Content marketing is an essential component of any marketing strategy and, when executed well, is a powerful tool for growing your business.
Many companies with modest marketing teams are now outsourcing their content creation to freelancers. To get the best on-brand outcome, however, you’ll need to provide these writers with clear guidelines in the form of a content marketing brief.
Do You Need a Content Brief for Each Piece of Writing?
As the backbone of any content marketing strategy, a content brief ensures that articles keep in line with the ideas in your head.
In order to rank well in search engines and stand out, you need to show potential customers what makes you unique. Whether you want to raise awareness of your brand or generate more leads, producing quality pieces adds major value to the reader’s experience.
Plan and Organize Your Content
We recommend using the pillar cluster model during your content planning, which will help you organize and interlink major focus topics (topic pillars) and more specific subtopics (clusters). Creating focused clusters around a specific topic allows you to stay focused on creating relevant pieces and spend less time producing repetitive content.
Source: HubSpot Academy
Pillar-cluster interlinking sends signals to search engines, informing them that a pillar page is authoritative on a certain topic. Over time, the page may continue to rank higher for that specific topic.
What to Include in a Content Brief (Besides the Word Count)
A clear writing brief saves time and eliminates the need for multiple edits and revisions. If you provide writers with clear direction and context right off the bat, you’ll receive more well-rounded, on-topic articles that speak directly to your target audience.
In the content project brief, you can include anything that might help the writer understand the brand or product better. Remember, however, to keep it short, simple, and to the point.
What else goes into a top-notch content brief?
What’s Your Target Persona?
Writers are able to create a much better piece of content if they know who the reader is. Make sure you don’t leave your writers guessing.
Include enough relevant information on your target personas, including their goals/pain points, where they stand in the see-think-do-care framework, demographic data, and behavioral insights.
Brand Voice and Writing Style
Does your brand have a serious, commercial, or playful voice online? How should the piece read?
While this might seem obvious (once you’ve defined the target personas), it’s crucial to reiterate these specifics to the writer. This is particularly important when you start working with a new writer who might not be familiar with your business.
Writing style should also be addressed in your content brief to offer some direction as to how your brand voice translates into the written word. Consider whether the language should be accessible/more technical, if the piece can be written in first-person voice, and whether writers should use/omit exclamation points.
Internal and External Linking Opportunities
Include any relevant, top-performing pages on your own website (continuing with the pillar-cluster technique), as well as at least 5 top-ranking content pieces for the specific topic. Doing so ensures that you’ll end up with relevant internal links.
Whenever possible, add external links to any research, statistics, or other non-competitive sources to secure quality external links and save your writer some time.
Remember: linking to credible sources is essential for SEO-friendly content and high rankings.
Suggest the Page Title, H1, and Meta Description
The page title – as well as the H1 header – sets the article’s tone and direction. In the brief, include at least one suggested title/header that captures the essence of what you’d like to see.
The meta description typically appears under your page’s URL in the search results. While it doesn’t directly affect your search engine rankings, the description is often the first impression of your business.
The more relevant and attractive the description, the more likely users will want to click through on your content. It’s always a good idea to add a focus topic/keyword or to suggest a meta description in the brief.
Best Practices for Compelling Titles and Meta Descriptions
Each page on your website should have a unique title tag and meta description. This is essential in order to let Google, as well as other search engines, know how a page is different from the others on your site.
When writing page titles:
- Describe the page’s content as accurately as possible.
- Use action words (e.g. “boost”, “learn”, “get”, “make”).
- Try to include your main focus keyword near the beginning. A few good ideas include
- “Product Name – Product Category | Brand Name”
- “Call-To-Action (CTA) + Product Name | Brand Name”
- “Industry in [City]| Brand Name”
When crafting meta descriptions:
- Create a compelling message using relevant keywords.
- Tell the reader what they’ll get from clicking.
- Give just enough information to describe what the page is about – without ruining the curiosity factory.
- Keep the message between 150-154 characters.
- Stuffing your titles and meta descriptions with keywords (or variations of the same keyword). A title such as “laptops for sale, buy laptops, cheap laptops”, for instance, will likely drive away potential customers.
- Using language that is not in-line with your tone of voice or brand identity.
- Using default titles, such as “Home” or “Product Page”, as well as duplicate title/meta tags.
What’s Your Call-To-Action?
