The Perfect Content Outline Formula for Creating (and Outsourcing) Great Writing
It’s probably the most common writing advice you’ll find out there: Just write.
Need to create a blog post for your new site? Just write.
Need to write a product review for your affiliate program? Just write.
Need to update your about page? Just write.
Need to draft a sales letter for your upcoming launch or services? Just write.
This is great advice if your content struggle is putting your ass in a chair and just banging out the words.
But creating content isn’t only about getting the words out. It is often about finding the words you want to use.
And here is where the daunting flicker of a blinking cursor and the horror of writer’s block often sets in.
Have no fear! There is a way to battle the content beast, so that every time you sit down at your laptop, you can either knock out stellar content yourself, or properly advise a freelance writer how to share your thoughts in their words.
The Power of Content
The first thing you must understand is that content is all about communicating value and results. Focusing on these two things will help you produce content that is eagerly eaten up.
What is Value?
Value is providing the education, products, or services that help people lead better lives. You are taking away their problems and replacing them with effective solutions.
The way to tell if you are providing value is by measuring growth. This will provide you with real feedback on whether your content is having a positive impact on your business. If there is no ROI, then chances are no one is valuing what you are putting out.
How do you know that you are providing value?
- Your clients tell you, and are proud advocates of your business or website.
- You see significant growth via word of mouth – people want you to provide for them what you have done for others.
- You start to get recognized as an authority due to the quality of your products or services.
What are Results?
Results move people to a level of performance higher than where they currently operate. You are implementing systems and procedures that produce better outcomes for your audience.
This is what people are desperately searching for when they consume content. They want to get knowledge that will transform their lives for the better.
Again, you measure results by growth. Your audience will tell you, in emails, shares, and pulling out their wallets, if your content is helping them achieve the results they hoped it would.
The Power of Great Content
When you have people like as Neil Patel, owner of Quicksprout, providing deep insight on how great content produced multiple million dollar businesses for him, I’m sure you want to learn how to produce the same results.
Shockingly, these type of results can’t be produced by simply writing anything and calling it great content.
Great content has to be well researched, provide in-depth analysis, and written to be easily understood.
People who create content tend to commit two serious structural writing errors.
- They create content that is badly written, not having any direction. It is all over the place, instead of being concise.
- They try to display their intelligence, often to excess, by using big words and long complicated sentences that confuse their readers.
These two mistakes can be disastrous to your intended plan of action. You think you are creating valuable content when you are instead wasting your time on something that will provide no value and no results.
You want to create the type of content that gets shared hundreds, thousands of times across social media platforms.
You want to create the type of content that people email you about, expressing their gratitude for making their lives so much better by sharing your knowledge and expertise.
You want to create the type of content that positions you as an authority and moves your business to new levels of unimagined success.
It all sounds so nice, but how is this type of content produced?
Why Content Needs Structure
The first thing that you must decide is: who will be producing your content for you.
Will it be you, or will you hire a writer?
This is important to know because content requires time – research, development, writing, editing, and publishing.
Do you have enough time to write your content on a consistent basis? Are you even a good writer? Can you engage your reading audience to move towards a specific action that you designated as an intended goal?
These questions must be answered so that you can ensure that you are producing quality content that has an impact on its reading audience. And it may change over time!
Many first-time entrepreneurs will take on the burden of content creation to save money, and because they are still sussing out the voice and vision for their business. Eventually, you may decide to take on a freelance writer, or even an in-house content manager — like we have here at Empire Flippers.
Whether it is you writing the content or a hired writer, you need to implement the structure that enables you to produce content that grows your business.
How Outlines Guide Your Content
This is probably bringing back some deep-seeded resentment from English grammar classes. Having to create one of those irritating, bullet-pointed lists of every single point you are going to make in an article before you can even start writing it.
But remember the most popular writing advice of just write? As you start creating content on a more regular basis, you’ll quickly learn that if you don’t know what you are writing about, it is damn hard to actually write.
Outlines are the breakdown of the topic you are writing about. They help you align your ideas so that your writing is effective and flows in a cohesive manner.
