Everyone creates outlines; some don’t even know it.
Creative writing starts with imagination. Some creative work might not need outlining, like a spontaneous joke.
However, writing as creative work has to come first through outlining. Ideas are growing, branching, and linking to one another in the author’s imagination.
A story involves getting born and growing, maybe in seconds, or sometimes in years, before it ever appears on paper, before a single letter is put on the blank paper.
Some create blog outlines only in their imagination and jump into the writing flow.
Others will put simple words on white paper, maybe sketch a quick mind map or scribbles to put these thoughts of their story on paper.
Following professional tactics in writing blog post outlines can improve your creative process and optimize the workflow.
Being a professional implies using techniques and learned skills to perform your profession.
A blog post outline is one of many factors that differentiate a professional piece of writing from the rest. Many will skip it, but those who do typically won’t write awing blog posts.
Professional writers use a blog post outline for some compelling reasons.
Outlines are recipes for overcoming writer’s block. When caffeine, fresh air, or exercising fail to work, designing a blog post outline offers a way out.
Writing an outline resolves the “title monster” into smaller sections that you can better handle.
Standing in front of a blank page with the title “7 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block” can be sometimes terrifying. Now, look at it broken down:
Now, it looks way less scary. Even if you don’t have seven ideas, you have several easy starting points.
In many cases, you are writing for someone else. It can be a business client or a team member who sets directions and decides on a specific blog post plan.
Bad communication often occurs in these cases. Many clients fail to convey their needs clearly, or you fail to capture their goal behind a specific blog post.
You end up delivering an undesired post with an unsatisfied client or an additional rework effort.
Outlines are created early in the process, before spending hours in research and writing.
Professional writers use blog outlines as the first deliverable to their clients. Once you receive positive feedback on the outline, you will at least know you didn’t miss the point.
Some would prefer to skip the outline as they believe it gets in the way of the writing flow and know what to write. They want to get on with it and don’t want to be restricted by a structure.
But there is a problem: When you start writing a 1000-word post about “Impacts of Vitamin D on COVID-19 infections,” you might find yourself at 700 words talking about COVID symptoms, virus nature, and vaccination technology. Hours after starting, you realize that you haven’t even mentioned Vitamin D once.
Starting with an outline is not supposed to restrict your creative process or limit the angles to approach your blog topic, but it is essential to focus on what is required.
Research prior to writing is usually said to be the most time-consuming part of the writing process.
This step can only be optimized when you have clear structure upfront. Once you have the main headings and subheadings, you can define which resources and references to include or exclude; you can determine which competing articles are more relevant and which ones you can skin.
SEO writing starts with knowing which focus keywords and secondary keywords to use in your blog post. It is concluded by intelligently inserting these keywords in your headings, subheadings, and text body to signal your article as the most relevant to your target keywords.
The first draft of an outline is usually done with the topic itself in focus, not the keywords, but once you put it in on paper and have a second look, you can easily recognize what you have missed.
You can always tell the difference between the first draft of an outline—which stays only in your mind if you skip writing an outline—and the second draft, which has carefully inserted focus keywords in the proper positions in your post.
While a blog post outline can help you align with your client’s needs, it also gives you an excellent chance to delegate your work effectively to outsource content writing or train new members on your writing team.
The outline converts your understanding of the topic and your writing expertise into guidelines that you can delegate to others. With a clear and complete outline, you can define the structure and flow of your target post, set approximate word counts, and determine clear expectations from the final draft.
One downside is that it can limit the creative process. Still, if you are dealing with new resources or trainees, it is an efficient tool to avoid multiple iterations and teach efficient writing techniques.
I believe every writer, in time, develops their own style and techniques. Yet, most writers agree on some common logical steps that can lead to a complete outline—starting with idea creation, going through research, and ending up in a review and feedback round.
Here are the 5 steps for writing a blog post outline.
Sometimes people miss the starting line. They jump into writing, and somewhere in the middle, they recognize that they are running in the wrong direction.
It is essential in the very beginning to ask yourself a few questions.
Mind maps are excellent tools to put these ideations into a visual form. Use a software tool, or just a simple sketch, and start asking yourself or your client all the why-who-what questions to define the purpose of the post.
Try to cover some or all of these points to complete the idea description:
After ideation and before research, there is an essential step you shouldn’t miss, which sets the foundation for the post outline.
While the ideation step is a random process of brainstorming, a content list is the first step toward logic and order.
The content list is just a translation of the scribbles and mind maps of the idea. On that list, you type your chosen title, start with the first main points of your article, and break each point into subpoints, hints, and remarks.
Why should you do it before researching?
This approach makes sure that you follow your own ideas and create a unique piece of content.
Researching puts you at risk of copying ideas from others and forgetting about your own ideas.
During the research process, you can still decide to incorporate other aspects you hadn’t considered.
Researching your topic is something you naturally do when writing a blog, but that is not what this step is about.
In this step, you conduct initial research using your focus keyword to find competing, top-ranking blog posts on Google.
Skim the results on page 1 and 2. What you are looking for is the structure; your eyes are reading these posts from far away, spotting headings, subheadings, and the storylines of the most successful posts on that topic.
The objective here is to come up with some candidates for the article subjects, to decide if you are going for a list post, a pros and cons post, a comparison post, a single-focus-point post, or a multiple-focus-points post. Your goal is to decide which new angle of the topic your post will approach.
You will save the most relevant posts for later when you conduct deep research after deciding on a blog post outline.
The initial research won’t be limited to the focus keyword only. It is strongly advised to integrate secondary keywords into your research.
Reading through secondary competition posts is necessary to achieve uniqueness in your post.
Creativity is a product of extended exposure. You don’t want to end up replicating top-ranking posts. That is a recipe for failure. There is always a research gap or a hidden angle to each topic, which is only found by researching the subject and around it.
Now, it starts to get easy. For this step, collect the results of your research and the candidates for headings, and then place them into the content list.
During this process, convert the content list into a structured outline. Your objectives are to:
Writers working under time pressure tend to skip this final step. After intensive research and putting some structure to their post, a writer might forget the core of his craft—storytelling.
No one is interested in reading blocks of information. Even the most linguistically correct and reference-rich post will fail to keep people reading if there is no flow.
In this step, your goal is to add a personal touch to your work. To do so, run a review to your final outline against this checklist.
An adequately designed blog post outline is not a writing luxury but a professional technique that distinguishes a unique blog post from redundant online content.
An outline can help you overcome writer’s block, understand your client’s requirements, delegate writing, and cut down your lead time.
Writing a blog post outline starts with brainstorming an idea that is transformed into a content list before research. The outline gets its structure by defining headings, then concluded in a final touch to kickoff a structured, inclusive, and entertaining blog post.