How to Write an Outline to Get Exactly the Content You Need

In part one of this post, a Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) writer shared some general best practices for collaborating with ghostwriters to make sure they have what they need to make you happy. In this installment, we get into more detail and share how to write a blog outline to effectively communicate your ideas.


As much as they would like to be, writers aren’t psychic. If you’re hiring other people to write content for you and only give them a handful of topics to work with, they’ll do their best, but they aren’t going to produce the content that’s exactly what you pictured when you created your requests. Providing an outline, on the other hand, means that the writer knows exactly what you have in mind for the article — and that means they’ll produce the content you really need.

Wondering how, exactly, you’re supposed to produce that perfect blog outline? After all, writing isn’t your thing. That’s why you’ve outsourced it! Don’t worry. You aren’t back in high school. The goal of this outline is just to let the writers know what you’re looking for.map-plot-outline.jpg

How to Write a Blog Outline: A Non-Writer’s Guide

1. What’s your thesis?

This is the central point that you’re trying to make with your post. Unless you’re breaking news straight from your own company, your central point should be a unique angle on an existing topic. You don’t want to just regurgitate information that’s already out there. Rather, you want to produce new content that will bring people to your website. By providing your writer with the information they need to understand your angle, you substantially increase the odds that you’ll get the post you imagined when you entered the request.

Talented though they are, writers can’t magically deduce your angle from a few keywords. Take, for example, a customer who enters, “Is print advertising dead?” as the topic. The writer had no choice but to decide which side of the debate the customer came down on and, of course, ended up guessing wrong.

Being vague never ends well for anyone. You don’t get the content you need and the writer has wasted their time and energy writing a post that you can’t use. With more specific guidelines, the writer can produce exactly the post you need. In the example above, even knowing which side of the debate the client was on would have helped the writer immensely!

Design your thesis with care. If you have a catchy title in mind in the form of a question, that’s great! Just remember that in order to write the post, the writer has to know your answer to the question.

2. Determine how in-depth the post needs to be

If you’re asking for a 300-word post, you can’t get a full answer to, “What is the best marketing strategy for a dog grooming business?” You can, however, get a basic answer to the question, “How can blogging help your dog grooming business reach more customers?”

It’s important that you carefully consider the level of depth that you’re expecting for the length you’re requesting. Longer posts can obviously provide a much greater level of depth and handle more subtopics — but we’ll get into that later.

As you’re deciding on the depth you want for your posts, remember that providing a specific thesis will be much more likely to get you an in-depth post on the topic you most need than a vague keyword.

3. Offer available resources

If you pulled an idea out of your own mind, you don’t need to do the research for the writer. On the other hand, many times, you’ll pull an idea from something you’ve already read: another article online, white papers, or other research. You don’t want an exact duplicate of an existing article, and you shouldn’t expect a writer to produce one. That gets into the murky territory of plagiarism fast.

You can, however, provide research that includes relevant statistics and other information that you want the writer to use in the article. This is particularly important for niche markets or if you want to include specific statistics that might be hard for a writer to find. Remember, the writer won’t be as familiar with the available resources in your field as you are. Providing them with relevant sources makes it easier to produce the exact content you’re looking for.

Imagine a writer pulling their hair out as they desperately try to come up with specific statistics for an otherwise perfect article, then abandoning their draft instead of sending it to you because they couldn’t find them. Now, imagine that same writer cheerfully producing a complete article with exactly the statistics you were looking for, all without the need to artfully arrange their hair for the next several months in order to cover up bald spots. That’s the difference a couple of links can make.

4. Get down to business & write that blog outline

Don’t worry — this doesn’t have to be the in-depth outline with a full bibliography in MLA format that your high school English teacher wanted every time you wrote a paper. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be an actual outline, per se. It just needs to contain all the relevant sections that should appear in the post in order for you to be happy with it. (See our template that you’re free to copy/paste quickly from the end of this post.)

You can write this in paragraph form, use bullet points, or jot out a few basic headings to give the writer some guidance. They can figure it out from there! Just one thing: please read over your description before submitting it to make sure that it makes sense. A handful of ill-placed typos and a jumbled sentence structure can completely change the intended meaning of your topic.

Determining the Depth You Need

At Verblio, we have four subscription levels of varying length. If you feel that the posts you’re getting are too superficial or don’t provide enough benefit to your reader base, consider increasing your word-count length. Not only will you get access to writers who have had more time to develop Verblio writing experience, but you’ll also get longer, more in-depth posts that allow the writer to more fully explore the subject.

300-word posts: Short, sweet, and to the point.

In these posts, a writer can give a very vague look at a large concept or a quick overview of a specific one.

