How to Write a Content Brief that Really Works

You probably already know the many reasons to create high-quality, easily searchable content for your website. Content can keep an audience engaged for longer, improve conversion rates, and improve your overall search ranking.

Okay, great! I want content. How do I get it?

Whether you are engaging a single writer, working with an agency, or building an in-house team, good content briefs are key to creating good content.

Read on to learn what makes a good content brief, how to incorporate SEO into your brief, and find a content brief template with an example. What is a content brief?

A content brief is a document that sets goals and aligns expectations for a piece of content, whether that’s a blog post, social media post, or any number of other marketing materials.

Ideally, a brief provides useful editorial direction without micromanaging the content creation process. It provides editorial and brand guidelines, a vision for the finished piece, and a roadmap for how that content fits into a larger strategy.

A content brief should be more specific than a creative brief. In fact, content briefs usually come out of a larger creative or business strategy. Content briefs should provide everything a creative team needs to create a single, valuable piece of content.

Perhaps most importantly for the digital marketer, the content brief injects hard-won insights from your analytics team into your content creation process. By letting analytics guide the process, your content can be as impactful as possible. Why not get the most out of your investment in analytics and content? More on this in a moment.

Why should I spend time writing content briefs?

Here are the top reasons why you should build content briefs:

1. Fully align all stakeholders

Make your list, check it twice, and pass it around your organization. Does everyone involved with the marketing plan agree this is the right piece of content to create? Great! Let’s get to it.

2. Coordinate multiple writers

Creating lots of content takes lots of time. According to one survey, in 2020, it took writers ~4 hours to write a blog post. Good content briefs allow you to build out plenty of content quickly by employing more writers. Briefs help preserve the all-important consistency of voice and strategy.

3. Get exactly what you need

Everyone’s time is valuable (and for smaller businesses, can come with a high hourly price). Make the most of your editor’s and writer’s time by having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish with the piece.

4. Link content creation to research

If your organization has done research into what resonates with your target audience, what has worked in the past, what information would be valuable to provide, or what content is performing well for competitors, now’s your chance to put it to good use. Build your brief from your insights for the most impactful content.

How to build the brief

Ideally, content briefs fit the needs of a larger strategy. For digital content, search data is key to an effective content strategy. Search data tells you what people want to know and how your competitors are attracting their searchers. A thorough audit to determine where your web presence is excelling and lacking in search is a good way to start your content strategy.

SEO research should go well beyond keywords. You’re not looking to stuff your website full of the highest traffic keywords. You want to provide a valuable resource that answers questions clearly.

To that end, consider which searches you want to attract. What information is most valuable for someone who is making these searches? What else can I provide this searcher to nudge them towards my end goal?

Find keyword gaps

What topics should your content cover? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. Many search research tools allow you to compare your top keywords to those of your competitors.

There are 2 great uses for this information: First, you can identify where your content already performs well in your search landscape. See if there’s anything you can do to sharpen up the pages and draw any insights you can from what makes your site unique.

Second, let keywords where you’re losing guide future content creation. Do you have special expertise to contribute to a topic a competitor beats you in? Even better! Provide a better resource and watch your rankings rise.

Identify the hook

You know something I don’t know. At least, I hope so! I’m a writer and I mostly know about writing. You or your organization have institutional knowledge that your writers don’t naturally possess. Be kind, share it with them.

A powerful way to help is to identify a hook. What do you know that isn’t currently out there? Or, what can you add to the conversation? Search engines (and the searchers using them) prefer a source that has unique information from every other website out there. In fact, duplicate content hurts search ranking. If you can provide a hook, a writer can build the perspective of the article around it, ensuring that your content is unique (especially if the topic is already well covered).

Tip: Perform a survey or study

Surveys and studies provide valuable information for other people’s content. Links to your domain boost your search potential. It’s a win-win.

Build a bigger plan

Chasing searches is a good place to start but you likely have access to much more data than that. Who is your audience? What do they like? Why do they come to your site? A larger editorial or marketing strategy should be complemented by an SEO strategy, not subject to it.

Think like a writer

The most effective content briefs could be picked up by any writer, not just one familiar with your brand. When onboarding a new writer, provide all the source material you can.

