What makes a blog post bad? The most pervasive problem we find is poor flow. The post jumps from one idea to the next or the post reads like a stream of consciousness – except it’s not a stylistic choice.

One way to prevent this is by creating an outline for your blog post.

Below is my method for outlining posts and organizing my thoughts to create a cohesive, logical piece.

Table of Contents

Start with a brain dump.

Write down all the things you want your readers to get out of the article. These won’t always be the main sections of your article – it’s just all the things you want your readers to know by the end of reading your post.

This is the only time in the whole process you’re not worried about organization – just let your ideas flow naturally. You need to get out all of your wild and crazy ideas now so they won’t muck up your post later in the process.

For example, say my article is on using images to generate leaders on Twitter, I’d probably want readers to know:

Notice how these are really unfiltered and all over the place. That’s OK. We’ll rein it all in in the next step.

Now, we’ll take that jumble of ideas and place them into overarching sections.

Think of it like sorting laundry – each thought belongs to a different pile. From your brainstorm, you should come up with a few big themes.

Sometimes, one of your brainstorming bullets will be a theme in itself, but usually, several bullets will fall under one overarching theme. You may also realize that there’s a theme that you may not have any bullets for, but the post definitely calls for it.

Many recommend sticking to three or four large sections, but it really depends on what type of post you’re writing. If you’re writing a comprehensive guide, you might need more.

If it’s a quick how-to post, fewer sections would be ideal.

Using the same example, here’s how I’d bucket my ideas into the following buckets:

At this point, your outline may still look bare in some areas.

You may have some sections with multiple bullet points and some without any. Now’s the time to fill in those gaps.

What did you miss in your initial brainstorm? Thinking about what’s missing is always hard, but it will help improve your final post significantly.

During this step, conduct some competitive research to see what other publications have covered on the topic and what readers are responding to.

Below shows how my outline evolved. I italicized all the things I added, and the outline is becoming closer and closer to being a post:

Essentially, you’re re-doing the second step, but in a more focused manner.

Now comes the fun part: editing your outline.

You’ve already done the hard part of actually thinking of your ideas. Now, you’re tightening up your outline to include only the most relevant information, revising the sub-bullets to actually make sense, and reorganizing the sub-bullets to tell the most logical story.

First, let me show you what I’d cut – shown in bold.

Next, we’ll reorganize the remainder of the sub-bullets and rework them to sound like actual takeaways. We’ll also turn some of the sub-bullets into sub-sub-bullets. Here’s what this outline looks like now:

Ta-da! A much more comprehensive outline that makes your post easy to write.

This is purely a time-saving trick.

After you’ve fully fleshed out and then trimmed your outline, you should look for examples and data to support these claims.

Once you find a source to support your arguments, just add them as a note underneath the section. That way, when you go to write it, you don’t have to go digging.

Now that your outline is fleshed out, you can create a headline that summarizes the purpose of your article into something action-driven and eye-catching.

Some components of a great title include:

Review my final outline in the next section.

In addition to the steps outlined above, our HubSpot writers are sharing additional tips they’ve collected over the years.

This section will have questions related to your initial search query. Take our example article. When you Google “using images to generate leads on twitter,” these are the questions that come up in the People Also Ask search feature.

After a quick search, you learn more about common questions from readers and can include them in your article.

“Organize your structure based on what you think that person is going to be scrolling to find and put the most important/relevant info up front,” she said.

By leveraging these solid tips, writing your actual post should be a breeze.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

 

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