If you have specific points you’d like to see included, here is the place to include them. Keep in mind that at the 300-word level, you can only adequately cover 1-2 secondary points. The more points you include, the briefer the content for each will be.

An outline at the300-word level might look something like this:

Marketing Your Dog Grooming Business on Facebook

  • How often should you post to engage your customers?
  • What types of content should you post?
  • How can you encourage customer interaction?

600-word posts: Designed to allow the writer to go into greater detail about a topic.

At the 600-word level, a writer can give some depth to a vague topic or be fairly detailed concerning a more specific topic. With a 600-word post, you have more room for discussion and creativity.

At the 600-word level, your outline might look like this:

Social Media Marketing for Your Dog Grooming Business

dog-at-groomers-in town

  • Facebook: How often should you post to encourage your customers? What kind of content gets the most interaction? What types of content should you post?
  • Twitter: Why is Twitter a valuable marketing tool for a dog grooming business? How often should you post to Twitter? What type of content is appropriate for this platform?
  • LinkedIn: What information should you include in your LinkedIn profile? How do you develop a LinkedIn network?

1,000-word posts: Posts written by high-level Verblio writers.

They can require a great deal more research and often go into much greater depth than shorter posts. These posts require a deeper understanding of your topic. In turn, this means that you’ll need to provide the writers with more information to get the type of posts you want.

At the 1,000-word level, a post can contain a great deal more information about a general subject or very detailed information about a specific subject. Keep in mind the available information about your topic when designing your outline and choosing your topics.

1,000 words is a lot to spend discussing how to market your dog grooming business on Facebook, but it can be a strong overview of social media marketing for a dog grooming business or a decent overview of several different marketing strategies.

You can go into specifics like the ones described in the examples above, or give a brief overview, like this:

Marketing for Dog Groomers

  • Social media marketing: How can you optimize marketing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?
  • Blogging: How can blogging attract more visitors to your dog grooming business website?
  • Website development: Why is it important to update your website? How can you optimize your website so that it will show up in search results?

1,500-word posts: Written by the highest level of Verblio writers.

They’re designed to be highly detailed, filled to the brim with specific information. At the 1,500-word level, vague topics make it very difficult both for the writers and for you. You have a very specific idea of what you’d like to see on your blog. Providing that to the writers who want to work on your posts ensures that they aren’t wasting their time and yours. At this level, you’ll receive high-quality posts filled with relevant information. In exchange, you should try to provide a high-quality outline so they know exactly what you want.

Try this:

Marketing for Your Dog Grooming Business

  • Social Media Marketing: How to optimize marketing for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Include information about how often to post, how to best engage customers, and what kinds of posts customers are looking for.
  • Blogging: How to use blogging to bring potential customers to your site and improve your customer base. Suggest potential blog topics and tie in marketing the blog on social media accounts. www.doggrooming.com and www.howtogroomadog.com are excellent examples of quality dog grooming blogs if you need inspiration.
  • SEO optimization: How to design a website that will show up in search results. Cover more than just Google!  Some helpful resources: www.designingawebpage.com and www.marketingadoggroomingbusiness.com.

Maintaining an awareness of how many words the writers have to cover a topic will make it much easier to write blog outlines that will appeal to them and make it possible for them to produce exactly the kind of content you need. If you want to be every writer’s favorite customer, give them the detail that makes it easy, not only to write the post, but to understand what you’re looking for in terms of content and style. A little bit of information from you will just help writers get it right on the first try.

A Blog Outline Template for Verblio

You can use the can copy and paste the outline below and insert it into your Verblio requests:

REQUEST OUTLINE

TITLE: [Working title]
KEYWORDS: [SEO keywords that should be included in the post]
ARTICLE/RESOURCE FOR REFERENCE:
Resource #1: [Add URL for resource]
Resource #2: [Add URL for resource]
STYLE AND LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS: [STYLE GUIDE, MUSTS, DON’TS]
BRIEF SUMMARY / IDEA / THESIS [TIP: USE KEYWORD, MAIN IDEA]:
POINT 1 [300 WORD POSTS]:
SUPPORTING INFO / STATS [TIP: LINKS, PDF]:
POINT 2 [600 WORD POSTS]:
SUPPORTING INFO / STATS [TIP: LINKS, PDF]:
POINT 3 [1000 WORD POSTS]:
SUPPORTING INFO / STATS [TIP: LINKS, PDF]:
POINT 4 [1500 WORD POSTS]:
SUPPORTING INFO / STATS [TIP: LINKS, PDF]:
CTA:[Call to Action]

Verblio

We eat our own dog food. It's true. We use Verblio's service for our own blog. The same writers that write for our clients write many of our blog posts—like this one. Any posts with an author named "Verblio" were written by a writer from our talent pool of 3,000+ U.S.-based writers. We sure couldn't do it without them.

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