While you may be happy with your content marketing strategy, have you considered using the power of a content brief template for your written content?
Whether we like it or not, writing copy in the form of a blog is currently a must-have, especially when you consider the expected growth of the content marketing market:
From 2021 to 2025, the content marketing market’s expected growth is $417.85 billion
It’s about time you were a part of that growth trend, so let’s look at how a content brief can help you to explode your content marketing strategy.
What is a content brief template?
Put simply, a content brief template is a skeleton document that forms the basis of all your content. While on-page copy should only be a part of your content marketing strategy, such a brief can streamline your process so fast that you won’t feel like you’re wading through mud when trying to write blog content.
This article predominantly focuses on on-page blog content, but you can use a template for anything related to content marketing
So, is a content brief template for me?
While I agree that a larger firm pumping out a blog post per day will benefit much more than a part-time food blogger, my experience tells me that anyone can leverage the benefits such a template brings to the table.
The trick is to apply the template to suit your needs and fit it into your current process.
The key is in the word “brief”. You’re briefing someone else to write content for you or your team, whether that’s:
- An in-house writer; or
- A writing agency
In both situations, you’re facilitating the writer to deliver content exactly to your needs.
Sounds good, right?
Hmm, I’m not convinced you’re aware of these kick-ass benefits of such an amazing document.
Benefits of a content brief template
While the following benefits will only apply to how you apply the template to your situation, they’re mostly universal:
- Eradicate process waste
- Lead you into SEO-optimized content
- Universal application and opens up other avenues for content marketing
- Makes writing more fun
- Get the EXACT content you need
So you don’t have to guess exactly how a content brief template can create these good things for you, let’s go through each one in detail…
1. Eradicate process waste
Imagine having to recreate the same document over and over again.
Who does that?
(My hand is up since I used to do that until I was introduced to brief templates).
The key here is that you simply lift the content brief template i.e. make a copy, and then apply it to your needs each time.
The process is such:
- Open the template
- Make a copy
- Rename it
- Populate the template
And the awesome thing about this is that you can have a different brief for different needs, further removing the need to change sections (see below for the different sections!) of your template each time, depending on the content’s angle.
For example, you could have an individual brief for each of the following types of posts:
- Generic post
- Update existing content
- “Types of”
- X vs. Y
- Product reviews
- [product/service] pros and cons
And so on and so forth, depending on the search intent.
In theory, you can create a content brief template for any type of content your business/site needs, and they should all start you off without you having to sit there and think:
“Man, what do I need to include for this type of post?”
Sure, it’ll take some time and resources to set up each brief type at the beginning, but once that’s done, you won’t have to invest that time or effort again.
2. Lead you into SEO-optimized content
You’ll see further down this guide that one of the main purposes of the template(s) is to ensure your content is SEO-optimized.
The way I use the templates is such:
- Do the keyword research
- Focus on 10 top keywords
- Put those keywords into the brief
- Ensure those keywords are in the right places (headers, intro, etc.)
- Send the brief to the writer
This process completely removes the onus on the writer to do what they think is correct for SEO, and ensures you don’t get something back that’s sub-optimal, causing you more work.
Let’s look at an example.
The below screen grabs are from a template in Google Docs (which is an awesome platform to use for your templates, by the way!)
Naturally optimized for SEO:
Can you see how the second version completely removes the need for the writer to touch the headers, essentially optimizing it for SEO before the writer works their magic?
Clearly, doing this means you (or someone on your team) needs to have some SEO know-how. You will find some writers have carry this expertise anyway; just do your due diligence when hiring.
Universal application to any industry
Something that gets me all bouncy in my chair is that you can apply these brief templates to ANY industry out there.
Pick one industry that you don’t believe can benefit from such an awesome piece of kit and I’ll happily show you how it can be applied to it.
(caveat: the industry has to have sites that have blogs related to it!)
As long as there’s a need for copy on a website, a content brief template can be applied.
Heck, if you really needed to, you can also curate your own templates to brief any form of content:
- Social media posts
- Video production guide
- Email campaigns
- Offline marketing
Content brief templates make writing more fun
For me, this is definitely the case.
Sometimes, it’s a breath of fresh air to just write rather than having to worry about an article’s structure.
When a colleague of mine asked me to write some content and used a detailed and structured brief, it was like someone had just handed me six scoops of butterscotch ice cream laced with chocolate sauce all over.
Damn, it was good!
I’m a big believer in letting people focus on their core competencies. Sure, I understand the need to have cross-coverage for skills and responsibilities. But, if you let a writer write, you’ll be amazed at the results… because they’ve had more fun doing what they’re good at!
Get the exact content you asked for
I’m sure you’ve all been there…
You’ve asked a writer to deliver 1,000 words on a specific topic, and they come back with 1,600 words on something that starts to resemble the topic but then goes down a rabbit hole you didn’t want.
