With the right blog posts, you can attract the right audience to your website. A well-written blog post can help your target audience solve a problem, find the answer to a question they have been searching for, or understand what steps to take next on their journey forward.
But you can’t just write a blog post and cross your fingers that it will work. If you want your blog posts to connect with your audience, you need to create a coherent blog post outline before writing a single word.
A blog post outline acts as a guide for your writing process by providing key talking points and a logical structure.
The Benefits of a Blog Outline
The key to successful blog writing is to start with a comprehensive blog outline. Outlining your articles helps construct your ideas into a logical format that flows seamlessly from point A to point B.
You should refer to this outline when writing your blog to ensure you are on the right track.
One of the main benefits of having a blog outline is the amount of time it saves when it comes to writing.
Collect leading statistics, data sources, and relevant quotes during the outlining stage. Collecting this information early on will save you time during the writing process. It means you can stay in the flow state of writing without needing to break off and do detailed research.
Seriously — spending an extra 30-minutes researching your blog topic and mapping out your key points can save you hours of writing time!
Yet, time isn’t the only benefit of having an outline.
Pre-planning your blogs is about more than just saving time. It’s an opportunity to turn your ideas into a high-quality, logically-organized resource. It helps you produce higher-caliber content for your audience and search engine optimization (SEO).
Planning your content before you write will also provide clarity over your subject matter. With a thorough blog outline, you’ll know exactly who you are writing for, what you are writing about, and what you want that blog post to achieve. This allows you to get specific about the intentions behind your writing and make sure your blog content is always written to the highest standard.
Outlining your blogs also saves you from going off-course and diverting away from the topic at hand. When you have an outline, your thoughts will be better organized and you’ll produce content that is actually useful for your target audience.
Want to improve your SEO writing? Then make sure you always outline your blogs before you start writing.
Your blog outline can be used to guide the SEO potential of your blog posts. You can make note of any internal links, keywords, subheadings, and media files that need to be included in your blog for SEO purposes.
In short, creating a detailed content outline helps you produce faster, quicker, and better content.
How to Outline a New Blog Post
Now, if you’re wondering how to write a good blog outline, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
I’m going to walk you through my quick 4-step process for creating a powerful blog post outline. I’ll even share some templates that you can use to inspire your outlining strategy.
You can then take this step-by-step process (and the shared blog outline templates) and apply it to your next blog post.
Ready? Let’s go.
Research the Topic
The research stage lays the foundation for a successful blog article. Once you’ve decided on a topic for your blog post, you first need to research that topic before you set pen to paper.
Research competing articles
Take your topic and head over to Google. Look at what pages are ranking in the top 10 positions for your primary search term. This is one of the best ways to see what’s currently considered to be credible content for your chosen topic.
You can then review these top-ranking pages to gain a deeper understanding of what information you should be including in your article.
When checking out the competition, review the results across elements such as:
- Page type - e.g., blog post, product page, service page, sales page
- Copy length - is it short-form or long-form content?
- Visuals - have they included any photos, videos, or infographics?
- Search intent - e.g., informational, navigational, commercial, transactional
You can also analyze their tone of voice and the subtopics they cover within the main topic. The idea here is to fully understand what types of content are ranking so you know what type of content you should be aiming to produce.
When you search for a “How-to” topic in Google, you will likely see videos and blog articles featuring step-by-step guides in the top result positions of search engine result pages (SERPs). These articles, or videos, will have an informational intent and will make use of visuals to guide users from one step to the next.
Alternatively, the search results for your chosen topic could be listicles, informative articles, conversion-focused landing pages, product pages, comparison guides, or something else — the list is almost endless.
Researching your topic is key for understanding what Google currently deems to be the best content to answer that particular search query. This search analysis will help you decide whether you should write an in-depth guide or a short and snappy listicle, for example.
Uncover your unique angle
While competitor research is a fundamental component of the blog writing process, it shouldn’t be the only type of research you do.
You run the risk of producing more of the same content that already exists. And let’s be honest, that type of content isn’t going to stand out to your audience.
If you want your content to be truly unique, you can’t just copy what everyone else is doing and hope it’ll pay off. You need a new angle.
Your unique angle is the “secret sauce” that helps you outperform the competition. Whether it’s by being an industry expert, having personal experience in the topic, sharing new research into a popular topic, having strong opinions, or something else — you need to have a unique value proposition.
Ultimately, the content you write needs to be valuable to your audience and written to a high quality. It should focus on providing the best possible answer to the topic being discussed. To do that you need to do further research outside of competitor analysis.
