A Foolproof Blog Post Outline for Your Content Team

October 19, 2020

If you’re just like us, you use just about any proven channel to pick up ideas on how to improve your content creation. You chose sources that carry a lot of clout and keep feeding on that nectar.

Today, we’re looking at what it takes to create a foolproof blog post outline. Not exactly your team’s favourite topic?

Well, it’s time for a reality check.

As a content marketer, you have it clear that your content is there to convert. So, look at it this way. Outlines help writers streamline their blog post creation and get more desirable content marketing results.

On top of that, learning how to write outlines will help your writers craft content that shines.

So let’s get started.

Sum Up the Big Idea in Your Working Title

Writing a snappy, on-topic title was likely the first milestone your content writers reached at their on-the-job training, or are we wrong? But what does this have to do with article outlines?

Crafting a working title is the first instance where you think about what you want to achieve with a piece of content. When your writers are clear on what they’re writing about, it’s a lot easier to stay on course.

Once they’ve figured out their big idea or the key point, they’re ready to think up their working title.

A template-like list of questions can be immensely helpful here.

Ann Handley, a seasoned digital marketer, hints on ways to help writers come up with ideas for their working titles and outlines.

She advises asking yourself these questions whenever crafting a blog post:

  • Why am I creating this?
  • What is my key take on this subject?
  • Why does it matter to the people I am trying to reach?

What Is It That You Want Your Reader to Know? Brainstorm. Jot it down.

Much like you do with any other part of your blog post, you should make your blog post outline all about your readers too. It’s time to think about your readers’ takeaways.

And yes, this early in the content lifecycle.

You want to tackle all the pain points your reader might have in relation to your blog post topic. And brainstorming or freestyle writing on possible reader takeaways will get your writers right where they need to be.

In your readers’ minds.

So, here’s how to go about the second stage of outlining your blog post. It’s pretty simple.

Ask yourself what you want your reader to know after reading the article.

Remember, you’re not structuring your post at this stage. You need to let go of that superego critic at the moment and let yourself be swamped by an avalanche of ideas.

Now, we’ll use an article outline example from our own archives to showcase the process to you. Here’s the article title: How to Make Your Office Entry More Inviting.

So, you start with a couple of questions:

  • How to strategize with their seating area
  • How to combine furniture with accent walls
  • How they should keep outside areas clean and tidy
  • Where they can find branded office mats
  • How to maintain their paved areas
  • How to choose a colour scheme for their office doors
  • How to spruce up their garden area

Quite a mish-mash of ideas, huh? No worries. Your outline will get more sensical and coherent as you follow through with the next steps.

Organise Your Points Into Sections

When making an outline for a blog post, you need to take a step back and get a bird’s eye view on your topic. And this is what you’re doing now. Here’s where you start sketching your blog post structure. 

Take ideas from your brainstorm session and organise them into meaningful sections

Some of your initial brainstorming points will end up being an overarching theme that contains several other bullet points. And you’ll have to come up with meaningful themes for the remainder of your brainstorming bullets.

So, how far should your writers go section-wise? Now, this is critical.

The number of sections your writers cover in a blog post will determine how much authority or search engine-love your post will gain.

So, the rule of thumb is 3-4 larger sections. This is not set in stone, but this article length gives you room to cover the topic deeply enough so it adds value to your reader.

Here’s how we covered this outlining step in our blog article on office entries.

Intro

1. Be Deliberate With Your Colour Scheme

  • How to brighten up their door
  • Where they can find branded office mats
  • Which colour scheme to use for their reception desk

2. Create a great seating area

  • How to choose their indoor seating
  • How to choose their outdoor seating

3. Keep the outside areas clean and tidy

  • How to decide on their external lighting
  • How to preserve their paved areas

4. Create accent walls

  • What is the accent wall

Give Details: Flesh Out Your Article Outline

Odds are, you’ll need to put some flesh on the bones of your initial outline so it turns into a cohesive blog post you want it to be. So, let’s turn the ugly duckling into a swan, shall we?

The point is to fill in the gaps and add any points you might have missed.

Also, at this stage, you’ll want to concoct a clever hook that you’ll place in your intro. Think studies, similes or attention-grabbing anecdotes.

We’ve highlighted the points we added in italics.

Intro

An office entrance impacts your business (find study)

1. Be Deliberate With Your Colour Scheme

  • How to brighten up their door
  • How to pick their logo colour
  • Where they can find branded office mats
  • Which colour scheme to use for their reception desk

2. Create a great seating area

  • How to choose their indoor seating
  • How to choose their outdoor seating

3. Keep the outside areas clean and tidy

  • How to decide on their external lighting
  • How to preserve their paved areas
  • How to take care of the lawn area
  • How to design a commercial patio
  • How to decide on a patio layout
  • How to prepare for inclement weather
  • How to take care of their high-traffic areas
  • Should they use carpeting for their paved areas

4. Create accent walls

  • What is the accent wall
  • How they should choose their indoor accent wall
  • How they should choose their outdoor accent wall

Cull and Reorganise Your Ideas: Exercise Some Logic

Now, it’s time to go badass a.k.a. merciless towards your own work. Cull any item in your blog post outline that’s over the top. You want to include here any ideas that are beside the point or are irrelevant or already known to your reader.

The text in bold are the points that didn’t survive our careful scrutiny.

Intro

An office entrance impacts your business (find study)

1. Be Deliberate With Your Colour Scheme

  • How to brighten up their door
  • How to pick their logo colour
  • Where they can find branded office mats
  • Which colour scheme to use for their reception desk

2. Create a great seating area

  • How to choose their indoor seating
  • How to choose their outdoor seating

3. Keep the outside areas clean and tidy

  • How to decide on their external lighting
  • How to preserve their paved areas
  • How to take care of the lawn area (most likely already known to the reader)
  • How to design a commercial patio
  • How to decide on a patio layout
  • How to prepare for inclement weather
  • How to take care of their high-traffic areas
  • Should they use carpeting for their paved areas

4. Create accent walls

  • What is the accent wall (adds no extra value to the reader)
  • How they should choose their indoor accent wall
  • How they should choose their outdoor accent wall

And next, let’s put some logic to work. All there’s left to do is reorganise your ideas a tad bit and create sub-sub-bullets that make sense of the entire story

Here’s what our outline structure has evolved into so far:

Intro

An office entrance impacts your business (find study)

1. Be Deliberate With Your Colour Scheme

  • How to brighten up their door
  • How to pick their logo colour
  • Where they can find branded office mats
  • Which colour scheme to use for their reception desk

2. Create a great seating area

  • How to choose their indoor seating
  • How to choose their outdoor seating

3. Keep the outside areas clean and tidy

  • How to decide on their external lighting
  • How to design a commercial patio
    • How to decide on a patio layout
    • How to prepare for inclement weather
  • How to preserve their paved areas
    • How to take care of their high-traffic areas
    • Should they use carpeting for their paved areas

4. Create accent walls

  • How they should choose their indoor accent wall
  • How they should choose their outdoor accent wall

Get In On the Action

Now, see how our outline evolved from just a few random ideas into a full-fledged blog post structure that’s begging to be written. The structure that lends itself to writing pretty quickly.

And what about you? How do you write outlines over at your team? Perhaps you’ve patented a signature outlining technique? Please do share your ideas with us on LinkedIn.

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CopySmiths

I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of CopySmiths and Small Revolution. In my 20 years of experience, I have helped online businesses create high-performing content specifically on an eCommerce store's blog. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.