Ever heard of writer’s block? Being a writer this long in the game, I tend to get smacked in the face with this phenomenon every once in a while, mocking me as I attempt to create words out of the letters strewn across the keyboard. It’s inevitable, and it happens to most people who write on a daily basis.
But any time I’m feeling lost or stuck with no signs of a lightbulb illuminating over my head, I remember a simple lending hand in the writing process: The blog post outline.
The Blog Post Outline: Should You Bother?
Convinced that an outline is just an extra responsibility and comes with zero value? Here are some of the many advantages of this handy content tool:
It saves you time and effort in the long-run. Gone are the days of presenting a client with a blog post that you believe is in perfect condition — only to learn they actually think it takes the wrong angle. An outline (that needs to be approved by the client before the writing process can begin) can save everyone from holding their breath while the content is under review.
It paints a pretty picture of the format of the blog and the information that comes with it. When you send your client a blog post outline first, they’ll have a solid grasp of the flow of the article, the data points you’re going to include and the overall goal of the piece of content. This keeps everyone on the same page before dedicating time to writing the article.
So if you’re feeling a little stuck in the writing process, or you’re just intrigued by optimized and organized content, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive into the reasons you should start every blog post with an outline, the steps to devising the perfect blog outline and how you can adjust and adapt one single template to work for every blog post moving forward:
The Importance of Making a Blog Post Outline
When you write a blog post without brainstorming and drafting an outline, you may find yourself dealing with a piece of work that lacks flow and consistency in the story you’re trying to tell. There’s value in turning a few bullet points floating around in your brain into something that provides more structure and value to your future blog post.
Writing an outline before creating content comes with many perks:
- It organizes your thoughts. As soon as you have that “aha” moment with a big idea, an outline can help you flesh it out.
- It helps you stay on track. Referring to an outline while blogging can make it easier to make the content flow.
- It gives the article structure. Your article should have an introduction, body copy and a conclusion. Your outline makes this easy to set up and achieve.
- It helps you come up with the end goal before the article is written. Do you know what the reader is looking for? An outline can help you determine what your target audience wants to read.
- It can potentially help you write the article faster. With a blueprint for your content, you may find it easier to stay on task and get the article finished in a timely manner.
- It can make what to include/exclude in your writing obvious. Brainstorming and creating an outline helps you see what’s necessary for the article and what’s lacking substance and doesn’t belong.
A blog post outline can set you up for success and put you in a better position to start writing the actual content. Keep these thoughts in mind the next time you think you can just “wing it” because… been there, done that, watched it blow up in my face.
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Elements of a Successful Outline
Before you can start your outline, there are a few suggestions we have that can make the pre-planning path smoother. Yes, we want you to plan out how you will plan your outline. Bear with me.
Here are the steps to consider during blog post outline curation:
1. Determine Your Target Keyword.
Keyword research tools like SEMrush can help you decide which keyword you should focus on with your competitors in mind. Do your keyword research during the initial planning phases so you can use it in the title and throughout the article.
2. Decide What Your Main Point and Key Takeaways Will Be.
Once you have a good grasp on the general article topic, decide what you want readers to get out of the article when they reach the conclusion. Determining the main point and key takeaways early on in the outline will give your article decent flow and purpose.
3. Identify the Length of the Article.
Word count doesn’t really work on a “one size fits all” basis. Aligning your content goals and using tools like SEMrush and MarketMuse will help you determine the necessary word count based on your target keyword. Once you have an idea of how long your article will be, you can determine how much information is needed within the outline.
4. Think About the End Result and Create a Call to Action.
Where will the article be published? What’s the reader’s call to action? Understanding where the article is going can help you determine how the article needs to flow, which can help you set up your outline properly in the early planning stages. Knowing where the article will live can also help you determine the call to action, or where you want readers to head on the website when they finish the article.
5. Remember: Organization is Key.
The whole point of your outline is to keep your thoughts organized and placed in a logical order for your client to digest before signing off on an article. This is how brainstorming and outlines differ — a brainstorm session is good for jotting down your thoughts and bullet points that will potentially make their way into an article, and an outline better organizes these thoughts and gives them purpose.
Creating a Template for Your Blog Post Outline
A blog post outline template not only saves you time in the long run, but it can also make writing future articles easier, especially when you’re facing a hard deadline. Here’s the general workflow to consider when creating a template for future blog post outlines:
1. Working Title.
Your working title will paint a picture of what readers can expect as soon as they dive into the content. We call it a “working title” because this is something that can change throughout the writing process. Every article needs a title, so this one shouldn’t be easy to forget.
Subheads help to generate the main points you will cover throughout the article. These are going to be the areas that back up your main objective in the article, supporting the question you want to answer by the time the reader finishes the content.
3. Details Beneath Each Subhead.
Each subhead should contain evidence and details that support the main objective of this section of the article. Clients today expect a lot of information to be provided in each outline, so providing as much detail as you can will show exactly where you want the article to go.
4. A Data Point in Each Subhead.
Data points are simply another type of evidence to support your main claim and subheads. You may use data points on a case-by-case basis depending on your client’s preference.
Without a conclusion, an article is bound to feel unfinished. Your outline should contain a thorough conclusion to help readers tie up loose ends when they reach the end of the article. And don’t forget to include a call to action. This can be something as simple as a generic next step or branded guidance.
6. Notes Section.
Give yourself space to brainstorm throughout the outline writing process. This is great for storing those random ideas that pop up while brainstorming. Keep this near the bottom of the outline.
How To Use a Template for Outlining
Once your outline template is ready, make sure you understand how to fill in the blanks. Here are our suggestions for using your template while outlining different articles in the future:
1. Create Your Working Title.
It’s important to identify your working title while writing your outline so you have a general idea of the direction you want to head. Remember, it’s important to include your target keyword here, so at best, just make the title out of that and revisit it later.
2. Come Up With Your Subheads Based on Your Research.
The amount of subheads you decide to include will depend on the length of your blog post and how much detail and depth you want to bring to the table.
3. Add a Sentence or Two Detailing What Will Be Included in Each Subhead.
Bullet points don’t provide enough meat on the bones of an outline anymore. Clients are expecting a clear picture of what to anticipate when they read your article for the first time. Under each subhead, be sure to give an example sentence of what to expect within the article.
4. Include As Many Data Points As You See Fit.
This point may vary depending on the type of content you are creating for your client — someone looking for more in-depth information and research may expect more statistics throughout the article.
5. Leave Yourself Notes Throughout the Outlining Process.
The last thing you want to do is forget something important during your brainstorming session. If you have an idea and you’re not sure where it fits into your outline, leave it in the notes section to refer to later. You can also leave notes for your client to look through, or you can suggest they leave notes and feedback here to ensure the outline aligns with their goals and content needs.
With a solid blog post outline writing strategy, you can better position yourself to create successful content that your client is going to love. You may find yourself with a gut feeling to dive right into your article, but this could result in an unhappy client whose gut told them otherwise. A blog outline can be inspiring for those with writer’s block, but it’s also an effective way to manage priorities. An outline will always make better use of the time of everyone involved in the blog writing process.