Starting your content creation with a blog post outline is the best way I’ve found to avoid writer’s block and create effective content that brings you traffic and leads.

I’ve written hundreds of blog posts over the last 10 years, both for my own sites and those of clients. In this post, I’ll walk you through exactly how to write a blog post outline that ranks and drives results for your business (while never facing writer’s block EVER again!)

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How to Write a Blog Post Outline (In 10 Simple Steps)

#1. Choose your target keyword

Before building a blog post outline, you should choose a main target keyword. This keyword will guide your blog post outlining process and help you stay on track.

Having a keyword in place will also help you focus on creating content that ranks well in search engines (while also resonating with your audience).

To select the right keyword, first ask yourself: “can I write a genuinely valuable and authentic piece of content on this topic?” Your goal should be to provide helpful and relevant information to your readers above all else.

Don’t get too caught up in search volume numbers from keyword tools, as they can sometimes be misleading or underestimate the true potential of a keyword. Instead, prioritize writing for your reader.

I also suggest evaluating the level of competition for your chosen keyword. Consider whether your website has a good chance of ranking for this term.

One way to assess this by Googling the keyword and looking at the current search results. Can your content provide unique value or a fresh perspective? Does the top 10 contain outdated results, or thin unhelpful content?

Another way to do it is by examining SERP results in a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or Semrush.

DR (domain rating) is an Ahrefs metric that refers to the strength of the domain (from zero to 100). As you can see, most of the sites ranking on page one for this keyword have high DRs. Below is how it looks in Ahrefs.

My site currently has DR of around 44, so it’s significantly weaker than the other sites ranking on page one for this keyword. Here’s why I chose to write a blog post on it anyway:

  1. My site focuses on blogging and SEO, so I already have a lot of topical authority.
  2. I already have relevant content which could provide internal links to this new post, giving it an immediate boost in the rankings.
  3. This keyword has a decent level of search volume (and remember, keyword tools tend to underestimate that).
  4. Most of the sites have high DR, but there’s also one ‘weaker’ site ranking (DR 67). That means mine could have a chance to rank).
  5. The topic of “how to write a blog post outline” is genuinely valuable for my readers, beyond just domain metrics..

When selecting your keyword, it’s important to also think about how it aligns with your business goals. Decide in advance how this keyword will help your business.

Remember, your primary goal isn’t to generate loads of traffic, but to generate the right traffic that converts into leads, sales or email signups. For a solo coach or consultant, generating even a handful of good quality leads every month can produce more than enough business for you to earn a good income.

Ideally, your chosen keyword should have a natural segue to the next logical step towards business goals – i.e. encouraging your reader to buy your product or service (or join your email list so you can nurture them and sell to them later).

#2. Research your top 10 competitors

Great blog posts aren’t created in a vacuum. It’s essential to first look at what your top 10 competitors are up to. That way, you can find the gaps and figure out exactly where you can add value.

Once you’ve chosen your keyword, you should analyze what your top 10 competitors are doing. By researching their content, you can identify specific gaps and opportunities to add unique value for your readers.

First, Google your target keyword and look carefully at the search results. Take note of the types of websites that are ranking, the titles they’re using, and the content formats they use.

Are they mostly listicles, how-to guides, or sales pages? Understanding the most common elements among the top-ranking pages will give you a foundation for creating content that meets the expectations of both search engines and readers.

Next, thoroughly examine the content of your competitors’ ranking pages. Read through their articles and identify the angles they take to answer the question at hand. Pay attention to the unique expertise they bring to the table and the key ingredients that every piece of content seems to contain.

As you analyze their content, ask yourself how your own unique expertise can add even greater value for the reader (I often approach this task in the form of a brainstorm, sometimes sitting outside in nature and writing by hand in my notebook).

My favorite view for getting inspired to write outlines 😎

Your goal should be to create a blog post that combines the key elements needed to rank for your target keyword while also providing distinctive expertise that sets you apart from the competition. Aim to comprehensively solve the problem that brought the reader to your blog post in the first place.

