How do you write your blog posts?
Do you just go with it? Or do you outline like a diligent best selling author?
Regardless of how you do it, I can tell you (as an experienced writer), having even a smidgen of an outline makes your content 100x better.
(Sure, I pulled "100x" out of thin air, but that's what it feels like to me.)
But after a wonderful collection of emails from my lovely readers asking what to include in one of those precious post outlines I keep gushing about — I figured it's time to write one.
Maybe you're here because your blog posts aren't generating much traffic.
Maybe you're not getting many email subscribers after lots of hard work and use of proven strategies.
Or maybe your bounce rate is too high for your type of online business.
Whatever your reasoning might be, here's my easy to use blog post outline format to help you conquer the planning stage and write better content.
But first, snag my 8 simple content hacks to help you create a better, stronger blog. [ It's FREE. ]
8 content planning, strategizing, and development email tips to stimulate growth in your online presence.
You don't need a fancy template to outline your blog posts with.
Some may use a spreadsheet, a notebook, or a full workbook to outline the content they want to.
Even so, you should tentatively schedule out up to 1 year of blog content.
You can do this in a content map, a spreadsheet, on a bulletin or whiteboard — wherever is easiest for you and your working style.
You can use themes, series, or collections of content ideas to map out your blog plan for the 12 months.
By having that tentative plan, you'll be much less stressed about what you're going to write. And you're more prepared than your non-planning counterpart.
Once you've got your 12 month content map, then you can break down those themes, series, or collection of topics into 4 to 5 separate ideas.
Each of those separate ideas become blog posts.
Check out that Content Planning Workshop for a deep dive into exploring what you audience wants and blog planning.
For now, let's assume you've got all that pre-planning done. And now you're ready to start outlining.
Here's my easy to replicate 8 step outline process:
STEP 1. Start With Your Reader + The Idea
Personally, the "idea" for a blog post is sparked by the working title — the temporary title you use to get a post started.
EXAMPLE: The working title for this post was "How To Create An Easy Blog Post Outline".
That would've been a fine title to keep, but the keyword structure wasn't a good enough fit for the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value I was looking for.
So, having a finalized title that tells readers and search engines exactly what they're going to get when they read the post is essential.
But your title has to start somewhere.
And that's what that working title is. A starting point.
But the awesome working and final title isn't where the ingenuity stops.
If so, it'd be like standing in the middle of a forest without another soul around for miles. And screaming up into oblivion.
No one hears you.
That's equal to publishing a blog post then sitting back and hoping people show up to read it.
What's even worse is writing that blog post with no one in mind.
- No problem to solve
- No desire to satisfy
- No want to fulfill
- No need to meet
It's just (for lack of a better word) "blah"...
There's enough blah online already. Don't become another contributor, please.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Start with a problem, desire, want, or need that your target audience has.
Something you can "fix" in 10,000 words or less.
(More than 10k words? Write an eBook instead. We'll get to this soon, promise.)
STEP 2. What's Your Solution?
How will you solve the problem, desire, want, or need for your reader within the post?
And what format of blog post will be the easiest path to the end result?
You want to take your reader on a quick yet thorough journey to their solution.
EXAMPLE: Let's say you're a skin care specialist.
Your target reader is having an issue with non-comedogenic products (the ones that aren't supposed to clog pores, but are) causing her to break out.
As the skin care specialist, you can solve this problem for your reader.
Here, you have a starting point. And in stage 2, you need to find the quickest yet most thorough way to solve this problem for her.
You brainstorm a few of the reasons she may be breaking out:
- an allergic reaction [to a specific ingredient]
- using the wrong formula (using oily skin solution with dry skin, or vice versa)
- "non-comedogenic" product may have a comedogenic ingredient after all (like shea butter or beeswax when used on the face)
- [hormonal imbalance]
- [hygiene—not removing all makeup or not using a "protective barrier" like a CC or BB cream to protect against environmental damage during the day]
Now, you'll want to solve each of the potential causes within the post.
You can suggest to your reader:
- Research the active ingredients
- View a common ingredient across all the brands you've used
- Make sure you're using the right formula for you
- Make sure you're removing all your makeup / washing your face, well, every night
- Try adding a toner like Witch Hazel or Rose Water after cleansing
- When all else fails, go simple—switch to gentle / sensitive skin formulas and / or use a light oil (like Jojoba, Rosehip, or Tamanu oils)
- Make sure you're using a product for 2 or more weeks before switching (even with breakouts)—your skin is is likely adjusting to the change to a new product
DISCLAIMER: These are just examples. I prefer using oils to cleanse and moisturize my post-hysterectomy dry skin. But I'm no "skin care expert". Double-check my estimated advice if you like these tips.
STEP 3. Decide On Your Main Takeaways (Points)
What do you want your reader to learn or "take away" from your post?
What are some of the main points you should cover to get your solution across?
The 2nd and 3rd step can be interchangeable.
With a multi-solution post—like the skin care example—you can do a couple different things with it:
- You can use your main takeaways as sections to your blog post.
- You can make your main takeaways the special snippet your reader can use within your sections.
Or, you can do a bit of both.
When I break down a blog topic, I'll focus on dissecting one problem.
If multiple reader problems surface, I'll focus on creating a blog post series from the takeaways.
Once you have the main points you want your reader to gain from reading...
4. Decide On The Post Type
You may think this is a miniscule detail.
But it's not.
Ask any SEO guro and they'll tell you that the post type and title are crucial to your content getting seen, read, and subscribed to.
Take a study done by the SEO genius Brian Dean of Backlinko.com.
Brian wrote a post on the perfectly optimized blog post format at the beginning of 2016.
