Very rarely does a blog writer spin out a post without some form of outline or structure planned beforehand. How much outline, how much structure, depends on the writer and their personal process. Some people write down a couple of subheadings and general points, while others like to go the whole nine yards with summaries for every paragraph. If you want a winning outline formula, you’re going to end up closer to the latter, though as you use it more and more you’ll start to internalize some of the process. Still, how do you get started on that road? How do you craft a fine, detailed outline for a winning blog post?
You can, perhaps, replace the word title with topic. The purpose is the same. Create a one-sentence summary of the topic you’re about to cover. Format it like a title, make it a working title, whatever; the point is to have something around which you can focus the rest of your outline. Make it specific and catchy, if you can. “How to Create a Perfect Outline for a Blog Article” is better than “Writing Blogs.” If your sentence is catchy enough, you can easily adapt it into the final posted title. If not, don’t worry; it’s not as though this working title is set in stone. You can change it at any time. In fact, you may change it as you work on the outline and discover another direction you want to go with the post.
This step is the meat of your outline. Come up with the big overarching topics you want to cover within the main topic of your blog post. Just throw ideas on paper, don’t worry about categorizing them or sorting them yet. Write down anything that comes to mind. It can be useful to imagine yourself in the perspective of a user reading this post; what sort of questions do they have when they ask the question you pose in your title? Again, these don’t have to be pretty. Just jot down words and phrases that cover ideas, if necessary. Don’t focus too much on one point unless that point will be the central focus of your post. Coming up with the details comes later.
Once you have your brainstorm list it’s time to do some basic sorting. Separate out the biggest points and put them in an order that flows throughout the article. For example, if you’re writing about the process for setting up a blog, you might want to begin with domain/host considerations, then transition to blog platform choices, then on to themes and layouts, and onwards. Some of the points you wrote down in the previous step won’t work as subheadings, but they fit as content beneath one of the subheadings. Good; put them in the category for later.
At this point, you have your subheadings and a few points to go beneath a few of them. Now it’s time to flesh out each point. Go over each subheading in detail and come up with what you want to cover in each area. Some will be short, some will be long and some will be middle of the road. That’s okay; sometimes you don’t need a lot of information for the basic early steps when the meat of your post will come with the later information. You may discover that some of your previously brainstormed ideas no longer fit the flow; if so, cut them and set them aside for possible use elsewhere, or in another post later.
Refine the flow of your blog post now. Skim over it and determine what works and what doesn’t. Are there any points that are so basic your audience might think you’re patronizing them? Are there any points that seem to come from logical leaps the user might not follow? Cut and elaborate as necessary. If you have major subheadings with very little content, see if you can come up with something else to add. If you have subheadings with a lot of content, see if they might be split up into more reasonable lengths.
Now it’s time to fill in the details. You have most of the structure of what you want to cover, but you don’t have all of the details. Snowflake as a verb here refers to the snowflake method of writing. For each point you include, write down two sub-points with information you want to cover. For each of those, if possible, write down two sub-branches. Continue this method, like the branching paths of an ice crystal, to expand your content. This fractal pattern can continue as deep as you have layers to the content you’re covering. Snowflake out details until you have as much as you can feasibly cover in your post.
Now that you have the outline complete, do a little external research. Chances are, when you selected your topic, you had a few other related posts in mind. Maybe you’re even rebutting the information in one of them. Well, this is the moment where you get to compile some links. Find relevant content that matches up with some of your details and slot in links. Remember to use internal links as well as external links; both are valuable to SEO in their own way. Try not to include too many links; linkspam can be bad for your ranking. Include only the most valuable and relevant content.
You have your structure. You have your details. You have your flow. You have your research. All that’s left to do is actually do the writing. Turn each detail into a few relevant sentences. String those sentences together into paragraphs that cover your points. Make those paragraphs flow from one to the next, in the order of your subheadings. Revise your subheadings to fit with the content itself, according to the rules of subheadings. Revise your title to make it fit the content, as well as to fill the role of SEO title and reader hook. With this much preparation, it should be easy.
Now that your post is complete, you can put the finishing touches on it. This mostly includes images that fit your content and add to the story. You may have to create them yourself, or you might want to browse stock photo sites for images you can purchase. Avoid simply performing a Google search and picking images; you never know what license they use or if it’s illegal for you to use them without attribution.
Your blog post is done! All that’s left is to put on the last bits of optimization. Create the meta title and description. Create image alt text. Do a final proofread, using web tools or your own attention. Publish the post and go promote it on social media and networked blogs. Then start it all over again. Once you get the process down, you’ll be able to streamline several of the steps into one, writing and outlining all at once. Practice makes perfect, so get to practicing.