In my experience, the most successful blog posts are those that strike a fine balance between meeting the reader’s needs and showcasing the author’s unique perspective and knowledge.

#3. Pick your content format

Now that you’ve researched your top competitors and analyzed the types of content that are ranking well for your target keyword, it’s time to decide on the format for your own blog post.

Think about the most common content formats you observed during your competitor research. Were the top-ranking articles mostly listicles, how-to guides, or in-depth tutorials?

Use these insights to guide your decision, but don’t be afraid to put your own spin on the format to make it unique and engaging for your audience.

I recommend choosing a content format that allows you to best demonstrate your own knowledge and perspectives while also providing the key information that readers seek.

For example, if you noticed that most of your competitors are using listicles, then you could create a more comprehensive guide that goes beyond a simple list and provides actionable advice for each point.

When selecting your content format, keep in mind the problem that your target audience is trying to solve. Choose a structure that enables you to address their concerns in a clear, concise, and easy-to-follow manner.

Whether you opt for a step-by-step guide, a case study, or a comparison article, make sure that your content format supports your goal of providing value to your readers.

#4. Identify your unique value adds

When you were researching your competitors, you likely noticed some common themes and information that appeared in most of the top-ranking articles.

Yes, you can include some of these fundamental points in your own post, but you should also bring something new and valuable to the table.

To identify your unique value adds, consider your own expertise, experiences, and insights related to the topic at hand. Doing this is vital for adding depth and authority to your content.

Ask yourself some of the following:

  • What knowledge or skills do I have that could provide additional depth or nuance to this subject?
  • Have I encountered any specific challenges or successes that could offer valuable lessons for my readers?
  • Are there any recent developments, case studies, or examples that I could include to make my content more relevant and engaging?
  • Can I present the information in a more visually appealing or easy-to-digest format, such as an infographic, video, or interactive tool?
  • Is there a unique perspective or contrarian view that I can offer to challenge common assumptions or provide a fresh take on the topic?
  • Do I have access to exclusive data, interviews, or resources that can enhance the credibility and value of my content?
  • Can I provide a more comprehensive or step-by-step approach to solving the problem, making it easier for readers to implement the advice?
  • Is there an opportunity to address common mistakes or misconceptions related to the topic, helping readers avoid pitfalls and achieve better results?
  • Can I include real-life examples, success stories, or expert quotes to make the content more relatable and inspiring for readers?
  • Is there a way to make the content more actionable, such as by providing worksheets, templates, or checklists that readers can use to apply the insights for themselves?

As you brainstorm your unique value adds, keep your target audience firmly in mind. Think about their specific needs, pain points, and goals, and how your distinctive perspective can help them achieve better results or gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a blog post about “10 Tips for Better Time Management.” Your competitors might offer generic advice like “create a to-do list” or “prioritize your tasks.”

But you could add genuine value by sharing a personal story about how you overcame a specific time management challenge, adding unusual tips crowdsourced from a forum, or by including a printable worksheet that helps readers implement your tips.

#5. Add any further research to your outline

Now let’s flesh out your blog post outline with any additional research that will enhance your content.

Start by reviewing your outline and identifying parts where you may need to gather more information, examples, or data to support your points. This could include:

  • Industry statistics or trends that demonstrate the importance or relevance of your topic
  • Expert quotes or insights that lend credibility to your arguments
  • Case studies or real-world examples that illustrate your key points in action
  • Scientific research or studies that back up your claims or recommendations

As you conduct your research, be sure to keep track of your sources and citations. This helps you build trust with your readers and avoid any potential issues with plagiarism.

When you add your research findings to your outline, think carefully about how each piece of information fits into the overall structure and flow of your blog post. Use your outline as a guide to make sure your research supports your main points without overwhelming the reader.

Also, don’t forget to draw upon your own knowledge and experiences to add depth and originality to your content. If you have personal anecdotes, lessons learned, or unique insights that relate to your topic, consider incorporating them into your outline as well.

#6. Use the correct heading structure

Now let’s look at organizing your content on the page, using the proper heading structure. Following a clear and logical heading hierarchy makes your blog post easier to read, understand, and navigate – both your audience and for search engines.

