Why an SEO Content Brief is the Marketer’s Rulebook | Brafton

Picture this: It’s the dead of night, and Nicholas Cage breaks into your business carrying a torch. Unlike in “National Treasure” and a host of related memes, he’s not here for the Declaration of Independence. What is he looking for?

Spoiler alert: It’s your SEO content briefs.

via GIPHY

Now, that’s not because Nick Cage is super passionate about digital marketing and content creation. It’s because SEO content briefs are your brand’s “national treasure.” They help your creative and strategy teams work together to build something huge — much like the Declaration of Independence helped build a country.

So, how do you build these SEO content briefs? How do you know what to include and which stakeholders need to be involved? Perhaps most importantly, how do you protect this national treasure from Nicholas Cage?

Let’s find out.

A Brief Look at Briefs

Nicholas Cage hefts his torch. He moves through the grand, winding halls of your company with careful purpose, disturbing nothing as he goes. His flickering light cascades over several stacks of papers. Could it be?

No — this is a content marketing brief. And that’s a creative brief. And this one’s for the social media team, and there’s one for video production and another for web design — what’s going on here?

What our hypothetical version of Nicholas Cage has just discovered is that most businesses are overflowing with briefs. As such, you’re probably plenty familiar with what a brief template looks like and how to distribute these documents to key stakeholders. But do the rules change when it comes to SEO content? Does this kind of brief need a little extra attention to keep everyone on the same page?

To answer these questions, we need to lift Nick Cage’s torch and take a good, long look at SEO content briefs:

What Is an SEO Content Brief Used For?

Optimized content comes in all shapes and sizes, from enterprise SEO to local SEO. It lives in your YouTube video descriptions, your blog posts, your landing pages — basically, just about everywhere.

That means an SEO content brief can exist for almost anything.

Here’s the rule of thumb: If you have a project where your content strategy needs to play by a search engine’s rules, you’ll want an SEO content brief. Otherwise, your content writer might get excited, forget everything they know about keyword research and start telling a story about Nick Cage secretly breaking into your workplace.

Who Uses SEO Content Briefs?

A lot of people collaborate when creating SEO content briefs, and we’ll meet all of them later — but who actually uses these documents?

Naturally, that depends on what kind of content planning you’re doing. For example, let’s say you have a brief built around a blog post. Frequent visitors will probably include:

  • The project manager, who needs to know how to plan and structure the blog.
  • The content writer, who will use the brief to guide their research and writing process.
  • The content editor, who needs to know what to expect when evaluating the flow and structure of the resulting blog.
  • The web expert, who will use notes on the brief to make sure the blog post is uploaded and formatted correctly.

What Do SEO Content Briefs Look Like?

You’ve likely guessed by now that SEO content briefs are about as distinctive as fingerprints. They’re fully unique to you and can take whatever form you see fit. SEO content briefs are doing their job as long as they’re clear, functional and user-friendly for everyone who relies on them.

Keep in mind that you can find and download a pre-built brief template or create your own. Just let your users and their needs dictate your choices — that way, you end up with a document that fully supports content creation and optimization.

8 Things Every SEO Content Brief Needs

Nicholas Cage’s torch is burned down to a twig. At last, as the first rays of sunlight creep through your company’s windows, he finds a file cabinet full of SEO content briefs. Hands shaking with anticipation, he pulls out the first document and begins to read.

What does he see? That depends on how you’ve chosen to use your SEO briefs. Here are a few things you’ll want to include:

Keyword Research

In many ways, keyword research is the beating heart of your SEO content. Keywords are the building blocks that turn your content outline into something search engines will find and customers will love.

In most cases, your SEO content brief should have a list of relevant keywords. You can also include information from your content analysis tools, like how often to use each keyword. Also feel free to add notes and background information to help each stakeholder benefit from the others’ expertise.

