topic and all their content is at least 1000-words long, your writer should be aiming for that or higher.
SEO-wise, long content ranks better than short content. Keep in mind that this number is a ballpark. They don’t necessarily have to hit exactly 1743 words. If they’ve written something that’s polished and that hits all the other SEO requirements, don’t sweat it if they’ve only handed in something that’s 1400 words.
This line will appear on a search engine result page. As of this writing, the recommended character count is 60–70 characters. Going over the limit will likely truncate the title and look a bit sloppy. Usually the title of the page plus your company name divided by a vertical bar or en dash will suffice.
You may leave the meta-title creation up to the writer, but it’s good practice to give them guidelines.
5 Reasons Your Customers Don’t Want to Pay | The eComm Specialists
The meta description is the text that appears under the meta title on a search result. If you want to avoid truncation, your writer should keep it below 160 characters and include text that closely resembles the keyword (although it doesn’t have to be an exact match).
Is there already a standard script you want them to include within the meta description, such as a CTA or the company phone number? Be sure to let them know.
Does your site have a problem with shopping cart abandonment? Find out why your customers aren’t paying and what you can do to lower your abandonment rate.
What is it that you want your customers to do once they’ve read your page? Are you looking for email sign-ups? New customers? If you have any special requests, the writer needs to know about it.
A List of Competing Pages From Outside Your Website
You want your writer to create the type of content that readers choose above all others. Giving them a list of similar pages provides context. If these competing pages are showing up on page one of Google, your writer will get a basis of comparison, which is (in my humble opinion) extremely helpful.
The content should respect user experience. For example, paragraphs should be broken up into bite-sized chunks and lists should be bulleted. Keep in mind that readers are lazy and that most of the blogs and articles out there are written for 10 years olds.
Experienced content writers will write with user experience in mind, but if you have any special requests for layout, put it here. For example, if you want the writer to follow a specific format when writing a how-to series, let them know.
Keyword Themes & Related Terms
Strengthen your page’s rankability by giving your writer a list of all related keywords and key terms to include within the body of the content. This makes your content more searchable so you definitely don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to give your content some SEO juice.
Topics to Cover/Questions to Answer Within Body of Text
What’s the angle of the content piece? What burning questions do you want the piece of content to answer? It just makes sense to let your writer know which direction you want the writer to take with the main keyword.
Suggesting H2s gives the writer some time-saving cues about where to take the content piece and ensures they hit all the major points you want them to talk about.
A Good Content Brief Includes…
The above-mentioned items are what I call the bare minimum for creating effective copy. But now let’s get to the juicy stuff.
The below features give your writers the added information they need to fully understand the assignment. You want your content to sound the same regardless of who’s writing it. This information helps accomplish that:
Who is your page, article, or blog for? Briefing your writers about the target audience gives them a deeper understanding of what language to use and the depth of the reader’s prior knowledge on the subject. It helps the writer meet the reader at the same level and avoids mistakes like using industry jargon or over-explaining concepts that are already well-known in the community.
For example, let’s say you’re writing about photo-editing software. Is your target audience beginner photographers who are just starting out? Or are they perhaps second-year students who already have a fair share of experience using the software? Giving your writers backstory on who the piece is written for helps set the tone for the content.
And speaking of which, what is your company’s voice? Are you speaking corporatese or do you want to sound like the friend that everyone goes to for advice? This is a major facet of your branding that should extend to your copy, so your writers need to know what your company sounds like.
You might have a team of writers, and if so, all of them have different strengths and SEO skill levels. While it’s a bonus that your writer understands how to produce optimised content, don’t expect them to all know the ins and outs of search engine optimisation.
Giving your writers small queues and reminders of on-page SEO best practices (i.e. reminders to use bullet points, etc.) will ensure quality content.
A Great Content Brief Includes…
Going above and beyond the call of duty requires a one-time effort in exchange for endless reward. Once you make the best content brief possible, you only need to replace the piece-specific sections whilst keeping everything else as a template.
With that being said, it just makes sense to help your writers out as much as possible to ensure consistency of voice and quality of work. In my experience, content briefs that include the following will set your writers off on the right path and avoid unnecessary delays.
Every website has a branding guide. Your web designer is probably sitting on a folder filled with creatives and design elements. You expect your designer to stick to specific design parameters, and the same should be said about your content.
What can you put in a style guide?
You want to be known as a reliable source of information to uphold your reputation as an expert on a specific subject. That requires research. But as you know, there are many dubious websites out there masquerading as experts. Directing your writers to vetted websites will, again, improve their writing and maintain your site’s reputation.
Feel free to take a look at the example content brief Geeky Tech uses for our clients. As part of our service, we create multiple content briefs for our customers who then provide these briefs for their writers. Our content briefs are heavily focused on keywords and topically relevant terms and we leave the creative bits up to our clients.
Take a look at our sample content brief about the moon:
One of the reasons we bother pumping out helpful how-tos, listicles, and articles is that they boost our credibility and encourage readers to share our work and increase engagement and exposure.
If everything you produce sounds like it was written by a Martian trying to pass off as a human, your readers and customers will start to question your authority.
You Can’t Have a Content Brief Without…
At Geeky Tech, we’re often asked to help our clients write their SEO pages and blog posts. In order to increase productivity and quality, we always get our clients to fill out a content questionnaire before we hand anything off to our writers. The questionnaire answers help us fill out the details of our content briefs.
A content brief is a writer’s best friend. It contains all the information they need to provide you with quality work every time. Not only does it help us produce better work at a faster rate, but your organisation will inevitably receive the benefits from producing optimised content that your audience wants to read.