You were probably introduced to the 5-point outline while writing research papers in high school, but did you know using a similar process to outline your blog posts can also be helpful to the blog writing process? When writing a blog post for your business, try starting with an outline first, complete with an introduction and conclusion, points and sub-points, and a killer headline using an SEO-friendly keyword or phrase. This will save you time, help keep the blog post on the right track, and can even help you avoid the writer’s block that can strike when you’re staring at a blank screen. For our best tips and practices for outlining your blog post, read on…
Why Outline Your Blog Post?
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of how to outline your blog post, you need to understand why you should be outlining. If you aren’t familiar with the process, you may shy away from it or worry that it will take up more of your precious time. In reality, outlining your blog posts can actually save you time by keeping you on track and helping you defeat any lurking writer’s block.
Outline Your Blog Post to Save Time
Even though it is an additional step, outlining can streamline the blog writing process and save you time in the long run. By determining ahead of time exactly what points you want to cover in your post, you can avoid going down rabbit holes in the drafting stage, and stay on track with your main points.
In addition to this, any review done by an editor or co-worker will pick up on issues with the main ideas, the message, or the direction of the blog post at the outline stage, which will save you time if you have to make any adjustments to the big-picture theme of the post. For example, if your editor determines that your 2nd point doesn’t belong in the blog post at all, and catches this at the outline stage, then you haven’t spent all the time actually drafting that part of the blog post. If your blog post is on track at the outline stage, you are much more likely to stay on track all through the drafting process.
Outline Your Blog Post to Keep It Consistent and Cohesive
As we pointed out above, outlining your blog post helps to streamline the process. Outlining gives you, the author, an overview from the beginning, so you can plan, reorder, and make sure that all the points belong, contribute to the main topic, and lead to the end point or overall message of the blog post. If you just sit down and start typing without structuring your points first, you may find that your thoughts are all over the place and your points jump around in a less-than-logical order. Outlining helps your blog post flow cohesively.
Another bonus of this is even if you do find your points are not in the best order after outlining, it is much easier to rearrange bullet-pointed or numbered headings and subheadings than it is to cut and paste chunks of text that may require rewriting just to make sense in a different place in the post.
Outline Your Blog Post to Beat Writer’s Block
Our last reason for outlining your blog posts is it can help you avoid writer’s block–which is definitely desirable when you are writing for your blog regularly. When you outline, you do your research, compile your notes, and lay out your points in the best order. Then you can take a break and come back later to dive into drafting.
When you come back to write, all your thoughts are right there in order, all laid out for you to fill in. You are much less likely to get stumped or be at a loss for what to write next, since you’ve already got your points plotted out. Spend less time banging your head against the desk wondering what should come next in your draft and more time using your killer blogging skills to connect and fill in your outlined points.
How to Outline Your Blog Post
Now that you’ve seen why outlining your blog posts is a no-brainer, let’s get to the next step: how to outline your blog post. All the benefits above will fall into place if you follow our tips below for both the actual structure of the blog post, as well as the type and amount of content you should be including at the outline stage.
Outline Your Blog Post to Gain Structure
The structure of your blog post outline is going to be similar to the structure of those outlines you wrote in your high school English class: Points and sub-points sandwiched between your introduction and conclusion.
Your blog post outline should be structured something like this:
Write the intro and conclusion last, after you determine your points and sub-points. Since in the introduction, you should be laying out a very brief overview of what you are going to cover in the post, and in the conclusion you will offer a concise recap of what you have covered in the post, there is no point in drafting these until what you will cover in the post is all nailed down. Be prepared to rewrite or tweak your introduction and conclusion in the drafting stage, as your points may still change or shift when you actually write them.
Your points and sub-points should be structured by some sort of theme, category, or hierarchy. This could be listing pros and cons of something new in your field, or laying out a step-by-step process instructing your followers on how to use one of your products in a how-to post. This will all depend on what your post is about, but work to lay out your points in the best order, and play around with it a bit until you find that sweet spot that makes the post flow. Then, within your main points, do the same thing with any sub-points, making sure the sub-points are filed under the points where they most logically fit.
Additional Tips to Outline Your Blog Post:
Using the above structure for outlining your blog post, begin to fill in each point. We recommend keeping it concise at this stage. Each point and sub-point should just be bullet-pointed words or partial sentences that are placeholders for what you will write. As a writer, it can be hard to resist the temptation to start drafting as you think of each point. Just jot down your thoughts in a way that will make sense to anyone editing or reviewing your blog post, and will jog your memory when you sit down to draft the post.
After you have determined what your points are going to be, title each heading with the SEO keyword or phrase you are going to be using for the post, and make sure that each heading, as well as the blog post’s title, include this keyword or phrase. Mark your headings with HTML headings (H1, H2, H3, etc), even at the outline stage, to keep it clear and make it easier to transition into drafting. These headings will ultimately serve to optimize your post for SEO when it is published, as Google likes posts which use HTML headings properly. We also recommend including any inbound or outbound links that will help with SEO at this stage.
When you outline your blog post, you can save time, keep your points consistent and clear, and prevent writer’s block from happening when you get to the drafting stage. Make sure to outline your blog post with clear points and sub-points in the most logical and smoothly-flowing order, determine a keyword or phrase that you will use in your title and headings, keep the outline concise (don’t start drafting the body yet!), and write your introduction and conclusion last so you can be sure to include every point. You may just find that blogging for your business isn’t as tough as you thought!