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How to Create Content Briefs (with 6 Templates)

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How to Create Content Briefs (with 6 Templates)

If you want to publish more blog content, you need to create solid content briefs.

Content briefs are simple documents that tell a writer… what to write about. They provide the information and context writers need to understand the goal of each article, ensure they cover all the key points, and turn in an A-grade draft with minimal hassle.

A good content brief should be simple. It should cover the essential information a writer needs without drowning them in SEO jargon or taking away their freedom to write in the way they think best.

Briefs should also be brief—they are not content outlines. Spend too long writing suggested headers, recommending examples to include, and handpicking competitor articles to read, and you may as well have written the article yourself. 

With that in mind, here’s our straightforward content brief template, and a step-by-step guide to filling it out.

Every content brief should start with a working title for your article.

This doesn’t need to be a perfect, polished title. The goal of your working title is not to earn clicks or pique the reader’s interest—it’s to help the writer write. Keep it simple, and communicate the core idea of your article.

Examples:

  • How to create a content brief
  • Sharing our experience attending BrightonSEO
  • Why cloud architecture is overhyped
  • Keyword clustering using Ahrefs

If you’re creating SEO content, your working title should reflect the primary intent of your target keyword. In other words, it needs to give searchers what they want: whether that’s a how to, a list of tools, or a set of templates.

You can check the intent of your keywords with a quick Google search, but if you’d like to see the results for different countries (and make sure the results aren’t being personalised to you), you can check intent in Ahrefs.

Enter your target keyword into Keywords Explorer and scroll down to the SERP overview box. You’ll be able to see the titles of the top-ranking articles for that keyword.

Here’s the SERP overview for the keyword content brief:

SERP overview for "content brief"SERP overview for "content brief"

Pay special attention to the formats used by the top-ranking content. If they all take similar angles (like, in this example, “how to”), there’s a good chance searchers are satisfied by it.

(Although that shouldn’t stop you from using your best judgment and finding ways to stand out from your competitors—more on that below.)

There’s a reason you want this article written (otherwise, why spend time and money creating it?). 

Share your goal with the writer. Help them understand why they’re writing something and they’ll have a better chance at hitting your goal.

Examples:

  • Explain how to create an effective content brief.
  • Document our experience as sponsors of the BrightonSEO conference.
  • Share our CEO’s opinion on cloud architecture.
  • Teach existing users how to use our new keyword clustering feature for keyword research.

3. Describe who you’re writing for

This doesn’t need to be a complicated persona document or a deep-dive into the reader’s awareness stage and demographic data.

Instead, share details that will help the writer choose the correct language and level of complexity for their article, like:

  • The audience’s experience-level with the topic: are they beginners looking for simple tutorials, or experts looking for advanced tips and tricks?
  • Their role: are you hoping to reach software engineers or solopreneurs? Junior content marketers or experienced CMOs?

Sometimes the existing search results can help narrow down your audience. If the top-performing articles all include “for beginners” in their title, there’s a good chance you should follow suit.

4. Share sub-topics to include

You can help your writer by suggesting important sub-topics to include in the article.

Common sense is a helpful guide: for an article about content briefs, you’d probably want to include a definition and a tutorial for actually creating a content brief.

You can also take a more more data-driven approach to finding sub-topics. I like using Ahrefs for this.

Start by putting your topic into Keywords Explorer, and heading to the Related terms report. Select the Also rank for tab, and you’ll see a list of additional keywords that top-ranking articles for your topic commonly rank for:

Screenshot of "also rank for" tabScreenshot of "also rank for" tab

In the example above, we’re looking at the keyword content briefs. From the results, it seems that top-performing articles also rank for keywords relating to templates and examples. For this article, the writer might want to include a section about content brief examples.

(Spoiler: we did, check it out below.)

5. Explain how your product fits in

The point of content marketing is help grow a business (otherwise, it’s just… writing). With that in mind, use your content brief to suggest relevant opportunities to mention your products.

It can feel salesy when products are shoehorned into articles where they don’t belong. Instead, focus on topics where it would be natural to mention your product. This is something we do at Ahrefs (hence the screenshots above).

If your writer isn’t already an expert with your products, help them out with by explaining how your product “fits in” to the topic at hand, and recommending product features that would be helpful to mention.

Examples:

  • We don’t offer a content briefing product, but here are three ways our data can help with the process.
  • We spoke to tons of customers at the conference: here was their top product feedback.
  • For this section on keyword clustering, it would be worth mentioning the new clustering tool in Keywords Explorer.
  • We recently moved our hosting from the cloud to on-premises installation.

6. Suggest ways to make the article unique

Virtually every article has to compete for attention with similar articles covering the same topic. To help your article stand out, you can suggest unique information to include—things that competing articles don’t cover.

You could recommend experts to interview, or relevant quotes to include. You could include data and statistics to reference. You could even share a few personal experiences and stories that might help the reader understand the topic.

Examples:

  • Use HARO to find people willing to share their content brief template.
  • Let’s tell the story of how I used keyword clustering to rank for 1200-keywords with one article.
  • Here’s some research about the costs of cloud hosting for you to reference.

7. Share practical details

Last of all, include any nitty-gritty practical details your writer would find helpful, like:

  • Article deadline
  • Useful resources (like your style guide)
  • Editors or reviewers they should communicate with
  • Internal links to other related articles on your website

Fill out these details for every article, share your briefs with your writer, and await content goodness to appear in your inbox.

