How we create an SEO content briefing

To know what to write, content writers need the right input. Our SEO content briefings also include comprehensive SEO and UX guidelines.

Heiko Behrmann Content Strategist
22.08.2022 11 min reading time


  1. More than a keyword list
  2. Understanding search intent
  3. Types of search queries
  4. Read search result pages (SERPs)
  5. Watch competitors
  6. SEO content briefing: Structure
  7. Keywords: focus, synonym, secondary

SEO content briefing: More than just a keyword list

If content is to achieve a good ranking on Google, it must be written in such a way that the algorithm rates the relevance of the content accordingly. Although it takes far more than just search engine optimised text to achieve a top ranking, the best content strategy ultimately stands and falls with the content produced.

Our content writers are trained to write texts according to UX and SEO specifications and receive appropriate input in the form of a detailed SEO text briefing. However, there is little point in the SEO consultant (f/m/x) simply researching a list of keywords that should appear in the text. Such an approach might have led to success two decades ago, when the Google algorithm was still in its proverbial infancy.

However, since the introduction of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 at the latest, Google has focussed on a so-called semantic search, which no longer evaluates a page according to each individual word it contains, but takes the intention of the search query much more into account.

The algorithm is increasingly better at assessing the user's need for high-quality, attractively presented, logically structured text that clearly serves the search intention - and this is precisely what needs to be taken into account when creating content and given to the content writers as input in the SEO briefing.

Understanding the search intention

Google does not want to satisfy SEOs who are supposed to guarantee a well-ranking landing page for their customers. Rather, Google is of course primarily focussing on its own customers - the users of the search engine who want to have their questions answered with the best possible results. This is why those pages that are categorised as most relevant for a specific keyword will achieve good rankings. In other words, those pages that best serve the search intention behind the keyword. If we want to produce content that performs well, we must therefore always understand and take into account the user's search intent.

“If you don’t know the user intent behind the key words you’re optimizing for, then you’re doing it wrong. Also, if you are optimizing for key words versus the needs of the user, then you’re doing it wrong.”

– Jordan Kasteler, SEO & Marketing Consultant

Relevance, pertinence, usefulness

In the context of information retrieval, i.e. the evaluation and provision of information from a large amount of unstructured data, the terms relevance, pertinence and usefulness are often used.

First of all, relevant content basically matches a user's search query, but this does not automatically make it pertinent. This is because pertinence also includes a subjective component: Is the content appropriate or interesting for a user? Is the information found applicable? This can be different for two users with the same search query. Ultimately, usefulness also includes the direct added value for the user. This is about providing new information, i.e. content that the user was not yet aware of. If you would like to know more about this: In his video on relevance, pertinence and usefulness, Prof Dr Dirk Lewandowski explains these basics and correlations in an understandable way.

We cannot say exactly how Google works, nor will it be possible to create a pertinent and useful post for every potential user. However, it is Google's business purpose to provide its customers - i.e. the users of the search engine - with relevant search results that are pertinent and useful.

Our task must therefore be to ensure that we provide as many people (from the relevant target group) as possible with relevant, pertinent and useful content when creating the SEO content briefing and, based on this, when producing the text.

Types of search queries

In order to understand and consider search intent, we need to realise during keyword research that there are different types of search queries:

  • transactional
  • informational
  • navigational

Transactional keywords

We want to optimise product category pages for keywords that are primarily transactional, i.e. behind which there is an intention to buy. A user who enters "red running shoes" into the search bar wants to buy shoes and will expect an online shop, not a thousand-word article about the history of running.

Informational keywords

Someone searching for "jogging in winter", on the other hand, will not be satisfied with a shop for scarves, but is looking for tips on what to consider when running in the cold season so as not to jeopardise their own health. Here we are talking about informational keywords.

Navigational keywords

The third type of search query is less common in our content production. With navigational keywords, users already know about a specific page or subpage that they want to target with the help of this search query. Naturally, this is often a so-called branded search, i.e. a search query with a brand reference. Many people search for "Facebook" to open, for example, because it seems more convenient than entering the entire URL.

