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How To Craft SEO-Friendly Content Outlines: A Detailed Guide

How to Craft a SEO Content Outline

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Do you want your blog posts and other website content to rank high in search engines?

There are many ways to make this happen, and one of the most important is a content outline. Specifically, an SEO content outline.

It is absolutely critical if you want to get more website traffic, which could lead to more income.

Read on to understand the step-by-step approach to creating a content outline to drive your business to the top of the SERPs.

Let’s start with understanding what a content outline is and why it’s a critical tool for SEO success.

A #contentoutline can play a key role in whether your content will rank and drive search engine traffic or not. Put effort into writing one. Share on X

What is a content outline?

A content outline is a plan or blueprint for your article that highlights the main points and subtopics the article will cover. A content outline helps ensure that all the points on your small business website flow smoothly and naturally.

Your #contentoutline can be likened to the foundation of your house. It is the skeletal framework of your content and highlights everything the content should include. Share on X

Why is it essential to have a content outline?

The benefits of a content outline are numerous; you might not realize this until you’ve written a piece of content with and without a content outline.

1. Produces better content

A content outline enhances the readability of your blog posts. It helps you organize your thoughts and ensures that you cover all the necessary points in a logical order in accordance with your website strategy.

Besides, by breaking down your content into headings and subheadings, you make it easier for readers to navigate and skim through the article.

This improves the overall user experience and encourages readers to stay engaged with your content.

2. Search engine optimization

A detailed content outline is the product of extensive keyword research. An outline ensures that you incorporate relevant keywords into your headings and subheadings, as well as your content.

Additionally, with a detailed content outline, you can ensure you cover the information the articles at the top of SERPs already contain, as well as more/ more relevant information not already covered.

This helps search engines can better understand the context and relevance of your article and rank you high.

Related: Is SEO worth it for small businesses

3. Saves time and effort

A content outline streamlines your writing process and helps you focus.

With a structure in place, writing your content becomes easier, as the primary work will be to fill out the relevant information in the given structure. That’s different from writing on a blank page without guides or plans on developing your content.

Not only that, but a content outline helps you eliminate the writer’s block that a blank page creates, making you create content faster and saving you lots of time figuring out the next heading.

Furthermore, if you have writers who prepare your content, a content outline saves you the cost of fixing a weak draft.

Always send content topics to writers with a detailed content brief and outline. This avoids them from sending you drafts that don’t measure up to the top-performing articles on the SERPs.

With briefs and outlines, you save time and money on content optimization.

A detailed #contentoutline is a product of an extensive #keywordresearch and adds quality to your #contentbrief. Learn how to win on SERPs with a quality outline. Share on X

How to create a content outline

Here is a step-by-step guide to follow to create a content outline that puts your content at the top of the SERPs:

1. Identify your audience’s questions

The first step in creating a content outline is to choose the main topic or subject of your content.

My first go-to step is then always Google, to find out questions people are asking in relation to this topic.

Let’s say I want to write about ‘organic cleaning products‘.

So I put this in Google and check out the People Also Ask section on the SERPs.

To find these questions, you can also use Semrush, Answerthepublic, Ahrefs, etc. The is also valuable for getting related questions to your chosen keyword.

2. Analyze the top-ranking content

The top-ranking articles in the SERP for your topic also indicate the search intent.

Analyze these to get an idea of your audience’s questions.

Another big objective of this analysis would be to identify the important pieces of information the current top-ranking articles provide and the ones they’re omitting (but are important to the audience).

This will guide you in creating a detailed content outline that you can use to produce more valuable content than what’s available on the search engine.

3. Research keywords and search intent

Now that you know your topic and the questions people ask, you need to find relevant keywords and phrases related to your topic.

Use keyword research or SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, and Google Analytics, to do your research.

Related: Best SEO software for small businesses

However, finding keywords is not enough. You also need to match your topic to the search intent behind each keyword or topic you’ve discovered.

For each keyword you find, determine whether users are looking for information, want to make a purchase, seek navigational help, or explore commercial options.

