There’s more than a little irony in the title of this article—a how-to guide on how to write better how-to guides. Theoretically, this article should be perfect—a demonstration of its authority to instruct its own subject. However, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” how-to guide because of their diversity of applications, goals, and potential angles.
If you want to write better how-to guides, there’s no simplified rubric or checklist for you to follow. Instead, you need to learn why how-to articles are so popular and effective in the first place, examine why you want them as part of your content campaign, and build a custom approach that’s well-suited for your brand.
Why How-To Articles Matter
Your first job is to examine the main motivations for writing how-to content and determine which ones will be more important for your brand:
- Practicality: A how-to article on how to remodel your kitchen could help consumers save money and get the job done right. This makes consumers loyal to your brand and encourages both consumption and sharing.
- Authority: How-to articles allow you to demonstrate your expertise. For example, not everyone knows how to fix a water heater pilot light, but a plumber or handyman would. This makes your brand seem more powerful and authoritative, increasing consumer respect and differentiating you from the crowd.
- Discoverability: They are also highly discoverable. When you’re facing an immediate problem, your first instinct is to search for what to do next, like learning how to help someone choking. This can help you earn more traffic than your competitors—if you write more appealing topics to your shared audience.
- Persistence: Most how-to articles are valuable because they’re indefinitely relevant. After you write a guide, it will continue to be useful for years, multiplying your return on investment (ROI) over time.
General Tips, Tricks, and Strategies
Once you’ve learned the balance between these advantages, you can start working on making your content “better,” overall. These are some of the best tips, tricks, and strategies to make it happen:
- Understand your goals. In content marketing, you can have a virtually unlimited number of goals. You could want to increase traffic, increase conversions, build better brand relationships, increase brand loyalty, improve your reputation, something else entirely, or some combination of the preceding goals. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but if you want to develop appropriate how-to content, you need to know what your goals are and how your content can help you achieve them.
“If you want to develop appropriate how-to content, you need to know what your goals are and how your content can help you achieve them.” — Anna Johansson
- Get to know your audience. In that same vein, you also have to understand who your audience is and what they need from you. Learn what they want in their online content by studying their behaviors and patterns with other brands. Then apply those lessons to your selection of topics and writing style. You won’t get it perfect at first, but you need a strong foundation on which to build.
- Cater to multiple learning styles. Next, understand that not all your readers will learn the same way. Some will prefer to have short, concise, step-by-step instructions, while others will prefer to have every detail explored in full in longer, narrative paragraphs. Some will prefer purely written instructions while others will prefer embedded images to guide them, or short demonstrative videos. Try to cater to as many of these different readers as possible.
- Get into specifics. There’s no shortage of how-to content out there. If you want to be relevant, you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. The best way to do that is to get as specific as possible. Most general topics have already been covered. By pursuing more niche-focused subjects, you’ll decrease your potential audience size, but greatly increase your discoverability and relevance. Do some keyword research to learn what’s already been done.
- Show off your brand voice. Finally, don’t just write a plain how-to, with vanilla, robotic instructions. People relate better to content that’s written with a recognizable personality and tone, so make sure that comes off in your content. Add in some humor or some personal touches so that your brand becomes more uniquely identifiable.
Do Your Homework
Most of these tips are only effective when they’re applied to your brand, specifically. That means you’ll need to do your research if you want to be effective.
Spend your efforts coming up with topics that your audience actually wants to read by gathering as much information as possible before writing. As you gather more data throughout your campaign, you’ll be able to make your articles better and better.