You and I both know it: content creation is not for the faint of heart.
It’s really freakin’ hard.
Creating truly outstanding blog posts that generate traffic and leads requires you to spend hours on end:
- Finding the best keywords to target
- Digging up facts and figures
- Organizing your content and research
- Writing and rewriting until everything finally starts to come together
- Running experiments and analyzing data
- And so much more
The process can be completely overwhelming—which is why I recommend helping yourself in any way you can.
And one of the best ways to help yourself create incredible content as fast as possible is by creating a detailed blog outline.
That’s exactly why I put together this guide revealing my proven process for creating blog outlines that help you write valuable posts that rank (in half the time).
6 Steps to Creating SEO-Driven Blog Outlines That Make Writing a Breeze
Step 1: Select your target keyword.
90% of bloggers and web content writers make the same deadly mistake:
They don’t let keyword opportunities dictate the content they create.
In other words, they don’t base their content strategy on keywords—they base it on what they want to write about or what they think their audience wants to read.
That’s the wrong way to think about your blog (unless you have a news, trends, or strictly personal blog).
Like I talk about in my digital content strategy post, you need to think of your blog as a marketing channel if you want to drive traffic from search engines.
That’s why the first step to creating a blog post outline is finding a great keyword opportunity.
The exact definition of a “great keyword opportunity” will obviously vary depending on the situation, but there are three main elements that are universal:
1. The keyword competition level is within reach for your site.
It’s completely worthless to create content for a keyword you have no chance to rank for—even if it has tons of traffic and you could write fantastic content for it.
A great keyword opportunity has a low enough competition level for your site to rank for within a few months.
2. The keyword will bring ideal customers to your site.
Your target customers search different things in Google than anyone else. They have specific problems their looking to solve and they use certain words and phrases to describe them.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the intent behind any keyword you target in Google.
The quality of the traffic you bring in every month is much more important than the quantity.
3. The keyword has enough search volume to warrant creating content for.
Finally, you want to make sure each keyword has enough monthly searches to warrant all the time you’ll have to spend creating and promoting content to rank for it.
There isn’t a rule-of-thumb number here—it completely depends on your situation.
You might make a cut-off at 100 searches per month if you have a new blog, or you might make it 1,000 searches per month if you’re somewhat established.
Step 2: Compile a list of relevant long-tail and LSI keywords.
Remember just a second ago when we talked about picking a target keyword?
Now it’s time to compile a list of other keywords related to that one to target as well. 🙂
Why am I making you do more work?
Because thanks to the Google Hummingbird update in 2013, you can now rank for 1000s of similar keywords with the same blog post.
A screenshot of one of my client’s blog posts that ranks for over 9,600 keywords.
So, once you find your post’s target keyword, your next step finding as many relevant LSI and long-tail keywords as possible.
What are those?
Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases including your target keyword.
If my keyword was “copywriting courses” some potential long-tails would be:
- “Best copywriting courses for beginners”
- “Top copywriting courses for marketers”
- “Are copywriting courses worth it?”
LSI keywords are semantically related to your target keyword.
If my keyword was “how to create an online course” some potential LSI keywords would be:
- “Creating online courses”
- “How to make an online course”
- “Building an ecourse”
How to Find Long-Tail and LSI Keywords
Method #1: Use keyword research tools.
You can simply enter your target keyword and each tool will generate a bunch of keyword ideas based on Google’s API.
Then, you can easily export them all as a .csv so you can add them to a spreadsheet.
Method #2: Look at Google’s related searches.
You can also search your keyword in Google and scroll to the bottom of the first page to see a list of related searches.
Seems too easy, doesn’t it? 🙂
Add each of these keywords into a spreadsheet for later, then move on to Step 3.
Step 3: Analyze the content already ranking for your target keyword.
Most people skip this step.
They think any content they make will be better than their competitors’, and they don’t bother taking the time to actually analyze what’s already working.
Their content ends up being just okay and doesn’t rank well.
I don’t want that for you (and I know you don’t want that for yourself).
That’s why it’s so important to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each article already ranking on the first page.
Outranking your competitors starts with making better content than them. It’s that simple.
And this competitive research process will help you create a roadmap so you can do just that.
