First it was deciding on the purpose and topic of your blog post. Then you did some extensive research to get your content material ready. Next task in the “Write Them Right” series is to create an outline for your blog post before actually writing it. Each of us may have a different way of putting words together but having a blog post outline beforehand makes the writing process simpler if not easier.
What is a Blog Post Outline
A blog post outline is the skeletal framework of your blog post. It consists of all the fine points that you are going to cover in your blog post. Remember what the structure of a blog post looks like? Starting from a catchy title, a brief and to-the-point introduction, all sorts of headings and subheadings to use in the main body of the article and then an essential conclusion to end with. This could be the most basic skeleton on which to slowly add meat to.
Why Write a Blog Post Outline
According to a study published in March 2019, over 4.4 million blog posts are published every day. Also the average blogger spends about three and half hours writing each of their content, while the top 20% spends more than six hours per post. You’ll need to do something more than just writing to get noticed in the mix. And that’s exactly where having a well thought-out outline can help by:
- giving a structure to your thoughts when writing the post
- minimizing the chance of deviating from or worse, missing key points of your post
- efficiently managing your time to produce and edit your content
- keeping your writing logically cohesive so that your readers stay with you throughout the whole post
- storing all your research materials in one place to free your mind from unnecessary brooding over things that don’t directly influence your blog post
How to Create a Blog Post Outline
Yes, I’m sorry but there’s a bit of research still left for you to do. Chances are that whatever your topic be, there are already hundreds of thousands of articles out there on the same topic. Go through the top ranking ones among them to study how they are structured. This will give you a very clear idea about how to structure your own blog post too, along with the key points to use while writing on the subject.
I’m not saying to copy their strategy or content. Maybe you can discover even better tricks to give a proper structure to your content. But they are the top ranking posts for a reason. Learn from them to make your own blog post better.
Note the Key Points Down
The key points are what your article is mostly concerned about. You’ve got your main key point as the title of the post itself. Suppose the post is about “how to create a blog post outline strategy” much like this one. You’ll not talk about how to make your cat wink at you in here, right? Find every relevant information there is about creating blog post outlines and just write them down, in no particular order for now. We’ll go into arranging them later.
Try to gather as many points as you can at this stage. In your final publication, a lot of the points may be omitted or rewritten differently. The whole point of this exercise is to have a solid structural framework for your content.
Expand the Key Points
Can you delve deeper into the key points already written down? Will it help in better readability or confuse your readers? It’s absolutely necessary to always keep the central theme of the content central.
For example, I could’ve gone into more details when talking about the benefits of having a blog post outline but this post has a different goal – to talk about how to create a blog post outline. But I couldn’t have omitted the benefit section also as it’s relevant to what I’m talking about. In the end I satisfied myself with bullet points instead of expanding those points further.
Assign H2, H3, …, Tags to the Points
Headings and subheadings are important for judging your content for relevancy and value. Also they help you write focused content, streamlined for the subject it covers.
The title of your blog post is automatically an H1 heading. The key points that must be discussed in your post are your H2 headings. Any expansions needed in any of the H2 heading points are to be tagged as H3. Further expansions on the H3 subheadings can certainly be done with H4 sub-subheadings and so on. But the optimum human comprehension level advises against this, unless you’re writing an encyclopedia entry.
Arrange the Points in a Logical Manner
Now we’re going to arrange all the points in a manner that makes sense to the majority. For example, the focus of this post is to tell about how to create a blog post outline. Before that I’ve begun with a gentle introduction where I just state the purpose of the post. Then I’ve given a very basic idea of what an outline is. Then I’ve stressed on the importance of outlining a content. Then and only then I’m now able to talk about the main point of this post.
I could’ve also begun and ended just by giving the ten points I’m talking about right in this section. But it would’ve been a very dull post indeed.
Assign Word Count to Each Point (Optional)
This can be a handy tip when you’re writing a pillar post or a definitive guide. The longer your post is going to be, the more you’ll find yourself confused about how to structure your content. Assigning word counts to individual headings and subheadings in your article can then further free your mind from unnecessary worries.
Add Media, Quotes, Links to Use
Don’t just stop at creating headings and subheadings for your article. You’re probably going to use some photos, quotes, data to your content as well as link to both internal and external content. Why not include them at proper places in your outline itself? This will save you a lot of time when actually writing the blog post.
Review and Edit the Outline
Are all the points in your outline really necessary? Can you omit some of them? Can you still expand on some of them? Are some of the points you like to make not cohesive with the flow of the content? Are some points there only for decoration purposes, with nothing valuable to convey? Or is there something missing from the broad perspective?
Reviewing and editing your outline mercilessly will make your job of producing actual content much much simpler. I notice myself repeating this again and again throughout this post and it’s only because it’s true.
Write Your Draft
A draft is a preliminary version of a final piece of writing. I want to stress on the word ‘preliminary’ here. That means you’re just starting the process of writing, with the sole goal of just getting started. There will be all sorts of errors and all in your draft. That’s why they are called drafts in the first place. You’ll be writing your draft primarily to describe the different headings and subheadings of your outline.
There are talented writers who write so well that they don’t have to change a thing in their first drafts and hit publish. My first drafts mostly don’t even have more than three or four meaningful sentences in them. My guess is that you’re somewhere in between and I hope that you don’t have to do as many changes to your first draft as I need to.
Edit & Publish
Your draft may be poor like mine that needs extensive changes all over or an excellent one requiring some minor changes. Change them and hit publish. Congratulations! You’ve just produced content out of thin air, well, out of a pretty fat outline to be honest. It’s the greatest magical act one can perform and a good outline serves as the perfect assistant to the magician himself.
Example of an Outline
What better example to bring than the outline of this post itself? True this post is a bit short, so I’m adding the outline to my sales funnel guide post here also. Outlines are meant to be deeply personal. These are here for just giving the idea of how they might look like. When given the same topic, you and I might go our own separate ways in creating our respective outlines, and very different blog posts.
Go absolutely crazy when creating your outlines. Notice that all the points in both of my outlines shown above are not in the actual posts. But if I’m allowed to make just one point before going to the next section, I’ll say that creating outlines have helped me produce focused content, consistently and efficiently, without missing a single deadline in my career.
This post is part of a series that I lavishly named “Write Them Right”. It all started with this short post and this is now the fourth part. There’ll be six more to follow. Read them, apply the suggestions and of course tell me if they are working for you.