Should you write a blog outline? 72% of bloggers say YES!
Plus introducing the New Surfer SEO Blog Outline Builder : How to write good blogs for SEO
Creating a blog post outline is an invaluable starting point for writing blog content for SEO. In fact, 72% of bloggers say that creating an outline removes uncertainty when they start writing. If you are looking for a way to get the absolute most reward from your blogging efforts, look no further than blog outlines.
This blog post will discuss why it's so important to plan ahead when you write a blog post, blog post formats, SEO copywriting best practices, and the benefits of using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools to help.
I'll show you how I create my own blog post outlines for my own writing in just a few minutes with the Outline Builder from Surfer SEO. I'll follow this in a separate training with how to take the blog post outline over to Jarvis to complete writing the blog post in half the time with the assistance of an AI copywriter.
"Its role is to give you a starting point that you can extend"
- Michał Suski, Digital Marketer - Surfer SEO
"It helps you ensure that you have all your key points laid out before you start on the more time-consuming process of actually writing the piece. I am an absolute believer in the school of thought that having a repeatable process helps you create content faster and more consistently." - Amanda Weston - Blogs by Jarvis
What is an outline for a blog?
A blog outline is a document that specifies the main points of an article. This is useful to help writers to structure their content so that it makes sense to the reader. A structured outline also helps to identify whether or not you've covered all the relevant information. A blog post can be long, so it's easy for your mind to wander off-topic - no matter how focused you are.
Blog outlines save time when you write a blog post
If you're producing content regularly, doing this planning work in advance will pay off by saving you precious time during the writing stage. A good blog post outline helps prevent simple errors like forgetting your target keywords or leaving out important information about your topic. It can also help you maintain a consistent writing style throughout your blog, especially if you are using VA's to help you produce more content.
A blog post outline can be as simple as a list of the main points that you want to cover in your article, or it can be a more complex document that breaks down each section with subheadings and a bulleted list of points.
In some cases, blog outlines will also contain references to supporting data or images, or other articles, which can be helpful when you're placing links in your content.
Why should you write an outline for your blog posts?
I know that some people might think that blog outlines are just extra work - but they not only save time on the back end but also help the writing process run more smoothly with a step-by-step process.
Having an outline helps you progress from a blank page brain dump to a blog post so that when you start writing, not just this blog post but the next blog post, and the one after that, you have actionable strategies to help grow your successful blog.
Benefits of an outline in SEO blog writing
A comprehensive outline allows you to craft a logical flow to your writing. The outlining process helps you focus on keeping the reader's attention and follow the customer journey as they read your wonderful post.
This, in turn, speeds up metrics like "time-on-page," which is especially important in SEO. Remember, the goal is not just to get your blog post to rank high in the search engines and get found by organic traffic.
The goal is to engage your audience, keep them on your site for longer, and get them to take the next step in their customer journey. Having proper blog post outlines helps you achieve this by ensuring that you get all of the relevant information out there fast and early on in your content, which helps to keep the reader engaged for longer.
Consider it the first draft of your blog post. You'll be surprised how quickly you can create a blog post once you have a blog post outline for your new blog!
Do you really need a SEO blog outline?
No. If you are an experienced freelance writer, you may already have the entire process mapped out in your head from your years of experience.
You might instinctively be able to include keyword phrases and interesting data in your writing. You may be so dialed into your target audience that you write exactly what the search engines would like to see, ranking your articles high in Google search and attracting organic traffic.
But if you are reading this blog post, yes, you probably do need a blog post outline. If you're not sure where to start or if your head is swimming with too many possibilities, read on and find out how to create a solid outline for your blog content in minutes.
Where do I start?
Before you start outlining - do the research first.
And then do some more research.
Spend hours doing research!
There's nothing worse than spending hours writing an outline, only to discover later that the topic has already been overdone by an industry competitor or the information you gathered is not actually accurate.
A few places to look when doing your research include:
- Google search results
- Quora posts on the same topic
- Social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook groups for professionals in your industry
- Your email inbox for messages from readers or messages in your social media inbox
These days, you can also use tools like Buzzsumo to see what's hot and current. These resources will help give you the latest information on your topic, as well as any new ideas and angles that not everyone has covered yet.
Start by brainstorming keywords that are relevant to your blog content topic. Identify long-tail keywords that are less competitive, as well as a list of trends, topics, and questions people are asking around your topic idea and focus keyword.
For example, if your blog post is about the beach, you might come up with some keywords like surfboards, beach houses, surf lessons.
Research the popularity of those keywords and how often they are searched with Google Keyword Planner.
