Whether you recently started a blog, or you’re looking to improve your writing game, having a great blog post outline to jump start your writing process, can make all the difference.
When it comes to writing a blog post that not only drives in new readers, but also captivates their imaginations and leaves them craving more—you’ve got to start with a blog post outline to organize your thoughts, decide what’s critical to include and make certain you’re not missing any opportunities.
I’m an adamant believer of always starting my writing process with a strong blog post outline to kick things off.
How to Write a Blog Post Outline in 8 Easy Steps (Free Blog Post Outline Template)
- Determine the Key Takeaways for Your Readers
- Craft a Smart Headline
- Brain Dump: Write Down Every Question You Need to Answer
- Arrange the Major Themes and Sections of Your Blog Post Outline
- Ask More Questions (Research, Research, Research)
- Insert Relevant Studies, Data and Additional Sources
- Revise, Trim and Clean Up Your Blog Post Outline
- Write Your Blog Post
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If you want to grab my free blog post outline template (in the form of a copy & paste Google Doc), then you can pick it up right here—which includes my entire writing checklist and a fully completed blog post outline template to guide you along the way—get my free blog post template.
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Why should you create a blog post outline before you start writing?
Allow me to paint you the picture of an all too familiar scene… You’re sitting down at your computer, excited to write an article on a topic you have strong feelings about.
The only problem is, the more you think about it, the more your thoughts get a little jumbled as one idea inspires another and you begin losing track of the last point you were just exploring.
Before too long, you don’t really know where to start anymore—and maybe you even forgot a point or two you initially wanted to cover. I’ve experienced this frustration first-hand in my early blogging days, before I took to starting with a blog post outline.
Here’s the thing… you know you want your content to be captivating, valuable and relatable to your readers. But how do you make sure you’re fully getting your message across?
There are two big mistakes that many bloggers tend to make when it comes to their writing:
- The content lacks direction and is difficult to follow. Many bloggers don’t write easy to follow blog headlines, they struggle to make a point, they jump around in too many directions or they lose their reader’s attention by taking too long to get to the meat of the post.
- The writing lacks meaningful substance. While many bloggers do have a strong conviction on the topic they’re writing about—many don’t really convey any useful information or teach their readers a beneficial new skill (like building their blogging skills).
Learning how to write a blog post outline can solve both of these challenges.
Your blog posts should be logical and cohesive if you hope to satisfy the needs of your target audience. A blog post outline can help you avoid meandering or disjointed writing—and will help organize your thoughts and make it easy for readers to digest (and take action on).
The other thing an outline will do, is help you determine the real value of your blog post. Instead of sitting down and staring at a blank screen to start writing your blog post—you’ll instead take the time to research and create something unique that you know will be useful to your future readers. It’ll also show you what can be easily left out from this particular post (or better left for another day).
Now, we’re going to walk through my 8-step process to outline a blog post—using a real, working blog post outline to illustrate exactly how to do this along the way.
And remember, if you want to pick up my free blog post outline template to follow along, then head over here right now.
1. Determine the Key Takeaway for Your Readers
When you get an idea for a blog post, a great first step is to determine your number one takeaway for readers.
What do you want your readers to learn or to remember once they’ve finished reading?
This is also a good time to think about what type of blog post you’re best served to write here.
The variety in types of blog posts you can use to accomplish your goal is pretty extensive today—and each of these blog post formats have slightly different functions.
Here are the most common types of blog posts:
While there are arguably many other types of blog post formats you can use, these are the most popular.
Choosing the format of your post will help you narrow down what your big takeaway is.
For example, if you’re writing a review post, you’re letting your readers know if a product or service is worth their time and money.
Readers looking at reviews are often ready (or getting ready) to spend some money and they want your honest opinion, so that they can make an informed decision.
On the other hand, a how-to guide should take a step-by-step process that a reader can easily follow.
At the end of your post, they should have a framework for how to accomplish something on their own.
Let’s say I’m writing an article about the benefits of blogging for businesses.
My key takeaway for readers would be be: Blogging is good for business and here’s how to do it.
