How To Write a Blog Post Outline (A Proven Framework + Best Practices)

It’s no secret that many people hate writing.

For some, it brings up painful memories of being graded on essays in school. Others don’t know where to start.

And with the sea of content on the internet, it feels like every topic has been covered.

Yet, some of the best writers never went to college and became blogging moguls like Matt Giovanisci.

One of the most effective ways to get started with writing (or improve your writing skills) is to learn how to write a blog post outline.


Because an outline is a road map for your article.

It keeps you focused on what you want to say and ensures you don’t veer off into unrelated tangents. An outline also helps you organise your thoughts and structure your article in a way that is easy for your reader to follow.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why outlining is critical to creating consistently great content
  • How to write a blog post outline in five steps
  • Seven tips to take your outlines to the next level

So, whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s something here for you. Let’s start with the “why.”

Why outlining blog posts is essential to creating top-notch content

It may seem obvious, but f you’re serious about writing exceptional blog posts, you must learn how to write a detailed outline. Below are six reasons you need to get skilled at outlining today.

Reason #1 – Overcome your writer’s block

You’ve likely experienced that dreaded moment of staring at a blank screen, wondering what in the world you’re supposed to say. It can be frustrating and discouraging—tempting to give up and do something else.

The best way to overcome writer’s block is to thoroughly outline your blog posts before you start writing.

Outlining and writing are two different thinking modes:

  • Outlining is about brainstorming, structuring, and organising.
  • Writing is about making everything coherent and engaging.

There isn’t as much friction to start outlining compared to writing because there’s less pressure to string sentences together in a way that reads well.

In the ideation phase, sometimes my outlines are so detailed that I pretty much write my first draft without realising it. The outline frees up capacity so I can get more creative with my draft. This takes a lot of the pressure off and makes the writing process much smoother and more enjoyable.

Reason #2 – Integrate SEO from the beginning

If you’re a blogger, you know how important it is to rank at the top of Google search results. Outlining your posts allows you to include all the SEO elements with each article.

By outlining, you can make sure you match the searcher’s intent, add relevant keywords, and understand what types of articles are already ranking.

It can be tempting to start writing and worry about optimisation later, but it’ll lead to lower-quality content.

When you outline with SEO in mind, you’re more likely to produce natural-sounding writing that will meet the search demand of the topic.

Reason #3 – Meeting your client’s needs

Say you’ve decided to become a freelance writer. You get your first gig, and your client assigns your first topic. You know the subject well, so you jump in and eagerly whip up a draft.

Your client likes what you’ve written, but it doesn’t have all the information they wanted in the post. Perhaps you didn’t mention their service as much as they hoped, or you missed an entire section.

Now you dance, going back and forth until you’re client is satisfied with the article. Many hours could’ve been saved with an outline.

When you’re clear on what your client wants from the start, it’s much easier to produce quality work that meets their needs. Outlines keep everyone on the same page and headed in the right direction.

Have your client sign off on your outline before you start writing. This gives them a chance to provide feedback and ensure that you understand their vision.

It also gives you confidence as a writer, knowing they’ll likely be limited revisions—saving you time and budget to turn over more projects.

Reason #4 – Saves research time

When starting with a blank page, it’s hard to know where to focus your research. Do you need primary sources? What about statistics? How far should you go?

By outlining the main points in your post, you can quickly weed out irrelevant information and focus your search on finding the most pertinent and reliable sources.

In addition, an outline can help you to spot holes in your argument and flesh out your ideas before you start writing.

For example, if you’re writing a buyer’s guide about sustainable backpacks, you may need to contact the manufacturers to understand their supply chain better.  You can send off the emails immediately, so you get responses back in time for when you start drafting your article—saving you precious time.

Reason #5 – Helps to train and outsource content writing

When you have an editorial calendar with well-defined outlines for each post, it’s much easier to train a writer on your process. This procedure can be a lifesaver when trying to scale your business and free up your time.

It’s also helpful if you ever need to take a break from writing. Having prepared outlines makes it easy to hand off work to someone else while you’re away.

Alternatively, if you have an established outlining process, you can train your writers to produce quality outlines for each post before they start writing—keeping the team on the same page.

Reason #6 – Outlining articles are a gateway to other content types

The good news is that once you learn how to outline a blog post, it’s easy to transfer those skills to different kinds of writing.

For instance, if you’re writing an ebook, you would start by outlining the chapters and sections you want to include to get a sense of the overall structure and flow of the book.

Similarly, if you’re writing a white paper, you would start by outlining all the main points you want to include. This would help you organise your thoughts and ensure all the essential information is covered.

It doesn’t end there. Knowing how to outline can help you produce video scripts, podcast episodes, recipes, courses, presentations, forum posts, or even a tweet thread.

