How to Write a Blog Post Outline in 8 Easy Steps (Free Blog Post Outline Template)

Whether you recently started a blog, or you’re looking to improve your writing game, having a great blog post outline to jump start your writing process, can make all the difference.

When it comes to writing a blog post that not only drives in new readers, but also captivates their imaginations and leaves them craving more—you’ve got to start with a blog post outline to organize your thoughts, decide what’s critical to include and make certain you’re not missing any opportunities.

I’m an adamant believer of always starting my writing process with a strong blog post outline to kick things off.

How to Write a Blog Post Outline in 8 Easy Steps (Free Blog Post Outline Template)

  1. Determine the Key Takeaways for Your Readers
  2. Craft a Smart Headline
  3. Brain Dump: Write Down Every Question You Need to Answer
  4. Arrange the Major Themes and Sections of Your Blog Post Outline
  5. Ask More Questions (Research, Research, Research)
  6. Insert Relevant Studies, Data and Additional Sources
  7. Revise, Trim and Clean Up Your Blog Post Outline
  8. Write Your Blog Post

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Why should you create a blog post outline before you start writing?

Your blog posts should be logical and cohesive if you hope to satisfy the needs of your target audience. A blog post outline can help you avoid meandering or disjointed writing—and will help organize your thoughts and make it easy for readers to digest (and take action on).

The other thing an outline will do, is help you determine the real value of your blog post. Instead of sitting down and staring at a blank screen to start writing your blog post—you’ll instead take the time to research and create something unique that you know will be useful to your future readers. It’ll also show you what can be easily left out from this particular post (or better left for another day).

Now, we’re going to walk through my 8-step process to outline a blog post—using a real, working blog post outline to illustrate exactly how to do this along the way.

And remember, if you want to pick up my free blog post outline template to follow along, then head over here right now.

1. Determine the Key Takeaway for Your Readers

How to Write a Blog Post Outline and Determine Key Takeaway

When you get an idea for a blog post, a great first step is to determine your number one takeaway for readers.

What do you want your readers to learn or to remember once they’ve finished reading?

This is also a good time to think about what type of blog post you’re best served to write here.

The variety in types of blog posts you can use to accomplish your goal is pretty extensive today—and each of these blog post formats have slightly different functions.

While there are arguably many other types of blog post formats you can use, these are the most popular.

Choosing the format of your post will help you narrow down what your big takeaway is.

For example, if you’re writing a review post, you’re letting your readers know if a product or service is worth their time and money.

Readers looking at reviews are often ready (or getting ready) to spend some money and they want your honest opinion, so that they can make an informed decision.

On the other hand, a how-to guide should take a step-by-step process that a reader can easily follow.

At the end of your post, they should have a framework for how to accomplish something on their own.

Let’s say I’m writing an article about the benefits of blogging for businesses.

My key takeaway for readers would be be: Blogging is good for business and here’s how to do it.

The format I’d choose to create this article would be a long-form, how-to guide with some expert advice weaved in.

Now that I’ve determined the key takeaway of the piece, I’ll use the entire article to build a case and back that up.

We’ll take this idea through each step of the outlining process, so that you can see how this article morphs into a fully baked blog post outline that can fuel the rest of your writing process.

2. Craft a Smart Headline

How to Outline a Blog Post and Write a Smart Headline

Once you’ve determined the key takeaway of your article—and the content format you’ll best be able to communicate that—the next step in the blog post outlining process is to write a headline that’ll draw readers into reading your piece.

The headline tells readers what your blog post is about, and it’s the first thing they’ll see in a Google search result.

Headlines can make a big difference in whether or not someone clicks on your blog post.

And just as there are different types of blog posts, there are also a wide variety of headlines you can use.

The possibilities for headlines are nearly endless, but this is a great starting point to focus your outlining on.

And truth be told—I often revise my article headlines several times along the way to publishing, so you don’t need to be dead set on your headline at this stage.

While you do want to write a headline that’s catchy, clever and interesting, you also have to keep in mind that it should be SEO-friendly.

Personally, I don’t like to use clickbait headlines for my blog content.

For one thing, they lead to a higher bounce rate (when readers arrive and are quickly disappointed or feel tricked), which is bad for your site’s organic Google rankings.

Another reason I don’t use clickbait headlines, is that they often don’t include your main target keyword phrase.

That’s a major missed opportunity when it comes to SEO and bringing readers to your blog from search engines.

