How to write the perfect SEO brief for an SEO agency

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When you hire an SEO agency, you have to provide specific information about your needs, expectations and resources. An SEO brief puts all of this info in clear writing and provides the foundation for your search marketing strategy. In this article, we show you how to create an SEO brief for your next search marketing agency. 

The six essentials of an SEO brief

When you’re creating an SEO brief, there are six key elements you need to make clear to your agency:

  1. Your goals: Your SEO targets and how you plan to measure success.
  2. Your brand: An overview of your brand, what sets it apart and where you see it going in the future.
  3. Your target audience: Who your brand needs to connect with now and audiences you might want to target in the future.
  4. Your competitors: The brands you need to stay ahead of and the ones you want to catch up/overtake.
  5. Your budget: Your current budget and whether you expect this to increase or decrease over time.
  6. Your SEO history: Everything you have (or haven’t) done with SEO up until now.

Clarifying these points isn’t only for your agency’s benefit, it’s for yours too. And you’ll probably find some of them are surprisingly difficult to define. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

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1. Define your goals

Before an agency can put together a strategy for you, they need to know what you’re looking to achieve.

When we ask prospective clients what their SEO goals are, we often get answers like “we want to rank on page one of Google”. And that’s fine. But you need to know why you want to be on page one because search ranking is never the end game.

If your goal is to increase sales, for example, simply increasing traffic probably isn’t enough. Slow loading times, weak content and any number of on-site issues could be getting in the way of sales, which means you’ll only be losing a larger volume of leads until you optimise the entire buying process.

Your SEO goals should be specific, achievable and measurable – avoid vague ambitions like simply ranking higher or selling more products. Set goals like increase sales from organic traffic +30% by end of Q4 or increase organic conversion rates+3.5% by start of Q1.

2. Your company profile

To create an SEO strategy that achieves your goals, your agency needs to know enough about your company. Over time, your agency will become something of an expert about your business but, in the meantime, you need to provide enough details to get your SEO strategy up and running.

  • Your website URL and any associated domains
  • Existing channels (eg: Google Search, Google Ads, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, etc.)
  • What you sell/provide
  • Locations your business operates in or sells to
  • Your most important products or services
  • Your key selling points
  • Your brand image
  • The top 5-10 keywords that best describe your brand

If you’re unsure about any of the brand info you need to provide, the SEO agency should be able to help.

3. Your target audience

Your SEO agency will also learn a great deal about your target audiences over time but you can give them a head start by providing as much relevant info as possible in your brief.

At the very least, draw up a list of general buyer personas – like married couples, undergraduate students, expecting parents, pet owners, etc.

Include any relevant data you’ve acquired, such as demographics on target audiences (location, age, gender, etc.) or insights gained in the past. For example, if you have data that shows affluent homeowners in certain locations are your highest spenders, include this in your brief.

If you don’t have this kind of information, don’t worry – these are the kind of insights your SEO agency can discover for you.

4. Your SEO competitors

To maximise your search presence, you have to know who your competitors are and how to beat them, especially the ones currently ranking above you. In SEO, you have two types of competitors:

  1. Business rivals: These are the direct business rivals who are trying to sell to the same target audiences as you with similar products or services.
  2. Search rivals: Companies competing against you for keywords even though they sell something different or target different audiences.

Let’s say you sell wholesale furniture to businesses and you target keywords like “office desks”. You’re going to compete against other companies selling direct to businesses but also consumer retailers selling to individuals.

You still want to rank above these indirect competitors, even if they’re not targeting the same customers as you.

To solve this problem, we built an advanced competitor tracking system into Apollo Insights, our own intelligent automation platform. Apollo collects data on all of your main search rivals, their performance over time and detects any new competitors who crop up. This allows us to constantly be in the know regarding who your direct search rivals are and where your next opportunity is coming from.

Apollo Insights audit screens

5. Set your SEO budget

Set a realistic SEO budget and keep in mind that the most expensive aspect of search optimisation is typically content production. Automation technology can handle much of the technical SEO process now (eg: link audits, reporting, etc.) so most of your budget is assigned to the strategic and implementation processes – the more creative tasks that can’t be automated.

Content planning and production is very much a manual process and this will become clear in the next section of this article where we show you how to create an SEO content brief.

6. Your SEO history

The final thing your SEO brief should include is your full search marketing history. Above all, if you’ve ever had any search penalties or warnings from Google, your SEO agency will need to know about them.

If you’ve worked with other agencies in the past, everything they did should be considered when devising your next strategy. Most of this information can be revealed via SEO audits but the more info you can provide upfront, the better.

Need help with your SEO?

We have a large team of SEO experts on-hand and ready to help – simply call us on 02392 830281 or submit your details here and we’ll be in touch.

Kerry Dye profile picture
Kerry Dye

Kerry has been working in digital marketing almost since the beginning of the World Wide Web, designing her first website in 1995 and moving fully into the industry in 1996 to work for one of the very first web design companies. After a successful four years, Kerry moved to an in-house position for a sailing company, running the digital presence of their yacht races including SEO, PPC and email marketing as the primary channels. A stint then followed at another in-house role as online marketing manager. Kerry moved to Vertical Leap in 2007, making her one of the company’s longest-serving employees. As a T-shaped marketer – able to advise on digital strategy outside her main specialism – she rose through the ranks and in 2012 became the head of the Small and Medium Business (SMB) SEO team. In 2022 she became Vertical Leap's Automation and Process Manager. Kerry lives in the historic town of Bishops Waltham with her husband and daughter. When she’s not at work she enjoys cooking proper food, curling up with a good book and being a leader for Brownie and Rainbow Guides.

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