Spend a little time looking at the blog posts your competitors are writing and see what they're covering.
How many other sites are ranking for these keywords? Do a quick search on Google to find out if you can rank for that keyword phrase, or is it too competitive?
Next, look at the data to see what has been trending in your space or industry lately - what are people talking about?
Consider who you want to read the post and make sure your keywords and style match their expectations. What will keep them interested?
If the keyword phrase I want to rank in Google for has high search volume and low competition, then I would write my blog post outline with this keyword phrase in mind.
What should be included in a blog post outline?
A blog post outline should always have a title, even if you start with a working title, an introduction, the main body copy, a conclusion, and a call-to-action. This gives you a SEO blog outline template to work to for your final post.
The structure of each particular post may change based on the type of blog posts and the intent, but a basic outline template would look something like this:
Blog Post Title
The title of your post should be snappy, enticing, and contain the exact keyword you want to rank for.
Your introduction should be a summary of your blog post in a sentence or two, with a cliffhanger element (hook) that makes them not want to leave without reading the rest of your article.
Headings and Subheadings
These provide the flow of content creation. Make sure to include your keyword once or twice, and if you've done enough research, include some longer-tail keywords too.
Main Body Copy
Each H2 / H3 heading needs 2 - 5 paragraphs of text. These provide the meat of your blog content and are where you go in-depth about your topic. They will include each key point about the subject matter you have decided to include from your topic deep research.
Bullet points are for specific items that do not require longer explanations. They include brief, one-sentence explanations using keywords where possible and break up the main body copy to make it easier to read.
A frequently asked questions section is where you include the answers to relevant questions that are being asked around your topic idea and focus keyword and the topical and trending information that will be of interest to your target audience.
The last paragraph of your blog post should sum up the main points and give a call-to-action. The call-to-action could be subscribing to a newsletter, signing up for a free trial, or purchasing a product. You can bring your post full circle with the conclusion by referencing the hook in your blog post intro.
Who uses an outline to plan their blog posts?
Online businesses, bloggers, marketers, and freelancers may find value in creating a blog post outline to save time writing.
How do I write a great blog post outline?
You have to lay the foundations for your content creation and the structure for each particular section. The more detailed the outline, the simpler creating the content is.
With the new Outline Builder tool from our friends at Surfer SEO, I'll show you how to create a blog post outline in less than 5 minutes.
I use Surfer SEO to outline my own blog posts, and the Article Outline Builder creates outlines for me at the click of a button! It's so easy it feels like cheating!
Another way is to use a Jarvis Recipe, which is essentially a blog post outline template.
Thankfully there are tools out there that help us create great blog posts with just a few clicks.
Create your blog post outline with the best SEO tool - Surfer!
Surfer has one of the quickest and easiest blog outline builders I've ever used, so if it's starting to be a real struggle to write your blogs, you might consider giving it a try yourself.
It's not just for creating a SEO blog outline, though! You can use the same outlining process for a landing page, a sales funnel, or any other type of content you want to write.
It's really easy to use, and you can get your outline done, usually in under ten minutes. I'm going to walk you through exactly how it works and how it makes blogging for your business easier.
Surfer SEO Discount
Surfer is the most powerful and easy-to-use SEO software on the market. With the Blogs by Jarvis exclusive trial offer, you can try it risk-free for 30 days with unlimited NLP credits and access to an SEO Masterclass worth $199* - all for just $1! (See Surfer SEO Pricing)
Take 30 days to decide whether or not this is the right product for your needs before committing to anything long-term. You'll also have access to unlimited NLP credits so that you can get started ranking in Google today!
You can skip to the video now or follow the training step-by-step below.
What is Surfer Brief (Surfer Outline Builder)?
Next to the Guidelines tab, you'll see the tab for Surfer Outline Builder & Brief. This is where you can begin to build your outline.
The Outline tab contains the outline builder (titles, headings), and topics and questions (people also asked). The Brief tab shows the selected competitors.
Let's start in the Surfer Content Editor, where I have set up the blog post for the target keyword "how to organize kitchen cabinet" based on my keyword research.
Understanding the Surfer guidelines tab
In the top right-hand corner of the screen, you'll see the Guidelines tab with the Content Score, which is currently at one because we've not written any content yet!
The Content Score contains the information needed to guide the blog post outline based on the target keyword or keyword phrase: the suggested word count, how many headings (H1, H2, etc.) and paragraphs should be used, as well as the preferred number of images for this blog post.
The guidelines are based on the content from competitor analysis of articles that rank in the top positions of the SERPs (search engine results pages).