Start by reviewing your outline and identifying the main sections or topics that you want to cover in your blog post. These will typically become your H2 subheadings, which are the second-level headings that come after your main H1 title.

For each H2 subheading, are there any sub-topics or supporting points that deserve their own H3 subheadings? You should use these third-level headings to break up longer sections and provide additional structure and clarity to your content.

As you assign headings to your outline, keep in mind the following best practices:

  • Don’t worry about using your target keyword in all the headings (this can risk over-optimization)
  • Use descriptive headings that clearly communicate the content of each section
  • Keep your headings concise and to the point, ideally no more than 60 characters long
  • Use parallel structure and consistent grammatical format for all headings at the same level
  • Avoid using more than four levels of headings (H1, H2, H3, and H4) unless absolutely necessary
  • Use headings to break up your content into manageable chunks and guide readers through your post

Using the correct heading structure also helps improve your on-page SEO. By following a logical hierarchy, search engines can more easily understand the content and context of your post, potentially leading to higher rankings and more organic traffic.

#7. Make sure you have the right tools

Think about the tools you’re using to build your outlines. I normally use Google Docs for outlining my blog posts. This works well because it autosaves the content, saving me from any disaster moments if things crash.

Google Docs also has a handy outlining feature with headings that correspond to the normal heading hierarchy used on the web (H1-H6). That means if you copy and paste your outline from Google Docs into WordPress, it should retain the same heading structure.

Another way to do it is to type or voice dictate the outline directly into the WordPress text editor. This can be a little risky, as you risk losing your content if the browser crashes. You could also try a handy little tool called Dynalist, which works great for creating and editing simple document outlines.

Frase is a great choice if you want something more sophisticated, as it uses AI to access the top 10 results and pull them into a dashboard. This is a useful way to quickly analyze the key ingredients in your competitors’ posts and identify what’s missing.

#8. [Optional] Ask AI to improve your blog post outline

As you finalize your blog post outline, consider using AI tools to help you refine and optimize your content plan.

Tools like Claude, ChatGPT or Gemini can give you valuable insights and suggestions to make sure your outline is well-structured, comprehensive, and aligned with your target audience’s needs and interests.

To use AI for sense-checking your blog post outline, simply copy and paste your outline into an AI writing assistant or content optimization tool.

Some key areas where AI can help sense-check your blog post outline include:

  • Keyword optimization – AI tools can help you identify additional relevant keywords to include in your headings and throughout your content, based on your target keyword and related search queries.
  • Content gaps – By comparing your outline to top-ranking content for your target keyword, AI can highlight any potential gaps or areas where you may need more detail to fully address the topic (Note: your tool needs Internet access to do this).
  • Readability and clarity – AI can assess the readability and clarity of your outline, suggesting ways to simplify complex concepts, break up long sentences or paragraphs, and ensure that your content is easy to understand for your target audience.
  • Engagement and emotional resonance – Some AI tools can even analyze the emotional tone and sentiment of your outline, providing suggestions for making your content more engaging, persuasive, or emotionally resonant with readers.

Keep in mind, these tools are best for providing suggestions and insights, not for replacing your own expertise and judgment.

Always review and carefully consider any AI-generated recommendations. Only use those that align properly with your brand voice, content goals, and target audience’s needs (you can train your AI tool on these in advance).

AI tools are really helpful with optimizing your blog post outlines, but they still aren’t a true substitute for human creativity, empathy, and subject matter expertise. I recommend using AI as an assistant to enhance and improve your blog post outlines, but not relying on it entirely.

#9. Flesh out each section

OK, it’s time to convert your outline into a compelling, informative blog post. As you flesh out each section of your outline, here’s what I’d recommend keeping in mind to make sure the post is clear, engaging, and effective.

First, make sure you use a simple and clear writing style. Yes, it can be tempting to show off your expertise by using complicated jargon or sophisticated sentence structures.

But this approach may backfire and alienate your readers. Instead, focus on using plain, straightforward language that is easy for your target audience to understand and relate to.

