George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones author, says there are two types of writers: the architects and the gardeners. Architects plan everything out in advance. Gardeners have just a seed which they tend to and let grow on its own.
Both are fine strategies, but if you're writing for a deadline, it's better to be an architect...and a blog outline is your blueprint. Without a blog outline, you risk writing (and publishing) a post that lacks structure, logic, and substance—and fails to engage your audience.
Says Copy.ai Chief Marketing Officer Blake Emal: “I used to think that writing [a blog post] was the hard part, but now I think it's properly organizing your ideas ahead of time. If you do it well, the piece should more or less write itself.”
In this article, you’ll learn the steps to creating a blog outline quickly. We’ll also show you how to use Copy.ai’s AI-powered Blog Outline tool to jumpstart your brainstorming and create a solid outline every time.
Lay the groundwork for your blog outline
Before you outline, spend some time developing your understanding of your target audience, existing content, and supporting research on your topic. This will give you a clearer idea of what you’re going to write about and from which angle to approach the topic.
Identify the goal of your blog post
First, you need to identify the goals of your blog post. It might sound silly, but you should write them out so you can hold yourself accountable to these goals if you find yourself straying down the road. To identify your goal, you need to answer the following questions:
- What do you want to write about?
- Who are you writing for? Pinpoint your audience and decide how you’re going to teach them/provide value/solve a pain point.
- What do you want your audience to do? Are you trying to get more people to sign up for your newsletter or nurture leads through the sales funnel? This will determine what type of blog post you write as well as your call-to-action (CTA) at the end.
Do some research
- Keyword research: Do some keyword research to identify what keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for as well as the search intent for your potential readers. For free resources, Emal recommends Ubersuggest or simply using Google’s browser. Type your topic into Google and look at the different keywords Google suggests. While it won’t show you keyword volume, it will give you an idea of what people are searching for.
- Topic research: Do some initial research on your chosen topic, making notes of possible points and sources to include (more on that later).
- Research what’s already out there: Every possible topic in the world has likely already been written about in other blogs (or by your competitors). Check what’s ranking on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP) of Google, how those pieces are structured, what they cover, and how you could optimize on them or take a fresh angle.
Choose a working title (aka your H1)
Don’t worry about coming up with a perfect, snazzy headline for your blog outline; we’ll teach you how to craft a killer headline during the blog drafting phase. For now, though, create a working title that takes you from your general topic to a more specific idea.
One of the main reasons to create a working title is because it helps you articulate what the post will do, not just what it's about. Sure, you want to write a post about sales emails. But it's not until you title your post How or Why or You're Doing It Wrong that you know what you're actually going to accomplish in the piece.
If you’re feeling stuck, start with your target keyword, making sure it’s incorporated in your working title. For example, if your target keyword is “sales emails,” your headline could be something like “How to write sales emails that actually get read.”
Keep it precise and to the point. For example, “Write effective sales emails in these 5 easy steps” is more compelling/click-worthy than a vague pronouncement like: “Everything you should know about sales emails.” For more guidelines, check out these headline-writing tips from Wordstream.
Do a brain dump for your blog outline
A brain dump is exactly what it sounds like: a way to dump onto the page all the thoughts, ideas, and questions about your blog topic. By getting this stuff out of your head, you’re one step closer to getting it organized.
There’s no right or wrong way to do a brain dump. You could utilize lists, idea maps, a stream of consciousness process, or whatever works for you. Ideally, the process will be fast, messy, and even fun.
For Emal, a brain dump means “writing down as many possible things as I can think of that applies to a specific topic that I want to touch on. The most important part of that is editing down [those ideas] after the fact: what’s going to contribute value or not, what questions you still need to answer, what’s missing, etc.”
Here’s how to get started: based on the groundwork you did previously and on your goals, start making a list of things to mention in your blog post. It could be a product feature, for example, or a research statistic. Or a heading, phrase, or idea you want to showcase. Keep each item on your list brief.
If there’s something you need to know about your topic but don’t yet, make a list of those questions as well. With additional research, these questions may become important points in your outline.
Group your brain dump into subheadings (aka H2s)
Now that you’ve completed an initial brain dump on your topic, it’s time to organize all that fodder into subheadings, or H2s, for your blog outline. These will form the main body of your blog. Think of each subheading as an overarching point/subtopic you need to cover in your post.
Reviewing your brain dump list, start moving your notes into groups of related content. Give each group a heading that summarizes what it’s about, i.e. your H2 for that section. This isn’t rewritten in stone; we’re just starting the process of organizing. Try to make your H2s valuable for the reader and relevant to the title. For example, this article’s H1 title is about how to create a blog outline, with the H2s providing the steps that explain how to do it.
Need help? Try using Copy.ai’s Blog Outline tool. Simply insert your blog title and a description of what your blog is going to be about. Hit “create,” and within seconds, Copy.ai will generate ideas for subheadings/H2s, which you can pick and choose from.
Emal uses this tool frequently for blog outlines and mapping out Twitter threads. “It helps me start composing a list of all the different things I want to touch on; then I can get more granular with each of those.”
Flesh out each subheading with bullet points
Once you’ve created your subheadings, you need to bullet out the content you’re going to include in each section of your blog outline. Says Emal: “When I'm creating an outline, I make a bulleted list of what all the main sections are going to be. Beneath those, the sub-bullets include points I’m going to cover or research to include. It’s a table of contents, basically for myself, for when it comes time to write.”
In your blog outline, each subhead will be a section with at least 2-3 bullet points under each. These bullets are the main points you want to cover in each section. Once solidified, each of these points will become paragraphs during drafting.
For example, our outline for the previous section of this post looked something like this:
(H2) Group your brain dump in subheadings
- Quick definition of subheadings/H2s
- Translate your brain dump into H2s
- How Copy.ai’s Blog Outline tool speeds the process
Add data to support your main points
For your post to be authoritative, you need to incorporate research to back up your points. Now that you have a clear structure (created in the previous steps), you can better decide what research and references from your groundwork step are most relevant to include. Or, you may notice gaps in your research you need to fill in.
Beneath each subheading, add a bullet of research to back up each important point in that section. Reputable research could be in the form of a data point, an industry study, an expert quote, etc. (not Wikipedia or other blog posts, unless they happen to be exceptionally great). Check out this handy roundup of what constitutes good research sources and how to find them.
Also, be sure to paste the links to sources you’re referencing as a reminder to properly cite them (or include source links) when drafting your post.
Review, rearrange, revise
Once your blog outline is complete, put it away while you have a cup of coffee or walk your dog. Come back with fresh eyes. Now revisit your outline’s structure to make sure it’s logical and there’s a smooth flow for readers.
Look for bullet points that aren’t relevant and can be cut or a bullet critical to your argument and needs to be expanded to sub-bullets in order to explain. Each subhead group should map back to/support your main heading (i.e. H1/working title). If not, you need to rework.
Don’t be afraid to reorder, expand, or delete sections altogether. This is your chance to fix any major structural issues before diving into the writing phase when major revisions like these will cost you serious time
Generate faster blog outlines with Copy.ai
Now that you’ve got a solid outline, it’s time to write! The drafting of your post should go much more quickly and smoothly because you’ve already accomplished much of the research, thinking, and planning upfront. Try using our AI-powered copywriting tools to make the process even faster. Our tools help you generate creative ideas for your blog’s intro, conclusion, and entire paragraphs—within seconds. Get started today for free!