To see which competitors have been selected, you can click on the gear icon above your keyword.
The five most relevant competitors are selected by default when you set up the content editor, and you have the option to toggle on and off various competitors as well as make other adjustments to the settings, which I have covered in a previous training. You'll see their content score and domain authority, which influences their position in the first page of the search engines.
Below the content score, you'll see the suggested keywords to use in the blog post, along with the number of each time each one should be used. You can view ALL keywords, the ones to use in headings, or NLP (terms from Natural Language Processing).
The Outline contains headings and unique paragraphs generated from analyzing top-ranking competitors for the target keyword(s). Using these suggestions will help you outline your article faster than ever.
You don't need to worry that someone will write another article with the same outline. The AI-generated content is unique. I'll be showing you how to pick and choose what you want to use from this content, how to rewrite it, or simply employ it as a prompt in Jarvis to expand the blog post content further to meet the word count.
Surfer Blog Outline Builder in action!
I'm going to write an article on "how to organize kitchen cabinets."
In this example, you'll see Surfer AI-generated 2 Titles (H1), 44 Headings (H2), and 28 Subheadings (H3-H6). All the content is unique.
You'll see how the Outline Builder is organized in terms of titles and headings groups. This allows you to first select your H1 heading from the list, then the blog post introduction (hint - I like to take elements from all the suggested paragraphs and combine them!), before you progress to choosing your H2 headings.
Working your way through the titles and paragraphs generated by Surfer allows you to build out a comprehensive article that flows naturally. You don't have to include them all; just pick the ones that make the most sense in the context of your blog post and speak to your audience to help them solve their problem.
Titles and headings are available for all languages supported by Surfer, but currently, the paragraphs are generated only in English.
The generated content is 100% unique, written by the Surfer AI, so there are no concerns about plagiarism.
I often rewrite the headings and, of course, the content to make it match the intent a little better or to include more keywords, but that's completely optional.
Selecting the blog title (H1)
Let's start with the first two titles suggested by Surfer:
The 59 Best Kitchen Cabinet Organization Ideas of All Time
20 Genius Ways to Organize Kitchen Cabinets
Considering this is a blog with an informative intent, as it's a 'How to' blog post, and bearing in mind the guidelines suggest that we need to have between 43 and 119 headings, I'm going to say that the first title - 59 best kitchen cabinet organization ideas of all time - is a really good title for this blog post.
Using odd numbers in blog post titles can really grab attention when people are scanning the results in search engines.
I also like using the term 'Best' in blog posts because people like to feel they are getting the best solution, and it immediately implies that this is a quality post.
Using 'of all time' in the post title indicates that these are tried and tested methods for cabinet organization, so people know they won't be wasting their time reading this blog post.
I'll probably go for this format (plus or minus one or two words) when I write the post because it's attention-grabbing, informative, topical, keyword-rich, but not too spammy sounding.
The second title: 20 genius ways to organize kitchen cabinets is also good, and I would like to incorporate that as an H2 - Organizing kitchen cabinets: 59 genius ways.
Surfers' user-friendly interface
Let's look at another enhancement that the new Surfer outline builder brings.
In the titles and paragraphs section, you'll see words underlined and in purple text. These indicate a target keyword from the content guidelines.
When working to build the blog outline, you can choose to copy across both the title and paragraph or just the title or paragraph independently, with one easy click!
It's so much easier than working in a google doc and doing lots of 'copy and paste.' You can build out exactly what you want to include to cover the key points of your blog topic with just a few clicks.
Selecting and editing H2 titles
As I work through I might adjust some of the titles I select to better suit the working title and theme of my blog post. For example, I might change the number of items in a list to match, e.g., 59 Genius Ways.
Tip: Make sure to expand the sub-headings under the headings suggestions.
Here you can see a subheading of "How do I organise my kitchen cabinets" has show subheadings underneath it.
Click on show subheadings to expand.
As you work through, you'll need to decide where each section fits into the flow of your article, rather than just clicking and adding them in the order they are displayed. Think about the narrative you want your blog post to follow.
Watch as I work through and give you an insight into my process of selection and positioning to build my SEO blog outline template for this post.
Create your Blog Post Outline with the all-new Surfer Outline Builder
You'll see that I haven't managed to reach 59 ideas from the suggestions. I only got to 53.
This is where Jasper Boss Mode comes into play (or the AI writer of your choice). Once you have copied this all into the SEO-friendly content generator, you'll be able to have Jasper complete the SEO-optimized article for you. It's so easy; it feels like it can't be true.
It's totally amazing. Using Surfer and Jarvis to write a blog post makes it so simple; anyone can do it!
