If you are a business owner or your role involves sourcing and editing SEO content for a brand, you know what it's like when marketing materials do not meet your standards. It won't take you a minute to review a post and see that it isn't discussing a topic the way you prefer.
There are many reasons for this. First, it could be because the creator didn't understand what they were supposed to do. Which is fine—everyone has off days. Another reason could be because they were rushing through the article. A third possibility is that they received an inadequate brief.
Ideally, a brief is concise and comprehensive, letting the contractor know their client's goals, voice, audience, service area, and other pertinent information.
With a well-written brief, SEO teams will be more likely to create something that truly speaks to your brand, even if they say it in a way different from how you would. Here are things to keep in mind when preparing a brief for your SEO contractors.
Give the Right Amount of Information
When you provide too little information, it's almost certain that your SEO contractor will miss the mark on what you want them to produce. They can't deliver if you don't provide them with your parameters.
However, giving them too much information could do more harm than good. Don't give a book-long sales deck if you're having them write web content for a couple of pages. Chances are, the team won't finish reading your brief. Even if they do, they'll be less likely to highlight what you want them to because of the sheer volume of the things they need to read.
You need to strike a balance between dumping information on your contractor and leaving them without any at all. Granted, writing a helpful brief can be challenging—it's easier said than done. However, you can learn how to do this with enough practice.
Expand on Your 'About Me' Page
Your contractor should have a summary of what you do. Expand on your About Me—besides introducing the business name and its service area, indicate products and services you want them to highlight in the content plan.
Let them know the different elevator pitches you have for investors, clients, and potential business partners, as well as other key messaging like your company vision mission. The creator should understand how you want others to see your company, so they can use the right words and select angles that reflect your brand's viewpoint.
Tell Them Who You Serve
Include a few sentences about your target market or audience. If you target multiple demographics, you'll ideally have one for each project. Don't overlook this—one of the most crucial aspects of writing for business is knowing how to appeal to the audience.
Besides your target market, you should also include your service locations. Indicate on the brief if you want the creators to focus on specific cities and towns so they can adjust the content plan accordingly.
State The Goals Clearly
Tell your contractor what you want them to create. Include the purpose and the angle you want the piece to have, as well as the message you would like readers to get.
Provide links to background information and blogs with a similar approach to the topic. You could provide an inspiration piece and highlight what you want the writers to emulate—e.g. format, expository technique, and the like.
SEO contractors will be willing to accommodate requests like these and are eager to help you achieve the kind of content you envision for your website. However, you have to show them what you want!
Provide Notes on Brand Style
Besides knowing what to write, your contractors should know how to write. Ensure that they can communicate the way your brand does by giving them notes on your voice and style. Long-time customers will be able to sniff out inauthentic content, so be sure you don't give them a reason to doubt your credibility!
Provide guidance on the tone you prefer for your marketing content. Give the SEO team a couple of examples that demonstrate the brand voice you're going for—people will be more confident about writing in a brand voice if they see specific examples. It can be challenging for people to interpret things like "lively," or "luxurious," because we all have different interpretations of what these words mean.
Let the contractors know what style guide you prefer to use in your materials. If you're commissioning content, the team's writers will likely have a default style, whether it's Chicago, NYT, AP, or others.
Doing this is helpful and cuts down the time you'd spend changing capitalized names of legal documents (e.g. Will into will) or turning numbers into spelled-out words (10 into ten). Mention the most frequent changes you have to make—no need to write about everything.
Pegs or Examples
Besides examples for tone and style, you must also have pegs for social media posts, meta descriptions, and other off-page SEO text. Include everything that demonstrates how you expect to see content about the brand.
Don't Procrastinate Writing the Brief
Many people who look at this laundry list of to-dos will think it's too much. They might think they should write the post instead. While that will be more efficient in the short term, it makes you a content bottleneck for your business.
You can prepare your content brief in advance, and most of the things here don't change much anyway. For example, your elevator pitch, the audience, and the service location will likely remain the same for a while. You can put these in a template and fill in the necessary information as needed.
People commissioning content need to provide a document outlining their requirements and expectations from the project. Getting a content brief right is crucial, but it is also one of the things people tend to rush through. When you take your time writing one, you'll see that the effort is worth it!
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