Follow these eight simple steps to writing the perfect blog post outlines for your website.
How to Write a Blog Post Outline In 8 Steps
Author: Albert Konik, Senior Content Writer
Whether you’re running a blog or are a professional content writer, you know how rewarding your work can be. There’s no better feeling than writing that final paragraph of your piece, especially when you’re well aware that what you’ve just written is close to perfection.
Unfortunately, it’s not always like that. In most cases, writing involves swearing and drinking countless cups of coffee as you stare at your empty screen, waiting for inspiration to hit. Oh yes, writer’s block is a real menace.
There are several techniques to overcome it and speed up your writing process. One of the best workarounds for creating SEO optimised content is creating an outline.
Doing that will not only help you overcome your writer’s block but will also improve your content’s quality.
Think about it as a map. When travelling, you may reach your destination without one, but it will take you much longer. Moreover, you will most likely get lost along the way.
That is how an outline works, guiding your train of thought when writing a blog post. And today, I’ll teach you how to write one in eight simple steps.
Step 1: Research Your Topic
If you want your blog post to have added value, thoroughly researching your topic is necessary.
And yes, it also helps create your outline.
That said, once you have your general topic in mind, dig deeper. Analyse your competition, search for related queries, and look for frequently asked questions. In other words, perform good old keyword research.
There are several ways to do that. The simplest is to type your topic into Google and analyse the SERP.
For example, suppose you run a blog about international cuisine and want to cover Italian food in your next post. In such case, the search results page for the keyword “Italian cuisine” will look as follows:
The Wikipedia page isn’t the best place to get the best info, but once you start scrolling, you’ll get to the list of related questions, examples of competitors’ content, and related searches.
Take your time to analyse everything and better understand what your blog post should cover.
A faster way to research your topic is to use the Keywords Explorer tool from Ahrefs. By typing your phrase into the tool, Ahrefs will then provide you with all the relevant information, such as search traffic, keyword difficulty, related terms, frequently asked questions, top competitors, and more.
Doing all that might seem like a lot of work, but it will provide you with invaluable information.
- You can determine which areas to focus on when creating your blog post.
- You can estimate your post’s ranking’s potential.
Step 2: Brainstorm Your Content Ideas
What type of content do you want to write? Well, what options do you have?
You can write a short blog post, a comprehensive guide, a case study, a list, or an interview. The possibilities are endless, but if you want higher chances of ranking higher in the SERP, the good idea is to check the highest-ranking examples of the competition’s content.
Again, you can do that manually by checking the SERP. However, a faster way is to use the Content Explorer from Ahrefs.
Again, you will need to type your topic in the search box. However, this time, Ahrefs will provide you with a list of the most relevant examples of content that you can filter based on various criteria, such as search results, publication date, etc.
Staying with our Italian cuisine example, you can see that the two most relevant pages are guides followed by recipes. If you were to scroll further down, other popular types of content regarding this topic would be listicles.
Now all you need to do is choose the type of blog post you would like to write. Once you do that…
Step 3: Analyse Your Competition
The final step of research is performing a competitor analysis. Type your topic into Google or use the list provided by Ahrefs during keyword and content research. Go through the top-ranking pages, pick the ones that best suit your post idea, and read them.
Doing that will help you get more information about the topic and provide a rough idea on the level of depth you’ll need to go into.
Decide which areas to cover, and see how your competitors’ content is built. In other words, you can use their outlines as templates for yours.
Analyse how they structure their posts and try to find the best way to incorporate their headings into your outline.
If you don’t want to do it manually, you can try using Surfer’s Content Editor. It’s a handy tool for content writers who want to speed up their research. It provides a list of keywords to use, subjects to cover, and information about the best content structure based on automated competitor analysis.
Of course, you shouldn’t follow it blindly. While it’s a very useful tool for writers, it has its downsides. It is excellent for getting a better idea of how to structure your content, though, providing you with an excellent baseline for creating your outline.
Step 4: Write Down What You Want to Cover
Once you’re done with research, it’s time to start writing. Well, almost. Before you create your outline, think about what you want to mention in your blog post.
- Consider the intent of your article
- Who is your target audience?
