A blog post outline functions as a point of reference for blog post writers. While it’s definitely possible to write a blog post without one, having a fully fleshed-out and detailed outline will prevent even the most amateur of writers from going astray.
Why should you write a blog post outline?
A blog outline helps you stay organized
A blog post outline is the key to a successful post. Having a well-thought-out blog outline will make it easier for you to write your post, and it will help you to stay on track.
More importantly, it will likely result in a more organised, well-constructed flow which makes for an easy read.
A blog outline helps you discover if you’ve missed out on crucial information
By doing your research and ensuring that you have a variety of real-world examples and statistics to back up your points, you can create a well-informed and convincing blog article.
A content outline can also help you to visualize the flow of your post and see if there are any gaps in your argument.
A blog outline helps you determine what doesn’t add value to your reader
When you sit down to write your outline, you get a bird's eye view of your topic. You can quickly determine which points are irrelevant and focus your time and effort on the main points only.
Having a detailed outline to fall back on is especially helpful when you're working on a tight deadline.
With that in mind, here’s how you can kick off your blog post outline to create a useful and engaging post.
1. Choose a valuable, useful topic for your audience
When deciding upon the topic you will be writing about, there are two things that you should have in mind.
- Persona alignment
- Search volume and keyword ranking difficulty
Buyer Persona alignment
It’s essential to figure out who exactly you’re writing content for so that you can maximise the value of your content. Writing to your target audience will be much easier if you know their interests, priorities and concerns.
For example, a persona with troubled skin is likely to be searching for a remedy for their problem, as compared to searching for the best skincare bargains.
While knowing where to get the best deals is great for the wallet, their first priority will be on finding ways to treat their skin. As a result, they are less likely to click on an article that doesn’t align with what they want to read.
Having knowledge of what your current or potential audiences are interested in is crucial in determining the message that you want to drive home. Writing a blog with your call to action in mind makes structuring your article a whole lot easier.
Search Volume and Ranking Difficulty
If your blog has a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy increase organic web traffic by improving your website’s search engine rankings, search volume of your topic’s related keywords is important.
At the same time, enough focus should be placed on ranking difficulty (also known as keyword difficulty). This is an indicator of how hard it is to get a top spot on the search engine results page (SERP).
Striking a balance between high search volume and low ranking difficulty is no easy feat. The common solution is to use long-tail keywords.
For example, if I were a small company, ranking highly in organic search for a generic term like ‘chair’ is impossible because of steep competition with incumbents. Using a long-tail keyword like “pink hanging chair for bedroom“ is more likely to reach the consumers who are already looking for this specific product.
With 95% of search traffic going to the first page of search results, it's significantly more likely that your article will get clicked on when it ranks for a specific long-tailed keyword. While the search volume may be lower, these keywords have higher conversions because those searching for these products have higher search intent.
There is no fixed ideal benchmark for your search volume and ranking difficulty as these depend on your blogsite’s niche. From there, it’ll be much easier to determine what works best for you.
Looking for more? We previously covered a deep dive into keyword research.
2. Create an informative working title
Based on the topic and call to action that you identified earlier, creating a good working title gives you direction as to what you’ll be writing.
Your title doesn’t have to be too refined in the planning stage, but it should be something specific enough to give you a clear idea of what you’ll be writing about. This is especially the case if you are creating these outlines ahead of time— you don’t want to forget what your initial intentions were!
A poor working title would simply be an overarching topic like “Sweet Potatoes are Healthy”. This is vague, unspecific and doesn’t provide direction on the tone, scope and outcome of the article.
A more specific title that would provide you direction in writing would be “5 Ways How Sweet Potato Can Help You Lose Weight”.
This refined title narrows the scope to weight loss, as compared to everything under ‘health’. It also tells you who your target audience is (people who want to lose weight) so you can tailor your article’s content and tone to them.
Deciding what content format you will be using also helps in deciding the direction of your working title.
According to a survey conducted on over 1000 bloggers by Orbit Media, content formats like roundups and gated content have been stated to be the most effective for bloggers for success, compared to more common formats like how-to articles and opinion pieces.
Here are a few common content formats that blogs use that can guide your blog post title:
3. Identify the key questions you want to address
Depending on what key takeaways you want your audience to have after reading your post, key questions allow you to structure how you research and create content.