3 Simple Questions That Reveal Exactly What You Need to Make Better Content Than Your Competitors
Ask each of these questions about every article on the first page for your target keyword.
Compile your answers in a Google Doc and you’ll start seeing patterns you can use to make your content much better than your competition.
1. What does this article do well?
- Is it well-written?
- Does the author include unique insights or experience?
- Is the author well-qualified to write on this topic?
- Does it explain high-level concepts well?
- Does it include a lot of relevant, high-quality examples?
- Does it include a lot of actionable strategies and tactics?
2. Where is this article lacking?
- Does it seem like a copied version of other articles?
- Does is lack unique insights, experiments, or case studies?
- Is it hard to follow?
- Is it confusing?
- Is it boring?
3. What other keywords is this article optimized for?
- What other keywords does it rank for?
- What other keywords are included in headings?
- What other keywords could it rank for that it isn’t?
Use this information, along with your unique insights and experience to make the best content on the internet for your topic.
Don’t settle for anything less!
Step 4: Create a working title that includes your target keyword.
The goal in this step is getting 3-5 title ideas to include in your blog outline.
Don’t over think this…
You don’t need to strive for perfect titles, you just need to come up with a few solid ideas that include these 3 main elements:
If your title doesn’t grab your reader’s attention as they scroll, they won’t click to read your post—it’s that simple.
But how do you write an attention-grabbing headline without looking like click bait?
I’ve gotten great results from:
1. Showing off authority on the topic.
If you have a ton of experience on a particular topic, try incorporating that in your blog post title.
One of my favorite examples of this is an article from Jerry Jenkins titled How to Publish a Book: My Ultimate Guide from 40+ Years of Experience.
The title itself is straightforward, but the 40+ years of experience part makes the reader know they’ll be getting top-notch information from a seasoned expert.
2. Making a bold promise (and actually keeping it in your blog post).
This is essentially click bait that is 1) actually believable and 2) actually backed up with fantastic content in the blog post.
So think of a title like 13 Proven Audience-Building Tactics I Used to go From 0 to 1,000 Subscribers in 3 Months instead of How to Make $1 Million in 3 Seconds.
If you wrote an in-depth 5,000 word post with the first title detailing your experience, your reader wouldn’t feel cheated.
The second title, well…
3. Previewing some interesting data.
The idea here is simply incorporating surprising numbers from a meaningful experiment or test you ran.
Example: How I Increased a Client’s Organic Website Traffic by 153% in 12 months.
You’ll most often see this kind of title with a case study.
Alright, you’ve added a dash of intrigue and your reader is considering clicking to read your post.
What will push them over the edge?
Clearly showing them what’s in it for them to read your post.
In other words, incorporating a benefit that they deeply desire into your title (as it relates to your post’s topic).
This requires you to know what your target reader’s desires and pains are.
If you don’t know this information yet, don’t worry. There are several great resources out there that can help you, like this customer profile template from Mirasee.
If you do, one of the easiest ways to pull this off is by adding a benefit clause to your title.
Basically, it’s a short clause you add to your title that includes either the word “that” or the phrase “so that”, followed by a relevant benefit.
Here’s an example:
This post could’ve been titled, A Proven Blog Outline Template, but I made it A Proven Blog Outline Template That Helps You Quickly Create Great Content That Ranks.
That extra bit is my benefit clause, and it shows the reader what they’ll get from reading my post.
3. Optimized around the best target keyword
Most people freak out about optimizing their title for SEO.
They think they HAVE to put their exact keyword at the front of their title or it won’t rank.
That just isn’t true.
Those people likely aren’t ranking for much deeper (and honestly scarier) reasons than just a silly title.
While you do want to include your target keyword in your post’s title, you’re not going to die if it isn’t the exact phrasing or if you have to put it near the end.
Write your titles for humans first, and search engines second.
Step 5: Organize your body content into keyword-driven sections.
Alright, time to get into the meat of your post―the body.
We’re just gonna slap our content onto a long list of bullets here then move to the conclusion, right?
Absolutely not. Who do you think I am? I’m not a monster!
Remember those LSI and long-tail keywords we found in Step 2? Here’s where they come into play…
We’re going to organize all the great content you have for your post based on those keywords.
