Our guide to writing a content marketing brief

Create better content briefs...

Commissioning a blog or piece of online content? You need a brief. Writing a compelling blog or SEO content brief is the best way to get your in-house team or outsourced writer to create great work that gets results.

Behind every great blog, article, news story, report, or web page is an even better brief. Why? Because if you get the brief right, then you’re almost certain to get a better-quality piece of content.

At 42group, we’re advocates for approaching SEO content strategically. That means that every blog, article, or post has a clear business purpose. When we work on a brief, we’re challenging you to explain how this piece of content will benefit your business.

Much of the content we create is about boosting SEO rankings, so keywords and focus areas feature heavily in briefs. But you should aspire for more with your content, adding value to the reader. Finally, your content should be unique, approaching an old topic in a new way.

We’re going to walk you through the content brief creation process in this blog, including the key questions we ask every organisation. (But if you just want the template, you can access it here. You’re welcome…)

What is a content brief?

A brief is a structured document that sets out what type of content you want a writer to create, as well as critical details of the subject, structure, and SEO elements of a piece.

The purpose of the brief is to provide all information that your writer needs to begin creating a content piece. In some circumstances, they may need to conduct interviews, but details of all this will be included within the brief.

An effective content brief is designed to deliver the outcome the client wants from content. It sets out everything the writer needs to know, including:

  • Suggested blog title
  • SEO content keywords
  • Structure
  • Internal and external links
  • Message hierarchy
  • Similar content
  • Details of whom to interview
  • Word count
  • Deadline
  • Blog format
  • CTA

One of the most important reasons for using a blog brief is to convey to the writer how each piece of content fits into your content strategy.

While briefs can also be highly creative documents, we’re going to focus on their practical purpose rather than ideation. That’s something we’ll include in a future blog, so stay tuned.

How to create a great content marketing brief:

We’ve spent the best part of 1,000 words explaining why a brief is crucial to creating content. Now, we’re going to walk you through how we create a content brief.

To help you, we’ve created a content template that you can download and use yourself if you want to. You can access 42group’s content template here.

How to use this SEO blog and content brief template

This content brief outline includes everything you might want to include in a content brief. If you’re working with an experienced writer or a content agency you have a relationship with, then you may not need to include all these sections. In that case, simply delete them.

Suggested title:

Provide a suggested title for your piece of content. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it will give your writer a clear idea about your vision for the piece.

Keywords and phrases:

What are the keywords and phrases your audience will be searching for? Always detail these in the brief. You can always attach a keyword spreadsheet if you need to, but always list out keywords. We recommend our clients select 5 keywords for each piece of content. It’s our job to work these into content.

Who are you writing for?

Tell us a bit about your audience, including why they would want the information. The more information you can provide, the better. You can also provide guidance on the tone of voice. Referencing popular publications or websites can provide your writer with a good indication of the tone of voice, as well as detail, referencing and links.

Do you need a blog, article, case-study, or whitepaper?

Tell the writer what outcome you want. Be specific on word counts and formats (Google Docs, Word, etc.)

What do you want to communicate to them?

Tell us about the purpose of the article. What do you want the reader to know? This is a way for your to pick out the core focus of the piece. Avoid copying and pasting a press release or company document here. Instead, use language your writer (and the reader) will understand.

Why is the information important?

If it’s a new service or solution, tell us why yours is better (bullet points are great!).

This section is all about value. Explain here the value that your piece provides. That could be the question it answers, the demand it fulfils, or part of your content strategy.

Explain to the writer the purpose of the piece will help them have this clear in their mind when they begin to create content.

What are your top 3 key messages?

List the three key messages for your article:




This is about helping your writer to structure the piece and develop a clear message hierarchy.

What do you want the reader to do with the information?

Do you want the reader to contact you? (If so, add details). Here, detail your CTA.

Do you want us to link to any pages in the article? (If so, drop the links in here)

We always ask if customers want us to include internal or external links.

Who can we speak to about your project?

Tell us whom we need to speak to about your project. Include contact details and let them know we’re going to be in touch! It can be embarrassing speaking to a busy exec who isn’t aware we’re going to call.

What’s your deadline?

Let us know when you need the finished article completed by?

We love a deadline, so spell out clearly when yours is.

What’s the estimated word count?

Let us know how many words you’re expecting. (Leave it blank if you don’t know)

Is there anything else we should know?

This section is a chance for the commissioner of the blog or piece of content to add more detail. This often includes links to similar content which can provide essential background detail.

10 principles for writing the perfect content brief

In this blog, we’re going to show you how to work with your client to create an effective content marketing brief.

Remember, you’re the experts at what you do (not us). We use the brief to provide us with the background information and context we need to get creative.

