How to Quickly Create a Blog Post Outline (Template)

Imagine you’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop. Your latte is hot, your laptop is open, and you’re ready to write your next brilliant blog post. Where others see a blank page, you see a limitless sea of possibility, waiting to be filled with your persuasive prose and captivating copy.

You start tapping away at the keys, sipping your coffee, thrilled with your progress.

Then you try reading what you’ve written and realize it doesn’t flow. In fact, you’re not exactly sure what you’re even trying to say. And if you’re confused, your readers will be confused too. The awesome article you thought you were writing is starting to sound like a disaster.

Where did you go wrong? You started writing without creating an outline first.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Fortunately, it’s also a mistake you never need to make again. We’re going to show you how to create effective blog post outlines that will help you write better articles more quickly. Plus, we’ll give you a copy-and-paste template to make the task even easier.

What is a Blog Post Outline?

A blog post outline is a simple document that describes the angle and structure of your article. They make it easier to write clearly and efficiently while staying focused on your topic. A good outline should include the following items:

  • Your topic: What are you writing about?
  • Your angle: What’s your perspective on that topic?
  • Your structure: What specific points will you make to support your angle?

You can also include working titles, though some writers prefer to write headlines after their post is finished. This helps make sure your selected headline actually fits the finished article. 

Why Should You Start Every Post With an Outline?

Whether you’re blogging for yourself or for a brand, you’re writing because you have something to say, and you want your words to make an impact on your readers. But if your writing is hard to follow, or your point isn’t clear, your post will fall flat and those readers will move on.

An outline will make sure that doesn’t happen by clarifying what you want to say before you start writing. Not only does this help you avoid wasting time writing draft after draft of your post until you get it right, it improves the quality of your writing. 

Better content in less time? Sounds good to us.

When Should You Write an Outline?

It’s almost always a good idea to start with an outline any time you write a piece of content, but they are especially helpful when:

  1. You’re writing a long-form post (approximately 1,000 words or more).
  2. You’re writing about a complex topic that requires a lot of research to accurately cover.
  3. You’re assigning a post to another writer for your blog and need to make sure they understand what you want the post to touch on.

The point is to clarify your thinking so you can clarify your writing and produce better content more quickly. However, the point is not to follow rules for no reason, and there are times when it may not be necessary to write an outline.

For example, if you’re writing a personal essay for your blog, you might prefer to let your thoughts flow in a more stream of consciousness sort of way. Or if you’re crafting a short news blurb, you could probably write your entire post in the time it’d take to outline it. Use your own judgment and learn what works best for you.

How to Outline Your Next Blog Post, Quickly

Different writers have different approaches to creating outlines. Steal this process to get started, then feel free to adapt it to fit your own needs.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Step 1: Figure Out Your Topic

Get specific with what you want to write about.

Let’s say you want to write about your most recent vacation. You had an awesome time and you’re sure your readers want to hear about it. But rather than summarizing the entire trip, you want to share a story about something specific. You could start narrowing down your topic by asking:

  • Where did you go?
  • Why did you go there?
  • When did you visit?
  • How did you travel there?
  • What did you do at your destination?

These are simple questions but there is a purpose to this exercise. I’ll share some example answers from an actual vacation my wife and I went on last year:

  1. Where: Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.
  2. Why: To see the fall colors, to see a state we’ve never been to before, and to see where the sun first rises in the United States.
  3. When: In the fall (to see those leaves along the mountainside turning colors).
  4. How: Plane and two rental cars (the first one got hit by a semi-truck).
  5. What we did: All kinds of stuff! Hiking, climbing, catching lobsters in a net. 

From this simple list, you can see there are a ton of topics I could write about. What happens when a semi-truck hits your rental car on vacation (and how did we survive)? What’s it like taking a tour on a lobster boat? What does it look like when the leaves hit peak fall colors in New England?

Suddenly, our blog post about a vacation just got a lot more interesting, and might actually turn into tons of different specific topics that people might enjoy. By asking yourself the five W’s (what, when, where, why, and the honorary 5th W, how), you can break down any broad topic into more specific points too.

If you need a spark of inspiration, here’s over 100 ideas for blog posts you can borrow.

Step 2: Figure Out Your Angle

Anyone can copy content they’ve found through Google but not everyone can bring a unique perspective to their topic. That’s where developing an angle for your blog post comes in.

An angle is the intersection of your topic and your perspective. It’s part of what blog post introductions are intended to establish, helping the reader to understand not only what they’re about to read, but why they should care about it in the first place.

For example, to continue with the vacation example from the previous section, let’s say our blog post is about Acadia National Park. Some good angles might include:

  • Why is Acadia National Park the best place to see the fall colors in New England?
  • What do you wish you knew before tackling the toughest trails in the park?
  • Where is the best destination to find a lobster roll near the park?

These angles not only address the topic but also the perspective. Instead of dry facts and information, they give the reader an incentive to care, and they’ll be more likely to click, read, and stick around the blog. That’s the power of having an angle.

