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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

ItemDescription
Publishing website/s (for context)List of
websites
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
Exampleshttps://www.elle.com/beauty/makeup-skin-care/news/a15532/how-to-clean-makeup-brushes/
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
   etc…
<h2> howto a step-by-step guide
   <h3> 1. xyz
   <h3> 2. xyz
   <h3> 3. xyz
   etc
<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?”
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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

https://html-cleaner.com/

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.

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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:

https://mydomain.com/collections/top-sellers/products/product-slug
/collections/round/products/red-spinning-top

Not these:

https://mydomain.com/products/my-products
/products/red-spinning-top

RegExp here:

\/collections(.+)\/products\/

Example:

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, '\\?.+', '')

Example:

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:

/
/?
/?something
/?p=something

Not these:

/page/page
/page/page?param=something
/products/product-slug?p=something
/collections/collection-name/?k=sdflksjdf909&rjnrid=1NqVnVx

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:

http://www.website.com/collections/[collection-name]

Not these:

http://www.website.com/collections/[collection-name]/products/[product-name]

RegExp here:

^/collections/([a-zA-Z0-9]|-)*$

RegExp to match Shopify collection + home pages

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

(^/collections/([a-zA-Z0-9]|-)*$)|(^/$)

Regexp match the collection list URL in Shopify

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

Match these:

/collections/
/collections/?
/collections
/collections?
/collections/?somerandomdfsfdf=sdfl90890
/collections?somerandomparam=lkjkljl&anotherparam=xyz

Don’t match these:

/collections/collection-name-a/
/collections/collection-name-b
/collections/collection-name-b/?sdfsdf=asdf90d

RegExp here:

collections\?|collections$|collections/$|collections\/\?

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.

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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:
https://www.danielmorell.com/guides/htaccess-seo/basics/dont-use-htaccess-unless-you-must

An interesting case-study on the impact on how JS-heavy content can affect crawl-rate and using SSR to fix:
https://dev.to/kunnendavid/how-to-get-250k-pages-indexed-by-google-57ep

Some nice ideas around Edge SEO use-cases:
https://dantaylor.online/edge-seo/

MERJ technical SEO roundups are consistently great- eg:
https://merj.com/blog/technical-seo-roundup-january-2020

This alternative approach to dynamic XML sitemap structure to improve crawl rates.
https://ohgm.co.uk/an-alternative-approach-to-xml-sitemaps/

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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.