What happens next?
The writer claims that the work they’ve delivered is warranted, despite it not being what you asked for.
I get it, and it’s frustrating!
But this is where a content brief template kicks in and prevents that from happening. This is especially the case since you can design the template (and, therefore, the resulting briefs) with as much information as you need to make the exact requirements crystal clear.
Let me show you some examples so you can visualize this better.
Key features of a templated brief
While it’s entirely up to you to design the template to suit your industry, needs and style, there are some core features that are a necessity in my experience:
- Overall guide to how the brief works
- Admin section
- SEO section
- Competitor comparison
- Internal link guide—think silos!
Some of the above may not apply to you, but they should give you something to start with for you to further develop as you go. The order you include them in is also entirely up to you!
Remember: the idea is to use the template to create a new brief each time, so it’s important that you fill in the sections each time as needed.
1. Guide on how the brief works
To completely remove the guesswork and so your writer doesn’t do the wrong thing, throw a guide up at the very beginning of the brief.
You need to hold the writer’s hand and make everything very obvious so you don’t get bombarded with questions like, “What do I do in this section?”
Simply include a link at the top of the Google Doc and make it conspicuous:
You can also provide further guidance for each section if you need to, providing it’s relevant.
Something like this works well:
There’s no way your writer can come back to you and play dumb if you have the necessary guidance throughout. It’ll also speed up the entire content marketing process if you include as much detail and guidance as possible.
2. Admin section
What would life be without an admin section?
Some good things to include in here are:
- Due date
- Word count
- Tone of voice
- Brief information on the customer/website
- Type of article: listicle, product review, etc.
Essentially, anything that gives the writer a good background of the type of content needed and why.
The two bare minimums here for me are due date and word count. It’s vital you tell the writer the exact day you need the first draft back by and how many words you need. I also advise you provide a buffer for the word count (say +5% or so) so you at least get your minimum hit.
In addition, some information on tone of voice and/or style of writing is important for maintaining brand personality, whether that’s for your business or for a client’s.
3. SEO section
Collate as much SEO-related information together if you can; namely:
- Meta title & H1
- Meta description
- URL slug
- Target keywords
The above example is more suited to sending to a customer, granted, but it can also work internally for sending on to the responsible individual for uploading to your CMS and for record-keeping.
4. Competitor comparison
I’m a huge advocate for initially ignoring the competition and writing content for the reader first.
However, it’s still a good idea to give your writer a nudge on who the closest competition is.
With this in mind, don’t just list the top few pages ranking in Google for your targeted keyword.
Instead, list the competition that closely aligns to you in terms of:
- Tone of voice
- Quality of language used
- Media used
You may find that the competitor pages you want to include also come off the back of an SEO competitor analysis report you’ve done up-front. Alternatively, you can run such a report each time you create a new content brief, perhaps to target keywords they’re ranking for and beat them!
Just a simple table will do for this section; somewhere to just copy and pasta (deliberate typo and new favorite phrase, sorry!) the links:
This is also a good place to include a link to your favorite SEO tool (Clearscope, Surfer, Topic, Frase, Page Optimizer Pro, etc.) since most use competition pages to suggest headings, keywords and LSI.
Note the additional instruction in the above image on Clearscope guidance! Remember to hold your writer’s hand as much as possible!
5. Internal link guide for silo structures
This section’s main purpose is for you to tell the writer three things
- Pages to link from
- Pages to link to
- The anchor text for each link
You can go one better and tell them in the roadmap (see below) exactly where you want the links included and what anchor text to include there.
For me, it’s a vital section to ensure you get your desired silo structure in place to give Google’s spiders the best chance to work out what your site is an authority on and what your content is discussing.
6. The roadmap
“Roadmap” is just a fancy way of saying, “Put your writing here” to the writer.
It’s where you can take the original content brief template and draft an outline so the writer can let their fingers dance on the keyboard.
With this in mind, and keeping in mind my above examples on optimizing the content for SEO, try and work the roadmap so the writer doesn’t need to creating any headings. Or, at least ensure that they don’t need to create any headings for SEO purposes.
Again, in the brief, make it crystal clear where the roadmap starts and ends:
So you get the best out of your writer, consider shaping the roadmap with H2s, H3s and H4s as needed to create the structure for them to write in.
Time to design your best content brief template!
I now challenge thee, oh noble template creation person, to have a go at developing your very first content brief template.
My best advise is to think about what you want from the template. Is it to speed up your content marketing strategy? Is it to develop a team of in-house writers?
No matter your goal, consider starting small with a generic template that can be used for any type of content, and then branch out into other designs, such as product reviews and X vs Y types, when you’re ready.
Don’t create a template for the sake of it, though… Ensure it fits in with your site’s needs first and foremost.
More importantly, enjoy the process more than the result!
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