Reading search result pages (SERPs)

Now, the above examples may have been very clear in themselves, but there are numerous keywords where the search intent is not immediately obvious. In addition, search intent is not just a question of transactional, informational or navigational intent. Rather, it is also possible to determine whether, for example, instructions are required or rather a page with inspirational content. Are images preferred or is a video also essential? Are they looking for concise tips or is the intention comprehensive advice?

Keyword "selfie ideas":

Google results show that users are primarily looking for inspiration. Images are essential here, as the prominent placement of the image search even before the first positions makes clear.

Keyword "build wooden shelter":

Images are also important here, but the video search is also displayed before the first rankings. Videos, especially video tutorials, therefore play a major role for content that is optimised for this keyword.

We must also take into account the search intention for step-by-step instructions.

STIHL case

Keyword "upper back pain":

The search results are all very similar and show that a detailed guide to possible causes, typical symptoms and treatment of the pain is desired for this search query.

ThermaCare Case

All of this should be taken into account from the outset when producing content. And although SEOs like to use a tool for everything, the simplest and most effective method of finding out the search intention behind a keyword is still the manual approach:

Just google it.

So the first step is always to simply enter keywords into Google and look at the search results. Based on the results, we can then make at least a rough statement relatively quickly as to whether we can position ourselves sensibly in the results with the planned content, whether we need a different keyword - or whether we need to approach the planned content in a completely different way. If we are planning an informational article and some of the potential keywords that the keyword research has revealed turn out to be transactional, then they will not be included in the SEO content briefing.

As always, of course, the same applies here: Exceptions prove the rule. In exceptional cases, it can also make sense to include both transactional and informational keywords, for example if the SERPs (= Search Engine Result Pages, i.e. the search results) are very mixed and not clearly informational or transactional. Or for so-called hybrid pages, which have comprehensive advisory content, but still have an advertising character and are primarily intended to serve a purchase intention. In these cases too, however, care must be taken to consider the respective search intention behind the corresponding keywords.

Don't be shy: watch your competitors

The manual check of the search intention has another positive side effect: you almost inevitably look at the competitors for the keyword. At school, we were punished if the teacher caught us copying from the person sitting next to us. Perhaps this is also the reason why some SEOs are still reluctant to admit that they are copying from other sites.

Such an approach is not only unproblematic, it is desirable and even necessary. In most cases, there is a reason why the top 3 or top 5 of the SERP are at the top. It is often noticeable that the top-ranked pages for a keyword are all very similar in terms of structure and content. So if Google attributes a particularly high relevance to these pages and "rewards" them with good rankings, then they must have done something right.

If we want to play at the top with our planned content, it is essential to look at what these competitors have done and be influenced accordingly. Of course, the aim cannot be to simply copy the page 1:1. But we should also include certain sub-topics that our competitors serve in our content. Or if the top competitors have all written a step-by-step guide for a keyword, we must also include a step-by-step guide so as not to jeopardise our chances of a good ranking.

But that's not all. We also look at our competitors to analyse what we can improve in order to ensure an even better user experience. Imitation is initially a good strategy for achieving a top ranking. However, the next step should always be to analyse exactly what we can optimise. Here, our SEOs once again work closely with the UX and UI designers.

SEO content briefing: Structure

The keywords have been researched, the search intention found and the competitors analysed - now it's time to put the results into shape and prepare them for the content writers in a text briefing.

The content summary: What should I even write?

We summarise the input on the structure and content of the planned content under the heading Content Summary in the SEO content briefing. Here we differentiate between:

  • Article objective: What is the aim of the content? What is the user's search intention that is to be served?
  • Approach: Here we summarise in 2-3 short sentences how the aforementioned goal is to be achieved.
  • Structure: The hierarchical structure of the content. In principle, this also reflects the subsequent table of contents and precisely defines the sub-topics and their order. As a rule, these are the H2 headlines of the article, but in exceptional cases it can also be an H3. Important: Relevant secondary keywords appear in the headlines.
  • Comments: Further important tips for content writers to help with text creation.
Example of how to structure a content summary in an SEO content briefing

Other fields are used to specify which target group the content should address, whether images, videos or tables are important for the content and which internal links should be included. The product fit is also taken into account: At the appropriate point during the first feedback round, the customer can enter which products we could mention in the content.