- Do you need a long or short introduction?
- Is your target audience knowledgeable about the subject?
- How many sections should your post have?
- Should you use questions as headings, or would it be better to add a FAQ section at the end?
Think about what you want your blog post to be based on your research and personal thoughts. Then, list down your ideas and try to categorise them. Once done, compare them to your competitors, choose the ideas that best suit your topic, and axe the ones that derive too much from the subject.
Also, remember to establish the approximate word count for your post. Use your competitors for that. Surfer SEO can also help to illustrate how many words your content should have to make Google and your audience happy, but remember to use this as a guide. If you feel that your article needs more or less content than the competition, then proceed to do so.
Et voila! You have the base for your outline. All that’s left to do now is to build it.
Step 5: Divide Your Post Into Sections
With your topic, keywords, competitors, and ideas all at hand, you can create an outline for your blog post.
Start with your title. Without getting into too much detail, a good title should be catchy and optimised for your primary keyword. The key here is to remind yourself what to cover in your blog post and stay on track when creating your outline.
Once you have your title proudly displayed on top of your document editor, it’s time to organise your blog post body by dividing it into sections.
Use the ideas you brainstormed and organise them in logical order. Use main ideas as section headings, which you can divide into subheadings if you have a lot of ground to cover and want to make your post easier to navigate.
This is key in making sure that your article is scannable so that users can find what they’re looking for.
Depending on the content editor you use, headings might be numbered differently. In most cases, though, use H2 headings as sections and H3 headings as subsections.
Okay, ready? If yes, your outline should look like this:
- Title (H1)
- Section 1 (H2)
- Section 2 (H2)
- Subsection 1 (H3)
- Subsection 2 (H3)
- Section 3 (H2)
- Summary (H2)
The number and nature of your headings will depend on the topic you write about, the type of your blog post, competitors, etc. What you see above is a mere representation of how to typically divide a blog post so that it follows a logical structure.
Step 6: List Key Takeaways for Each Section
Once you have your sections, think about how long each one should be and what you want to cover. Start by listing several key takeaways for each section. That will help you speed up your writing as you won’t have to pause to think about what each section should contain.
It also helps estimate the word count for each section. And while it’s not something you need to follow strictly, it’s always good to keep track of how many words you write to help keep your content within the planned word count brackets.
Step 7: Revise and Refine Your Outline
Before you start writing your content, check once again whether you’re sure the outline is 100% ready.
Truth be told, it never is, and you’re more than likely to adjust it slightly as you write. However, to minimise the future tweaks that may disrupt your workflow, try to adjust everything before writing. Our advice here is to quickly check whether your outline covers everything it should and if the structure looks logical.
Also, a good idea is to include major keywords in your headings and subheadings. It helps Google crawl and categorise your content. It also helps your users navigate through your blog post, so be sure to keep that in mind when revising your outline.
Step 8: Fill In the Blanks
And that’s practically all you need to do regarding your blog post outline. The only thing left is to fill out each section with content. Just follow the outline and don’t look back.
Figuratively speaking, of course. Even with the outline guiding your thoughts, you may still find yourself lost at times, but that’s nothing you can avoid. Also, it’s more than certain that you will adjust the outline when writing.
You never know when inspiration hits; ignoring it would be foolish. With your outline as the baseline, though, you can ensure that each new idea you have fits your blog post’s primary idea.
Wrapping Up: Do You Always Need to Write a Blog Post Outline?
If you analyse everything covered above, you may ask yourself whether writing an outline is such a vital part of content creation. It does seem like a lot of work to do, and it doesn’t even include writing the actual post.
Do you always need to write a blog post outline first, then?
No, but, spending an hour on research and developing an outline can help you more than you think.
- It ensures that you have the proper knowledge to create top-quality content that provides value.
- It helps guide your writing, ensuring your blog post has a logical structure that’s easier to follow for a reader and Google crawlers.
- It is one of the best remedies for writer’s block as it helps your mind stay focused, ensuring you always know what you want to write about and how you want to write it.
If you value your time and the quality of your writing, then starting with an outline is the best way to ensure your content ticks all the boxes of an exceptional blog post.
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