It goes without saying that before you can write your full article… you should do proper keyword research to know what keyword phrase you’re hoping your content will eventually rank for. So if you haven’t done that yet, now’s the time.

Ahrefs Keyword Research Tool Results Page for Blogging Term

In my clickbait example above, my headline was… You Won’t Believe What Happened to This Grandma at the Grocery Store.

That headline might get some clicks on social media, but it’s not likely that anyone is going to be searching for it on Google.

So instead of only choosing something people will click on, you should also choose a headline that includes phrases people are actively searching for online—which dramatically increases the potential target audience you can reach.

For the blog post outline example we’re using about blogging for businesses, I might title the article something like:

  • Blogging for Business: 5 Incredible Benefits of Business Blogging
  • How a Blog Can Drives More Sales to Your Business
  • 5 Proven Ways to Generate More Sales with a Blog for Your Business
  • The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Small Businesses in 2020
  • 25 Blogging Experts Share Their Best Advice to Small Business Blogging

Which one I choose to go with in the end, will depend a lot upon the exact keyword phrase I decide on using—and a final look back at how the article shaped up.

Assuming my main target keyword phrase is “blogging for business” though… I’d likely choose the first headline.

3. Brain Dump: Write Down Every Question You Need to Answer

The next step in the process of creating your blog post outline (after you have your key takeaway and headline), is to begin writing down every question you can think of answering—that addresses your key takeaway.

Brain Dump and Answer Questions in Your Blog Post Outline

Keep in mind, you don’t necessarily need to have all of those answers yourself already.

While you should be focused on creating blog content you have a unique expertise at teaching to your readers, it’s natural that you’ll also have to do some of your own research or refreshing on some aspects of a particular problem or subject matter.

Plus, spending time regularly reading in your field is the only way to keep improving over time.

Now, let’s get tactical on how to translate this into real output when you outline a blog post.

Using my example we’re walking through for this blog post outline, some of the questions I suspect my readers will have (as related to blogging for businesses) would include:

  • How does a blog benefit a business?
  • Is blogging practical for businesses?
  • How can a blog help a business rank higher in a search engine result?
  • How can blogging help with branding?
  • How can a business use a blog to drive sales?
  • Why is a blog beneficial to potential customers?
  • How can a blog build a network?
  • How can a blog improve communication with customers?
  • How much might a blog cost a business?
  • Will we make more money with a blog?

Once you’ve collected your list of questions, start prioritizing which questions are most important—and strive to narrow it down to just the most impactful ones that absolutely need to be covered in your article.

Don’t ditch the rest of those questions though—you’ll want to save them for future content topics to tackle.

And while you might not use all the questions you jot down right now, don’t worry about limiting this activity.

The goal here is to come up with every possible question a reader could have on the topic at-hand.

4. Arrange the Major Themes and Sections of Your Blog Post Outline

Arranging Your Blog Post Outline Sections

Your content should have a natural progression that flows logically from one point to the next and educates along the way.

This is one of the strongest reasons to write a blog post outline. Without this step, it’s easy for your writing to go off the rails or lack a level of cohesiveness that your readers are going to crave in a well-constructed article.

Consider the basic essay structure most of us are taught in school—you have an opening paragraph, supporting paragraphs and a conclusion.

Writing a blog post that successfully argues a point is pretty much the same thing.

It isn’t overly complicated, but it does take some time to fully organize, and this next step in the outlining process is crucial.

Sticking with our example of blogging for businesses, here’s how I’d start organizing my blog post outline based on prioritization and filtering of the questions I’ve determined we need to answer in this article:

Blogging for Business: 5 Incredible Benefits

  1. Blogging Helps Your Business Website Rank Higher in Search Engine Results
    • Organic traffic is important (being present where customers are searching)
    • Long-form, quality content = higher rankings in search engines
  2. Blogging Helps Your Business Connect With Customers
    • Blogs give potential customers a way to contact you and get to know your brand
    • You can offer them something valuable in the form of educational and informative content
  3. Blogging Helps With Branding and Brand Recognition
    • Great branding opportunity
    • Your customers and potential customers get to know your business better
    • Show what’s important to your business and how you’re differentiated from competitors
  4. Blogging is Good for Lead Generation
    • You can use your blog to get email subscribers
    • Then you can deliver information to your email subscribers about your business
    • Send upcoming sales information to customers
  5. Blogging Drives Sales
    • When you show up in Google search rankings, customers can find you more easily
    • People grow to trust you through valuable content and they like companies they can trust
    • Your branding will set you apart from competitors and lead to more sales

Most importantly, with a blog post outline like this—I’m guaranteeing that no important questions go unanswered for my readers.

