Throughout this Learn Blogging series, you are discovering different kinds of blog posts which can be particularly useful for accomplishing specific goals. In fact, I may want to go back and add an “Ideal Purpose” section for each post type to help make it clear why you might employ that method.
Roundups, for instance, are great for leveraging influencer marketing to expand your reach into new audiences. Case Studies, on the other hand, are excellent for bottom of funnel prospect conversion. These are people who have identified their issue and the solution and are now comparing you with one or more other vendors, and reading a case study to help envision themselves in the shoes of one of your past successful customers.
Now we’re talking about How To posts and I thought it was important from the outset to establish the real Why. We’ve all read How To posts any time we’ve Googled how to do something, and most of us have written a How To post in our past. The reasons for doing so may have varied from “explaining something” to “driving affiliate clicks and commissions” but none of those are the real motivation for creating great How To posts.
A How To post is your opportunity as a brand to demonstrate empathy and helpfulness to a customer or prospect.
Trust me. If you can show someone that you care about them and their problems, and offer a solution, even an imperfect one, you will have made an impact on them both intellectually and emotionally.
Think about the last time you watched the Super Bowl on TV. Unless you had a vested interested in one of the two teams participating, you were probably watching for the commercials more than anything else. Which ones stood out? What 30-second spot from months or even years ago do you still remember? I’ll bet dollars to donuts it was a commercial that triggered an emotion. I dare you to watch this ad and keep a dry eye:
We remember the ad and the brand (if done well) because it left an indelible impression in our minds. The How To post is your golden chance to do the same. Odds are good that most of the readers coming to the How To posts you create will from search, meaning, they’ve Googled “how to do X” and found your article. They have a need and while you’re fulfilling that need, you can write from a place that understands them and helps them so that the next time they need help, guess who they’ll think of first?
In this Learn Blogging series we will cover:
- The Roundup
- How To (you’re here)
- Case Study
- Personal Story
- Business News / Announcement
- Employee / Customer Spotlight
- Thought Leadership
Let’s get started learning.
Learn Blogging: What Is A How To Post?
This part’s easy. You’re reading one!
A How To post is any article that explains to the reader the actions they should take to accomplish something. That could entail step-by-step instructions for how to construct a DIY outdoor planting station, or the thought processes they could take to determine their personal brand.
The steps can be physical, conceptual, and be as few as a single action.
The steps can also be complicated and include options and recommendations. And this is where, again, this post is an example. While I’m telling you how to create How To posts (and other kinds of posts throughout this series), there isn’t a single format and series of tasks to create these posts – it’s a creative process. But by giving you background information and context, examples, vitals and best practices, I’m helping you to understand the process of creation and build, for yourself, a series of steps in your mind palace that you can refer to when needed.
Why Do I Love How To Posts?
There are a few reasons why I love How To Posts:
- They’re perfect Top Of Funnel content that prospective customers will find when searching for answers and get to know your brand while learning the topic.
- They’re excellent retention vehicles. A great How To post can be found by a customer or shared by your support team to a customer in need and help them out of a situation.
- They’re eminently practical to write. Most of the How To posts that you write can and should be born from the knowledge that’s already in your head!
Other than researching examples of the various posts in this series, virtually everything else I’m telling you is information I already know, which means the time creating these articles has only taken the time it took me to type them out. As I’m writing this very sentence, I’m letting my fingers do all the work while my mind imagines what I want to say next. That’s how blog articles can flow out of you and almost write themselves. If you’re writing a research paper, it’s going to be grueling, arduous work that should be avoided whenever possible.
Great Blog How To Post Examples
Here are a few great How To post examples from a variety of industries to give you a sense for what others have done:
- How To Start A Blog: The Ultimate Free Guide – I wanted to give you an example I’m intimately familiar with to start off because the content itself will likely help you as well.
- How To Build A Potting Bench – This Old House is famous for the TV show and guides, and here’s a perfect example of step-by-step instructions.
- How To Create A Lean Canvas For Your Business Idea Or Startup – I love this How To for it’s clear and illustrated direction, both in terms of the steps to build a canvas for your idea, and the explanation of the ‘why’ behind those steps. If you haven’t studied Lean Startup this is a great overview of the process involved in creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that I teach all the time.
Doubtless you’ll see more examples any time you look something up on Google, and of course as you continue through this Learn Blogging series.
Learn Blogging: How To Post Vitals
These are the vital aspects of a How To post:
- The How To post must teach something, whether it’s tangible or intangible doesn’t matter.
- There is no minimum or maximum length for a How To post. However, when crafting an article on a topic it’s always a good idea to get a sense for what your competitors have already written on the topic and outdo them. If you can go into more depth on a topic than anyone else, it’s likely that article will quickly outrank the others.
Of course, the trick is to go in depth and write as much as possible if it makes sense to do so. An article about how to add the MacOS calculator app to the dock for easy access shouldn’t take two thousand words to get to the point. There’s benefit and elegance to brevity.
How To Post Best Practices
Follow these best practices to ensure your How To is a success!
- If the topic you’re teaching has actual steps to be performed in order, clearly number them.
- Perform keyword research before writing or publishing to confirm interest in the topic and polish your choice of focus keyword.
Unless you’re writing to a question that is unique to your customers, like an FAQ approach, it’s a good idea to use Google Keyword Planner or similar to first determine the current monthly searches for your keyword idea, then explore alternative keyword ideas. Maybe you thought people were searching “How To X” but that’s only getting 10 – 100 searches a month, whereas “How To Y” is getting 1,000+ searches a month and conceptually it means the same thing. You simply need to use “Y” instead of “X” most of the time in your content and now you’ve optimized for search.
For example, I might want to target people who are just getting into blogging and searching for “how to launch a blog” but if I do my homework, I find that few people use that phrase and instead, far more search for “how to start a blog” and so I adjust my content accordingly. This is referred to as semantics and while Google is getting better every day at understanding the similarity in meaning between launch and start, between dog and puppy, and so on, it’s not perfect. You can help yourself tremendously by targeting the exact phrases that your target audience is actively searching on.
The Secret Sauce To Make How To Posts Scrumptious
Want to take your How To Post to the Next Level? Here’s my best advice:
Write with a specific person in mind.
Now, this isn’t unique or even original. Stephen King and Ann Handley and many other experts at the craft of writing have offered similar recommendations when helping others to learn blogging. The idea is simple: whenever you’re writing, have a particular individual in mind that you’re using the writing to communicate to or help in some way. For businesses, this might not be an actual, living person, but rather an avatar that they’ve constructed which represents their ideal custom or target profile in some way.
While this advice applies well to every article you might write, it’s particularly critical and beneficial to the How To post.
- What is the skill level of your audience? Their experience with this particular topic?
- What’s their learning style? What issues have they had, and what’s their goal or hope from reading your article?
If you know the answers to those questions before you start writing, your writing will be better, more focused. It will speak to that person and resonate better with others who read the article and have the same pain points, the same needs, and similar backgrounds.
Does that mean you might need to create alternate versions of the same content for alternate personas? You bet!
We’ll continue to learn blogging by diving into Listicle Posts next. Meanwhile, if you have questions about How To posts that I didn’t cover here, ask ’em in the comments below. If you’re looking for a more in-depth, structured training on how to successfully launch a blog to make money for yourself, or use content marketing to promote your business, my Blogging Bootcamp is for you.
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