For example, if you write a post on ‘what are organic cleaning products’ and ‘best organic cleaning products’, the content outline, details, and keywords of your post could be very different.

Performing detailed keyword research and search intent analysis will help you understand what your audience is searching for and what current articles satisfy that search intent.

Here’s a simple structured process to find your keywords:

Step 1: Choose a focus keyword

A focus or primary keyword is the word or phrase your content is centered around.

So the first step is to choose the most appropriate keyword that matches the intent of your content and aligns with what your target audience is searching for.

I find the intent column of Semrush very helpful in filtering keywords by the intent I want to target for a piece of content.

Step 2: Choose relevant secondary keywords

Secondary or long-tail keywords are additional keywords related to the focus keyword.

While a primary keyword covers the main focus of the content, secondary keywords provide additional context and clarity on how the content should be written to satisfy the readers’ intent.

Pro Tip:

Consider using long-tail keywords that are more specific and less competitive. These often have higher chances of attracting targeted traffic.

4. Identify sub-topics and keyword clusters

To create an outline for your content, you need to determine the sub-topics and sections you need to include in your topic.

By analyzing the questions people ask and the extensive keyword research you did, you would already have an idea of the sub-topics.

You can further improve this by creating keyword clusters.

Keyword clusters are related keywords that are grouped together based on their thematic similarities.

So you can create multiple clusters, each representing a sub-topic or section of your content where you can provide in-depth information, tips, and insights.

What I simply do is take all the keywords I found (my go-to SEO tool is always Semrush), and put them in a keyword cluster tool like Zenbrief (free tool).

The tool then breaks up the keywords into different clusters and sections.

Choose the sub-topics most applicable for the current post you are writing, and consider using the other ones for a different blog topic.

Pro Tip:

You can also identify sub-topics with the Topic Research tool of Semrush.

It helps

Try it out for 14 days

To create an effective #contentoutline, you must choose your #keywords, create clusters, identify relevant questions, and develop a strategic outline. Share on X

5. Create your content outline with sub-topics

Now that you have sub-topics for your outline, it is time to create it!

Think about how to organize and structure your content outline with sub-topics. How do you order them, so they flow smoothly?

Add relevant headings and subheadings are crucial to organize the content and improve user experience.

Clear and descriptive headings help readers understand the main points and navigate the content easily.

Additionally, search engines use these headings to better understand the content’s structure and relevance, potentially leading to improved search rankings.

6. Add relevant heading tags

In an SEO content outline, creating a well-structured hierarchy is crucial for organizing information effectively.

This involves writing clear and descriptive headlines for each sub-topic and assigning appropriate heading tags ranging from H2 to H6.

The main sub-topics are denoted by H2 headings, representing major sections.

Under each H2 section, you further break down the content into more specific sub-topics, using H3 headings. This process can continue with H4, H5, and H6 headings for even more granular details.

Employing this hierarchical approach not only improves the readability and user experience but also helps search engines to understand the content’s structure. This improves your SEO and potentially higher rankings in search results.

Option: Alternatively, use content outline builders

In place of manually creating your content outline, you can use content outline builders to draft extensive content outlines.

Instead of manually brainstorming and organizing sub-topics, you can use these tools to efficiently generate a well-structured outline.

With a content outline builder, you can generate a content outline by typing your focus keyword into the tool.

The AI tool will automatically scan the web and analyze thousands of articles ranking for that keyword, showing you all the related keywords they have in common.

It will also display the headlines and subheadings of the top-ranking articles while giving you insights into the ideal word count for such content.

A content outline builder simplifies your keyword research process and suggests the relevant keywords you must include outranking the top-performing articles.

If you need assistance, effective #contentoutlinebuilders like @Semrush and Surfer SEO can help you draft strategic #SEOcontent outlines. Share on X

Content outline examples

Content outlines will look different for the different types of web content, such as how-to posts, listicles, opinion pieces, expert roundups, product reviews, etc.

Here are a few examples to guide your content outline creation process:

Example #1: Content outline example on creating images for your blog posts

Title: Detailed guide on how to create original images for your blog

H2: Introduction

H2: Why is using original images for your blog posts important?