Many people make the mistake of not providing outlines for their topic, which leads to two very horrible outcomes. Either a piece of content that rambles along and doesn’t follow their initial idea, or a long day of procrastinating on your writing tasks because you don’t know how you are going to write them.
Outlines help you eliminate waste and only write about what matters.
This waste is called fluff. It is just things written in to fill in your word count because you have nothing of importance to say. Fluff is a product of poor planning for your writing – you can’t have a lot of fluff in your content but expect results.
The great blogs that are leaders within entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, etc. all are produced from content outlines. There is no way you can write in-depth, specific content without relying on an outline of your content.
How is an Outline for Content Created?
The first step is establishing your idea.
What is it that you will be writing about? Make sure that it is a subject that people actually will want to read about. This means you will need to read other blogs in your field and see which of their post gets the most love – determining how you can recreate the same sort of content in your own words.
You will also need to do keyword searches so that you can see what people are searching for. This enables you to create content that is actually being searched for, providing you with the opportunity to drive traffic to your content.
Once you have done your research to gather your topics, it’s time to start organizing your ideas and providing them with support. This will be the structure that guides the writer to creating the desired piece of content.
When doing this, you want to state the problem – what is it that people need to understand is the cause of their bad results. Then you need to establish how your content will break the problem down and provide a solution that produces better results.
An outline can be created for both your in-depth content and lighter content. It is all about establishing a foundation that allows your thoughts to flow freely but within structured format.
Examples of Outlines
It is one thing to read about how to create a content outline and it is another thing to know exactly how to create a content outline.
Here are some examples that will teach you how to create outlines that produce powerful content. You’ll note that these can be adjusted for either your own writing style or as an assignment to a writer you have hired.
No Structure, Mind Mapping
As we’ve discussed before, mind mapping can be a great way for getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page.
You may find that if you are the primary content creator, this is how the majority of your outlines will be set up. Since you don’t necessarily have to explain what you want to someone else, you are simply looking for a way to organize your thoughts.
This might start with some mind mapping software, or a simple back of the napkin brainstorm.
Your resulting outline would look like:
Title: The Future of Writing and Editing
Introduction: Writing and editing is changing rapidly, with the proliferation of shallow content and clickbait tendencies
Point #1: Headline
Point #2: Headline
Point #3: Headline
Point #4: Headline
Conclusion: What can authors and entrepreneurs do, moving forward, to integrate these changes into their regular writing process?
The only guidance provided to the writer by this outline is other articles that have been written about the subject. You are allowing the writer to create their own structure of how the article should be written based off of what they research.
This type of outline should be reserved for advanced writers who demonstrate excellent research capabilities and great creative writing skills.
Moderately Structured Outline, Allows for Some Creativity:
This outline is providing a well detailed outline that helps to shape the writer’s thoughts and writing structure, while still adhering to the assignment the site owner needs for their editorial calendar.
How Writing Shapes Thought
For people who identify as writers (whether they do it professionally, for business, or “as a hobby”), sitting down to write out something they are working on/struggling with, helps them to actually think out the blocks and freezes they are experiencing in the process. It doesn’t have to be a formal report or proposal or anything like that, can just be stream of consciousness “brain dump” onto a page to help you think through the ideas that are swirling in your head.
This can play even more off the mind mapping article you wrote, but definitely focusing more on creative thought and actually writing stuff out, rather than just mind mapping.
Can talk about blogging, journaling, free-form writing, emails to trusted advisors/mentors/friends, etc. Any writing method that gets people out of their heads and onto a page.
If the messaging of the articles above fit, would be an interesting addition, how language comprehension might influence this as well, but if it feels like it doesn’t fit don’t feel like you have to force it in.
Target Audience: Writers and entrepreneurs who write- and how this writing process can help them unblock their mind for other purposes
You will notice that it also gives the writer freedom to explore different topics within the subject matter.
These types of outlines are great for producing stellar content. The problem has been explained and the solution has been established. Now all the writer has to do is fill in the article with the supporting content, since they are already provided the navigation to the intended destination.