Target Keyword

To avoid confusing the search engine, most pieces of content focus on one target keyword. However, a target keyword often has “supporting keywords,” also listed in your SEO content brief. At first glance, it’s not always easy to tell which is which.

That’s why you should take extra care to highlight and emphasize your one target keyword. For example, you might put this at the top of your SEO content brief, use a highlighter tool to add a splash of color to the text or even name the document using the target keyword itself.

Target Personas

Have you ever started reading a blog post, only to realize you were never the intended audience? Sometimes this can be as subtle as improper word choice, while other times it can be as significant as irrelevant content.

To avoid this issue in your own content creation, your SEO brief template should always have space for persona information. This allows you to explain who the target audience is, what they expect and how your company generally speaks to them. You can also include the persona’s position in the sales funnel, pain points, demographic information and more.

Word Count

Imagine you just sat down at a restaurant. You can either order the salad, light and simple, or the biggest hunk of steak you’ve ever seen in your life.

That’s what a content writer feels like when comparing a 500-word landing page to a 3,500-word blog post.

Do your content creation experts a favor: Use your SEO content brief to make the required word count as clear and obvious as possible. The last thing I want is to sit down, all prepared for my quick little salad, and end up having to deal with a steak the size of my head.

Of course, word count is important for other reasons, too. It helps you understand resourcing — for example, how many days are required for the writing and editing phases or how long content optimization will take. That way, you can plan content schedules accordingly.

Content Outline

This might be the most important part of any SEO content brief. An outline gives you a chance to build the skeleton of your piece before you jump into the creative work. Everyone can see, comment on and contribute to this outline, which means all departments and stakeholders can be equally represented in the content planning phase. When the brief is delivered to the content creator, they’ll know exactly how to get started.

A comprehensive outline might seem like an extra step between keyword research and content delivery, but it saves a lot of time in the long run. It helps everyone agree on expected outcomes so you don’t end up writing about Nicholas Cage when you were supposed to be crafting a serious piece on SEO.

Stakeholder Notes

Remember, SEO content briefs are the perfect place for interdepartmental collaboration. That’s a fancy way of saying you’ve thrown all your content experts into a playpen and given them a pile of building blocks.

The thing about creative types is that we all see those building blocks a little differently. For example, content planning experts will look at keyword research as a chance to appeal to the search engine. Meanwhile, a content editor will see keywords as a checklist — “I need to make sure the writer has included these appropriately.” The job of an SEO content brief is to translate these sometimes-incompatible perspectives so everyone is speaking the same language.

Delivery Timelines

Depending on how you structure and fill your SEO content briefs, you’ll likely find that they need to be living, breathing documents. That means you can include details like rough delivery timelines with the expectation that they might change.

But if this information isn’t permanent, why include it at all?

It’s about visibility. If your teams understand what the expected delivery timelines look like and how those dates change, they’ll likely have an easier time working together to meet those deadlines.

Campaign Overview

The final and most interesting part of an SEO content brief is a campaign overview. This might not always be necessary, but it’s often helpful for your content creation teams. That’s because SEO campaign management can get a little messy, especially if you’re running a lot of campaigns at the same time.

Just take a sentence or a few paragraphs to explain the goal of the campaign, how this piece fits into the overall plan and how the campaign should influence the content creation.

SEO Content Brief Creation and the “Committee of 5”

You stroll up to the front doors of your business, coffee in hand, enjoying the fresh morning air. Nicholas Cage is long gone with his treasure. In fact, you don’t even realize he was there until you sit down to work on your SEO content brief and realize it’s not there. Resisting the urge to panic, you summon your Committee of 5 for an emergency meeting.

(For anyone who either fell asleep in history class or never had much use for U.S. history in the first place, here’s a quick recap: The Committee of 5 was a group of people brought together to draft the Declaration of Independence.)

In your company, this committee is made up of the people who create your SEO content briefs — and while there might be more than 5 of them, you can bet they deserve a place in history alongside Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and the others. After all, they created something worthy of being stolen by Nick Cage.