H2: Steps on how to create original images for your blog posts

H3: Determine the image requirements

H3: Choose the right image creation tools

H3: Design the image

H3: Edit and enhance the image with your style guide

H3: Incorporate typography and text

H3: Optimize the image for search engines

H3: Export to your media folder

H2: Copyright and Legal considerations you must consider while creating your images

H2: Conclusion

Example #3: Content outline example on home gardening basics

H2: Introduction to Home Gardening

H2: Benefits of Home Gardening

H2: Factors to Consider Before Starting a Garden

H2: Selecting the Right Garden Location

H3: Sunlight and Shade Requirements

H3: Soil Quality and Drainage

H2: Planting and Transplanting

H3: Proper Plant Spacing and Depth

H3: Transferring Seedlings to the Garden

H2: Garden Maintenance and Care

H3: Pruning and Deadheading Plants

H3: Controlling Weeds and Pests

Tips for creating a solid content outline

Here are some tips to help you create an extensive content outline:

1. Understand your objectives

You must clearly understand what you want to achieve with the content and how your marketing message will be received.

This will help you create a content outline that captures your tone and comprehensively covers the focus keyword.

2. Conduct thorough keyword research

Detailed keyword research is vital for producing a content outline that helps produce content that satisfies both humans and the search engine.

Analyze the top-performing articles, and gather relevant information, data, and materials that will form the structure of your content.

Also, conduct in-depth keyword research to find the keywords your target audience is searching with when checking out information on your topic.

3. Use a hierarchical structure

Your content should follow a hierarchical structure, with the key points forming your main headings. Then further break them down using subheadings or bullet points.

This structure ensures your ideas flow well and look organized.

4. Ensure logical progression

Most readers will stop along the way if there’s a bridge in the natural flow of your content.

Therefore, you must arrange the sections and subtopics logically and coherently. Consider how each point should lead to the other, from the introduction to the conclusion.

This natural flow of your content makes it enjoyable for the reader and keeps them glued to it until the last full stop.

5. Balance depth and breadth

Different content formats work for  different content ideas. You must be flexible in creating your content in a format that best suits the message you want to convey.

Provide enough detail to cover key points, but avoid overwhelming the outline with excessive information.

6. Keep it organized

Use bullet points, numbering, or indentation to maintain a visually appealing and organized outline.

7. Incorporate supporting details and examples

Add supporting details like statistics, examples, case studies, or other relevant evidence that strengthens your argument.

This is vital in helping you or your writers create content that easily wins the reader’s trust.

tips for creating a solid content outline

Content outline template

Here’s a plug-and-play template to guide you in creating a detailed content outline for your blog posts.

Content Outline Template

Develop strategic content outlines and enjoy the results

Content outlines guide you through creating comprehensive content that doesn’t just satisfy search engines and rank at the top of the SERPs but also satisfies human intent and attracts high-quality leads to your business.

Ensuring you always work with a strategic content outline is also vital to streamlining your content production process, increasing your efficiency, and the number of pieces of content you churn out within a specified period.

Do you use a content outline for your blog posts and website content? Any other tips you would like to add?

FAQ: How to create an SEO content outline

Writing a website content outline is similar to writing a content outline for a blog post.

  • Identify the main sections/pages needed for the website.
  • Outline key points and subtopics for each section.
  • Ensure logical flow, easy navigation, and alignment with the website’s goals and target audience.

The alphanumeric outline is the most commonly used outline format.

It incorporates numbers and letters to organize the content in a hierarchical order, indicating the different levels of information in the content.

The objective of a content outline is to provide a clear and structured plan for creating content. It helps ensure that important points and subtopics are included, improves organization and coherence, and guides the content creation process. This also helps the content to rank high in SERPs.

Picture of Christopher Iwundu

Christopher Iwundu

Christopher ‘Positive Equator’ Iwundu is a freelance SEO content marketing specialist with over five years of experience. He works with B2B and B2C business owners looking to generate and convert leads with content marketing.

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