This is often the type of outline we use when outsourcing content and writing at Empire Flippers, it works well in info product and productized services business models. Anything that requires a bit more personality.
Strict Formatted Outline, Not to Be Deviated From:
Title: “Best” Amazon Product Review Article #2
Category: Shopping and Product Reviews
Keyword: Best Cold Wax Hair Removal
Word count: 1,000
Approximate Time: 3Hrs 30Mins
Writing style: Friendly tone
Article purpose: This is NOT an SEO article, please write naturally!
WRITE from a first person point of view (ex: I, me, my)
Article MUST have great ENGLISH GRAMMAR
See KEYWORD Section for Topic
*Provide 6 products and each product must list Pro’s & Cons.
(Search Amazon for “Best KEYWORD HERE” or just the “KEYWORD”)
*Product MUST be listed/found on AMAZON.COM
Follow link below for article format idea:
-List Product *Just list product name
*Pros & Cons
*Pros & Cons
*Pros & Cons
*Pros & Cons…till the 6th one
-Conclusion, pick one that’s the best products and recommend it.
You will notice that this outline states specifically what the writer needs to write, in what format, and what keywords should be used. If the content doesn’t follow the specific guidelines, then it will be rejected.
With this type of outline, you are clearly instructing the writer (or guiding yourself) to provide what you want and how you want it.
While this type of outline may be good for producing the exact kind of content you want, it tends to stifle creativity. The writer is so focused on providing the exact content that you want that they don’t even try to think about how to enhance the subject. They just want to do exactly what is requested so they can get paid.
It works well for product reviews, affiliate offers, niche sites, and other easily templated business models that do not necessarily need to be unique, but offer straight-forward information and clickable content.
Turning Your Content Into Gold
Content gold is best produced from well put together outlines. Now all that needs to happen is for you to start creating your own.
Good content doesn’t just occur from the top of your head, it needs to be fleshed out so that it is written effectively, to produce thoughts and emotions within a reader, moving them towards acting on what has been written.
If you want the type of content that truly engages your readers, create an outline that pulls all of the ingredients out of the subject. You will be able to write with a clearer understanding of what you want your content to say.
Further, you will create solid value for your audience, which will lead them to find stellar results when they implement, which means more money in your bank account.
Stop putting content on your website that doesn’t resonate with your intended audience.
Learn the difficulties that your target audience is dealing with, research the most effective solutions, outline how to produce a piece of content that is great at communicating your expertise, and reap the benefits of your well thought out execution.
Do you use outlines in your content writing? We’d love to know how you structure your thoughts before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) in the comments below.
Have been trying to find content outline examples all day, and this is basically the only one I could find. But I agree with your other commenters – you could have taken the opportunity to really dig in, but didn’t, so I didn’t really get all the info I needed. Additionally, the formatting in each outline type section makes it hard to understand what is an example in the outline vs. what is part of the article itself.
Hey Kat 🙂
We might expand this post in the future. If you’re looking for good content outlines for niche sites, I highly recommend checking out the guys over at Authority Hacker.
They have content briefs for all sorts of different articles and go a lot more in depth on the subject than we do here
Great article and you gave us really useful information. Its really helpful if you have gone more deeper.
Thanks John! We’ll look at expanding this post 🙂
Great article you’ve got but you didn’t really dig into it. Personally this kind of article you can find it online easily, I’m not being an azz (ss) just in case lol .
Pros and cons? ? I noticed a lot of niche websites creators following the model “Pros and Cons ” and guess what? I tested it and results (sales ) were much better without THEM 🙂
Keep it up guys
And Here We Are “Walking Dead” lol
Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂
Pros and cons tend to work really well with Amazon review sites, though of course it is always based off split testing. Some niches might do a lot better without pros and cons.
Speaking of weird things like that, there have been many case studies done where uglier, more busy sites have produced a lot more revenue over cleaner more professional looking websites. But again, this is really niche dependent so it is always a good idea to test.