Every writer knows the pain of staring for hours at a blank page and producing nothing.
But you don’t have to start your draft on an empty Google Doc. It’s much easier if you begin with an outline.
Creating a blog post outline will help you:
- Overcome the dreaded “writer’s block.”
- Organize your thoughts before you put pen to paper.
- Ensure you’re not missing any important points.
- Order your blog post in a logical, easy-to-read structure.
- Get you and your editor, client, or manager (if you’re working with one) on the same page.
In this post, you’ll learn how to write a blog post outline. Let’s get started.
It’s impossible to create a blog post outline without knowing what you want to write about.
So if you’ve not yet decided on a topic, you need to choose one now.
Brainstorm a couple of topics you’d like to cover. If you’re familiar with the niche, there should be a few burning issues you want to address. Write about them.
Otherwise, a good way to find topics is to use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Enter a relevant term into the tool and go to the Matching terms report.
Switch the tab to Questions, and you’ll see plenty of potential topics to cover.
Will your article be a listicle or a how-to? Or perhaps it’s an opinion piece, a review, or you’re simply covering the latest news.
Whatever it is, you’ll have to decide on a format.
Sometimes, the format is screaming at you in plain sight. For example, if you’re covering the topic “how to make kefir at home,” then it’s probably going to be a how-to guide. Or if you’re covering the topic “blogging tips,” then it’s probably going to be a list of tips.
But sometimes, it’s not so straightforward. Is the topic “best productivity app” a list of productivity apps, a review of a particular app, or an opinion article about the “best app”?
The truth is it can be any of the above. You’re free to choose, and there’s no one right answer. But if you really cannot decide, then a good way to “settle” the debate is to simply look at what’s ranking for that topic on Google.
So searchers for “best productivity app” are actually looking for “best productivity apps.” Google knows that and ranks only listicles for that topic. If you’re stuck, creating a listicle could be a good way forward.
Recommended reading: 10 Types of Blog Posts & How to Use Them Effectively
Mr. Bean falls to the ground. A spotlight shines on him. The rest of the street has faded into the shadows, and your attention focuses on Rowan Atkinson’s character.
The topic you’re covering is the entire street, and the angle you choose is the spotlight. It focuses on one aspect, to the exclusion of others. If you’re writing about “how to make ramen at home,” are you teaching your readers how to:
- Make ramen fast?
- Make restaurant-quality ramen?
- Make tonkotsu ramen?
- Make vegan ramen?
- Make Sapporo-style ramen?
- Make Korean-style ramen (also known as ramyeon)?
You can’t possibly cover everything. So you need to choose. In fact, it’s the angle that makes your article unique and interesting to readers, thereby making it stand out.
Use these questions to spark ideas for your own novel angle:
- Do you have personal experience or expertise? For example, if you’ve managed successfully to infuse Singaporean flavors into ramen, then you can share your unique recipe with others.
- Can you interview experts? For example, you can interview a famous ramen chef on how newbies can potentially make restaurant-quality ramen at home.
- Can you crowdsource opinions and ideas? For example, you can poll members in r/ramen for their best at-home ramen recipes.
- Can you provide data or back your article with science? For example, you can potentially show readers how to create the “perfect” ramen by looking at the sensory relationship between different acids and flavors.
- Can you be contrarian? Don’t be contrarian for the sake of it. But if you have an opinion that’s the opposite of everyone else’s—for example, how ramen is actually ultra healthy—and you can back it up with evidence, it can be an attention-grabbing angle.
- Location-specific (“London”)
Have you ever noticed that most blog posts are structured quite similarly?
In fact, most blog posts you read are variations of the same templates. So you don’t have to reinvent the wheel on this front. Choose a template that fits your format and get started.
For example, we use this template for almost all our step-by-step guides:
Looking for more templates? Check out the blog post below.
Recommended reading: 4 Simple Blog Post Templates (And When to Use Them)
Your template has provided you with the skeleton. Now, you need to figure out what you need to fill in, especially your subheadings (the H2s, H3s, H4s, etc.).
Here are some ideas on how to find them:
A. Use your expertise and experience
The first step is always to look inward. If you know there is a proper way to do something, then use that as a basis for your outline.
