Creating Content Outlines that Rank: The Ultimate Guide

Sidra Condron
June 6, 2024
8 min read

Content outlines are the secret weapon of top bloggers and content marketers. By providing a clear roadmap to follow, outlines help you write higher quality, SEO-optimized blog posts in less time.

In this ultimate guide, we'll walk you through the entire process of creating effective content outlines from start to finish. You'll learn why outlines are so powerful, how to research keywords, analyze competitors, and craft compelling outlines section by section.

By the end, you'll have a proven framework for outlining that will level up your content creation process. Let's dive in.

Why Use Content Outlines for Blogging?

Here are a few key reasons why using content outlines is a no-brainer:

  • Write faster: With a clear outline to follow, writer's block becomes a thing of the past. You'll be able to crank out comprehensive drafts more quickly and efficiently.
  • Cover all the important points: Outlines ensure that your post is thorough and includes all the key information readers seek. No more thin, incomplete content.
  • Improve flow and organization: By planning the structure ahead of time, your final post will have better flow and be easier to follow. No more rambling or disjointed sections.
  • Optimize for search engines: Outlines help you strategically incorporate target keywords and align your content with search intent. The result? Posts that are primed to rank.
  • Outsource and scale: Outsourcing becomes much easier when you have a library of outlines. Simply hand off the outline to a writer and let them run with it.

How to Do Keyword Research for Your Content Outline

Every great outline starts with selecting the right target keyword. Here's how to go about it:

  1. Evaluate search volume and difficulty. Look for keywords with decent search volume (the higher, the better) and relatively low competition. Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and SpyFu can help with this.
  2. Analyze search intent. Ensure you understand what searchers are looking for when they use your target keyword. Are they looking for a how-to guide? A list of tools? An in-depth case study? Google your keyword and see what types of content are already ranking on page one.
  3. Consider secondary and related keywords. In addition to your primary keyword, list secondary and related keywords to sprinkle throughout your post. These will help you rank for a wider variety of relevant searches.

Analyzing Competitors' Content for Your Outline

To create content that ranks, you need to start by seeing what's already working. That means analyzing the posts that are currently ranking on page one for your target keyword.

Here are a few key things to look for:

  • Content length and comprehensiveness. How long are the top-ranking posts? How in-depth do they go in covering the topic? Your post should aim to be at least as comprehensive as the current top rankers, if not more so.
  • Common headers and subtopics. Look for common themes regarding how the top posts are structured and the key points they cover. These are likely important subtopics you'll want to include in your own post.
  • Content gaps and unique angles. Are there any points the top rankers missed? Can you include any unique angles or examples to make your post stand out? Identifying these will help you craft better content than what's already out there.

Crafting Your Content Outline

Armed with your target keyword and competitive research, it's time to assemble your outline. Here's a general structure you can follow:


  • Hook readers with an eye-catching stat or bold claim
  • Clearly state what the post will cover and why it matters to the reader

Key Takeaways/TLDR

  • Summarize the 3-5 key points you want readers to remember in a bulleted list (aim for 30-50 words per bullet)

H2s for Each Main Section

  • Break your post down into 3-5 main sections, each with its own H2
  • Write compelling H2s that incorporate your target keyword where relevant

H3 Subheadings

  • Under each H2, include 2-3 H3 subheadings to break things further down if the topic is deep enough for this
  • H3s are a good place to address common questions and misconceptions or dive deeper into examples


  • Summarize the key points you covered in the post
  • Reiterate the importance of the topic and why it matters
  • Include a clear CTA telling readers what to do next (sign up, read another post, etc.)

Tips for Making Your Content Unique

Having a solid outline is a great start, but you must make your content stand out if you want to beat the competition. Here are a few tips:

  • Find a unique angle. Could you take an unconventional or contrarian perspective on the topic? A personal story or case study you could include?
  • Incorporate original data and examples. Proprietary data, original examples, and real screenshots help your post stand out and give it a competitive edge.
  • Highlight your Unique Selling Points. What makes your brand or product unique? Weave those differentiators into the post to give readers a reason to pay attention to you over the other options.
  • Invest in design and visuals. Well-designed, visually appealing blog posts tend to perform better than walls of text. Invest in creating custom graphics, charts, and visuals to break up your text and drive home key points.

How to Use Content Outlines When Outsourcing

One of the biggest benefits of content outlines is that they make outsourcing and scaling much easier. Here are a few tips for using them effectively:

  • Create SOPs. Develop a standardized process for creating outlines that your team can follow. The more systematic you are, the easier it will be to maintain quality as you scale.
  • Set expectations with writers. Share your outlines with freelance writers upfront so they know exactly what you expect in terms of structure, length, subtopics to cover, etc.
  • Use outlines for feedback and revisions. If a writer submits a draft that doesn't quite hit the mark, refer to the outline to highlight which areas need improvement. This makes giving feedback much more objective and efficient.

Creating detailed content outlines requires some upfront time and effort but pays off in spades. With an outline-driven approach, you can create better content faster and more easily scale your content operation.

The key is to make outlining a habitual part of your content creation process. Templatize the steps outlined above and systematically implement them whenever you write a new post.

Before you know it, you'll have a library of outlines that make knocking out high-quality, rank-worthy posts a breeze.

Take Your Content to the Next Level with RivalFlow AI

Using a content outline is a great first step, but what if your published post still isn't ranking as well as you'd hoped?

That's where RivalFlow AI comes in.

RivalFlow AI analyzes your content and pages that are outranking you to identify gaps - questions they answer that you don't, areas where their coverage is more comprehensive, etc.

It then provides you with AI-generated recommendations and copy to fill those gaps directly in your existing content. No more guessing or starting from scratch.

With RivalFlow AI, you can revive underperforming posts and double down on your winners with just a few clicks. It's the perfect complement to an effective outlining process.

So what are you waiting for? Try RivalFlow AI risk-free and see how easy it is to optimize your content to outrank the competition. Your first-place rankings await.