The bottom line is that outlining is a valuable skill that applies to all types of content creation.

How to write a blog post outline

Now that we’ve covered the importance of outlines, it’s time to learn how to write one. Note that I’m assuming you already have a topic in mind.

Onto the first step.

Step #1 – Define the transformation for the reader

I first heard about this idea from Pat Flynn from SPI.

You start with the transformation you want your reader to experience and then work backward.

To do this, use this statement, “By the end of this post, you will (insert the transformation).”

So, if you’re writing a post about gardening, your transformation might be “By the end of this post, you will have a step-by-step guide on how to protect your veggie patch from insects without using toxic chemicals.”

It’s also helpful to have a reference of someone you know who would get value from this post topic. What transformation do you hope for them to get out of your content?

If you can’t think of anyone, find a video, blog post, or book that covers the same topic, and reference someone in the audience who has left a comment or review. Even put their name in your outline to make your messaging feel more personalised. You’ll, of course, remove it later.

Step #2 – Identify the objections to reaching the transformation

Your readers seek your content because they naturally resist something related to the topic. This might be inaction, such as procrastination, or it could be mitigating taking the wrong action.

To help drill down into your readers’ objections, ask, “What would a motivated yet pessimistic person think of this topic? What would they say?”

If your transformation is to inspire my reader to start a veggie garden, here’s what some of their objections might be:

  1. I don’t have enough space on my property
  2. I don’t have the time
  3. I don’t know where to begin
  4. I’m not sure if my veggie garden will produce enough
  5. It’s going to take too long to start
  6. It’s too hard
  7. My partner doesn’t want to be involved

Outside of your anecdotal experiences, find real-life objections and note them down. Source feedback from blog and YouTube comments.

Skim the conversations until you find someone who expresses their struggles. Perhaps they need more information or more encouragement. Why are they stuck?

Another gold mine of objections is in Amazon Kindle book reviews. Browse for well-reviewed books on your blog topic, and skip straight to the two and three-star reviews. What did they feel was missing?

For instance, if I’m writing about how to build a tiny house, I look for books on the Kindle store covering the topic. I came across How To Build Your Own Tiny House by Roger Marshell.

At the time of this writing, the book has 367 ratings and is well-reviewed.

I go straight to the three-star reviews and found this comment:

Thor feels like he needs blueprints to help him build a tiny house. Is he the only one that feels that way about the book? Let’s look at a four-star review.  

David also appears to be seeking more granular instructions for building a tiny house, so I’d feel confident noting this as an objection.

Step #3 – Brainstorm your supporting content

Now that you have a list of objections, it’s time to start brainstorming how to overcome them.

Ask yourself how you could answer your readers’ questions and concerns in your content for each objection. Treat each supporting point as a mini blog post addressing a reader’s singular pain point.

Say you’re writing a post about how to start a veggie garden. You might have sections on:

  • What kind of veggies to grow
  • How to pick the right spot in your yard
  • What type of soil do you need
  • What kind of fertiliser to use
  • How to water your plants
  • How to deal with pests and weeds
  • How often to harvest
  • How to store your veggies

At the end of your brainstorming session, you should have a list of supporting content ideas you can start fleshing out into a structured outline.

Step #4 – Arrange your content in a logical order

Once you have a list of content ideas, it’s time to start arranging them into a logical order.

The best way to do this is to start with your transformation and work backward. Think about the steps a reader needs to take to achieve their goal.

If your goal is to get your reader to start a veggie garden, the steps might be:

  • Pick a spot in their yard
  • Prepare the soil
  • Plant the seeds or seedlings
  • Water and fertilise regularly
  • Harvest the veggies

Then, arrange your content ideas under each step. So, under “pick a spot in their yard,” you could have:

  • A list of things to consider when choosing a location
  • Images or videos of different gardening set-ups
  • A how-to guide for preparing the soil
  • A list of recommended seeds or seedlings

Once you have a rough idea of the order you want your content to be in, it’s time to start filling in the gaps.

If you have content ideas that don’t fit under any subtopics, try to find a place for them elsewhere in your post. If you can’t, then scrap them.

Step #5 – Make a list of potential blog titles

You clearly know the transformation and supporting content to get the reader from A to B. It’s time to think of headlines to do justice to your post.

You can have the most helpful post in the world, but if your title isn’t engaging, prospective readers aren’t going to click through to your post.

In this section, I want you to think of five potential headlines to entice your readers.