5. Ask More Questions (Research, Research, Research)

You have your major questions, themes and overall sections solidified at this point in your blog post outline—but now, you’ll want to go back and do some more research to (1) support your overarching points and (2) add in relevant subsections that’ll serve to make your content more helpful than others have already written about.

Research to Beef up Your Blog Post Outline Example

Now’s the time to further challenge your assumptions and arguments—with the goal of firming up your points.

In my blog post outline example here about blogging for businesses, here’s how my thought process goes now:

  • I may strongly believe blogging benefits businesses, but does it really? How do I know?
  • What do other websites and companies have to say about this conclusion?
  • Can I find any hard research or studies that back up my claims and convictions?
  • Do I have a personal experience that I can share to help illustrate the benefits?
  • What kinds of real numbers can I bring to the table and bolster my points?

Asking these kinds of questions may seem like challenging your core beliefs… and that’s the point!

You should work hard and be diligent in your research, to make sure you’re not teaching incorrect information to your readers. Plus, in doing more research and asking these tough questions, you’ll also come up with useful subsections to cover within your article.

Here are some easy ways you can research your topic as you finesse your blog post outline:

  • Google Search: This is the most common way to research for a blog post.
  • Google Scholar: This is specifically designed to search for scholarly literature and academic pieces like peer-reviewed articles, theses, research, studies, technical reports and court opinions.
  • National Institutes of Health: A great resource for verified information on all health-related topics.
  • Real books: While the majority of blogging comes from online research, there’s still a wealth of information to be found in physical books. Many books can be downloaded to an e-reader if you want a digital copy to be able to search & find specific topics more easily.
  • Check out the competition: Look at other bloggers in your niche who’ve covered similar topics and evaluate the sources they’ve cited to compile their own articles. That could set you down the path of uncovering even more interesting insights than your competition.
  • First-hand information: In most fields, nothing beats the impact of simply reaching out to an expert in the industry you’re writing about—to gather a real world quote or run some hypotheses by them for verification. This is a great way to not only beef up the legitimacy of your content, but to also network and grow the promotional impact of your article once published.

Alright, now that you’ve taken some time to do a little more research before diving in to write your blog post—let’s keep moving forward.

If we go back to my blog post outline from above, I’ve now got a few elements to add into the piece—and others to refine & trim out, based on the results of my additional research.

Here’s what my blog post outline now looks like (with new sections highlighted below):

Blogging for Business: 6 Incredible Benefits

  1. Blogging Helps Your Business Site Rank Higher in Search Engine Results
    • Organic traffic is important
    • Content = higher ranking on search engines
    • Add Subheading for How to Rank Higher
    • Content needs to be valuable
    • Long-form content ranks higher
    • Update content regularly
    • Use keywords
  2. Blogging Gives People Content They Can Share
    • Blog posts can be shared on social media
    • People like sharing relevant blog posts
    • More opportunities for backlinks
  3. Blogging Helps Your Business Connect With Customers
    • Blogs give people a way to contact you
    • You offer them something valuable
  4. Blogging Helps With Branding and Brand Recognition
    • Great branding opportunity
    • Your customers and potential customers get to know your business better
    • Show what’s important to your business
  5. Blogging is Good for Lead Generation
    • You can use your blog to get email subscribers
    • Add subheading: What is the Benefit of Lead Generation?
    • Targets people that are already interested in your business
    • Low-cost advertisement
    • Send information to subscribers about your business
    • Send upcoming sales information to customers
    • Increased sales
  6. Blogging Drives Sales
    • When you show up on Google searches people can find you
    • People grow to trust you through your content and they like someone they can trust
    • Your branding will set you apart and lead to sales

After I did some final research, I decided to add in a few crucial points to my blog post outline—largely because I recognized a handful of important considerations other articles were covering on this topic (that I’d left out in my first outline).

For clarification again, my new points that just got added in to my blog post outline (after some competitor research) are highlighted above.

Even as I continue working to refine my outline and get into the writing process, I may still find that some of the points don’t seem as relevant—or that new ones still come up—but I can handle that in my revision stage or on an as-needed basis.