You can't do without it: the keyword list

Of course, the keywords that content writers need to use when writing copy should not be missing. In the keyword list, we differentiate between the focus keyword, synonyms and secondary keywords.

Difference between focus keyword, synonym and secondary keywords

Focus keyword

The focus keyword, sometimes also called the main keyword, is the central term of the planned content. It is, so to speak, the keyword that best reflects the topic of the article. As a rule, it is the keyword with the highest search volume for the planned topic. It should - as far as possible - occur unchanged (i.e. not conjugated or declined) frequently throughout the text and must be included in the meta title and the URL.


In addition, we provide a maximum of 3-4 synonyms, which are also distributed throughout the text. They should have the same or at least a very similar search intention. This gives content writers more flexibility, the text does not become unreadable due to the redundant placement of the focus keyword and other search-relevant keywords can be used.

Secondary keywords

Secondary keywords should in turn be treated as sub-topics of the text. Within the keyword list in the SEO content briefing, we therefore assign them from the outset to the respective sub-topics that we have previously specified in the content summary under Structure. With these keywords, it is not so bad if they can only be meaningfully accommodated in the text in conjugated/declined form - as always, readability comes before SEO. However, they should be used in such a way that users can find them quickly when they screen over a text. Relevant keywords should therefore also have their own H2 or H3 headings and - if provided for in the design of the page - be included in the table of contents (ideally as a jump mark).

The answer to the question "how much does a chainsaw licence cost?" can be found quickly thanks to the anchor list and H2 heading.

As a rule, we try to limit ourselves to a maximum of 10-15 secondary keywords - even if this best practice cannot always be adhered to in practice. In any case, we don't believe in including every keyword, no matter how unimportant, that might be suitable for the topic. A huge keyword list not only makes work more difficult for our content writers, who are forced to include everything, but often makes a text look artificial and inauthentic. Readers then get the feeling that they are reading a pure SEO text, and that cannot be the aim of our work.

Example of the distribution of focus keywords (orange), synonyms (yellow) and secondary keywords (blue) in a text.

We therefore only use the WDF*IDF tool in exceptional cases, with which keywords and other keyword-related terms on a page are set in relation to their occurrence on other pages that rank for them. Among other things, SEOs can use this tool to determine which terms or keywords are used on other pages in connection with the topic in question. However, this approach quickly leads to tool blindness and harbours the risk of unnecessarily inflating the keyword list. Especially as, as mentioned at the beginning, the Google algorithm is increasingly giving less weight to the individual words anyway, but rather evaluating the quality and relevance of a text much more comprehensively from the point of view of user-friendliness.

We also maintain a keyword list after the content has been finalised. During the SEO check of a finished text, our SEOs label all keywords and synonyms used with various categories (branded/non-branded, topic clusters, URL, etc.) and transfer them to the Wincher tracking tool. This is a crucial step that should not be underestimated, because creating content is only half the battle. The next step is to measure success on the basis of comprehensive performance tracking and derive appropriate optimisation measures.

D2C expertise in all areas

We therefore approach content not only from an SEO perspective, but always from the perspective of the user, their needs and their behaviour. Relevant sub-topics also result from a decent competitive analysis, which should always be part of the process. Some SEOs may frown when they hear that we don't work with a thousand different tools, but place a lot of emphasis on "manual" research. But our success proves us right. Yes, tools can be a helpful addition and you can't do SEO work without them - but relying on them too much, almost becoming dependent on them, does more harm than good. It's not for nothing that they say: A fool with a tool is still a fool.

For the whole thing to work, it is all the more important that SEO, UX and UI go hand in hand and that everyone involved - from the SEO consultant to the UX and UI designers to the content writers - has the necessary expertise in D2C (= Direct To Consumer). Our copywriters therefore also have an in-depth understanding of SEO and UX, which enables them to implement the corresponding specifications from the SEO content briefings.

Do you have any questions? Write us.

Heiko Behrmann Content Strategist

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