Content brief templates from the experts

Our content brief template is simple, and a great starting point for most people looking to publish more posts. But there are many situations that might call for more (or less) detail in certain areas, like writing extra-technical content, or creating articles that form part of an ongoing series.

I asked a handful of content leads and agency owners to share their personal content brief templates. Check out the templates below, and download any that you might find helpful.

Draft.dev’s technical content template

Creator: Karl Hughes, Draft.dev

Link: Make a copy here

Karl Hughes runs the technical content marketing agency Draft.dev. His briefs contain a huge amount of detail to help a big team of writers cover extremely technical topics.

Screenshot of technical content templateScreenshot of technical content template

Freshpaint’s product-focused content template

Creator: Mark Rogers, Freshpaint

Link: Make a copy here

Mark Rogers is the Director of Content at Freshpaint. His briefs focus on Freshpaint’s product: providing a product overview, sharing boilerplate about Freshpaint’s HIPAA compliance, and explaining how the product “fits in” to the topic at hand.

Screenshot of Freshpaint’s product-focused content templateScreenshot of Freshpaint’s product-focused content template

Fio Dossetto’s ABCD template

Creator: Fio Dossetto, contentfolks

Link: Make a copy here

Fio is the creator of contentfolks and the head of content at Aura. Her ABCD template shares plain English information across four key areas: audience, brand, context, and details.

Screenshot of ABCD templateScreenshot of ABCD template

Deel’s marketing-focused brief and editing checklist

Creator: Anja Simic, Deel

Link: Make a copy here

Anja Simic’s content briefs for HR platform Deel do a great job at connecting each article back to the bigger marketing strategy. The brief helps the writer to reference case studies, awards, and data from recent Deel studies.

Screenshot of content briefs for DeelScreenshot of content briefs for Deel

Omniscient Digital’s audience, SEO, brand, and conversion template

Creator: Alex Birkett, Omniscient Digital

Link: Make a copy here

Omniscient Digital is a content marketing agency. Their briefs provide room for their strategists to share expert guidance to writers: recommending ways to bring new information to the discussion, mention the customer’s products, and generally stand out in the SERPs.

Screenshot of Omniscient’s audience, SEO, brand, and conversion templateScreenshot of Omniscient’s audience, SEO, brand, and conversion template

Final thoughts

I’ve written hundreds of articles and managed dozens of writers over the years. In both cases, problems with inconsistent quality and endless rewrites usually boiled down to one thing: miscommunication.

A content brief is a simple, straightforward way to provide your writers with exactly the information they need to write great articles. It ensures that both you and your writer understand why and how to create every article—removing most miscommunication issues at the source.

How do you build content briefs? Let me know on X or LinkedIn.



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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

Featured Image by Shutterstock/sutlafk

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

More resources: 


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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds

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Photo of a mobile device in mans hand with generative google AI Overview on the screen.

According to new research, Google’s AI-generated overviews have undergone significant adjustments since the initial rollout.

The study from SE Ranking analyzed 100,000 keywords and found Google has greatly reduced the frequency of AI overviews.

However, when they appear, they’re more detailed than they were previously.

The study digs into which topics and industries are more likely to get an AI overview. It also looks at how the AI snippets interact with other search features like featured snippets and ads.

Here’s an overview of the findings and what they mean for your SEO efforts.

Declining Frequency Of AI Overviews

In contrast to pre-rollout figures, 8% of the examined searches now trigger an AI Overview.

This represents a 52% drop compared to January levels.

Yevheniia Khromova, the study’s author, believes this means Google is taking a more measured approach, stating:

“The sharp decrease in AI Overview presence likely reflects Google’s efforts to boost the accuracy and trustworthiness of AI-generated answers.”

Longer AI Overviews

Although the frequency of AI overviews has decreased, the ones that do appear provide more detailed information.

The average length of the text has grown by nearly 25% to around 4,342 characters.

In another notable change, AI overviews now link to fewer sources on average – usually just four links after expanding the snippet.

However, 84% still include at least one domain from that query’s top 10 organic search results.

Niche Dynamics & Ranking Factors

The chances of getting an AI overview vary across different industries.

Searches related to relationships, food and beverages, and technology were most likely to trigger AI overviews.

Sensitive areas like healthcare, legal, and news had a low rate of showing AI summaries, less than 1%.

Longer search queries with ten words were more likely to generate an AI overview, with a 19% rate indicating that AI summaries are more useful for complex information needs.

Search terms with lower search volumes and lower cost-per-click were more likely to display AI summaries.

Other Characteristics Of AI Overviews

The research reveals that 45% of AI overviews appear alongside featured snippets, often sourced from the exact domains.

Around 87% of AI overviews now coexist with ads, compared to 73% previously, a statistic that could increase competition for advertising space.

What Does This Mean?

SE Ranking’s research on AI overviews has several implications:

  1. Reduced Risk Of Traffic Losses: Fewer searches trigger AI Overviews that directly answer queries, making organic listings less likely to be demoted or receive less traffic.
  2. Most Impacted Niches: AI overviews appear more in relationships, food, and technology niches. Publishers in these sectors should pay closer attention to Google’s AI overview strategy.
  3. Long-form & In-Depth Content Essential: As AI snippets become longer, companies may need to create more comprehensive content beyond what the overviews cover.

Looking Ahead

While the number of AI overviews has decreased recently, we can’t assume this trend will continue.

AI overviews will undoubtedly continue to transform over time.

It’s crucial to monitor developments closely, try different methods of dealing with them, and adjust game plans as needed.


Featured Image: DIA TV/Shutterstock

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