I like to do this by writing like I speak. Imagine that you’re having a conversation with your reader, and use a natural, conversational tone in your writing.

This approach can help make your content feel more approachable and engaging, even when discussing complex topics. For extra help with this, try using voice typing to speak your content onto the page.

Nevertheless, it’s still important to showcase your expertise and authority on the subject matter. Look for opportunities to incorporate your unique insights, experiences, and knowledge throughout your blog post.

Sharing real-world examples, case studies, or personal anecdotes lets you demonstrate your credibility and helps your readers trust your advice.

As you write, speak directly to your reader using the second person (“you” and “your”). This creates a sense of connection and personalization, making your content feel more relevant and valuable to your target audience.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to use the first person (“I” and “my”) when sharing your own opinions, experiences, or recommendations. This humanizes your brand and makes your content more authentic and relatable.

Here are some more best practices to keep in mind as you flesh out your blog post:

  • Use short paragraphs and plenty of white space to break up your content and make it more visually appealing and easy to scan.
  • Weave in relevant images and/or videos to provide extra value to your readers (for example, embedding a related YouTube video where you walk them through a key concept)
  • Use bold, italics, or other formatting techniques sparingly to highlight key points or takeaways, but avoid overusing them as it can make your content look messy.
  • Include internal and external links to related content or resources that can help your readers further explore the topic or take action on your advice.

#10. Draft a powerful introduction and conclusion

The final step in my typical outlining process is to create a compelling introduction and conclusion to hook readers and support business goals.

Let’s start with the introduction. As I mentioned earlier, it’s best to keep your intro short and to the point.

Avoid the temptation to ramble or include unnecessary background information. Instead, focus on immediately addressing the problem or question that brought your reader to your blog post in the first place.

One effective framework I like to use is the problem-agitate-solution (PAS) copywriting framework.

Begin by clearly stating the problem your reader is facing, then agitate that problem by highlighting the negative consequences or emotions associated with it. Finally, introduce your blog post as the solution they’ve been looking for to overcome that challenge.

For example, if you’re writing a post about “10 Tips for Better Time Management,” your introduction might look something like this:

“Do you constantly feel overwhelmed and stretched thin, with never enough hours in the day to get everything done? (Problem) If you’re struggling to keep up with your workload and constantly battling the stress and frustration of poor time management, you’re not alone. (Agitate) But the good news is, there are proven strategies you can implement today to take control of your schedule and boost your productivity. (Solution)”

I also recommend including a brief “authority statement” in your introduction. This is a sentence or two that summarizes your expertise or experience related to the topic, helping to establish your credibility and build trust with your reader.

Here’s one of mine:

Now, let’s move on to the conclusion. A great conclusion should be a powerful ending to the blog post. It should reinforce the key takeaways and leave your reader with a clear action plan.

First give a quick summary of the main points you covered in your post. This reinforces the value of the information you’ve shared, and makes it easier for your reader to remember and implement your advice.

Next, include some actionable takeaways or next steps that your reader can implement right away. For example, a list of key strategies to try, a downloadable worksheet or template, or even a challenge to put one of your tips into practice within the next 24 hours.

Finally, include a clear call-to-action (CTA) in your conclusion. This could be an invitation to book a free consultation call, download your lead magnet, or purchase a low-ticket product that will help them further achieve their goals.

This is key for keeping your reader engaged with your brand and guiding them closer to becoming a loyal customer or client (otherwise, what’s the point of writing this blog post in the first place?)

Your Roadmap to Better Blog Posts

By now, you should be feeling well-equipped to create blog posts outlines that rank well and provide immense value to your readers.

Using clear language, speaking directly to your reader, and drawing on your expertise to provide actionable advice will help you create blog posts that resonate with your target audience and inspire them to take action.

By consistently publishing high-quality content, you’ll quickly become an authority in your niche and build a loyal following of readers who trust your expertise.

So put these strategies into practice and start writing!

To take your blog post writing skills to the next level, download my free Optimized Blog Post Template (that helped me grow a blog to 100K+ organic visits per month).

This handy resource will guide you through each step of the writing process, ensuring that you create successful blog posts efficiently.

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