Are you often underwhelmed by the articles writers create for you?
Or maybe you’re happy with the content, but for some reason, it doesn’t rank?
You might even have gone through a slew of writers, wondering if you’ll ever find someone who understands your product and writes about it in a way that draws in qualified leads.
While hiring the right writers can definitely be hard, even the best ones might miss the mark if you don’t provide them with clear instructions in the form of an SEO content brief.
Such a brief tells your writers how you want them to write about a specific topic and for whom. On top of that, it supplies them with the SEO elements they need to optimize their articles for the search engines.
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What is an SEO Content Brief?
An SEO content brief is a document that provides a writer with specific instructions for how to write a piece of content while taking into account the goals and audience for that piece, as well as the elements that will help rank the piece in Google. The latter is what differentiates an SEO content brief from a regular writing brief.
Benefits of Using an SEO Content Brief for Your SaaS’ Content
By providing your writers with detailed SEO content briefs, you exponentially increase your chances of getting an as-good-as-publish-ready article in return. They’ll know exactly what to write for whom and how to optimize it so that it has the best possible chance of ranking. As a result, you’ll save time and money by reducing the number of required revisions.
Creating SEO content briefs also forces you to get clear about the content you’re publishing and why you’re publishing it. If a content idea is not in line with your marketing goals or doesn’t fit your target audience, you’ll quickly notice that when putting together your brief.
Lastly, having an SEO content brief ensures that everyone – from the marketing manager to your SEO agency, writers, and editors – is on the same page about the piece of content that will be created.
Key Elements of a Great SEO Content Brief
While you can always add more information, the below elements are key for creating a clear SEO content brief.
Target and secondary keywords
If you want your writers to deliver an optimized article, you need to clearly communicate what the article’s target keyword is, and which secondary keywords you also want them to include. You can simply do that by having separate titles for them in your brief, as so:
Target keyword: invoice automation
how to automate invoicing
automate invoice sending
You might also want to share some contextual keywords with your writer. These are terms and phrases used by articles on page 1 that you found by doing an analysis of the top-ranking results with a tool such as Surfer SEO.
Be specific about the segment of your audience this piece of content should target. Ideally, your writers also have access to your audience persona documentation. Instead of only providing a simple role or short description such as “HR managers” or “life coaches”, share a bit more about where the target audience is at in relation to the article.
If you would want to create an article around “invoice automation” for life coaches, your target audience description could look like this:
Target audience: life coaches who are great at their core business but struggle to keep
up with administrative tasks. They often forget to invoice their clients,
which means their cashflow gets interrupted and is unsteady.
Let your writers know if they’ll be creating a product page, a blog post, or pillar page.
Say you run a chatbot SaaS and you have a feature page about how your product offers AI-assisted chatbots. You might be tempted to try and rank that very feature page for a keyword such as “AI chatbots”, but if you notice that the top-ranking pages for that keyword are listicles, you’ll have much better changes of ranking if you create a listicle as well as that is what Google wants to see for that keyword.
Word Count Range
This is where you indicate the minimum and maximum word count for the piece. For SEO reasons, you’ll base this off the average word count of the relevant ranking pages but you might also want to take your budget into account.
On top of that, it’s important to only consider the word count of those ranking pages that are similar to the one you’re looking to create. If you’re a SaaS planning to create a new blog post, that might mean ignoring, for example, pages on big marketplaces, newspaper sites, and e-commerce stores.
Stage In The Buyer’s Journey
The angle of, and information provided in your content might differ greatly depending on whether the target audience for the piece finds themselves in the awareness, consideration, or decision stage of the buyer’s journey. So, it’s important to communicate with your writer which type of prospect you’re going after.
Internal Links To Include
Having an internal link-building strategy is crucial for giving your content the best possible chances of ranking. While you could add links to an already-written article, that’s not the best way to go about it. You’ll likely have to force things a bit.
More efficient in sharing the links you want to have included with your writer. That way, they can take them into account whilst creating the article and include them in a natural way.
Knowing what stage in the buyer’s journey an article is written for already gives your writer an idea of the type of call to action to include, but it’s still best to share specifically what that CTA needs to be.
This could look like:
CTA: Download our whitepaper “How AI Changes the HR Landscape”
Providing your writers with inspiration is not as key as the other SEO content brief elements mentioned, but it is a good idea. Let them know which articles already ranking on the first page of Google you like, and why you like them.
Alternatively, you can share articles, videos, podcast episodes, and more that you want them to take into account or use as inspiration.
Here are some examples of how we integrate inspiration into our content briefs at Flow by using a simple 2-column format:
|URL||Why we like it|
|https://sproutsocial.com/insights/how-to-use-whatsapp-for-business/?amp||Interesting section on WhatsApp Business API|
|https://meetanshi.com/blog/how-to-use-whatsapp-for-business||Tips included are very actionable|
|URL||Why we like it|
|https://imagine.jhu.edu/blog/2023/04/18/gen-z-in-the-workplace-how-should-companies-adapt/||Has some interesting stats|
|https://www.cultureamp.com/blog/gen-z-in-the-workplace||The structure is good and each section goes into a deep explanation|
|https://blog.lucywalkerrecruitment.com/5-key-ways-to-manage-generation-z-in-the-workplace||Can be used as a reference for the tips section|
Lastly, it’s a good idea to supply your writers with a checklist of on-page SEO best practices to follow. Even when you’re working with seasoned SEO writers, having a checklist makes it easier for them to review their own work and make sure they haven’t missed anything in terms of optimization.