Here are some examples for our gardening post:

  • 7 Excuses For Not Starting a Veggie Patch And How To Overcome Them
  • How I Run a Successful Apartment Veggie Garden In Under Three Hours Per Week
  • Veggie Gardening For Beginners: The Ultimate Guide
  • From Brown Thumb to Green Thumb: How I Learned to Love Gardening
  • 10 Reasons Why You Should Start a Veggie Garden (And How to Get Started)

If you’re new to content writing, it’s best to write even more headlines to give yourself practice.

To put it into perspective, Jon Morrow, one of the best meta-bloggers ever, will write up to 50 headlines to make his articles irresistible.

At this point, you should have a defined transformation, a list of content ideas in a logical order, and at least five potential titles. You have a solid outline to build upon.

But if you’re an overachiever (which I’m sure you are), then read on for some best practices to take your blog outline to the next level.

Blog outlining best practices

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to outlining your blog posts. It depends on how you like to work, how complex your post will be, and how much time you have to write it.

That being said, below are some general best practices that work well for most writers.

Use Google Search results to guide your structure

Have you ever watched a movie and thought you could predict every scene?

Every rom-com movie starts with two unlikely mates that slowly fall in love and experience some adversity. Then one is always seemingly racing against time—usually at an airport—to forgive and express their love.

As it turns out, there are only six movie plots in Hollywood. Why? Because audiences love it—so moviemakers don’t break the template.

It’s the same for SEO. There are only a handful of blog post structures, including the following:

  • How-to guide
  • List-post
  • Comparison post
  • Direct answer

One of these structures usually best suits the topic you’re writing about. So research the posts in the search results to find the most popular blog post structure for your particular topic.

For example, if you Google “how to write a blog post,” the top results are all how-to guides. So it would make sense for your post to be a how-to guide.

Don’t deviate too far from the topic structure, as it’s what readers love, just like I love watching every Rocky and Creed movie, even though the plot is identical.

The next step is to look for gaps in the existing content.

For instance, if you’re writing a how-to post and all the results are missing key steps, then make sure your post covers those steps.

This is how you can make your post stand out from the existing content and improve your chances of ranking on Google.

Reference featured snippets

Featured snippets are the informational sections that appear at the top of the search results. They’re designed to give searchers a summary of the answer to their question without having to click through to a website.

Interestingly, featured snippets tend to have high clickthrough rates. A study by Engine Scout revealed that featured snippets get 35.1% of all clicks on average, so it’s in your best interest to try to win them.

Featured snippets are pulled from existing content on the web. So if you want your post to appear as a featured snippet, you need to ensure your post is structured in a way that Google can easily understand.

There are three types of snippets:

  1. Paragraph snippet
  2. List snippet
  3. Table snippet

Snippets should be addressed in your content brief, but take the time to craft a plan to win the snippet in your outline.

For example, if a table snippet is possible, how can you include a helpful table in your post? Where will you put it? This is the time to get it right.

Add placeholders for graphics

If you’re planning on including graphics in your post (and you should), then make sure to add placeholders for them in your outline.

When you’re writing your post and come to a placeholder, you’ll know exactly what type of graphic would be best to include. You won’t have to stop writing to go off and find or create one.

And if you’re working as part of a team, you can give the designer plenty of notice to create the images for the post—shortening the time to publish.

The same goes for quotes, callouts, tables, videos, or any media that will enhance your content.

Note your differentiators upfront

When creating your outline, you should understand how your post will differ from all the other posts on the same topic. You can differentiate your content through:

  • A unique angle or perspective
  • Additional information that’s not available elsewhere
  • Better formatting or design
  • Clearer instructions
  • Personal experience/storytelling
  • Humour
  • Primary research/interviews

Your differentiators will help you market your post and give you an edge in the search results. So make sure to note them down in your outline.

Strikethrough your outline content as you write

This is a little productivity hack that has worked wonders for me.

As you write your post, strikethrough the points in your outline as you cover them. This will help keep you on track and ensure you don’t miss anything important.

It’ll also give you a sense of accomplishment as you watch your outline slowly disappear. 🙂

Don’t delete your scrapped content

Don’t delete your scrapped content, even if your post is nothing like your original outline. You never know when you might be able to use it in the future.

Plus, it can be helpful to look back on your old ideas and see how your thinking has changed over time.

At the end of my outline document, I have a section where I dump all my discarded content. This way, it’s out of sight but still easily accessible if I ever need it.

Outline your call to action (CTA)

Finally, every blog post needs a CTA. A CTA is a prompt that tells your reader what you want them to do next.

Your CTA could be something like:

  • Sign up for your newsletter
  • Download your free PDF guide
  • Buy your product
  • Follow you on social media
  • Start a trial

Your CTA will depend on your goals for the post. But make sure to include one in your outline so you don’t forget to include it later.

By following these steps, you can create a blog post outline that’s unique to each piece of content and helps you hit publish faster.

So what are you waiting for?

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