The format I’d choose to create this article would be a long-form, how-to guide with some expert advice weaved in.
Now that I’ve determined the key takeaway of the piece, I’ll use the entire article to build a case and back that up.
We’ll take this idea through each step of the outlining process, so that you can see how this article morphs into a fully baked blog post outline that can fuel the rest of your writing process.
2. Craft a Smart Headline
Once you’ve determined the key takeaway of your article—and the content format you’ll best be able to communicate that—the next step in the blog post outlining process is to write a headline that’ll draw readers into reading your piece.
The headline tells readers what your blog post is about, and it’s the first thing they’ll see in a Google search result.
Headlines can make a big difference in whether or not someone clicks on your blog post.
And just as there are different types of blog posts, there are also a wide variety of headlines you can use.
Here are some of the most popular types of blog post headlines:
- The Ultimate Headline: This is the type of headline that claims to be the best resource on the Internet. Example: The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing
- The List Headline: This is an extremely common headline because people respond well to it. Example: 38 Blogging Statistics You Need to Know (to Blog Smarter)
- The Predictive Headline: This headline is often used in tech or business-related fields. Example: The Future of the Side Hustle: Why You Need One Today
- The Clickbait Headline: This is the type of headline that may be a little shocking, strange, or controversial in order to increase the click-through rate. It can also be downright silly if that’s your goal. Example: You Won’t Believe What Happened to This Grandma at the Grocery Store
- The Backed by Science Headline: A science-backed headline establishes authority right at the beginning. Example: Why Scientists Say Playing Video Games Can Inspire Learning
- The Best of Headline: These are often roundup blog posts that pull together all of the top products, services, advice or people in a particular field. Example: 40 Best Blogging Tools for Better Marketing, SEO, Writing and Growth
- The Big Secret Headline: This is the kind of headline that makes it clear you’re letting your readers in on something that’s little-known, exclusive or secretive. Example: 5 Things No One Tells You About Traveling Abroad
- The How-To Headline: The How-to headline is instructive in nature. It’s usually used to communicate that you’re teaching readers how to make or do something specific. Example: How to Start a Food Blog This Year
- The Learn What I Did Wrong Headline: You could use this headline when you’re helping other people skip the trial and error period that you had to go through yourself. Example: 10 Mistakes I Made Learning How to Surf and How to Avoid Them
The possibilities for headlines are nearly endless, but this is a great starting point to focus your outlining on.
And truth be told—I often revise my article headlines several times along the way to publishing, so you don’t need to be dead set on your headline at this stage.
While you do want to write a headline that’s catchy, clever and interesting, you also have to keep in mind that it should be SEO-friendly.
Personally, I don’t like to use clickbait headlines for my blog content.
For one thing, they lead to a higher bounce rate (when readers arrive and are quickly disappointed or feel tricked), which is bad for your site’s organic Google rankings.
Another reason I don’t use clickbait headlines, is that they often don’t include your main target keyword phrase.
That’s a major missed opportunity when it comes to SEO and bringing readers to your blog from search engines.
It goes without saying that before you can write your full article… you should do proper keyword research to know what keyword phrase you’re hoping your content will eventually rank for. So if you haven’t done that yet, now’s the time.
In my clickbait example above, my headline was… You Won’t Believe What Happened to This Grandma at the Grocery Store.
That headline might get some clicks on social media, but it’s not likely that anyone is going to be searching for it on Google.
So instead of only choosing something people will click on, you should also choose a headline that includes phrases people are actively searching for online—which dramatically increases the potential target audience you can reach.
For the blog post outline example we’re using about blogging for businesses, I might title the article something like:
- Blogging for Business: 5 Incredible Benefits of Business Blogging
- How a Blog Can Drives More Sales to Your Business
- 5 Proven Ways to Generate More Sales with a Blog for Your Business
- The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Small Businesses in 2020
- 25 Blogging Experts Share Their Best Advice to Small Business Blogging
Which one I choose to go with in the end, will depend a lot upon the exact keyword phrase I decide on using—and a final look back at how the article shaped up.
Assuming my main target keyword phrase…