A Template for Blog Content Briefs

I often use something like this for briefing informational/bloggy type article content over to copywriters. It’s to help them get on-point with SEO.

For blog content especially, a frustration I’ve had seems to come from lack of detail in briefs combined with copywriters with a tendency to go in tangents and waffle. I’ve had articles come back with the topic completely changed formatted in comic sans with no sub-heading structure – no joke! So no more basic briefs.

I wrote this template to get some structure going on. Feel free to use.

Side-note: There is an assumption that you’ve already selected a topic and sub-topics based on robust SEO keyword research and content gap analysis, or something like that.

For the sake demonstrating the the below, I’ve chosen a topic at random: “how to clean a makeup brush”. You just need to replace the topic specifics with your own.

—copy below here—

Deliverable summary:

1x blog (word)articles to be published on our website. Informational blog articles.

Please follow these rules

Do these things:

  • Insert facts/figures/references as appropriate
    • Source these with a link
    • Include source name in link eg:
      “Over 33% of statistics are made up, according to a study by “
  • Insert partial and/or full keywords, but only when it *makes sense* in context
  • Break the article into a pattern of sections
    • This means a pattern of header>paragraph or header>paragraph>subheader>subheader
  • Keep close to the suggested topic tree.
  • Format deliverables as a GDoc or Word Doc with native formatting
  • Use native header 1 for title, header 2 for sub heading, header 3 for sub-sub headings etc.
  • Write FAQ answers in People Also Ask style. This means succinct, factual, situational: (numeric, yes/no, dollar value, list). Needs to directly answer the question in first sentence.
  • Some research and link to authoritative sources like: wikipedia/.gov research
  • Try to use terms in “quotes” nearly verbatim like in the reccommended article structure.
  • If you think it is necessary to improve readability, please tweak the sub-topic order and/or wording, but try not to stray too far from what has been suggested
  • Aim roughly for a word count.
  • Communicate if you think you need more or less time/words.

Don’t do these things

  • Focus on our brand or products
  • Write sales copy
    (we will insert this ourselves, if necessary)
  • Over-use keywords
  • Change the article topic
  • Change the FAQ questions
  • Link on article topic terms. If the article is about red lollipops, then don’t link to someone else on the term lollipops, red, lollipop stick, or best lollipops etc.
  • Force yourself to the word count.

Article details

Publishing website/s (for context)List of
AudienceAudience is typically female 18-65, Kiwis, Australians but also US market. Really anyone who is interested in beauty/cosmetics and looking up stuff online. Keep this in mind, you’re not writing for a science journal, but including some scientific terminology, facts and figures is ok if it is explained.
Word count (roughly)~1200
Topiceg: “How To Clean Makeup Brushes”
Things to talk abouteg:

cleaning equipment: white vinegar, lemon, liquid brush cleaner, iso alcohol, castille soap, baby shampoo, warm water, olive oil, dish soap, paper towel

process: please go into a step + paragraph pattern with specific steps
Competitor sensitivityok to mention, don’t link to them
Sub-topic tree<p> intro paragraphs (2-3)
<h2> frequency / health of cleaning makeup brushes
   <p> few paragraphs
<h2> types of brushes
   <p> intro
   <h3> type 1
   <h3> type 2
<h2> howto a step-by-step guide
   <h3> 1. xyz
   <h3> 2. xyz
   <h3> 3. xyz
<h2> signs to replace your brush
<h2> How to clean beauty blenders & sponges
   <h3> [step by step same as above]
<h2> FAQ’s (IMPORTANT: use PAA style answers to these)
   <h3> “Can I use shampoo to clean makeup brushes”
   <h3> “Why clean makeup brushes with olive oil?”
   <h3> “Should I wash my makeup brushes with hot or cold water?”
   <h3> “What happens if you don’t clean your makeup brushes?”
   <h3> “How often should you clean makeup brushes?”

Publishing with just enough (but not too much) text style & format

If you’ve spent time editing out wacky copywriter formatting “choices” and word processing-isms then you know the pain here.

The situation:

  1. Brief over a topic skeleton (me, 15 min)
  2. Draft written (them, a week)
  3. Edits suggested (me, 10 min)
  4. Edits made (them, 1-2 days)
  5. Final review (me, 10 mins)
  6. Copy all & paste into CMS (me, 30sec)
  7. Manually clean up formatting in CMS (me, 5-10min)

Clean up formatting
made easy

If you don’t publish at high velocity, or have never really experienced this, then that’s understandable.

However, when working with text content at scale like in SEO agencies, or other content agencies. Eliminating 5-10 mins from the production pipeline adds up you’re publishing 20 blog posts at a time.

Some of this can be avoided with very specific initial formatting rules as part of a content brief, but even then there are issues. There is also the problem of different writers having different habits when using document-processors, with double lines, double spaces, formatting changes away from default, font choices, bullet formatting, title formatting etc. Every formatting diff adds up and needs to be normalized for publishing into a CMS.