Here’s a checklist you can use:
- Is the main keyword in the H1?
- Is this the only H1 in the post?
- Is the main keyword in the page title and meta description?
- Is the main keyword in the URL of the post?
- Is the URL short enough?
- Is the main keyword in one of the H2 headings?
- Is the main keyword in the first 150 words of the body text?
- Does the post have links to related articles?
- Is the post linking to authoritative resources?
- Are paragraphs not longer than 4-5 lines maximum?
- Does the article include a clear CTA?
- Is the content unique?
Giving your writers the chance to review their own work like this should also make the SEO review process quicker for you afterward.
What to Avoid When Creating an SEO Content Brief
Now you know what to include in your content briefs, here are a few things to avoid:
(Unconsciously) Requiring Keyword Stuffing
If you just drop a long list of target keywords into a brief without any further information, your writers might assume they’ll need to stuff all of these keywords into the content which can lead to over-optimization as well as an unnatural-sounding text.
Avoid this by providing your writers with instructions on how to implement the keywords you provide. Let them know what to do with the target keyword, the secondary keywords, and potential contextual keywords.
Additionally, it’s your responsibility – or the responsibility of your SEO – to provide a manageable list of keywords. Don’t just copy/paste anything that seems relevant from Ahrefs into your content brief.
Blindly Following Keyword And Briefing Tools
We’ll go into this a bit more later, but remember that keyword and content briefing tools do not know your company or your audience. They don’t know what you want to convey with the content you’re planning and they don’t know what your business goals are. So, always look through the recommendations they make and adapt them to fit your specific needs.
Only Creating Briefs For Blog Posts
Every piece of content you create is ideally based on a content brief, from your feature pages to your whitepapers and your case studies. The benefits of using SEO content briefs are valid for all types of content and your content creation process will happen more smoothly if you use them across the board.
Not Using A Template
It’s not enough to create SEO briefs for each piece of content you want to create. For those briefs to be easily understandable, they should always follow the same format. If they don’t always share their information in the same way, it gets confusing for your writers and you’ll either end up with misunderstandings or with a lot more questions from your writers in your mailbox.
This means you’ll need to create an SEO content brief template for each type of content you create. You can have a different template for your blog posts, your landing pages, your marketing emails, and so on.
If you don’t have any SEO content brief template yet, start by creating one for your blog articles as that is likely the template you’ll need to use most.
Flow SEO Content Brief Template
What follows is the exact SEO content brief template we at Flow SEO use when creating content briefs for writers. You’ll see that it includes the key elements discussed above in this post, as well as extra information for our writers.
We’ve spent many years perfecting this content brief template and now all you need to do is copy/paste it to your documentation tool of choice so you can start using it too:
- Target audience.
- Key takeaways and next steps for readers to take.
- Narrative angle.
- Pain points to address.
- Core motivations/reasons for the audience to take action.
- Top-performing competitor pages.
- Sources of inspiration and why we like them.
- Target keyword.
- Secondary keywords.
- Contextual keywords.
- Search intent.
- Meta page title.
60 characters max + include the target keyword
- Meta description.
120-160 characters + Include the exact target keyword at least 1 time
- Target word count.
- Internal link(s) and anchor text.
- Call to action.
Here’s a good example of how it should look.
Note that, depending on the writer we work with, we might give them an example meta title and description or we might leave it up to them to create these from scratch.
Using an SEO content brief template is important as it allows you to share your instructions in the same way article after article and across the different writers you’re working with. It ensures consistency in your content creation.
Helpful Tools for Content Briefing and a Word of Warning
There are several tools that allow you to quickly put together a content brief based on a target keyword and an (automated) analysis of the top-ranking pages. A few examples are:
- Content Harmony
That being said, these tools focus solely on the “SEO” part of your SEO content brief. You’ll still need to add in other details such as your target audience, (re)sources to use, your desired CTA, and so on.
On top of that, it’s best not blindly to trust these machine-generated briefs. While they are incredibly helpful with analyzing the top search results, they don’t always recognize which of these results are relevant/similar to the article you’re trying to create.
So how to best use one of these tools?
I recommend creating your own content brief manually based on your knowledge of your product and audience as well as your content goals, and then adding in/linking to a detailed SEO brief created with, for example, SurferSEO, to give your writer better SEO instructions.
Use an SEO Content Brief Template to Create Better Content Consistently
Don’t waste your time and money by providing writers with two-sentence instructions and hoping for the best. Use the SEO content brief template in this post to give them clear instructions and, in return, receive content that requires minimal revisions and is optimized to rank in Google.
If you’re still not sure how to go about this or don’t have the time to create detailed SEO content briefs yourself, let us know. We manage the content briefing process for many of our SaaS clients and integrate it seamlessly with the rest of your content strategy.