If you’re like me, then you probably understand how frustrating it can be to stare at a blank screen and have no idea where to start when it comes to writing. I’m sure we’ve all been there before – staring at the cursor blinking back at us, feeling the pressure of the ticking clock as time seems to move faster than usual. It’s daunting, for sure. The secret is learning how to write a blog post outline.
An outline is basically a roadmap that will guide you through your content and help keep your thoughts organized while you write. And trust me, having an outline handy makes writing so much simpler because it takes away that guesswork of what should come next. Not only that but outlines also help ensure that your final product is cohesive and flows well from beginning to end.
So if you’re ready to learn how to write a blog post outline, read on!
How to Write a Blog Post Outline
An outline helps you organize your thoughts and clarify your message. It will also help you create a post much faster.
An outline summarizes:
- The key message: What is the problem that this blog post solves? Or what goal does it help you achieve?
- Essential tips: What specific actions should you take to solve this problem or achieve this goal?
- Answers to questions: Not all of your blog posts need to be a list of helpful tips. You can instead list the questions that your post answers. A great place to start is through keyword research and answering the intent of those searching specific terms.
Additionally, an outline can include:
- Who the blog article is for
- Any additional instructions or explanations that will help our readers follow along
- Any potential roadblocks that prevent readers from following the tips
An outline of a blog post can simply be a bulleted list of points that summarize each section of the post.
Imagine preparing a party dinner. You make a list of starters, main dishes, and desserts.
On the side, you have whiskey, coffee, and mini chocolates.
You know that planning ahead is important so that you don’t waste your grilled-to-perfection, medium-rare ribeye while preparing your steamed veggies and homemade peppercorn-garlic-butter.
This is definitely not the time for experimentation. Instead, you implement a carefully thought-out plan.
While writing is not the same as cooking, you do need to create a plan of what to write.
That plan is called an outline.
How to Write a Great Blogging Outline
Blog outlines are usually different than academic or formal papers.
You’re not as strictly confined, and it’s more of a guide for you to organize your ideas than a task that you’ll be graded on.
I’m going to walk you through my process, but it’s pretty informal. I’ve actually memorized some of these things, so sometimes I just do them in my head while I’m typing.
Before anything else, make sure you’re set up to succeed. What does this mean?
This is where your keyword research and target audience come into play. You can write on anything you want, but how do you decide if it’s worthwhile?
Before writing, make sure you do enough research so that you have a solid foundation from which to work.
1. Research What’s Out There
Before you start writing, it’s a good idea to do a quick Google search for your topic. This will help you find blog posts that have already been written and can give you ideas for your own post.
These articles have a lot of information.
- How are their posts structured?
- What points are they making?
- Do they have data or sources you didn’t find?
- Do they mention anything that proves your idea wrong?
Knowing what else is out there can also help you figure out which direction to go.
Brainstorming can help you come up with new ideas and perspectives when outlining your content.
2. Determine Your Main Points
I start by writing down all the key points that I want to talk about. Next, I organize them so they’re not all over the place.
Just get all the ideas down on paper, so you can read them, so you can use them as inspiration to further your point.
As you become more experienced with blogging, you’ll find that you can streamline the process by working these steps into one cohesive system. This will help your brain to generate ideas in a logical manner so that you won’t need to do as much reorganization.
This part of the process helps you to identify any gaps in your coverage, write down important points that you might forget, and include any relevant links that should be included in your finished post.
3. Arrange Your Points Logically
Once you have your points written down, organize them. I usually do this while writing them down, but there are always a few that I want to move.
During your preliminary brainstorm, it’s not unusual that some of your ideas will end up being offshoots of other ideas.
You’ll end up with a partial outline, including some main topics, sub-topics, and room for additional main topics. You may also want to cut out a few irrelevant bits.
While you’re going through this guide, consider any questions you might have about expanding certain sections of it. Also, consider what questions readers may have as they read through.
Are there any key points that we missed? Are there any other details we should include?
4. Break Down Each Point
Each heading should have 2-3 sub-points. Sometimes they get a bit out of control, but that’s ok!
When creating blog outlines, consider using bulleted lists for larger or more complex subheadings. This will make the information easier to digest and follow.
Additionally, seeding in a topic or two that you don’t intend to cover can provide helpful context for readers and also create potential internal links.
Each section is like a mini blog in itself. It’s smaller in scope than the main topic of the post, but it needs the same introduction, body, and conclusion that your main article will have.
Some subjects will be so large that you may want to split them up into multiple sections.
5. Insert Supporting Data
I start many of my articles with a data-driven angle; I have an interesting data set I want to cover, and I go from there.
Some people start with a topic that interests them or a search term that seems like it might apply and then figure out the data or source later.
Both options are acceptable, it just depends on your topic generation strategy.
This is where you fill in the details of your outline. If you come to any conclusions, make sure you also have the steps leading up to those.
When making a claim in your blog post, always be sure to back it up with data. This will make your argument more convincing and your post more reliable. Try to support your points by sourcing other information from the web or back up your statements with things that show how you came to those conclusions.
6. All Parts Should Fit
Try to determine if something isn’t relevant to the overall point you’re trying to make, or if it’s crucial (needs further explanation). Occasionally, no matter how hard you try, the point you want to make just won’t fit.
If a conclusion doesn’t necessarily fit with the content of your current post, then feel free to save it for another post. If it’s an idea that’s just a tangent, then go ahead and cut it out.
I find that I often have to edit my outlines down quite a bit to keep my blog post to an acceptable length.
If length isn’t an issue, feel free to write more. Your readers will appreciate the extra information you provide.
Each section of your blog post is typically between 100 and 300 words.
If a section of your post is getting too long, consider breaking it down into smaller sections with subheadings. This will help to keep your readers engaged and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed by the length of your post.
7. Reorder Your Points for Logical Flow.
Now that you’ve finished your draft, you can go back and edit your work. If you still think it’s not quite right, you can go back to Step 3 and repeat the process.
This process isn’t exactly a “step” in and of itself, but I’ve found that the steps that precede it tend to be more of a jumbled mess in my own workflow.
I don’t always strictly adhere to this step-by-step process – sometimes I just write out the outline and then expand on it as I go, tweaking and editing as needed. This approach works well enough for me and keeps things feeling fresh.
8. Write Your First Draft
Once you’ve gone through your process, it’s time to write your first draft. Expand on each point that you wrote down.
Writing an outline for your blog post will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that your post is easy to read.
If your points aren’t aligning the way you intended, don’t panic. You can often tweak your flow and realign your structure.
Either is fine; remember that you aren’t being judged on any of this.
9. Review and Edit Your Draft
Some writers can crank out decent posts with only minor revisions, while others need multiple rounds to polish their writing.
Now’s the time to expand that rough outline of yours into a draft.
10. Write a Compelling Headline
Some writers say that coming up with a working title for an article or blog post should come before anything else. I don’t disagree with that. Sometimes, I create a placeholder title and come back to it later.
Your overall message may have changed, and your headline should reflect that. Additionally, you should always optimize your headlines, which can include anything from split-testing to getting feedback from your audience.
The title of a blog or article is important, so give it a thorough reading.
An adequately designed blog structure is not a frivolous, optional step but an essential, professional technique that separates unique content from generic, repetitive online material.
Learning how to write a blog post outline can help you understand what your clients want, how to effectively assign tasks, and cut down on your lead times.