I usually try to get copywriters to stick to formatting guidelines like these in a word processor.

  • Default heading formats (heading 1,2,3 etc) –
  • No font-sizes, or bold or colours changes away from defaults
  • If list use list formatting, don’t paste in a symbol, or type a number.
  • If table, leave formatting stock
  • Don’t add sources down the bottom
  • Don’t change link colours/styles from stock

But even then I’ve seen some wild stuff coming back.

Publish to your CMS like a Shopify or WordPress blog without formatting & styles

Step 1: Copy text from Word or Google Docs

Step 2: Paste into HTML cleaner

Step 3: Set to strip out what you don’t want

Step 4: paste into CMS

Other ways

You can always do the plaintext route

There are always better ways, and different tools this is one way I’ve found which works quite well for me. If you have a different or better way to do something similar, feel free to slide into the comments below.


Some RegExp for Shopify

I started this list of Regex strings that I find useful in Google Analytics & Google Data Studio. Some examples are specific to Shopify & and some are more generic.

The intended use case for something like RegExp Match filter in GA or in GDS; custom metric formulas.

RegExp match Shopify product URL’s under collections only

Match these:

Not these:

RegExp here:



Screenshot from Google Analytics showing only Shopify product page paths in collection

In the example above, I wanted to see if a change I made to Shopify theme (to remove these URLs) actually dropped pageviews and landing page hits to those pages. Why I removed them is a separate discussion 🙂

Strip out URL parameters in Google Data Studio

I often use this as custom metric within GDS. It’s bit of a hack workaround to bring some clarity to dirty GA data that has been tainted with dirty URL parameters. If you want to see a clean list of top landing pages ignoring appended URL params, this helps a lot.

For example if you have fbclid’s, custom params, yotpo parameters, recommended product referral parameters etc.

RegExp here:

REGEXP_REPLACE(Landing Page, '\\?.+', '')


This is a GDS screenshot where I’ve setup a Custom Metric.

Essentially the regex matches part of a string from ? char to anything. So anything question mark and following will be selected, and replaced with ” which is null string, so deleted. So in effect deleting URL parameters. As long as the other metric aggregation is working correctly within GDS they should aggregate okay-ish in GDS, but there are some gotchas, like I with like Ecom Transaction Conversion %’s adding by default which is not correct.

RegExp match home page only

Seems like it should be simple, to filter to home page only but adding a simple text filter contains=’/’ to GA will show you all pages not just the home page. This is not unique to Shopify.

This is useful if you have a lot of messy URL parameters that have yet to be cleaned up. This could be things like eDM referrer URLs, SMS traffic URL’s. Or other custom parameters attached to destination URLs that work their way into GA without having been intentionally filtered out or dropped at point of collection.

Match these:


Not these:


RegExp here:


RegExp to match Shopify collection pages only not product pages

This is one of my favorite ones as it lets you quickly segment out the performance of collection pages.

Match these:[collection-name]

Not these:[collection-name]/products/[product-name]

RegExp here:


RegExp to match Shopify collection + home pages

Useful if you’re trying to setup a funnel first step in some analytics tracking for example.


Regexp match the collection list URL in Shopify

For example if you want to see the page with and without slash, with and without random URL params and but not actual collections pages themselves. Eg:

Match these:


Don’t match these:


RegExp here:


Here’s a test case to demo it.

More examples

If you have any other regexp ideas, examples, improvements, tips or tricks you use to better under Shopify data in web-analytics, I’d love you to drop a comment below or send me an email: hi [at] this domain.


List of interesting Tech SEO links

I made this list purely out of interest because there is some great Technical SEO content out there that is under-rated and I wanted to do more justice than a bookmark 🙂

A perspective on .htaccess based redirect performance implications and why you should maybe not use .htaccess for redirects:

An interesting case-study on the impact on how JS-heavy content can affect crawl-rate and using SSR to fix:

Some nice ideas around Edge SEO use-cases:

MERJ technical SEO roundups are consistently great- eg:

This alternative approach to dynamic XML sitemap structure to improve crawl rates.


How do you appear on People Also Ask?

  1. Find out what is already appearing in PAA sections
  2. Include these questions near-verbatim in your content.
  3. Understand the search intent, what kind of answer are they trying to find?
  4. Provide an answer that is immediate, factual, succinct, and meets searcher intent.
  5. Structure your article around questions.
  6. Use FAQPage schema markup (Optional)

What is PAA in SEO?

PAA or People Also Ask is a type of rich result that displays question and answer pairs that Google – below is an example from a Google SERP.

snip from a Google SERP on “types of rice” showing the People also ask feature

This is a quick summary for my own reference around how to write.


How to learn Technical SEO

To learn technical SEO, you too need to get hands-on as soon as possible. Hands on meaning figuring out how to make some of the changes you’re talking about rather than just recommending.