When they get to the end of the piece, what do you want the reader to do? Look at your products? Read your blog? Follow you on social media?
Create your call-to-actions (CTAs) and map them based on where your readers land in the see-think-do-care framework. Don’t forget to include a clear directive that encourages immediate action.
Best Practices for Effective CTAs
To write a great call-to-action, start your sentence with a strong action verb such as “buy”, “fill out our form”, or “subscribe”. If you’re running an e-commerce website, for instance, start your CTA with “order” or “buy”.
Similarly, if you want to promote a guide or white paper, creating a CTA such as “download our latest guide now” would be much more informative and effective than “our latest guide is available”.
Try the following:
- Stay consistent with your brand voice (e,g. savvy, professional, casual, etc.).
- Create a sense of urgency by using phrases such as “contact us today” versus “contact us”.
- Make the benefits obvious by stating what’s in it for the reader (e.g. “order now and get 50% off!”).
- Create a CTA that leads to a relevant landing page.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Using buzzwords and vague language in your CTAs.
- Having multiple calls to action, as this can distract and confuse the reader.
- Using CTAs that are too long and complicated.
Provide the Content Structure in Outline Form
Compelling articles go way beyond the written word. To ensure that search engines are ranking your content, it’s crucial that all of your pieces – including the writing, title, subheads, images, and links – are well-structured and optimized.
Most people don’t read a post from end to end. Instead, they scan through the content to find the precise information they’re looking for, making sub-headers incredibly important.
While the H1 tag indicates the most important topic, the H2 tags (section headers) outline how the article is organized. These sub-headers are also a great way to include your focus keywords and match the searcher’s query. Only do this if it feels natural!
Additionally, including subheaders in the content brief can give the writer a better understanding of how the article should be structured. Stick to including only H1s and H2s. If you have more specific content requirements, however, add keywords and questions to be answered.
How to Provide Keyword Research for Each Topic
Keywords are absolutely crucial for content marketing and allow the search engines (as well as readers) to understand what your content is all about.
Optimizing your content for top-performing keywords is a great tactic to increase site traffic. In order to convince them to come back, subscribe, or buy your products, however, you’ll need to match your content to the searcher’s intent.
Search intent can be defined as the reason behind specific keyword searches. Understanding why a person is searching allows you to develop a more strategic list of keywords, create content that answers searchers’ queries, and help search engines recognize your content as ‘valuable’.
Building Your Keyword List
When hunting for keywords, remember to pay attention to the following aspects:
How many people are searching for this keyword every month? If the keyword search volume is high, it’s likely that the competition will be high as well. To determine your chances of ranking for a specific keyword, consider using tools like Google Keyword Planner, Moz Keyword Difficulty, and Ubersuggest.
Focus on keywords that are relevant to your business. In order for your content to attract users and appear higher in organic rankings, you need to understand the user’s language and the kind of content they’re looking for. When creating the content brief, use keyword tools to compile a list of all semantically-related keywords and terms.
It’s also worth noting that your main targeted keyword should be included in the title, introduction, and in some of the sub-headings. In the briefing document, highlight the focus keyword to ensure that your writers stay on topic.
Guide the Content Production Process
Whether you have a rigid or more flexible workflow, ensure that everyone involved in the content creation process knows how to communicate their progress. Inform the writers about the project management tools you use and how they’re expected to update you on their progress.
At Hop Online, for instance, we make sure that our content campaigns go through the following workflow stages:
- Content Brief – Prior to the start of the writing process, a detailed outline (with clear instructions for the writer) is always approved by the client.
- First Draft – The writer creates the first draft based on the content brief.
- Editorial Review – The editorial team reviews the draft and suggests language and SEO improvements.
- Final Revisions – The final revision is completed based on the feedback from the editorial team and client.
- Visual Additions and Formatting – Visuals are added and the piece is structured using SEO-friendly formatting.
- Publishing – The content is then published on the client’s website or blog.
- Promotion – The content is promoted through social media to targeted audiences that resemble our target persona.
The Perfect Content Brief Just Takes Practice
While it may seem like a lot of legwork, these briefs a crucial part of your content creation process. Just like any other skill, it takes practice to create better writer briefs. As you grow more skilled, your briefs will ensure that each piece of content is optimized and follows your content/SEO strategy.
Read more on how to do keyword research using Ubersuggest.