That said, remember that writers are intelligent, effective professionals who have honed their craft for your. Many are extremely beautiful and charming. Ahem, where was I? Right, writers need clarity and direction but you would be cheating yourself if you didn’t give them space to explore and apply their abilities.

The brief should provide direction but not smother the creativity that writers can bring.

Here’s a checklist of what I want to know when I start a piece:

  1. Target audience and persona
  2. Brand messaging, tone, and voice
  3. Possible hook
  4. Purpose of the piece
  5. Format of the piece
  6. Where this content fits in the marketing funnel
  7. Questions the piece should answer
  8. Your current pages that support this content
  9. Competition you think is doing well

How to write a content brief:

Let’s do it. Let’s write a content brief. Feel free to copy/paste this section and use it to build your brief. This is a content brief template and example in one.

1. Topic

What’s the big idea?

The topic of this article is How to Write Effective Content Briefs. 

This isn’t necessarily the title of the piece, but it tells the writer what to focus on

2. Description

What is the piece about?

This piece explains the basics of content briefs, their value, and how to make them as valuable as possible.

You want to provide guidance, not write the piece.

3. Unique hook

What makes this piece special?

While the topic of content briefs has been widely covered by various marketing agencies, our agency provides deep analytics and search research as well as content generation.

Collect insights internally. If you are publishing information on a topic, you probably have some insight into it. Alternatively, your analytics team can find a unique angle on the topic.

4. Keywords

Target these keywords:

  • content brief
  • content brief template
  • content brief example
  • seo content brief
  • creative content brief

Longer keywords are more useful than a longer list of keywords. Choose keywords that signal relevant search traffic. Searchers who immediately leave your site usually don’t help conversion rate much.

Target these questions:

  • What is a content brief?
  • How can I write better content briefs?
  • How does a content brief differ from a creative brief?

Questions are similar to keywords and can also come from keyword research. Questions help your writer structure the article and give it purpose.

5. Audiences

Who are we speaking to?

  • Internal marketing teams looking to improve site revenue, traffic, or conversions
  • Potential clients
  • Fellow digital marketing and SEO professionals

Provide some context about demographics if you can. This information helps the writer determine the right tone and diction of the piece.

6. Tone

How do we want to sound?

Professional but conversational.

Include examples of pieces you’ve created in the past that matched your desired tone.

7. Word count

Estimated length of article

This article is currently about 1900 words long. I’ve actually overshot the mark because this study recommends an average content length of 1137 words for better search ranking. 

That’s not necessarily bad news. There are enough sections in this article that some could be split off into their own articles and linked from this one. Part of our marketing strategy is to develop a web of useful content. If your strategy involves a lot of short, snackable content, going long is not as helpful.

8. Internal links

Related topics:

  • How to Consistently Create High-Performance Content
  • How to Perform Effective Content Marketing Research
  • How to Develop an Effective Editorial Strategy
  • How to Write Compelling Content that Gets Readers Hooked
  • What is Average Time on Page and How Can You Increase It

Knowing what other content will accompany this article helps me know what to include and what to tease for potential internal links.

9. Examples

Competitors we like


These articles also do a good job of explaining the concepts in this article. Obviously, not as well as this article does, but they’re good to read too.

10. Visuals

Visual assets

Nowadays, readers can increasingly identify stock photos and they are not impressed. Is there a visual team associated with the piece and can you provide any unique imagery?

11. Intended result

What are we driving towards

Lead acquisition.

The fact is, this article ultimately exists to drive leads for our agency, Session Interactive. A side benefit is it helps us establish credibility amongst our peers in the industry. But ultimately, providing useful information and establishing credibility is a way to contact partners and clients who need our expertise.

12. Brand voice and assets

Do you have a brand book? Have you established a brand identity? Are there any other internal document that can help your writer find their way to your ideal piece? Well put them here!

That’s it. Fill in this template and you’ll have a robust content brief to share with your content creators.

Need Content Specialists?

At Session Interactive, we build marketing solutions from the analytics up, letting what we know now inform where we’re going. We build lean teams of long-time industry experts to diagnose, plan, and execute winning marketing strategies.

Let’s have a session

Looking to break through in search? Need a website that captures your audience? Want to get more out of your data? Let’s sit down to a learning session and figure out what would make the biggest impact for your business.