We can utilise frameworks like the 5W1Hs of marketing to brainstorm key questions
If your blog article title is “How to select the best pair of sunglasses for round faces”, these are some possible 5W1Hs that you can look at:
”Who” - e.g. Who has round faces?
”What” - e.g. What are the types of sunglasses?
”Where” - e.g. Where can they get these sunglasses? (Brand, location etc.)
”When” - e.g. When is the user reading your post? (Any seasonal holidays/occasions?)
”Why” - e.g. Why is your solution better than others? Why should they trust you?
”How” - e.g. How do they normally select their sunglasses? How will our solution help them?
These will function as prompts to make sure that you’re addressing questions that you have identified on behalf of your target audience.
4. Creating sub-headers
Like any other essay, you’ll want to map out your main points based on the questions identified earlier. These will be your sub-headers, also known as H2 Headers.
Creativity is great, but these should be limited to your paragraphs where you insert cheeky and eye-roll-inducing puns. As for your headers, keep it simple. Sub-headers should make sense and describe what the paragraph under it contains.
Sub-headers makes things clearer
Sub-headers prevent possible confusion for yourself, your readers, and Google.
Whether you’re writing your post immediately after you create an outline or months after, cryptic headers create extra work for yourself. You spend unnecessary time scratching your head over what past-you was trying to communicate to present-you, and this creates room for unwanted detours.
As for your readers, vague headlines make it hard for readers to search for what they actually want. If they click in to your article, they’ll leave after not finding what they want— not exactly the intended effect we want to have.
Without clear headers, Google will be unable to suggest your site to readers with related questions to your article. Subsequently, this will hurt search engine rankings, the opposite of what we want.
After creating sub-headers of your main points, you can fill in your sub-points under each one (also known as H3 heading tags). These guide the flow of each of your points, allowing you to add any relevant details.
A good blog article is easy to follow. If your article has 2 sub-headers with 15 sub-points each, you might want to consider breaking it down further to make your content more digestible, or to move your points around.
5. Dropping in links to examples and data
For informative blog posts, examples and data can be used to establish credibility to what you’re saying, and also allows your reader to better understand the point you’re trying to make.
Doing research on examples and relevant data figures in the outline stage allows you to have smoother writing cadence and better transitioning between points.
If you’re already doing research on examples and data for your outline, dropping in links into your outline prevents the need for you to scour through your Internet history for an obscure outline.
6. Blog post outline template
With all that has been said, let’s examine what a sample blog post outline actually looks like.
Main header [H1]
Sub-header 1 [H2]
Sub-header 2 [H2]
Sub-header 3 [H2]
Sub-header 4 [H2]
Sub-header 5 [H2]
Add in any details where necessary to ensure that you aren’t missing anything!
7. Research to see if you’ve missed out anything
In the last step of formulating a killer outline is to return to what you’ve created to check if you’ve missed anything in your initial brainstorm
- Did you address your target audience’s key concerns?
- Are there other common questions that can be addressed in your blog article?
- Does your content fulfil its objective?
While research can help you cover ground you might have missed, you don’t want to only repeat or rephrase the same content. That doesn’t help you stand out from the cookie cutter posts out there.
This is where you should plan on how to value-add to points that have already covered by other posts.
Jot down any bullet points on:
- Ideas that seem shallow or theoretical, that can be gone into deeper detail or have a checklist/guide of step-by-steps. Breaking down your content for people is extremely valuable for those who have no knowledge of the topic.
- Any “common sense” points that you disagree with, based on your personal experience. This demonstrates your unique expertise to your reader.
- If a point can be explained better with a different example or more data to better tailor to your selected audience. This differentiates your site's content from others and gives it a unique spin.
Having a blog post outline to reference is extremely useful, especially in a time crunch. However, an outline can only serve you well if it is sufficiently detailed and can provide a strong direction when you write.
It’s never easy to discover what is lacking, so having a fresh pair of eyes to review what you’ve done may be helpful. Whether that’s reviewing it the next morning, or getting someone to take a look at what you’ve done.
Here are some last tips to refine your blog post outline further:
- Keep an open mind and revise your main points if needed to address your target audience’s key concerns
- Keyword optimisation is important, but it’s equally as important to ensure that keyword stuffing doesn’t occur— you risk getting penalised by search engines, and its likely that you’ll be compromising your brand voice too
- Firm up existing points with research and data points