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How to Write a How-To Post: 7 Simple Steps

Steven February 4, 2013 10 responses Blogging 52 views

How-To articles will always be some of the most popular posts on your blog. Some will maintain a steady stream of visitors for years to come. So it’s important to learn to craft a killer how-to post. Do it right and you look like a rock star. Do it wrong and, well, you know…

Step 1: Pick A Good Topic

I’d love to be able to tell my readers how to code a WordPress theme because I know there are some out there who want this information. But I don’t know how to do it myself and I haven’t the time or the desire to learn. Of course, I could just rewrite some other blogger’s post, but what if he left out a step or two? I’d never know it, but my readers would when they tried to follow my directions and then I’d look like an idiot.

Choose a topic you’re familiar with, one you know inside and out and can easily explain to your readers. Remember, they must be able to follow your directions and complete the task successfully. Otherwise, you lose credibility.

Step 2: List The Steps

Jot down every single step. It might seem like common sense to you, but you’ve done it a few times – your readers haven’t. Don’t worry about explaining the steps yet, just make sure you’ve got them all on the list. Then, go over your list and make sure the steps are all in the proper order.

Step 3: Craft A Great Opening Paragraph

Use your opening paragraph to let your readers know you understand their problem. “Wouldn’t it be great if you could change the oil in your car yourself? You wouldn’t have to find a repair shop, you wouldn’t have to make an appointment, and you could save a ton of money. I’m going to show you step-by-step how you can change your own oil in 20 minutes with just a few household tools.

Step 4: Provide Details For Each Step

Now, go back to each step to provide all the necessary details. However, be careful here. If you provide too many details your reader may be confused.

For example, it’s not necessary to explain the difference between 40-weight and 30-weight oil, but you do need to tell your reader how to determine which type of oil their car uses. If you want to give them that additional information, put it in a separate post and link to it.

Step 5: Craft A Closing Paragraph With A Call To Action

How-To articles are great lead-ins for a call to action to subscribe to your list. “If you liked this helpful How-To, subscribe to my newsletter for weekly DIY tips.” You could also tell your readers to tell you about their results in the comments, or remind them to share your article. The list is endless.

Step 6: Create An Attention-Grabbing Title

When you’re finished, go back and put a great title on your article. “How to change the oil in your car” is nice and it certainly tells the reader exactly what he’ll learn, but it doesn’t necessarily grab your attention. “How to change your own oil: 7 Simple steps to save you time and money” tells the reader not only what they’ll learn, but how they’ll benefit from the information.

Step 7: Preview And Edit

The key to writing killer how-to articles is to make sure your reader can really complete the task. Too many bloggers leave out a step – either inadvertently because they think it’s trivial or intentionally because they want the reader to buy their ebook to get the “rest of the story.” If necessary, write your article and then follow the steps yourself to make sure you didn’t leave anything out.

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10 Comments Add one

  1. Cathy Yerges

    Great outline of the topic. How-to articles and blog posts can be great traffic generators to your site if you keep them focused and easy to read and understand, as you’ve done here.

    1. Steven

      Absolutely Cathy! How-to posts are great traffic generators because they give an answer to a problem people are facing.

  2. Scott KIndred | SafeHouse Web
    Scott Kindred | Safehouse Web

    This is a great list of how to write great how-to posts. I especially like how you have #6, Create An Attention-Grabbing Title, listed toward the end. For me, it’s a good remeinder that the post’s content should drive the post’s title, not the other way around.

    1. Steven

      Scott, you see a lot of beginner bloggers who over-hype their blog titles or try to make them enigmatic, then you read the post and you’re like “blehh? Is that it?”

  3. Jens R. Woinowski
    Jens R. Woinowski

    I think #2 is important. I myself tend not to write how to posts in steps. Good advice.

    BTW: I like the slogan “Traffic Leads Sales”. Nice double meaning.

    1. Steven

      Hehe, thanks Jens ;) The slogan came by itself.

  4. Liza Shaw
    Liza Shaw

    I tend to do how to’s as ‘over my shoulder’ video’s, rather than print. Basically because I find learning this way easier. Do you think I should be doing how-to lists as well?

    1. Steven

      Liza, it’s really up to you. You need to feel comfortable doing your how-to guides. Maybe you can try doing lists and see how your readers react to them

  5. Gary Hyman
    Gary Hyman

    Great post. Short, sweet, simple & makes sense. And I love the title too – How to write a how to post. Great!

    1. Steven

      Thanks for the nice words Gary

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