There are a few ways you could do this.
You could do your own research into the topic by speaking directly with your audience to gain an insight into their current thoughts, challenges, and motivations around that topic.
You may be able to:
- Analyze existing data using first-party data sources, such as Google Analytics and Search Console
- Use third-party social media monitoring software and search tools to gain a deeper audience and market insights
- Conduct first-party surveys to produce original research
- Collect data from reputable third-party sources to add an extra layer of trustworthiness to your content
Looking in the “People Also Ask” box might also present related questions that you could answer in your content piece. This helps you expand on your original post idea with related content that your target audience is actively searching for. It will add depth to your article and make sure it is helpful for your readers. So be sure to see what other questions come up concerning your chosen topic.
If we’re talking about research tactics for outlining content, we can’t forget about keyword research. You should already have conducted some keyword research before writing your outline. This initial keyword research will inform the primary topic of your blog post.
After this, you should carry out additional keyword research as part of the outlining process. This keyword research will help you find relevant subtopics and supporting keywords to reinforce your initial topic. Using keywords in headings is a major SEO ranking factor, so you won’t want to skip this step.
Additional keyword research will help inform the key points for your blog article and, more importantly, add a unique angle to your post.
The key here is to research, research, research. Know your topic inside-out, and you’ll know how to write a killer piece of content for it.
Organize Key Points Into Subsections
Next, organize key points uncovered at the research stage into subsections. This is where your blog outline will start to take shape.
You want to take your key talking points and turn them into subheadings and further sub-topics within your blog post. This will help ensure your blog post follows a logical flow of information that satisfies reader search queries.
You have a few options when organizing your ideas into subsections. The method you use will also depend on the type of article you are writing. However, one of my favorite methods for structuring posts is to use the inverted pyramid structure.
The inverted pyramid structure is a great way to organize your blog articles. By leading with the most crucial information first, this formatting style hooks the reader's attention and keeps them engaged through to the end.
Sort your key points into a logical order by considering which topics are of most importance, and what flow would work best for telling the story of your article.
If you are writing an article about the “history of SEO,” then the history of SEO will be the main point of your article. Meanwhile, other key points you might want to cover could include:
- The early days of SEO
- The evolution of SEO
- The current state of SEO
- What is next for SEO
Following the inverted pyramid structure, you want to lead with the most crucial point first. In this example, that would mean starting with a quick summary of the history of SEO, seeing as that is the main focus of this particular article.
Start with a working title then introduce your main point. After you’ve introduced the most important point, use subsections to cover aspects of this topic in more detail.
When covering these subsections, make sure you discuss them in a logical order. In the above example, there’s no point talking about the future of SEO if we don’t first recap its past.
Finally, your post should finish with a closing summary. According to the inverted pyramid, this would summarize everything discussed and direct people to places where they can find more details, or encourage them to take a particular action.
Here is how this particular example would look once done:
- [H1] History of SEO
- [H2] Brief introduction
- [H2] The early days of SEO
- [H2] The evolution of SEO
- [H2] The current state of SEO
- [H2] What's next for SEO
- [H2] Conclusion
In this example, you will notice I have written [H1] before the main title and [H2] before each subsection.
Use H2 headings to signify subsections within your post. Like chapters in a book, H2 headings tell readers what to expect to find in the upcoming paragraphs. Subheadings also make it easier for people to scan your article and decide whether it is of value to them too.
Let’s not forget that there are also accessibility and SEO benefits to using subheadings. So, getting into the habit of formatting your articles with subheadings sets out the best practice for writing quality content.
Break Subsections Down
Now, take the identified key points and subheadings and group any related points together. Doing this will help you break subsections down into more nuanced subheadings.
For example, if you are writing an article about the different types of SEO, the key points of “technical SEO,” “on-page SEO,”, “off-page SEO”, and “local SEO” could all be grouped as subtopics underneath an overarching “types of SEO” topic.
From here, you know that you should have a subsection with an H2 heading named “types of SEO.” Underneath this H2 heading, you could include H3 subheadings for each of the different types discovered during your research.
Once done, this should look something like this:
- [H2] Types of SEO
- [H3] Technical SEO
- [H3] On-page SEO
- [H3] Off-page SEO
- [H3] Local SEO
H3 subheadings introduce new sections within an H2 subsection. Subheadings go down to H6, depending on how in-depth you need to go on a particular topic.