B. Run a content gap analysis
We can use the current top-ranking pages for your topic as inspiration too. After all, if most of these pages are covering certain subtopics, then it’s likely they’re important to your readers.
Make sure you’re only looking at pages with a similar angle as yours.
Here’s how to find these subtopics:
- Paste a few top-ranking URLs for your main topic into Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool
- Leave the bottom section blank
- Hit Show keywords
- Set the Intersection filter to 3 and 4 targets
We can see that these pages are ranking for such subtopics:
- What is the keto diet
- What does keto mean
- Keto diet rules
- Is keto diet healthy
- What to eat on keto diet
If we’re covering the same topic—”keto diet” from a similar angle (“beginner’s guide”)—then they’ll likely make good H2s.
C. Look at People Also Ask boxes
Google anything these days, and you’ll see this:
These are known as People Also Ask (PAA) boxes, and they answer questions related to your search query. Since these are likely popular questions, you may want to answer them in your content too.
To gather all of these questions, you can either click on them over and over or use a tool like AlsoAsked.
Alternatively, if you’re simply looking for questions related to your main topic (and are not necessarily PAA), try this method:
- Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
- Enter your topic
- Go to the Matching terms report
- Switch the tab to Questions
- Click on the hamburger menu beside the XX, XXX keywords
- Switch the tab to Parent topics
- Click on your main topic (e.g., “keto diet”)
Here, you’ll see all the questions grouped under the same Parent Topic—in this case, “keto diet.”
Look through the report and see if there are any questions worth answering in your article.
You’ll want to flesh out each section so you (and your editor, client, etc.) can understand what you’re trying to say and where you’re coming from.
But don’t make the mistake of writing the full draft here. This is an outline, not the actual post. So just leave ideas that’ll support and substantiate what you’re going to cover.
Here are some examples of bullets you may add:
- Brief explanation of your argument
- Examples of how your particular item/step/tactic/etc., works
- Potential expert quotes (if you’re using them)
- Data you’ll be citing
For example, here’s a recent outline of mine for a post on content pillars:
I create bullet points and simply indicate the ideas I’ll share under each subheading. But not all outlines look the same. You can choose to not make them so detailed too.
The world’s your oyster. Do what works for you and whomever you’re working with.
The goal of your intro is to “hook” the reader into finishing your entire article. So it’s a good idea to plan out (at least an idea) what you wish to say here.
Again, don’t fall into the trap of fleshing the entire thing out. Just a couple of bullets will do.
To plan your intro, a simple formula you can follow is the Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) formula.
Here’s how it works:
- State the Problem
- Agitate the problem by digging more into the pain (felt by the reader)
- Offer a potential Solution
And here’s what it looks like in real life:
For your conclusion, I recommend planning a one-line takeaway of your entire article, providing links to further resources, or sharing a final consideration for your readers to think about.
Before you begin drafting, it’s a good idea to send your outline to someone else—a colleague, editor, or friend. They’ll be able to give you feedback and point out flaws, inaccuracies, or points you’ve missed.
We do this all the time. Every in-house writer has to send their outlines to Josh, our head of content, for review.
Once your reviewer has given their feedback, you can look through it and incorporate their ideas into your outline. Then, it’s finally time to draft.
If you need help writing a blog post, check out this step-by-step guide on how to write one.
Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.
How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher
How To Measure The Largest Contentful Paint Of Your Website
Run a free website speed test to find out. Your LCP speed will be displayed immediately.
The results of your speed test will tell you if:
- The LCP threshold is met.
- You need to optimize any other Core Web Vital.
How Is The Largest Contentful Paint Calculated?
Google looks at the 75th percentile of experiences – that means 25% of real website visitors experience LCP load times of 3.09 seconds or higher, while for 75% of users the LCP is below 3.09 seconds.
In this example, the real-user LCP is shown as 3.09 seconds.
What Are The Lab Test Results On My Core Web Vitals Data?
With this specific web speed test, you’ll also see lab metrics that were collected in a controlled test environment. While these metrics don’t directly impact Google rankings, there are two advantages of this data:
- The metrics update as soon as you improve your website, while Google’s real-time data will take 28 days to fully update.