So, who’s on this committee? Here are a few examples:

  • SEO managers: These SEO experts are likely responsible for keyword research, word count and other elements that determine how the final content will rank on search engines.
  • Project managers: A project manager generally steps in to offer information on timelines, provide extra context and facilitate communication between creative teams.
  • Content writers: Depending on how you break up responsibilities, SEO content writers might handle everything from the page title and meta description to topic research and the content outline.
  • Additional creative teams: If your content has pictures or video, needs to be adapted for social media or requires any input from creatives other than your writers and editors, these people should be part of the SEO content brief creation process, too.
  • Web teams: Whether it’s a landing page, blog post or video description, someone is responsible for formatting and publishing finalized content.

Benefits of a Solid SEO Content Brief

Your committee meeting is well underway. At first, everyone was nervous — but now the mood has dissolved into something decidedly indignant. “We worked so hard on that SEO content brief,” someone says. “What are we going to do without it?”

The answer, of course, is simple: You’ll make another one.

That’s because SEO content briefs are important enough to warrant rewrites on top of rewrites. Even if they’re impacted by something beyond your control — say, for example, a famous actor stealing your documents — you’ll never regret doing the work to get your SEO brief where it needs to be.

Here are just a few reasons why:

1. They’re Great for Collaboration.

If you’ve ever worked with a team of creative people before, you know that we all speak our own languages. Having a shared document like an SEO content brief helps us put aside those languages and “speak SEO” instead. This kind of collaboration makes it easy for people to share their perspectives, communicate any reservations and ultimately create something your customers will enjoy.

2. They Keep Things Organized.

It takes a lot of work to be noticed by a search engine. All those moving parts need to be organized somehow, and an SEO content brief is the best way to do that. Briefs help you keep track of what’s going on, who’s responsible for which elements and what everyone’s expectations are. A well-designed brief template also makes it easy to share notes or comments without confusion.

3. They Put Your Ideas on Paper.

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes fact for you: I used an SEO content brief to write this blog post. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that brief was full of resources, research and “National Treasure” jokes. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to put my ideas on paper, I probably would have forgotten all about them, and we might never have found out what would happen if Nicholas Cage stole your SEO brief.

Building an SEO Content Brief Nick Cage Would Totally Steal

Now that your Committee of 5 has decided on a plan of action, it’s time to get down to business. They brainstorm. They take notes. They drink a lot of caffeine. Every time you peek in at them, you think quietly that they look like mad scientists, scribbling wildly and cooking up something incredible.

How are they going to make an SEO content brief Nick Cage would steal (again)? Here’s what they do:

Communicate

You know an SEO brief is all about collaboration, and that can’t happen if your teams are siloed. Make sure they’re talking through every element of the brief, asking questions, sharing ideas and capturing their thoughts on paper.

Research

Although an SEO content brief is the perfect place for creativity, don’t forget about the cold hard facts. Keyword research, search engine result page (SERP) analysis, campaign strategy — this should all be used throughout the creation process.

Review

Before your SEO brief is finalized, make sure to review it for clarity and accuracy. You should also think about ways to make it more effective — such as planning for zero-click searches or trying to win a spot in Google’s Featured Snippet.

Utilize

At last, it’s time to put your SEO content brief to work. Hand it off to the creative teams who need it, then sit back and watch the magic happen. Just be prepared to answer questions along the way; remember, this is a living document.

Make Your Marketing Content a National Treasure

While it may not have seemed possible at first, this story has a happy ending. Nicholas Cage got your SEO content brief for the same reason he went after the Declaration of Independence. (I don’t know what that reason is, though. Is this a good time to admit I’ve never seen “National Treasure?”) Meanwhile, your Committee of 5 came together and used keyword research, content planning and communication best practices to create an even better brief. Everyone wins.

And now you can win, too. That’s right: You can make your marketing content a national treasure. All you have to do is contact us today to start creating something Nick Cage would be honored to steal.



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