Surfer generated content
To be completely honest, the Surfer-generated content isn't something you can just add and leave as it is. It does need reading and editing.
Some of it may be irrelevant. However, I do personally find that I can take a concept or idea from the AI-generated content that I can use to write the rest of that section. Or even better, I can have Jarvis do it for me!
Internal linking opportunities
As you establish your blog outline using this method, keep an eye out for opportunities to add internal links and ideas for future articles. In this example, I have spotted 'rethink your refrigerator.' That sounds like a really good topic idea for another blog post to build this authority site.
I would add the section now, and later, when I have written one blog post for maybe 'refrigerator storage,' I could add an internal link.
You might also have published other articles on your blog that this article can link to. For example, if you have an article on recycling storage ideas, you could link to that article from section #53 Kitchen Cabinet Recycling Zone.
Topics and Questions
In the Surfer Outline Builder, you'll also find topics and questions. These are similar to People Also Asked from Google.
You can use these topics and questions as additional H2 headings to increase the number of headings if you are struggling to meet the guidelines.
In this example post, I have reached 66 headings already, so I might not need to use them. It's worth reading through and picking out any that you think are really pertinent. You can add them at the end, like an FAQ section, or incorporate them within the body of the post, wherever they seem to fit the best.
As you'll see, at this stage, only some of the keywords have turned green. That means we have to work through the content to optimize it and make sure each target keyword has been included at least the suggested number of times. This is something I would do later after I have completed writing the blog post. That way, I can ensure they are added naturally within the headings and body text.
Let's take a look at the headings, and I'll show you how I add those keywords.
'Kitchen cabinets' has already been used eight times. 'Kitchen cabinet organization ideas' three times. 'How to organize kitchen cabinets' hasn't been used.
I can scan the headings and look for an opportunity to change an H2 to add this keyword. Here it's easy to change 'How do I organize my kitchen cabinets' to 'How to organize kitchen cabinets - my way!
Another one that has not been used is 'cabinet door,' that's definitely going to be easy to incorporate. Let's just make an H2 "Don't forget to use the cabinet door!'
Once you have used each keyword the suggested number of times, it will turn from red to green. If you've hit orange, then you've used it some, but you could use it more. If it goes bold red and shows you a down arrow, then you've used it too much.
So that's an overview of the Surfer Outline Builder, and I hope that's helpful for you when you write a blog post.
Let's quickly recap the outline builder features:
Brief (Outline Builder)
Headings and Subheadings
Topics and Questions
I hope this blog post helps you with understanding how to create a detailed outline for your next blog content and has answered some of those questions you have when writing a blog post, like "What is an outline for a blog?", "How do you write a blog outline?" and "What should a blog post include?"
Of course, you don't have to use the Surfer SEO tool; you can create a blog outline template using everything you have learned here, and instead of using suggestions from Surfer, use your keyword research to create bullet points that you can turn into H2 headings.
We all have different processes for writing; it's not a one-size-fits-all situation. Just because I have a process dialed in that suits me, you may have a different approach. Using Surfer helps you take the main idea to an article outline capable of reaching the first page of the SERP's (Search Engine Results Page). Check out this Free Course on SEO
If you find that you stare at a blank screen, my best advice is that using an AI writer really can help kickstart the thought process. You can take one idea and turn it into so much content, not just a blog article.
You can take that idea and turn it into a well-written e-book for lead generation, social media posts, and other long-form content to reach potential customers more effectively. Contrary to what you might have read, AI writers don't just produce unnecessary fluff. That's one point of view, but one often expressed by inexperienced users who have not taken the time to learn how to use the tools, which is the first step when using new software - a step that people skip all too often.
AI writers can actually help you become a better writer. They can help you to start filling in the gaps with useful information. Of course, there is an additional cost, but for full-time bloggers or small businesses, the ROI is worth it when you can write better content - great content! - that speaks to your ideal customers.
It's pretty easy, but you should try it yourself. Most people start with a free trial. If that's something you's like to do right away, you can gran 5 days (10,000) words to try it for yourself, and see what it looks like.
I'd love to hear your feedback, so please do join me on Facebook and share your experiences and insights. We are a friendly bunch! You'll find people asking all the right questions, people reading and responding to your posts, it's a great place to learn the best ways to make sense of it all.
*Please email a screenshot of your purchase invoice, showing your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you'll receive a coupon code for the SEO Masterclass by return. Recommended Reads: Jasper Mastermind Review 2022 [Grow Your Blog From $0-$100k/Month with Jasper.ai] How to Optimize your LinkedIn Profile