- You get detailed reports in addition to the metrics, which can help you optimize your website.
Additionally, PageSpeed Insights also provides lab data, but keep in mind that the data it reports can sometimes be misleading due to the simulated throttling it uses to emulate a slower network connection.
How Do You Find Your Largest Contentful Paint Element?
When you run a page speed test with DebugBear, the LCP element is highlighted in the test result.
Sometimes, the LCP element may be a large image, and other times, it could be a large portion of text.
Regardless of whether your LCP element is an image or a piece of text, the LCP content won’t appear until your page starts rendering.
For example, on the page below, a background image is responsible for the largest paint.
In contrast, this page’s LCP is a paragraph of text.
To improve the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) of your website you need to ensure that the HTML element responsible for the LCP appears quickly.
How To Improve The Largest Contentful Paint
To improve the LCP you need to:
- Find out what resources are necessary to make the LCP element appear.
- See how you can load those resources faster (or not at all).
For example, if the LCP element is a photo, you could reduce the file size of the image.
After running a DebugBear speed test, you can click on each performance metric to view more information on how it could be optimized.
Common resources that affect the LCP are:
- Render-blocking resources.
- Images that are not optimized.
- Outdated image formats.
- Fonts that are not optimized.
How To Reduce Render-Blocking Resources
Render-blocking resources are files that need to be downloaded before the browser can start drawing page content on the screen. CSS stylesheets are typically render-blocking, as are many script tags.
To reduce the performance impact of render-blocking resources you can:
- Identify what resources are render-blocking.
- Review if the resource is necessary.
- Review if the resource needs to block rendering.
- See if the resource can be loaded more quickly up, for example using compression.
The Easy Way: In the DebugBear request waterfall, requests for render-blocking resources are marked with a “Blocking” tag.
How To Prioritize & Speed Up LCP Image Requests
For this section, we’re going to leverage the new “fetchpriority” attribute on images to help your visitor’s browsers quickly identify what image should load first.
Use this attribute on your LCP element.
When just looking at the HTML, browsers often can’t immediately tell what images are important. One image might end up being a large background image, while another one might be a small part of the website footer.
Accordingly, all images are initially considered low priority, until the page has been rendered and the browser knows where the image appears.
However, that can mean that the browser only starts downloading the LCP image fairly late.
The new Priority Hints web standard allows website owners to provide more information to help browsers prioritize images and other resources.
In the example below, we can see that the browser spends a lot of time waiting, as indicated by the gray bar.
We would choose this LCP image to add the “fetchpriority” attribute to.
How To Add The “FetchPriority” Attribute To Images
Simply adding the fetchpriority=”high” attribute to an HTML img tag will the browser will prioritize downloading that image as quickly as possible.
<img src="https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimize-largest-contentful-paint-debugbear-spcs/471883/photo.jpg" fetchpriority="high" />
How To Use Modern Image Formats & Size Images Appropriately
High-resolution images can often have a large file size, which means they take a long time to download.
In the speed test result below you can see that by looking at the dark blue shaded areas. Each line indicates a chunk of the image arriving in the browser.
There are two approaches to reducing image sizes:
- Ensure the image resolution is as low as possible. Consider serving images at different resolutions depending on the size of the user’s device.
- Use a modern image format like WebP, which can store images of the same quality at a lower file size.
How To Optimize Font Loading Times
If the LCP element is an HTML heading or paragraph, then it’s important to load the font for this chunk of text quickly.
One way to achieve this would be to use preload tags that can tell the browser to load the fonts early.
The font-display: swap CSS rule can also ensure sped-up rendering, as the browser will immediately render the text with a default font before switching to the web font later on.
Monitor Your Website To Keep The LCP Fast
Continuously monitoring your website not only lets you verify that your LCP optimizations are working, but also makes sure you get alerted if your LCP gets worse.
DebugBear can monitor the Core Web Vitals and other site speed metrics over time. In addition to running in-depth lab-based tests, the product also keeps track of the real-user metrics from Google.
Try DebugBear with a free 14-day trial.
How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher
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