Outlining for content performance


Outlining for content performance

Whether you’re doing it all by yourself or leading a team of ace copywriters, there’s a simple tool that will accelerate your content production and improve your chances of success: the outline.

Hopefully, you’ve established a keyword strategy to work from. (If not, you can use our step-by-step keyword strategy guide). Now it’s time to put strategy into action.

About this guide

This guide will show you how to generate outlines for clear content that is built with purpose and primed to perform. Here’s how we’re going to break it all down:

  • Basics. The why and what of outlines.
  • Customizable outline template. What we use for our content production. You can make it your own.
  • Step-by-step implementation. How to fill each section of the outline to optimize production and content performance.

By the end, you’ll have all the resources you need to make outlining a standard part of your production pipeline.

Why outline?

You’ve already got so much on your desk besides creating content: scheduling, ideation, publishing, distribution, promotion, and so on. The last thing you need is extra busywork.

And that’s exactly why outlining is essential to content marketing.

  • Streamlining production
  • Ensuring higher work quality
  • Integrating your strategy into every piece

The perks endure: fewer editorial hours, less busywork, higher volume of production, higher quality of content. Seriously.

Benefits for your readers

Audiences want quality content. What does a quality blog page look like for your readers?

  • Relevant. The topic of the post is useful and pertinent.
  • Accessible. The argument is structured in an intuitive, logical way.
  • Scannable. Visual design enables quick comprehension.
  • Compelling. The copy is lively, informative, and fun to read.

For example, check out this gorgeous post from our friends at Ride Report:


By mapping out the topic, argument, structure, and design ahead of time, you know the fundamentals of the piece are solid. With these in place, your copywriters are freed up to focus on lively language.

Benefits for your content marketing team

For marketing purposes, a quality piece of content is one that’s primed to perform well. Which means…

  • Targeted. Following a keyword strategy focused on a specific audience.
  • Engaging. Keeps your audience’s attention from beginning to end.
  • Conversion-oriented. Written with calls to action and internal links that encourage visitors to become leads.

By outlining ahead of time, you’re more capable of achieving those ideals. You’ll lead with strategy as you create the foundations of every piece.

Production workflow benefits from outlines, too. As content marketers, we’ve got some priorities when it comes to production:

  • Quality
  • Consistency
  • Volume

And since marketing managers are already busy with strategizing and distribution the amazing content, it helps to delegate production duties. This is where outlines become vital.

  • Outlines provide direction. They map out the writing task step by step, according to your vision.
  • Outlines reduce ambiguity. Simple, instructive language enables clarity of mission, so writers can get to work without having to clarify via correspondence.
  • Outlines standardize expectations. By formalizing the production process, you’re free to focus more on creating great work.

With freelancers or new hires, providing an outline ensures that their lack of familiarity won’t lead them off-topic. And when trying to convince an in-house engineer or executive to write a more specialized piece, a prepared outline will save them time in their already busy days.

Understanding the Content Outline Template

For the rest of this guide, we’ll use the Ercule content outline template. We’re constantly tweaking details on all of our tools as we refine our production process. So we encourage you to do the same with this template. Download and make it your own!

We’ll start by walking you through its structure so you have a good sense of what we’re aiming for, and then we’ll examine each field, piece by piece.

We designed this template for collaborative projects.

For example, a strategist creates the outline then hands it over to a copywriter. But a one-person content department benefits from using outlines, too.

This template has three main components:

  • Parameters. Composition guidelines according to brand style and best practices for content that performs.
  • SEO Specifications. Metadata fields that search engines will use to index your content.
  • Document Structure. The content material itself: headings, subheadings, relevant resources.

Ready for the next step? Let's talk document parameters and SEO specs.