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Write a High-Performing Blog Post With Content Outlines

How to write a content outline

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Shahrain K M

Sep 18 2021

8 min read

Writing a blog post can be daunting. If you're going to start from a blank page with no structure, you can end up with a poor article that doesn't get to the point. Also, after hours of writing, you might also find your editors and reviewers unhappy with your work because you're not aligned.

Adding a simple step to your writing process will solve your problems. In this guide, we'll show you how you can write a content outline before diving into writing your article to drastically improve your ability to write punchy posts that your team and audience will love.

Why You Should Create a Content Outline Before Drafting Your Blog Post

1. You save time

By creating a content outline before writing the actual article, you save time and stop writer’s block. You already know what you want to say. Now you just have to figure out how to say it.

If you have the skeleton of what your article will look like, you stop second-guessing yourself and can focus your energy on making the blog post engaging for your readers.

2. You stay organized and ensure your article has a clear purpose

Another major benefit of creating outlines is that you remember to include important topics, sub-topics, and become mindful of SEO/Google rankings, adding backlinks, and so forth. Content outlines allow you to organize your thoughts, points, media, and the end goal of your article as well. 

Here’s what a typical content outline looks like

3. You can stay aligned with your client or manager

If you're a writer, a content outline ensures that you're aligned with your client or manager on the final output. Don't spend hours writing thousands of words only to learn that you have to heavily revise your draft. Stating what you're going to write ahead of time makes sure everyone is on the same page and allows them to make suggestions early.

If you're a content marketing manager working with writers, a content outline will prevent burnout from multiple revisions. It ensures that you can publish your piece with one, or maybe even zero, revisions.

Let's take a look at the steps that go into writing a content outline below.

Step #1: Keyword Analysis

Before you begin writing your article outline, performing a quick keyword search will allow you to familiarize yourself with the topic. You’ll get to know what the search volume for various keywords strings within your topic is, how many people are talking about it and whether it's relevant to your target audience. This exercise will help you narrow down your list of target keywords.

There are several SEO tools and keyword planners marketers and writers can make use of to visualize this step. Letterdrop covers all your basics by automatically pulling in keyword data for suggested ideas in your content backlog. You can manually search for keyword search volume while writing too.

SEO data for suggested content ideas automatically pulled in


Searching for keyword volume data manually

Step #2: Research the Topic and Collect Data

Once you have a list of the primary and secondary keywords to use in the article, you can begin researching and collecting relevant information on your topic. This could be:

  • Videos, images, infographics
  • Case studies, research papers
  • Statistics, reports
  • Interviews

During this step, writers can determine what kind of a blog post they want their article to be. Do you want to write a listicle filled with relevant statistics and quick facts or a how-to-article that has an appropriate amount of relevant video clips? 

Here’s a look at some popular formats.

Orbitmedia: 2020 Statistics

Step#3: Define Your Target Audience

Before you begin with the content outline, you have to first determine who you’re writing the article for so that you can focus on making your article relevant, informative, and engaging for them.

Say, your blog post is a how-to article for a B2B SaaS product. In your content outline, you can list out the people who are most likely to read your piece. In this case, it would be:

  1. Business owners and CxOs who are looking to buy the SaaS product (either from you or your competitors). 
  2. Managers whose job it is to get software products for the company. 
  3. Decision-makers of an organization who want to know whether a product is worth buying. 

Step #4 Start With the Title to Focus the Piece

By the time writers reach this step, they have a fair idea of how they want the article to look, the purpose of writing it, and the message they want to convey. You’ve already won half the battle in terms of laying out a content outline. 

Coming up with a title for your blog post will cement the direction it takes. All you need to do is take a look at your target keywords, the audience you’re writing for, and work on a title accordingly. 

Writers must keep in mind that the title is what hooks a business’ target audience and therefore must be written in a way that grabs their attention, instills curiosity to the point that they HAVE to read it. 

Step #5 Write Down the Section Headers

Because you’ve already done a fair bit of research, coming up with section headers for your content outline shouldn’t be a difficult task. You can also speak to your target audience or customers and use the feedback you receive from them to figure out your talking points.

Since the section headers form the crux of the article, you must ensure that you craft them carefully. If you’re able to convey pain points and solutions in your section headers, you’re doing something right. Visitors to your site will be able to quickly skim and navigate your article to get the answers they're looking for.

Make sure that when you jot down the section headers, they are structured logically and have a flow between the previous and following sections. This makes your article easy to parse and prevents visitors from bouncing.

For example, if you want to write an article about how small businesses can optimize their marketing efforts, the section headers would include questions your reader is probably asking that make clear the pain point and then show them the solution:

  • Why do small businesses need to market their business more?
  • How much should a small business spend on marketing campaigns?
  • What are the many (organic) ways small businesses can market their products?
  • What are some easily available tools small businesses can make use of?
  • Can small businesses market their products without burning a hole in their pocket?

From the example above, you can see that there is a natural flow to the outline.

Step #6 List Out the Takeaways as Bullet Points

An example of how you can list out the takeaways as bullet points

This is the final step of writing a content outline. It is the meat of your blog post and takes up the space underneath the section headers you wrote in the previous step. 

It is important that you write the main takeaways here, not a description of what you're going to write. Think of the outline as a gist of the final blog post. A person reviewing your outline should be able to walk away with the same learnings that they would get if they read the final article. For example:

A good bullet point: "Only 20% of medical practices use email marketing, so you have a leg up by writing a newsletter"

vs

A bad bullet point: "I'll write about why writing a newsletter for your medical practice puts you at an advantage"

The first one states a fact and I walk away with learning something. The second one doesn't.

Limit this to bullet points that you will later turn into actual paragraphs when you finally write the article. Don't go overboard and accidentally write a full draft at this point.

Step #7 Review your content outline with your team before writing

At this point, you have a great content outline that you can send to your client or your team for feedback and get approval from them. Once you've agreed on it, you can start writing your post from your content outline.

How to write your article from a content outline

If your business has an approval process in place, get your outline reviewed to see if it meets the expectations of your clients and project managers. 

1. Flesh out bullet points

You can now flesh out the bullet points we mentioned earlier into actual sentences and paragraphs. There are several upsides to this process because you already know what each point is about and you simply need to add details to it to make it more engaging. 

Ensure that you have an appropriate amount of images, video clips, infographics, illustrations, and statistics while writing.

2. Revise

Once you’re done writing the complete article, you will naturally end up doing a few rounds of revisions. While you’re at it, make sure you remove words/phrases/sentences that do not add anything to the article. Your end product should be simple to read, to the point, and crisp. A point to be noted while editing is to remember that the essence of the article must remain.

Conclusion

Content outlines can drastically help you produce focused, better-researched content in less time with alignment from your team. Strongly consider adding it as a step before writing your next draft.

A look at Letterdrop’s content map template

Letterdrop lets you create content outline templates and require them for your content creation workflow. Only after a content outline has been approved, do you start writing a draft.

Our freelancer workflow that forces content outlines to be approved before proceeding

If you need help streamlining your content workflow in order to save time and produce high-performing blog posts, reach out!

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