Writing a single coherent blog post is fairly easy. But maintaining a consistent theme, style and message across six or eight posts in a themed series is much harder. That’s why it’s important to develop a well-honed outline first. A mind map is the perfect tool for planning your next series of blog posts.
Recently, social media and online marketing expert Chris Brogan wrote a series of “how-to” blog posts that were designed to help small business owners to set up their first online outpost. He then published a follow-up post that simply explained the basics of how he plans and writes series like this one.
When I posted a comment to this last post, suggesting that his readers employ a mind map to lay out the post topics and major points for each article as a visual outline, rather than just plunging into the writing process, Chris was quick to reply that he now uses mind mapping quite extensively in his business.
WWCM – What Would Chris Map?
That got me to thinking: What would a mind map look like for Chris’ small business online marketing primer and how, specifically, could you use it to generate more compelling blog content? The map above is what I came up with (click on the image to view the entire map in a larger size).
What can you learn from this mind map?
- Note how easy it is to see each article and its main topics within the context of the others. One of the things that I can see by looking at the articles in this visual context is that the last post in the series, “How to write effective blog posts,” might have been better positioned before “How to grow traffic to your your blog” and after the “Before you seek business” post. If you look at the sub-topics they contain, it’s easy to see that they’re both focused on different aspects of blog content and therefore should follow one another. Besides, after that topic, the latter ones are all higher-level topics (how to grow traffic, convert it and package your business). See what I mean?
- I also created a floating topic with common thematic elements that need to run through the entire post series. By placing them here, it’s much easier to keep them top of mind during the visual outlining process than if they were connected to the map’s central topic.
- While I didn’t show them here for the sake of simplicity, you can add notes to sub-topics, to capture additional thoughts and details about them. If you look at his post series, each sub-heading usually contains 1 to 2 paragraphs of content at the most, which makes Chris’ writing very easy to digest. If you capture the nuggets of ideas in topic notes during the planning process, you’ll find it really speeds and helps to focus your writing. Without an outline like this you, like many writers, may tend to ramble.
- Also not shown in this mind map, Chris refers in several posts to online services he recommends, such as blog posting and WordPress templates. Be sure to include links to important resources, such as images you want to use with each of your post, tools or websites you want to let your readers know about, or important background information that you want to refer to when writing the post. By creating URL links, for them, you can quickly access them when you’re ready to write your post series – very convenient.
Benefits of mapping out a blog post series
Mapping out a blog post series before you begin writing has a number of benefits, including these:
- You can more easily see how well your post titles work together. You can experiment with different titles and the order of them – playing “what if” with topic ideas before surrounding them with paragraphs of text.
- The second-level topics – one level below the post titles – are excellent fodder for sub-headings in your posts. At this macro level, you can brainstorm sub-topics/sub-headings that will help each article to rank well in search engines, as well as ensure that your sub-headings are consistent with the post series them and align well with each other in a natural “flow” from one to the next.
- If you’re trying to create a strong call to action, then your analysis of blog topics and major subject headings should give you a sense of logical progression toward “the ask,” as Chris calls it. It’s much easier to do this while your article is still in skeletal form than when it is written. That’s because paragraphs of text tend to obscure the structure of your writing.
Plan, then write
Can you see how visually planning your blog post series can enhance the final result? If you have clarified your thinking about what you’re going to write about, in what sequence, you should ultimately end up with a higher quality series of blog posts that will achieve the impact you seek – more readers, more comments, more engagement on your blog and more influence for you as a blogger.
Why not give this technique a try to enhance your next series of blog posts?
If you found this blog post to be useful, you may be interested in the new edition of my popular Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software e-book, the leading collection of best practices and productivity-enhancing shortcuts for visual mapping.