This article was first published on the Flow SEO blog.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Maybe you know exactly what to write about but it takes you days to put an article together, feeling overwhelmed by all the bits and pieces you need to make it good.
Or maybe you’re just looking for a more efficient way to create quality content on a consistent basis?
I give you: the content outline.
Creating a content outline is the key to writing content that isn’t just engaging, but that ranks as well.
In this post, I’ll show you how to outline a blog post and share a blog post outline template you can use for your future articles.
How to Prepare and Create Your Content Outline
1. Gather all readily available data and guidelines
The first thing to do is gather all the information you already have and need to use for your blog post. That includes any style and writing guidelines you need to follow, the ideal customer profile or avatar of the blog you’re creating content for, and the briefing.
The latter is where you’ll ideally find the target keyword for the article as well as other SEO instructions, like which secondary keywords to include, what the word count range for the article is, and which internal links to incorporate. The briefing should also give you an idea of the search intent of the article (is it informational, transactional, or commercial?) and tell you whether there’s a specific call to action you should include.
2. Create a list of sources
Once you’ve gathered everything, it’s time to create a list of sources you’ll use to research your blog post. When you’re writing an article with the goal to have it rank well in Google – and I hope you are – you don’t want to use just any relevant source, though.
What you want to do is find the articles that are already ranking on the first page of Google for your main keyword and filter out those that are most similar to the article you plan on writing. That means that if you’re writing an informational article, you’ll discard the eCommerce product page that might be ranking but you’ll keep the other informational pages.
A word of warning: if you’re content writing from a country that’s different than that of your (client’s) target audience, you’ll want to make sure to either use a VPN when you Google or look up your main keyword in an SEO tool such as Ahrefs and check the top 10 ranking articles for the correct location that way.
When you have your sources, read through all of them to find similar headlines, recurring topics, and questions that are being addressed. The goal is to figure out what the articles you’ll be competing with for a spot on the first page are covering, so you can make sure to cover it too.
Don’t just make mental notes when you’re doing this. Write down headline ideas and other things you’ll definitely want to mention as these will form the starting point of your blog post outline.
4. Craft your article outline
I usually start creating my outline in Google Docs as I’m researching, but you can also take notes first and then organize everything into different article sections. Create headlines to give structure to your article and then add information and ideas into the different sections so you don’t need to start writing from scratch later on.
If you’re an industry expert, you’ll be able to enrich your notes and add to the outline tapping into your own expertise. However, if you’re writing for an industry or about a topic that’s new to you, you may have to do additional research to gain a decent understanding of the concepts you’ll need to address.
5. Add keywords, data, and other material to relevant headings
You should already have a solid outline by now, but there’s even more you can do. Go back to the material you gathered in Step 1 and see how you can add that into your outline.
- Are there any keywords you can add to a heading or a section?
- Are there internal links that should go in a specific part of the blog post?
- Is there a product feature or case study you could highlight somewhere?
6. Start writing!
When you’ve done all of the above, “all” that’s left to do is turn your loose notes, ideas, and supporting data into an engaging text. You will likely still need to do some extra research as you’re writing so you can enrich your text with images, statistics, and examples, but following the steps above will put you in the best possible position to get started.
Blog Post Outline Template
H1 THIS IS YOUR ARTICLE TITLE
It should contain your main keyword. Ideally, it’s followed by an introduction that has your main keyword in the first 100 words. The introduction should also present the subject of the article and entice the reader to keep reading.
H2 THIS IS YOUR FIRST MAIN HEADING
It introduces an important section of your article. Everything that addresses a specific topic or question within your article should get its own heading or subheading.
If your sections are quite long, you want to split them up into different subsections for clarity and ease of reading. These could be presented as a numbered list, as different steps of a process, or simply as subheadings.
H2 THIS IS YOUR SECOND MAIN HEADING
The longer your article is, the more headings and subheadings you’ll have.
Each blog post should end with a conclusion that gets its own H2 heading. This makes it clear to the reader that the previous section of the post has ended and we’re now wrapping things up.
Your conclusion should quickly recap the content of the post, share key takeaways, and include a next step for the reader to take. In many cases, that next step will be a CTA to sign up for your email list, buy your product, or get in touch with you.
Prepare, Outline, Go!
Creating a solid content outline helps you save hours of haphazard research and makes the writing process easier by providing you with a structure to follow. It’s much less daunting to start writing a post from a solid content outline than from a blank page.
If you follow the steps above, writer’s block will be a thing of the past. However, it’s important that you have all the elements you need to get started. Even if you’re a good writer, your post won’t rank well without a proper keyword plan presented in a clear content briefing.
At Flow, we help you figure out what to write about and translate your content strategy into easy-to-follow briefings. You’ll know exactly what to write to rank. Get in touch to discuss how I can help you optimize your content.