Mar 27, 2024

How to create an SEO campaign brief

Here’s the dream scenario for planning out organic search content: we identify the most promising topics to write about before spending any money on content production.

This requires some careful (but relatively quick) research about any concept that our clients might want to write about. It starts with fundamental questions:

  • Is anyone searching for this topic in any way?
  • Which specific problems are people looking to solve within this topic?
  • How might we create unique content to satisfy readers and improve organic search performance?

SEO campaign briefs are a great way to answer those questions with data. They also make great conversation starters in content strategy sessions.

The components of a campaign brief are pretty simple. You can build your own. This post will show you how.

What is an SEO campaign brief?

An SEO campaign brief is a snapshot of the competitive landscape for any given topic in organic search. It combines search data and qualitative research in order to identify the best opportunities for an organic content campaign.

A brief also includes recommendations based on that data. At ércule, we suggest titles for new organic search content as well as revisions of existing content.

What goes into an SEO campaign brief?

The briefs we use contain broad and granular data:

  • Keyword data. Identifying longtail keywords, their volume, and competition quotients.
  • Content library inventory. A list of all existing content in a library that may pertain to the topic in question.
  • Search Engine Result Page analysis. A qualitative assessment of search intent and related search queries.
  • Social platform excerpts. A survey of post and discussion threads that seem to generate engagement.

In addition to the collected data, our briefs include suggestions for new content and strategic revisions to existing content. These suggestions are based on the data collected and a company’s unique topic strategy.

Why we use campaign briefs

Simply put, campaign briefs help a content marketing team choose topics that have a better chance to succeed.

The goal of organic content strategy is to generate new leads through search. To do this, we’re looking for very particular circumstances:

  • Your target audience is looking for information within this topic.
  • Your marketing team can create unique content for the topic.

Campaign briefs allow us to verify those circumstances before we invest in content production. It cuts down on the (unpleasant) surprises.

Not all briefs lead to content production

Some topics, though dear to your brand, are unlikely to generate much engagement in terms of organic search.

Even if we come to the meeting with recommendations based on data, the client might decide that the content is not a great fit for their audience. The topic gets vetoed and we go back to the drawing board.

This is extremely valuable for a content strategy. We’ve identified a niche that won’t work for the content program, we’ve done it in the most efficient, economical way possible.

Overview of the process

Your marketing team has a long list of topics they’re interested in pursuing in organic search. These topics might be inspired by new product releases, or a re-positioning, or the desire to rise above a competing brand.

We’ll compile data to answer some fundamental questions about any topic:

  • How viable is this topic in organic search? We’ll answer this question with keyword data and search data.
  • What content have you already created on the topic? We’ll inventory the content library to generate a list of relevant pieces.
  • How is your audience talking about the topic online? We’ll answer this by reviewing search content and social platforms.

These initial steps involve straightforward data collection and analysis. We collect it all in the brief in order to facilitate the discussion:

  • What shall we publish? This is a question that can only be answered by reviewing all of the research with the marketing team.
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Data collection in four steps

The brief we use is simple. It involves 4 main research components:

  • Search data. Broad sense for popularity and competition.
  • Content library inventory. Detailed list of what already exists.
  • SERP research. Scan the top-ranking content to understand search intent.
  • Social platform research. Detailed look at how people are engaging the topic.

Organic search data

The data here is typical SEO fare: volume and competition data will give you a sense for a search query's popularity and attainability. (You can use Google data or keyword tools for this.)

If any pages on your site are currently ranking for a given query, we’ll also surface that information.

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Content library inventory

Ideally, there are already a few pieces of content on your site that can be updated to align with specific search queries in a given topic.

So we’ll surface everything that seems relevant to the topic.  (We have a little bespoke tool that quantifies relevance by topic.)

You can do a quick inventory of your library by filtering it for specific phrases in Ottimo.

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SERP review

A topic with a high search volume is great… but you want to make sure that the volume is actually coming from your target audience.

To get a sense for that, and related queries, we’ll survey the results for a handful of longtail keywords within your topic.

The “People Also Ask” data on a SERP provide a detailed, iterative glimpse at search intent. (You can do it manually but the AlsoAsked tool is pretty neat, too.)

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Social platform research

Similarly, we want to see how people are actually discussing the topic online – and if they’re talking about it at all. By scanning social platforms, we’re able to answer some important questions for content creation:

  • Is anyone actually talking about it?
  • What specific subjects are they focusing on?
  • What kind of language are they using?

There are great monitoring tools for this (Sprout and Common Room come to mind) but you can also do a quick manual search on platforms like Reddit to get a sense for the dialogue.

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Turning campaign briefs into content assignments

The data in a campaign brief will lead you to some pretty clear recommendations.

The data speaks for itself. Data is essential! But also: data is not everything. Once the brief is completed we have a few more analytical steps:

  • Make recommendations based on the brief
  • Review and finalize with the marketing team

This is the fun part of the process because our clients have brilliant marketing minds. Through discussion we vet the ideas, iterate on proposed titles, and end up with a list of content to create.

Let’s look at both of those steps…

Recommendations based on the data

There’s one primary question: does this topic have any real potential to generate leads through organic search?

We might find that the topic doesn’t really have any traction in organic search or social platforms. In which case, we recommend that the client look for other topics.

If the topic does show some potential, we’ll generally focus on two courses of action:

  • Which existing pages can we update or revise for targeted search queries?
  • What new content should we create to compete for a given query?
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This is where the expertise of a brand’s marketing team is essential.

Review with the marketing team

Our clients are the true subject-matter experts here.  Together we review the briefs. We discuss the overall landscape, the long tail keywords, and the content that can be created to answer such queries.

Usually, the client’s team responds to our suggestions through a few different lenses:

  • Does our target audience actually need this information?
  • How does it fit with our brand position, product, and strategy?
  • What unique angle can we bring to this particular blog post?
  • Do we have the resources to write it?

At the end of the discussion, we’ve got a list of titles that will be created and a list of pages that will be revised – all for specific search queries.

Start building your own SEO campaign briefs

You can use our campaign brief template to start building your own briefs. It’s really simple and easily customized.

If you don’t already have a chosen tool for keyword research, you can set up a free SEMrush account and start generating data. If your content team doesn’t yet have a topic strategy, you might create a keyword strategy in a few hours.

And if you have any nitty-gritty questions about the process and strategy, you can always drop us a line. Want more content marketing tips and templates like this? Subscribe to our newsletter

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We’re marketers who love spreadsheets, algorithms, code, and data. And we love helping other marketers with interesting challenges. Tackling the hard stuff together is what we like to do.

We don’t just show you the way—we’re in this with you too.

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