Good guidelines, or briefs, help copywriters to create content that builds authority and power, which in turn helps to lift your rankings, inching you ever closer to that coveted number one slot on Google.
Give Us Guidelines, Please!
Guidelines are like those old fashioned white picket fences around a garden next to a busy street.
If youre a toddler playing in the garden, those white picket fences give you freedom to imagine and play.
They also keep you from running headlong into an oncoming vehicle in the middle of that busy street.
Guidelines help us to create the kind of content you hope for, the kind of content people talk about, share, tweet, like, bookmark or plus 1.
Im going to let you in on a secret: writers hate blank pages.
We loathe the pristine white rectangles even more than we do a world without coffee (or tea). Blank pages can occasionally be exciting; unfortunately they can also be daunting. Imagine youre an SEO copywriter and youre told to write anything, fill the page with high quality optimized content a few keywords and a link or two. When SEOs say this, and only this, by way of a brief its not exactly empowering.
To be honest, it feels like youre asking us to swoop in like superman without direction and singlehandedly save a website with brilliant content pulled from nowhere. Sometimes the freedom to write anything makes our hearts stop and creativity flee.
When this happens we dont write brilliantly. We write well of course, efficiently, but not with the flair were truly capable of. The truth: poor creative briefs squash creativity.
Here are a few tips to help you write effective briefs and get the most out of your copywriters:
1. Have an Objective
If you dont have an objective, we sure dont.
Tell it to us straight and simply. Whats the point? Why are we writing this? Whats the goal beyond obtaining a worthy link?
Also, what do you hope to achieve with this piece of content once weve written it?
We love this part. These sort of details help create focus. Focus brings creativity. Creativity brings good content. Its that simple.
2. Tell us Who Its For
As an SEO you may spend hours thinking about your clients. You know who they are.
Writers tend to only get the simplest of explanations regarding a company or client.
Tell us what you know about your client.
Whats the brand personality?
Knowing this can only help us write more effective content.
Note: if writing off topic, knowing more about the client still creates a better understanding and helps us feel involved.
Try to give at least a slight idea of the target, starting with the client.
3. Do/Share Your Research
Competitor insight is helpful to SEOs and copywriters alike.
Research gives an idea of what were up against.
Find out what your clients competitors are doing and tell us whats working.
Even if we have to place our own articles, your research helps.
If on topic, show us pages that rank well and are written well. If off topic, guide us as much as you can.
Seeing what others have done before provides creative ammunition and puts fire under our keyboards.
We want to be the best. Help us see what we need to beat.
4. Decide if it Should be On or Off Topic
This depends on the type of content youre seeking, but when it comes to guest posts it is helpful to know which direction to take.
Off-topic can be difficult: its that blank page syndrome.
Do whatever you can to reduce potential panic and enable creativity.
If you notice a competitor has done a great job writing off topic for a specific blog, or on a specific topic, let us know!
If you know of an off topic blog worth contributing to, get your writer to contribute there! The more focus, the better the content.
5. Define the Tone
Language guidelines and tone suggestions are very important.
Should the article be funny, entertaining, conversational, trustworthy, insightful, knowledgeable, informative, etc? A
re we aiming for a high school reading level or PhD?
6. Give Us the Link
Whether youre pointing us to competitors, a blog to write for, or an example of content.
Give us the URL and talk through it.
Tell us what it is and why youve chosen it.
7. Suggest a Word Count
Think about that white picket fence.
Word count goals help keep us and concise.
Alternatively they let us know when to take the time to really get in depth about a topic.
8. Lay Down the Deadline of Doom
Many writers rarely get anything written without a deadline.
An appropriate deadline is always helpful.
Deadlines give an indication of how much time we can spend on research, writing, and polishing.
Give us a cut off point and dont be flexible about it unless theres a valid reason (otherwise well know its not a real deadline).
Kimberley works as an SEO copywriter for Fresh Egg, an SEO multi discipline search and web design agency. She also writes scripts for comics, film, and TV. Kimberley has most recently been writing content for a number of sites including one that specialises in climbing frames & swings.