6. Insert Relevant Studies, Data and Additional Sources

How to Outline a Blog Post Data Analysis, Research and Supporting Documentation

Adding as much authority into your content as possible, is essential. Especially if you’re early on in your career.

Readers want to know that you’re using real research to back up the points that you’re presenting to them.

Using my example here again… I can make the claim that a blog will benefit any business owner, but without proof—people will (rightly) question if my information is accurate. And even if my points are considered accurate, if those same truths hold up for their unique situation too.

As you’re doing your research, paste in the links to key material you’re referencing, in order to properly cite them in each subsection of your blog post as you’re writing.

Even though this blog post outline is for a hypothetical article I haven’t actually written yet, it’s important to go through the activity of sourcing as many credible studies, publications and research as I can.

My goal is to show you how much more impactful this article is already shaping up to be—just because we’ve beefed it up with some solid data and sources.

When you write your own blog post outline following this format, you’ll want to drop in links during your research phase as you come across pivotal support for your claims.

How do you know when to seek additional research and sources?

Think of it this way… whenever the knowledge you’re covering reaches beyond reasonable common sense, it’s smart to include some additional support to back up the points you’re making to your readers.

That gives real authority to your blog post, and lets people know that your work is well-researched and verifiable.

Sure, some will still (always) disagree with a particular point—or even overall message—of an article you may write, but what matters most is that you’ve done your own homework in coming to the conclusions you’ve drawn.

7. Revise, Trim and Clean Up Your Blog Post Outline

How to Write a Blog Post Outline and Revisions Screenshot

Alright, it’s the last step in your process of writing a blog post outline, before you can jump into crafting your article—time to do some final revisions and light clean up work.

No matter how much research you’ve done up to this point, the reality is that some of your ideas may not totally work well together, and others may not flow well into a cohesive storyline.

This is your opportunity to fix any glaring issues that your blog post outline may have—before getting into the actual writing phase (and when major revisions soon become a more time-intensive endeavor).

Let’s use my blog post outline example one last time to illustrate the final revision process.

I went ahead and deleted this last section entirely, because I realized I was only going to repeat a lot of the same information as I’d been covering throughout this entire article already—and it seemed to fit better as a conclusion.

And that’s it! 🙏

Now we’ve got a killer blog post outline to take and start filling in the pieces, to create a masterpiece.

8. Write Your Blog Post

Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for… it’s finally time to write your blog post.

Outlining a Blog Post and Writing the Content Example

With your fully baked blog post outline now in place, you’ll have a clear map to follow as your writing process kicks off and it should ultimately save you a lot of time.

I also highly recommend that you wait until after you’ve outlined your blog post—before writing your introduction and conclusion. And to be honest, I sometimes write both the intro and conclusion last (after the meat of my content is already down).

Either way, I find it’s much easier to write these two summary sections after you’ve already written your blog post outline and you can chart the narrative arc of your content.

Do You Really Need a Blog Post Outline?

It may feel like a lot of work to put together a blog post outline before you even begin writing.

For some, it may even feel like another obstacle just sitting in the way to getting to your content published.

And personally, I won’t disagree with you (in every situation).

Sometimes it’s genuinely easier to just start writing without a clear plan of action—or blog post outline to inform on your direction—if the topic you’re covering doesn’t need to follow a particular structure, including supporting research, or if you’re writing purely from your own thoughts and experience.

There’s certainly a place for that kind of blogging in the world. But, that’s more for hobby bloggers.

When it comes to growing a blog that can actually make money and turn a profit… you’ll want the cohesive structure, professionalism and authority that comes along with having a well-research article.

I tend to think of outlining my blog posts as a timesaver.

Yes, it takes a little extra time up front to write an outline, but I find I always save myself a lot of time in potential edits and rewrites I’d otherwise avoid by critically thinking through an outline first.

When you have a blog post outline, you’re essentially just filling in the missing information as you write.

You won’t have to spend nearly as much time editing and reordering your content, if you do the outlining first.

Plus, outlining gives you time to sit with your arguments and evaluate their merit as you write.

By using this process to outline your blog posts, you’ll be able to tell whether or not your content is strong, and if it will actually be helpful to your readers (before you start writing the article itself).

And as you know… valuable content is the backbone of creating a successful blog.

Want to grab my free blog post outline template (in the form of a copy & paste Google Doc)? You can pick it up right here—in a document that includes my entire writing checklist and a fully completed blog post outline template to guide you along the way—get my free blog post template.



Also read: 101 Best Business Ideas You Can Start in 2020