Weekly Wisdom: How to Write an Effective Brief by Ross Tavendale

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For full transcript https://www.semrush.com/blog/weekly-wisdom-ross-tavendale-how-to-write-effective-brief/
In this video, we are going to go over:
The SEO fundamentals that you are going to need in your brief. And that is from things like topics to keywords to entities. Should we care about things like keyword density, or is that a thing of the past?
How to make sure your writer’s style has the correct tone of voice for your brand? Anyone can write 500 words of copy about a topic, but is your brand serious and professional, or is it cool, irreverent, and hip?
How to structure your document so it is easily understood. The way I interpret something may not be the way that you interpret something. How do we write a brief for clarity? We need to understand what you should and should not write in that brief.
Should you nail every single detail or give the writer a little bit of a creative license?
How do you give feedback? Once you get the document back, how should you give feedback without sounding like a bit of a jerk?
Where the writer’s job starts, and your job ends? What should we expect from the writer, and how do we build trust in our working relationship?
SEO Fundamentals
Nowadays, in a world where machine learning algorithms like RankBrain and BERT are in play, the world has really moved on from the same keyword smashing over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, in the old days, I remember we used to brief content just like this.

But now it is much more subtle, and it is built around topics and entities rather than a single keyword. That being said, John Mueller literally came out last week and said the keywords are still very important

There is probably always going to be a little bit of room for keyword research because you’re providing those words to users and even if search engines are trying to understand more than just those words, showing specific words to users can make it a little bit easier for them to understand what your pages are about.

When it comes to your brief, definitely mention the overall keyword topic of the page, but after that, you should get a little bit smarter about some of the terms and things you are asking for.

Tools and Techniques
There are a few tools that can help you get that brief to the writer. The first one is the SEMrush On-page SEO Checker that gets your list of all the terms used in the top 10 results for a particular keyword. A relatively new tool called Surfer SEO actually uses entities on the page of all the results in the top 10 and compares it to your content to give you a brief.

If you want to go semi-manual, you can get a corresponding Wikipedia page, copy all of the texts from it, and put it through Google’s Natural Language Processing — this is going pull out all the entities inside that page, and that will help you structure a content brief.

Remember that you should give structural guidance around things like titles, meta descriptions, H1’s, and other headings to allow the flow of work and the article itself.

Tone of Voice
Tone of voice is very important when writing. If the tone isn’t right, then something just feels off; this is one of the reasons why it is actually quite funny to hear babies swearing. It is a completely wrong tone of voice for a baby, it is completely incongruent, and it creates a kind of weird tension in humor. When writing your brief, open with your tone of voice guidelines so the writer understands how the words should sound.

For example, let’s say I wanted to communicate that our agency, Type A Media, was a data-driven company. A professional tone of voice would be something like this: “Results for your brand are not subjective, and neither is data. That is why Type A takes a data-driven approach to your digital strategy.”

An irreverent or cheeky tone would be something a little bit like this: “From fake news to straight-up BS, the internet is full of it. That is why at Type A, we cut the crap and use data to find out what matters most and get the job done.”

Ultimately that is the exact same message, but the tone is entirely different.

Brief Structure
What should you actually put inside the brief? When writing a brief the temptation is to put as much on the page as possible, but I would ask you to hold your horses a little bit, and not kill your writer with a brief that is actually bigger than the end piece of copy that you want to produce. You should structure your brief thusly:

Keywords, topics, and heading structure.
PR style lead for the copywriter, including 5W’s – who, what, when, where, and why?
What’s the point of the article? What are you looking to achieve?
Who is actually going to read?
What reaction do you want to elicit, i.e., how do you want the reader to actually feel?
Where is this thing going to live? Online, offline? In an app, a blog post, a product description?
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