More specifically, we’re going to find keywords from that list that would make great headings and subheadings in your post, and add them as such to the body section of your outline.
Here’s an example of what this looks like:
Let’s say I’m writing a post on walking dogs.
After doing my research, I highlighted these keywords to include as sections:
- How to walk a big dog
- How to walk a small dog
- How to walk an aggressive dog
- Dog walking tips
- Dog walking techniques
- How often should you walk a dog?
- Benefits of walking your dog
At this point in the process, my outline might look something like this:
Most of the headings above contain a keyword (really important), and the bullet list of keywords could be subheadings (also really important).
Once I felt like I had enough sections, I’d go through and add my content via bullet points under the appropriate headings and subheadings.
How to Pick Which LSI / Long-tail Keywords to Use for Sections
The process of picking these headings and subheadings is actually much easier than you think.
There are really only three considerations here:
1. Does the keyword align with your content?
In other words, does the keyword fit well with your content? Does it allow you to write the content you want to write, or would it make you move in a different direction?
Example: if I believed that a book couldn’t be written fast, I wouldn’t want to target the keyword “how to write a book fast” in my post on writing a book.
If the answer is no, leave it out.
2. Can you use the keyword naturally within your content?
Remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines (but you are organizing your writing for search engines).
If you can’t fit a keyword in without it feeling clunky or out of place, just leave it out.
You can either modify it to improve readability or pick a different keyword.
3. Does the keyword get at least 100 searches per month?
This is an arbitrary number, but you want to make sure any keyword you include gets searched enough to warrant including it in your post.
Step 6: Plan your conclusion.
With all your content planned and ready to go, all that’s left is your conclusion.
Luckily, this is pretty easy!
The goal with your post’s conclusion is twofold:
- Bringing the post full-circle (aka showing your reader what is now possible with the information they learned in the post)
- Calling the reader to take an action (call to action or CTA)
To help yourself knock this out of the park when it comes time to write your post, simply add these three things to the conclusion section of your outline:
1. A Future-Driven Heading
Similarly to what we talked about in Step 5, try to think of a heading for your conclusion that speaks to a specific benefit that your reader can now get by using the information they’ve learned.
- Digital Products Can Change Everything For Your Business
- You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Make This Work
- Can You Afford NOT to Create Cornerstone Content?
- Pillar Posts Give You the Best Chance to Rank
You want your conclusion to be like a time machine that shows your reader what life can look like if they implement the information you just taught them.
2. 3 Specific Things The Reader Can Do With The Info You Taught Them
Building off the future-driven heading, give the reader 3 more very specific things they can now do with the information you gave them.
Make this completely about them.
- No more hustling 20+ hours every week for leads on top of running your business
- Imagine how it will feel to wake up having made 4 sales in your sleep
- How would your life change if you could wake up when you want, work when you want, and DO what you want?
Include these as bullets under your conclusion’s heading.
3. Call the Reader to Take a Specific Action
Finally, you want your reader to take action after they’ve read your post.
What this actually looks like is completely up to you…
- Have them download a complimentary lead magnet so you get their email address
- Ask them to share or post a comment
- Or even tell them to implement a certain strategy this week in their business, then tell you what happens
Just keep in mind that the goal here is getting them to take a beneficial action either for your business or for themselves (and hopefully those are one in the same).
Here’s a Free Blog Outline Template…
To download an editable copy, click “file” then “make a copy”.
Use this template alongside the insights in this article to make the SEO blog-writing process a whole lot easier.
With Killer SEO Blog Outlines, You Can Write Fantastic Content That Ranks at Flash Gordon Speeds
Look, I’m not promising you’ll be able to write 5,000 word posts that rank #1 for their target keyword in 5 seconds…
…But I am promising that using a proven blog outline template (whether it’s this one or someone else’s) will help you write 50% faster.
It’ll also help you create highly optimized posts without feeling like you’re writing for robots because you organized your content in an SEO manner BEFORE you started writing.
So, try using this blog outline for your next blog post and let me know how it goes. 🙂
And if you haven’t started your blog yet, don’t worry. Here’s an incredible guide on how to start a blog.