Think of H3 - H6 subheadings as being like a babushka doll, where each subheading nests underneath the other.
Knowing when to use subheadings is another salient factor in writing a strong blog post outline. As a general rule, texts of 300-words or more will probably need subheadings. At the same time, these subsections shouldn’t be too long either. If your subpoint is beginning to look like a large wall of text you might need to break it up into another nested subheading or condense it down into a succinct summary.
If you only have a couple of short sentences to share on a particular topic, you likely won’t need a subheading. In this case, you should use a few concise paragraphs to summarize your subpoint, rather than dedicating a brand new subsection to it.
Provide Actionable Direction For Writers
You should now have a list of key points transformed into subsections and related subheadings. So, what next?
Now, you want to provide your writers with actionable direction.
Without clear direction, your writers may go off on a tangent or fail to address the key attributes of your chosen topic.
Go through each of the subsections and subheadings included in your outline. Then, break these down further by adding bullet points noting the critical points for each subsection.
These bulleted notes may contain directions such as:
- A quick definition of the main topic
- Key facts and statistics
- Information that should be included or avoided
- Whether you would like them to add lists, tables, or media files
- Research resources that might help the writer formulate this section of the article
- Any internal links you want them to reference in this section
- Any competitor articles that exhibit something you’d like the writer to review or reference
- Quotes from team members or industry experts to back up claims in this section
When expanding on the subheadings, take care not to write an essay. You’re not writing the blog post here, you are simply offering guidance for the person who will be writing the post.
Aim to include 2 - 4 directions for each subheading. If one of the subsections is quite complex, you may want to provide more guidance. Generally speaking, four or fewer directions will give your writer enough information to write an impactful blog post.
This part of the content outline could be considered a methodical brain dump. You are essentially writing down all of the main thoughts, ideas, and questions that you want to address in the blog post.
It’s then the writer’s job to review these directions and turn them into a high quality blog post.
Here’s an example of what this part of the outline may look like for one of your subsections:
[H3] On-page SEO
- A quick definition of on-page SEO
- Examples of on-page SEO tasks
- Highlight some of the benefits of on-page SEO
- Include a link to our article on on-page SEO tools with the text “on-page SEO tools”
See? You’ve quickly added context to your subsections and provided your writer with a solid plan of action.
Blog Outline Templates
I’m going to share some popular blog outline templates to help you craft quick and effective blog post outlines.
Using existing templates can help speed up the outlining process. Plus, following a solid template will avoid reinventing the wheel every time you write a new outline.
With that said, I recommend changing these templates to make them unique to your brand, rather than just copy-and-pasting them.
Jotform has a blog post outline template that you can use to craft beautifully-presented outline PDFs. This outline template is an editable PDF that contains a title, introduction, three subsections, a conclusion, a final call to action, and a space to note your target keywords. All you need to do is edit the PDF to suit your upcoming blog post, download the PDF, and share it with your writers.
Backlinko shares a list of seven blog post templates that you can use to outline your next article. This detailed article shares the outline format for different blog post types from listicles to detailed case studies, beginner’s guides, and myth debunkers. Backlinko includes illustrated graphics for each section of the outline. This article also shares a written breakdown of how to use each element. With these templates, you can choose the blog post template that works best for your intended topic.
Creatly offers a free blog post outline template that you can use to note the requirements of your upcoming article. In this template, you can add the objective behind the post, the target audience, and the focus keywords —- these elements are great for adding strategic direction to the article. This template features sections for the article introduction, the main body, and a conclusion that wraps things up.
Startsmallmedia shares a blog writing outline that includes an annual blog schedule. You can print this outline out then use its block format to note the key points of your blog post. You can add the main topic idea, target audience, sub-topics, and actions along with the category tags and the proposed publication date. On the yearly blog post ideas page, you can keep track of any content pieces you plan to publish throughout the year.
These templates are all slightly different, allowing you to choose the style that works best for you. You could also use a blog outline generator. Be prepared to manually check the outline meets the exact goals and requirements of your topic if you decide to use an outline generator.
Will You Outline Your Next Blog Post?
Taking the time to craft a blog post outline lays the foundation for writing exceptional blog posts.
Following a strong outline template will help make sure you cover all of the most valuable points of your article, turning it into a blog post that’s oozing with value for your readers.
As we all know, creating valuable content goes hand-in-hand with creating successful content that attracts your audience, helps your audience, and turns those readers into loyal customers and clients.
Will you use an outline for your next blog post? Let us know in the comments!