If you think content creation is a no-brainer, think again!
From brainstorming, writing, and editing to finally grabbing your readers’ attention with all the right content marketing strategies - there is a lot that goes into building quality content. It’s hard work.
To create a truly outstanding post that brings in high traffic and generates leads, you need to spend a good couple of hours of your day on it. Here’s the drill-down of everything that goes into it:
- Finding out the best keywords to use
- Researching on your topic
- Bringing in facts and figures to support your viewpoints
- Arranging your content
- Adding in images or videos to support your content
- Analysing data
- Writing and rewriting till everything falls in place
- And so much more.
The whole process can be quite overwhelming and daunting, to say the least. To succeed and create incredible content, you need to chart out an outline for your post. In other words, create a content outline.
This article will take you through what a content outline is, how you can create one, provide you with a content outline example, and much more. Sounds good? Here we go!
What is a content outline?
Simply put, a content outline is the backbone of any article, blog, essay, or novel that you wish to write. It acts as the basis of information for creating your final draft. It’s a framework for putting forward the main and supporting ideas for a particular topic.
Preparing a content outline will help you organize your thoughts, facts, and media. It works as the skeleton of your article. With a content outline in place, you will be able to produce content that is more informative, well structured, and easy to read.
To some, the task of writing out a content outline may seem tedious and time-consuming but every writer who is in it for the long haul will swear by it.
A content outline will enable you to plan how your take on a particular topic will stand out. It will also provide context as to why anyone should read your article and creates sufficient depth into each section so that the final product is captivating.
It will help you stick to a pre-agreed template and not deviate from the basic plan laid out. Content outline is also a remedy for the ‘writers’ block’ if you are ever faced with one.
A writer's block is what happens to you when you end up staring at the screen of your laptop or onto a piece of paper not knowing how to complete a piece of writing that you started working on. It allows you to break free from the inability to write or create content.
A content outline has many sections to it. It comprises all the headers, keywords, images, quotes, and statistics that you have compiled to create the final draft.
A simple content outline example would be that of assembling a piece of furniture. Before you can put it all together, you will have to first lay down all the pieces before you.
An instruction manual is provided to you, which will guide you on how all the different components fit together to create that unit. The content outline is just like the instruction manual that you are provided with every time you buy a product - stick to the manual and you’re sorted!
How to build a content outline that will rank well?
Content outlines help you create a logical and coherent structure for your post, making it simpler for you to translate your thoughts and ideas into meaningful words.
Let’s take a look at the 6 steps for creating a strong content outline:
1. Research to determine what you’ll write
Start with keyword research. Keyword research refers to the process of finding out words and phrases that people search for in search engines like Google.
Keyword research will help you understand your target audience. You will gain insights into what users are looking for. This is also called intent mapping. Keyword intent will help you learn what problem the user is trying to solve and what their needs are.
Many writers struggle to describe the primary focus of their write-up. Deciding on a topic from a range of possibilities can seem like a difficult task but having a clear understanding of the larger purpose of your content is equally important.
Having a set of goals in your mind will help you define the guidelines and limitations on what is appropriate for your post. Think on the lines of what you want your readers to understand from your topic. That will help you steer your ideas toward the particular message that you want your readers to take home.
2. Figure out a working title
A headline or title is the first thing that you see in a post. The idea here is to get 3-5 titles and add them to your blog outline. Your titles don’t have to be perfect. You just need to have a few ideas in place that incorporate the 3 elements mentioned below.
Intrigue: Firstly, your headline should have a dash of intrigue to it. It should grab the attention of your reader. You can do this by making a bold promise and backing it up with some impressive content.
You can also add in some interesting facts and figures, like the ones that you would see in the titles of case studies.
Benefit: Next up, it’s time to show your readers what's in it for them to read the article. Include a benefit that they deeply long for in your title. This should of course be related to your topic.
For this, you will need to understand what your readers' desires and pain points are. You could then insert a clause benefit to the title.
That is, use words like ‘that’ and ‘so that’ and follow it up with the benefit. By adding a benefit clause you let your readers know what they will gain by reading your content.
Target keyword: Lastly, include the target keyword in your post’s title. You may think that it’s necessary to use the correct keywords and that too right at the beginning of your title for it to rank high on search results. But that’s not the case. The reasons for a low ranking could be much deeper and may not have anything to do with your title. However, the focus should be more on your readers and on how you want to appeal to them.
3. Start gathering the necessary info for the article
Once you are through with your initial research and have narrowed it down on your title, it’s time for you to start collecting the necessary information for your article.
Here’s a 3 step process:
- Find the necessary evidence: As you start drafting your article, you might find yourself making assumptions. To avoid that, you’d need to dig up stats, quotes, videos, and any resource to back that argument.
- Use Dashword to go one layer deeper: Your initial research isn’t enough. You need to find all the topics covered by the top 10 SERP results, potential questions that your audience might ask, the word length of the top article, and much more. You can do all that with Dashword in a 2-clicks.
- Use Ahrefs to determine competition: It’s almost mandatory to do competitor analysis – their keywords, top pages, backlinks, etc. This can dictate your article’s outline and what should (or shouldn’t) go into it. The best way is to pair this report with Dashword and filter out the keywords and topics you want to use.
4. Break it down: Use H-tags to do it
Now that you have all the information ready it’s time to break it down and format your content outline with the help of headline tags. H tags create the structure for your content. They are numbered from 1 to 6.
H1 tag is the name or the title of your content. It’s the most important heading and there will just be one H1 tag for a post.
From there on, H2 tags are subheadings that are used to break down your content into logical sections.
H3 tags go a step further and allow you to clarify your content.
H4, H5, and H6 tags help organize the content by adding the finer details to it.
H tags give your content structure, improve accessibility and boost SEO.
5. Find stats or anecdotal evidence for claims to be made in the article
People love it when you include statistics in your posts because who can argue with numbers? They are proof to back up whatever it is that you have to say.
Anecdotal evidence on the other hand are accounts of people about their experiences with a certain product or service, or it could be about something that has happened to them, a story, or a testimonial they share.
These are real-life accounts of real people and they matter. You can use them to support claims made in the article. Ensure the information that you choose to include is not outdated.
6. Find images to support the content or write a brief that will go to the designer
Find images to include in your article. Studies reveal that adding images to your article will increase viewership by 94% on average.
Decide on the number of images you want to add, depending on the length of your article.
If you are unable to create images or find them on the internet, you can outsource this activity to a graphic designer by writing them an image brief clearly stating your expectations.
Content outline example laid out for your reference
Let’s expand on this sample content outline with an example and see what it looks like.
We’ll use this topic: 5 Work from home productivity tips for remote workers
Intro: Start with some stats on why remote work might contribute to loss of productivity
H2: Work from home productivity tips
- H3: Keep a journal and list out your daily priorities
- H3: Follow a routine
- H3: Start task batching
- H3: Keep a designated workspace
- H3: Set boundaries for family and pets
H2: Benefits of working from home
- H3: Flexible structure
- H3: Work-life balance
- H3: Cost Saving
Conclusion: Bring it home by summing up the above topics covered; it’s best to include a quote from an experienced remote worker who follows the tips.
Though content outlining seems like a lengthy process, once you have it ready, the whole writing process becomes a cakewalk for you. With a content outline in place, the hard work is done and now all you have to do is put those ideas into full sentences, and before you know it your final draft is ready.