Anyone can copy content they’ve found through Google but not everyone can bring a unique perspective to their topic. That’s where developing an angle for your blog post comes in.

Step 3: Figure Out the Main Points of Your Post

One blog post isn’t enough to cover everything about our vacation, so we’ve narrowed down one specific topic. We’ve also narrowed down an angle that combines our topic with our perspective. Next, we need to identify the main points that our blog post needs to make, in order to follow through on our angle.

In order to construct our outline, we’ll identify three to five points we want to make (you can include as many as you need, but if you have fewer than three main sections in your blog post, you might not need to write an outline).

Going back to our vacation example, let’s say I’m writing about what I wish I knew before hiking in Acadia National Park. Here are some things I might want to cover:

  1. Know your skill level and choose trails accordingly. 
  2. Make sure you have the right footwear for the terrain.
  3. If you’re afraid of scaling rock faces, how can you overcome that fear?
  4. If you only have enough time for a few trails, which ones should you prioritize?
  5. What times are the trails usually the most crowded?

That looks like a solid list. Next, we’ll need to figure out what we’ll say for each of these items.

Step 4: Nail Down the Specific Subpoints You’ll Make in Each Section

Once you have the main points of your blog post mapped out, think about what you’ll say for each one. This can be as simple as two or three bullet points per section.

Let’s take the first item from the list of trail tips in the previous section:

  1. Know your skill level and choose trails accordingly
    1. Some trails will stretch your abilities but some are for experts only
    2. You can get a trail map that will help you find ones you’re comfortable with
    3. Difficult trails sometimes have alternate routes you can take if you get tired

Straightforward stuff, right? Continue with each subsection until you have two or three subpoints for all of them.

Step 5: Review the Structure of Your Outline

Follow steps one through four, and before you know it, you’ll have a completed outline. Take a moment to read it over and make sure your angle fits your topic and everything flows in a logical order. If it doesn’t, try moving some sections around,

An Example Blog Post Outline You Can Follow

Before we move on, let’s take a look at an example outline you can follow. Here’s what the finished product looks like when it’s all said and done:

  • Headline: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Hiking in Acadia National Park
  • Introduction (angle): Acadia National Park is a great place to hike, but it’s even better when you know what to be prepared for. Here’s my personal experience.
  • Tip 1: Know your skill level and choose trails accordingly
    • Some trails will stretch your abilities but some are for experts only
    • You can get a trail map that will help you find ones you’re comfortable with
    • Difficult trails sometimes have alternate routes you can take if you get tired
  • Tip 2: Bring the Right Footwear
    • Good hiking boots are a must on most trails
    • However, decent sandals may be sufficient for some trails
    • Bring multiple pairs of boots and shoes for different situations
  • Tip 3: Overcome Your Fear of Treacherous Trails
    • Some trails will take you up rocky portions of mountainside on very narrow walkways
    • They are safe as long as you’re careful (just don’t look down)
    • The rewards are worthwhile when you see the views from the top
  • Tip 4: Prioritize Trails to Make the Most of Your Time
    • If you know there are certain types of scenery you want to see the most (mountains, forest, ocean, etc.) choose trails that provide those types of terrain and views
  • Tip 5: Hike at Off-Peak Hours (If Possible)
    • The park is very busy
    • Consider hiking in the early morning or evening to beat the crowds
    • Timing your trip outside of peak vacation season can also help alleviate crowding
  • Conclusion

This is a very quick and simple outline (and it’s not totally what I’d write if I were actually going to write this post) but it’s sufficient for demonstration purposes.

Use This Copy and Paste Blog Post Outline Template

Now that we’ve walked through the entire process of crafting an outline, here is an easy-to-use template that you can copy and paste into a document. You can edit and update this template however you’d like (some suggestions might be to add sample headlines or a brief two or three-sentence section describing your angle):

  • Introduction (what’s the angle of this post?)
  • Main point 1
    • Subpoint 1
    • Subpoint 2
    • Subpoint 3
  • Main point 2
    • Subpoint 1
    • Subpoint 2
    • Subpoint 3
  • Main point 3
    • Subpoint 1
    • Subpoint 2
    • Subpoint 3
  • Conclusion
  • Optional CTA 

It’s as easy as that.

Now You’re Ready to Outline Your Next Post

Writing outlines doesn’t have to take too much time in order to be an effective exercise. Once you get into the habit of writing them before starting on blog posts, and start to see the benefits of doing so, you won’t want to break the habit. Now, go forth and write better blog posts, faster!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Sailer

Ben Sailer is the Director of Inbound Marketing for WordPress.com at Automattic. His areas of expertise include content strategy, search engine optimization, marketing analytics, and more. He is also a freelance journalist, covering underground rock music and video games. When he's not working, you can find him playing guitar and getting outdoors with his wife Rachel and their dog Audrey.

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