Growth Hacking
Jan 3, 2020

The Top Search: The Power of the Content Brief in Reaching Your SEO Goals

Jenalee Janes

The goal of any company when it comes to online presence is to build a brand so recognizable it becomes a household name -- or at least something held in high esteem within its marketing community. Since the beginning of search engines, then, the biggest dilemma many companies have faced has been figuring out how to build their brands while simultaneously trying to make them reach as many potential consumers as possible. The answer, it turns out, is simple in name alone: SEO.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about writing a strong content brief using SEO best practices, including:

  • What SEO is and how it works
  • Understanding the content brief
  • Tools and strategies for writing SEO-friendly content briefs

What is SEO?

SEO, shorthand for “search engine optimization” is a conglomeration of the best writing practices when it comes to website layout, content writing, and accessibility. It utilizes each of these to the best of the writer’s ability in order to improve a website’s chances of appearing early on in search results of a search engine like Google.

If you’re new to SEO, it’s important to understand key factors such as:

  • How SEO rankings work
  • The role keywords play in SEO
SEO can be completed for queries in any search engine, but when it comes to marketing, we're usually talking about SEO strategies for ranking high on the big G.

How does SEO work?

One of the most important factors when it comes to SEO has always been the content that is uploaded onto a webpage. This places a heavy emphasis on writing. Keywords, in particular, have played some of the biggest roles in optimization up until this point. They are placed in the relevant places a search engine might look for, such as the title, subtitle, or under various headings throughout the text so that when the search engine runs a scan of internet content, the chances of a webpage showing up under relevant searches is greater.

Also important to SEO is the accessibility of a webpage. This means including alternate text to provide descriptions of images to improve accessibility for the visually impaired, and even designing the webpage to be as user-friendly as possible. Navigability and accessibility are all down to the construction of a webpage, but it can make or break a disabled user’s experience, so designing a website to be more accessible is helpful for building both SEO and a positive brand.

Are keywords the most effective way to implement SEO?

The use of keywords has been the most common practice for building SEO for a while now, but more recently, a new method which converts keywords into something called a “content brief” has risen in popularity. It prioritizes the actual content of the page over anything else. It still uses keywords, but it does so by organizing them in a way that clearly outlines exactly how the content will appear.

Content briefs can help you unlock the secrets of SEO.

How to Create a Content Brief

The creation of a content brief is broken down into four steps: researching your keywords, gathering a collection of key points and questions to address, conducting content and search engine results page (SERP) analyses, and developing the content brief itself.

The creation of a content brief can be broken down into four steps:

  • Keyword research
  • Gathering key points and questions
  • SERP analysis
  • Putting it all together

Researching the Keywords

Keyword research involves more than just figuring out what the main themes of your topic are. Unless the topic is something you have absolutely no knowledge of, its main themes should be something you already have a pretty firm grasp of before you even begin drafting. Rather, the purpose of researching keywords is to find which ones best align with your intended audience and the objectives you’ve created to reach your audience based on their goals. In some circles, this is also known as “keyword intent mapping.” It’s a way out outlining your topic according to the needs of your intended audience through the use of the keywords relative to the topic.

Because keywords are always relevant to the topic, figuring out the best ones to use will give you a better idea of exactly what your content brief--and eventually the content as a whole--will be about. It also helps you to get a firmer grasp on who your audience is, which is essential to the development of the brief. Content is being created for the audience, so knowing how they are aligned, what their goals are, and what you can do to try to help them solve their problems means that you will ultimately be better equipped to put this knowledge into practice after you’ve researched the most relevant keywords.

Gathering Key Points and Questions to Address

Generalized as “topical expansion,” this second step is all about figuring out the specific questions it might behoove you to answer as you’re thinking about your audience. A keyword will get you better standing in search results, but the content itself needs to reflect the goals of your audience. You need to take your knowledge of what makes your intended audience tick, and turn that into a series of questions related to the topic as a whole. What are the questions you need to answer with your content in order to solve whatever problem your audience is facing? Once you learn the answer to this, you are well on your way to developing a curated content. A number of online tools can help you develop these questions by taking your keywords and turning them into additional terms and expansions of your main topic. Having your key points and questions at the ready will help you with the organization and structure of the content brief.

Analyzing Content and SERP

Content and SERP analysis is all about ensuring that the content you produce is unique. This means reviewing the content of your competitors. To do this, you should search your primary topic in a search engine using your keyword, and take a look at the top ten results that appear. Specifically, you should look at content types, formatting, and differentiation points of each of your competitors to determine if the results are skewed in any particular direction. Search engines may yield their results by similarities in content or specific formatting of the webpages. Looking for patterns in these can help you to format your own content in a way that will help you match the success of your competitors. Similarly, particularly when you analyze the content and SERP of the top three results, discovering what they’ve done to set themselves apart from the rest of the results can give you the insight that will help you make your content truly unique. Take notes. When you have a solid list, you can start incorporating these factors into your content brief and formatting it to be as unique as possible.

Developing the Content Brief

When all is said and done, you can begin compiling  your content brief. It should include the following:

Topic and Objective

The topic should be about your primary keyword phrase, and its corresponding objective should clearly state what the content of your topic as a whole is striving to accomplish.

Audience and Objective

Since your audience is the main group you are trying to reach with your content, and since you’d like them keep coming back to you, somewhere in your brief, you should include a description of who your audience is, what their goals are, and how you plan to help them reach those goals.

Topical Coverage and Questions to Answer

This should be the top three keywords related to your questions of topical expansion, researched just as the keywords for the main topic are. The questions themselves should also be included with the keywords somewhere in the brief.

Voice, Style, and Tone

These should align with the content and brand of the company if it already exists. If there’s one available, refer to the brand’s style guide for a better idea. Using the relevant voice, style, and tone in the content brief will make the integration into the content creation itself much easier.

Content Type, Format, and Length

These are all based on your SERP analysis. The brief should give you an idea of how many sections your content will have, as well as how long it will be as a whole. Make sure you’re meeting the average across the top three search results that are based on content type.


The deadline is only relevant if you are working on your own, but if you are, be sure to include the deadline somewhere in the brief so that you can stay on top of your workload. If you’re working with a team, consult with the other members or team leader to make sure everyone is on track for your deadlines.

For such a short little phrase, SEO involves a LOT of work. Not sure where to get started? Reach out to us today for a little friendly SEO advice. It's our specialty!