The 8th point Brian covers is on "Dwell Time" (how long a visitors stays on your blog post).
If someone hits their back button immediately after landing on a page, it tells Google in black-and-white: this is low quality page.
—Brian Dean, Backlinko.com
In addition to Brian's tips of creating longer, high-quality blog content, I've found that the type and layout of blog post matters greatly.
If you land on someone's post that's written like a long essay with little to no images or headlines to break up the text, would you stay?
Would you read it from top to bottom?
Most blog visitors scan a blog post before they commit to reading it.
- How long is this going to take?
- Is this worth it?
- What's the point?
According to a study done by Tony Haile of Chartbeat (for TIME), a whopping 71% of website visitors scan "normal content" before reading.
With that, I studied blog post formats to see which types perform best for most all industries:
- List Posts
- How To + Tutorial Posts
- Case Studies
- "New Methods"
- Personal Stories or Interviews
GET FULL DETAILS: 7 Types Of Blog Posts That Get Noticed, Read, And Subscribed To
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Note 1 or 2 ideas you have on the type of post you'd like to use.
You'll find it much easier to write your post's first draft when you have an idea of how it'll be formatted in the end.
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5. What's In It For You?
Everything up until this point has been about your reader.
SIDE NOTE: Some bloggers would prefer this to be in the number one spot.
For me, I find that if I go into outlining a blog post thinking about what I want from it, my content isn't as reader focused as it should be.
So, what you (as the author) get from your post lands at number 5 in my book.
Here is where you'll define the goal you have for the post. Think of it as your resounding call-to-action (CTA).
Yes, your blog post can focus on earning a new email subscriber, and making a sale, and earning affiliate income.
But each blog post should only have one main focus, goal, or desired outcome — whatever you want to call it.
EXAMPLE: Here are 3 easy to figure out goals from 3 different blogs.
6. What Do You Need Before You Start Writing?
Any necessary research to peruse before hitting the keys?
Sometimes us bloggers are curious about a subject. And in the desire to learn something, sometimes we take it as an opportunity to write about it.
(Or we make sure we frigging learn that "something new" by putting it on the schedule to blog about it. And yep, that's one of my procrastination-ditching tactic.)
The topic might be something you wouldn't consider yourself an expert in. So, you'd need to do some research to get well acquainted with that subject.
Regardless of your expertise, though, it's important to add examples and / or stories, quotes, links to other people's content — as examples or to back a statement — and also internal links (existing content you've written) to help add value or back a claim.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Jot down what you know, and what you need to find out.
You can use bullet points or whatever else method works for you.
The point is to note everything you need to know or include to make that blog post rock hardcore.
A few things you can do to get your writing juices flowing:
- gather inspiration from some of your older content or from others', in books, magazines — wherever an idea spark may occur.
- add new ideas to your story bank, but also use this point to gain some extra insights, knowledge, or fore-value before diving into your first draft.
- to avoid writer's block or getting stuck within the first draft of your blog post, you can do a thorough or quick skim through a similar topic from your own content and others'.
Take a journalistic approach to your content. It's one of the best ways to earn trust and a worthy income from your efforts.
7. Put It All In Order / Get To Writing
Depending on your post's complexity, you may want to organize your guided notes into an "official" outline.
EXAMPLE: You've got lots of notes written down for your next post.
But they're just jotted down and you feel like a little more structure is needed before you get to writing.
So, you'd create an outline.
- Share what it's about / what the point is
- State their affliction they want solved
- Make a promise — an "it will be solved" statement
- Main Point 1
- Break the point down
- Main Point 2
- Break the point down
- Main Point 3...
- Break the point down
- Wrap it up
- Call-to-action (CTA)
You may be someone who needs to jump in and start writing immediately after outlining. Or you might be like me and need things to marinate before you start stroking the keys.
Either way, the 7th step is to write that first draft. And do it in one sitting.
Gasp! I know...
Sometimes I curse myself for ever stating and practicing that. But I've got to tell you, if you get up and walk away while you're writing some (especially something valuable), you will leave important pieces behind.
Don't take a break in your first draft.
You can (and will) always go back and edit it anyhow.
8. Add In Your Content Boosters
It's more than just the content upgrade.
It's more than the optimized images you include.
It's more than the writing style, post structure, and SEO keywords.
It's creating such a valuable blog post that reading someone else's post on the exact same topic doesn't faze you one frigging bit.
Because you know your blog is the online arsenal of your expertise.
It provides your audience with a resource from someone worth trusting, communicating with, and paying for their products or services.
Your blog is that serious.
So every time you add an internal link or link out to another source or person, make sure it's valid and actually fits with the content.
Am I linking to add value? Or only linking to get people to click around my site?
You know that your blog is Internet gold. And with a wealth like that, your professional confidence is [near] impenetrable.
So before you hit publish, remember to check everything.
Every link. Every quote. Everything.
Just remember that you're human.
You can't "sweat the small stuff". (Even when you somehow miss a stupid clerical error after reading your darned post 3 times before posting it.)
Just do your best to do your best.
The benefits aren't far behind.
So that was long, huh?
(Totally worth it, though, yes?)
Right now it's time to figure out your next steps.
You've got my simple — yet thorough — outline process at your fingertips right now.
What can you do with it?
How can you make it your own?
- Who's it for, why do they care, and what's the point?
- What's the resolve for your reader?
- What are the main points? The key takeaways?
- What post type will suit the topic best?
- What's your desired outcome from the post?
- What do you know and what do you need to know?
- Structure it and get to writing.
- How can you make this even better?
And that's it.
My easy 8-step formula to creating better blog posts every time.
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle all together, apparently. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.
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