Here are 10 principles that will help you write a banging content brief:

  1. Do your research first – Inspiration comes from thorough research. Of course, that includes keywords (see below), but you should research your market or sector and identify effective content that works for you. Listing some examples can help the writer understand what you want to achieve. Sharing your research can provide your writer with critical insights into the outcomes you expect in the tone of voice, structure, and content approach.
  2. Ask yourself: Where can we add value? – In a world where AI can generate pointless content in seconds, your readers (and search engines) are searching for value. Whether you’re answering customer questions, providing unique insights, or creating detailed guides (like the one you’re reading), express to the reader the value in the brief.
  3. Go deep into keywords – If the purpose of your content is SEO (and for many people, it is), provide a detailed breakdown of the target keyword (or key phrase), and associated keywords you want to rank for.
  4. Explain who your audience is – Unless your writer is part of your company or a trusted expert in the industry, you’ll need to provide a details explanation of your audience. The more forensic you can be, the better focused the resulting content will be.
  5. Remember, one piece of content, one focus area – Inexperienced brief writers will imagine a single piece of content can work for multiple audiences – but they’re wrong. Each article, blog, or piece of content should be based around one persona.
  6. Build content strategically – Your content strategy should build a complete picture of your business or brand for your customer. In the brief, you’ll want to explain how this piece of content fits into your overall strategy (whether that’s achieving a higher website ranking through content, engaging a new customer base, or inspiring a new one).
  7. Think about links – Your SEO agency should give you some guidance here, but if you want your writer to include links (both internal and external), provide guidance. This could be about limiting the links in each article or avoiding links to competitor sites. It may also include linking to core pieces of content for your strategy.
  8. What do you want the reader to do? – Every piece of content should have a strategic focus, with a purpose. For this guide, for example, we want you to write better briefs if you work with us (or reflect on your experiences and realise you’re being short-changed by your current agency). Tell the writer what your desired outcome is, and it will drive the content creation process.
  9. Provide a suggested structure – If you’ve got a vision for what you want to achieve, provide an outline structure. A few bullet points are enough for a content brief. If you’re working on an SEO-focused piece of content, you should trust your agency.
  10. Always ask yourself: Will your writer understand what you want? – When you’ve written your brief, don’t just slide back in your chair and relax. You should review the document and checked back through the list to see if you’ve included everything.

SEO content brief FAQs

You’ve got SEO content questions, and we’ve got answers. Here are some common SEO content brief questions answered.

If you’ve got any other SEO content questions, you can message us and we’d be happy to answer them.

How long does it take to write a content brief?

Experienced brief writers (like the 42group team) can create a brief template in an hour. If it’s your first, then give yourself 2-3 hours. If you’re working on a long and complex piece of content (a whitepaper, for example), then be prepared to spend longer on your SEO content brief.

Should I get AI to write a content brief?

We’re 100% against AI being used for content creation. Currently, all the AI progammes we’ve used create junk content that adds literally nothing to the sum total of human existence. It’s absolutely awful. (Read here how we’re actively checking for AI and ML content.)

Can AI be used to create briefs? If you’re looking to create a generic piece of content that follows a familiar (read: cliched) structure that won’t provide any value for your reader, then crack on. If you aspire to create content with value, then write the brief yourself.

Why do you spend so much time writing a brief?

We can spend days getting lost in a brief, but the time is always well spent. The clearer the brief, the better the finished content. That’s an unbreakable law of content.

Your brief should provide everything an experienced writer needs to create an amazing piece of content.

Sometimes your writer will be strong enough to create amazing content from a few sentences or scraps of information. But, more often than not, you’ll find your “finished” piece of content needs extensive editing before it’s ready to use – and that’s going to take time and cost money.

Why bother with such a detailed content brief?

There are various reasons why you should create a content brief, including:

  • Saving time and money on rewrites and edits
  • Results in better content
  • Creates content with value that resonates with readers
  • Keyword information increases SEO
  • Ensures your content plays a role in your overall engagement strategy and marketing activity

Can I write shorter briefs?

Of course. The content brief here is modular, which means you can cut, paste, copy, and delete sections to create something that works for you. And just because something works for our agency, it may not work for you – and that’s fine.

Do all SEO agencies create such detailed briefs?

No. Lots of agencies won’t spend the time developing such detailed content briefs, and it shows in their completed content. We won’t name names, but we’ve seen some of the briefs produced by leading agencies. While some are exemplary, others are embarrassing in their brevity.

Before working with an SEO agency, ask to see some completed briefs.

Can you create blog briefs at scale?

We regularly work on bulk content projects and can produce anything from 10 to 100 pieces of content for an organisation. When working this way, we can dramatically reduce the briefing process, as the audience, outcomes, and strategic purpose are shared. When working on large SEO content projects, the briefing process is different – and in many cases, more involved.

Want 42group’s help to create content briefs?

We offer brief creation as a core part of our strategy and blog offering. We can work with you to produce detailed and focused content briefs that result in the best content outcomes. If you need us to write the content, we can do that too!

Contact our SEO content experts for a no-obligation chat about your content requirements.

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