When I refer to TSEO (I’ll call it this from now on) I’m referring to areas of SEO related to crawling, rendering & indexation, while avoiding other important areas of SEO like authority/trust and content/relevance. Think of it like this diagram:

Venn diagram; showing intersection of Technical SEO, Off-page SEO & On-page SEO.

Getting hands-on and learning TSEO:

I’ve made a list of things to dig into on when starting to learn TSEO.

  1. Make use of Google (for research) and use self-directed learning to get through each of the things on the list. For each of these points, make an effort to read several blog-posts, technical documentation articles and how-to guides. By making an effort I mean you should be digging a lot deeper than Moz, Brian Dean and Neil Patel. Often the best techseo learning resources are no-where near the super-long but super basic info on first Google page, sometimes the good stuff is completely buried on Google and you’ll just need to browse through blogs, social media and communities to find the gold.
  2. You will get stuck (this means you’re doing it right!) learn how to leverage your community. Researched, detailed and thoughtful technical questions on reddit, forums, communities, slack and discord etc.
  3. Codecademy – go and do the HTMLCSS & JS introduction courses.
  4. Learn how to use devtools
  5. Buy a domain name.
  6. Link the domain to Cloudflare.
  7. Use Clouflare to point the IP to free or cheap hosting that you setup.
  8. Build a hobby topic static website with at least 10 pages of content for testing purposes, make sure to use a at least some JS and CSS frameworks, include some map embeds, video embeds etc.
  9. Make your site responsive with manual @media query breakpoints and then re-do it with bootstrap classes
  10. Test the site in some mobile friendly testing tools, figure out what each piece of output means, and how you would approach fixing it.
  11. Cut the static website up into a WP theme & rebuild on WP (really just need a header.php, footer.php and page.php + styles.css).
  12. Use ScreamingFrog & GSC to fix TSEO issues found with the site (without plugins).
  13. Setup GSC & GA for the website
  14. Setup https and redirect all (4x) versions of typical URLs to a primary https url with .htaccess (in one hop)
  15. Add manually written schema to all your pages
  16. Add manually written canonicals to all your pages
  17. Create a live XML sitemap without a plugin, on your site
  18. Create a meta redirect, JS redirect, 301 redirect and 302 redirect see how they behave in devtools, in Ayama (chrome plugin) and in server logs
  19. add hreflang to all pages (no plugin)
  20. add meta robots tags to all pages (no plugin)
  21. edit robots.txt manually
  22. use different html rel tags for internal links
  23. Change a page into a different HTTP status without changing the content
  24. Use .htaccess to URL rewrite to create a duplicate page under a different URL
  25. Figure out HTTP status codes – the number, what it means in the specs, what it means in practise, how those pages are typically displayed in browser, how Google behaves with each code.
  26. Pick a page on your test site and change it to “soft 404” as reported by GSC
  27. Test out at least 3 different WP SEO plugins and crawl using SF with each one, spot the difference
  28. Use more than one crawl tool ie: Deepcrawl, SiteBulb, ContentKing (all have free trials) on your site and other sites.
  29. When using Sitebulb, comb through all the warnings and issues, understand what they’re saying, google them if you need more background, decide if they’re appliciable and if not have a good reason why not, fix the problems and recrawl in Sitebulb.
  30. Speed test your site with a lighthouse and a couple online tools and make some of the optimizations suggested, retest it
  31. Get log files from your web-server and analyze them with a log file analysis tool
  32. Do at least 3 different SEO audits, Anne Cushing’s or find your own equally good one.
  33. Make your own SEO audit template, think about why certain parts of an audit might not be needed/relevant to every site.
  34. Read about and dig deep on topics like ecom seo, site architecture / IA, javascript SEO, crawl rate and crawl budget optimization, international SEO. Personally some good blogs here are contentking, ahrefs, onely
  35. Use cloudflare to inject X-Robots noindex HTTP headers aka “edge seo”
  36. Figure out how to prioritise techSEO issues following an audit based on business goals
  37. Figure out how to present an seo audit to a client / stake holder in terms of actions required and an overview
  38. Create your own professional template typically either slide deck or doc format if a stakeholder/client wants a business/digestible format. what, why, what next is a great format.
  39. look up some good site migration checklist processes and do enough research to have an informed opinion around how you’d approach this for CMS replatforming, site rebuilds, domain name changes, one-to-many microsites, many-to-one microsites etc.

^ if you can get through all of the above, then you’re well on your way to learning TSEO.

Technical SEO & Working With Devs

In an industry where many web-developers have had poor experiences with SEO “experts”, being able to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about can . In terms of SEO: it will help you to explain technical changes, while trust from a dev-team means that it’s easier to get necessary TSEO recommendations across the line.

Learning Technical SEO beyond the basics is an ongoing journey, and I’m still on it. This list is simply my opinion of what would make a good start for someone new, but everyone comes to SEO from their own background and experience, so mileage may vary – and that’s okay too.