In a previous post—How Much Time Should You Spend Outlining?—, you learned that you shouldn’t spend too much time outlining and instead should focus on providing direction to writers by giving them a high-level outline.
But what exactly should this outline look like? And what should you expect in return? Let’s have a look.
The Outline You Give Writers
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to outlining but you should, at the very least, provide writers with the following before they produce their own outlines:
- The topic of the post—this is not the headline
- The primary keyword you want to rank for
- LSI or related keywords
- Internal links—especially crucial for posts with product tie-ins
- External links
- The audience you’re targeting
- Need or pain point of the audience
- Type of post. Is it a top, middle, or bottom of the funnel?
- Content length. Detail how long you want the article to be
- Basic outline. Include a few bullet points explaining what the post should cover. For example, if you want to rank for the keyword “working capital,” a basic outline may include these four bullet points:
- Explain what working capital is
- Provide details on how to calculate it
- Highlight why small business owners need it
- Mention how the reader can acquire working capital
From there, it’s up to the writer to expand on this outline. I recommend sharing the above outline in Google Docs and then have the writers create an outline based on an H1, H2, H3 structure. In that way, you’re already getting them to think about SEO.
Take note: It’s essential that writers only create a high-level outline which gives you a bird’s eye view of the post. If they fill in too much detail, they may include irrelevant content you later delete which wastes their time.
You also want to provide all writers with the same template to follow as it gives you consistency and helps control your workflow.
What to Expect from the Writer
Once you’ve given writers the above details, they can begin outlining. Below is an example of what this outline may look like after a writer has tackled it.
You’ll notice how there’s extra information not included in the basic outline you provided such as details on the working capital ratio—and that’s the point; you need to give writers the freedom to include extra information that may prove crucial to the post.
Writer Outline Example
Briefly explain a few scenarios where a small business may need working capital and then lead into what this post covers.
H2: What is Working Capital?
Briefly explain what working capital is and mention situations when a business owner may need it.
H2: How to Calculate Working Capital
- Include the formula and examples on how to calculate it
- Show them how to interpret that number/mention what it means
- But how do you know if you have enough working capital…enter the working capital ratio
H2: Working Capital Ratio and What it Means
Include calculation and interpret the number.
H2: When You Need Working Capital
- Running the day-to-day
- Taking a big step in your business
- Take advantage of a massive opportunity
H2: How to get more working capital?
List various ways to get more working capital:
- H3: Improve collections to reduce the working capital cycle
- H3: Ask for an upfront deposit.
- H3: Peer-to-peer lending
- H3: Use Small Business Administration Loans
- H3: Invoice financing
The above should be just enough to gauge whether your writers are on the right track without them spending too much time creating outlines.
Once you’ve reviewed the outlines and given feedback, it’s time to let your writers get to work and write the first draft.
The Bottom Line
The outlines you give your writers needn’t be complicated. Simply mention key details (topic, keyword, audience, pain point, etc.) and include a basic overview.
From there, writers can add just a little more detail before sending it over to you for review.
What do your outlines look like?