When I began business blogging in 2007, I used how-to posts to demonstrate our business expertise to our audience. What I didn't realise then, but know now, is that search engines adore this type of content, and so do your readers.

Creating how-to content can sometimes feel like a double-edged sword. You might worry that by explaining how to do something, your readers will no longer need your services. It's a common concern, but let's address it head-on.

While some readers might use your guidance to try it themselves, many will soon realise that executing these tasks effectively requires a level of expertise and time commitment they simply don't have. By offering these insights, you're showcasing your knowledge, and expertise as well as building trust.

And when they find it too challenging, they'll remember you as the expert who can step in and help. So, let's dive into how-to content and why it's a win-win for both you and your audience.

How-to posts are a staple for any blog aiming to provide practical advice to their audience and attract new readers.

They not only demonstrate your knowledge but also directly address the needs of your readers, empowering them to accomplish a task or solve a problem themselves.

In this article, you will discover:

  • Key elements to include in every how-to post
  • How to structure your content for maximum clarity
  • Enhancing your post with visuals such as videos and screenshots
  • Tools that make how-to posts easier

By the end of this guide, you'll be equipped to create how-to content that is both informative and engaging.

Let's get started on turning your expertise into actionable, easy-to-follow advice.

1. Understanding the Basics of How-To Posts

A how-to post serves as a step-by-step guide aimed at helping readers achieve a specific task. To write an effective one, you first need to grasp your audience's level of expertise and their expectations. This ensures that the information you provide is both relevant and accessible.

Know Your Audience

Start by defining who your readers are. Are they beginners or more experienced? What problems are they trying to solve? How big of an issue is it for them?

For instance, if you’re writing a tech-related how-to, such as “How to Set Up a Home Network,” your approach will differ based on the technical familiarity of your audience. A post intended for tech novices might start with the basics of network components, while one for IT professionals could dive deeper into advanced configurations.

Example of Audience Analysis

Consider a how-to guide on baking a cake:

For novices Explain terms like “folding” and “beating.”

For experienced bakers Discuss the effects of ingredient variations or substitution.

You'll see that I added a section for more experienced bloggers in this post. If this isn't you, you can skip this section. But bookmark the post first, for when you are ready for it.

You can read a more detailed article on choosing the topic for your how-to-post here.

2. Writing for Clarity and Precision

Use Simple Language

Even if your audience is technically skilled, clear and simple language makes your content more accessible.

Be Direct

Use active voice. Instead of saying, “The button should be pressed,” say, “Press the button.”

Offer Detailed Steps

Break down the tasks into manageable steps. For example, instead of “Prepare the printer,” specify what preparation entails: “Check the ink levels, ensure paper is loaded, and preheat the unit.”

Example of Step-by-Step Breakdown

Let’s say you are explaining how to reset a smartphone:

Step 1 – Go to ‘Settings.'

Step 2 -Scroll to ‘System' and tap ‘Reset Options.'

Step 3 -Select ‘Erase All Data (Factory Reset).'

Step 4 -Confirm your choice and wait for the process to complete.

By structuring your how-to guide with numbered steps, clear headings, and concise instructions, you turn complex processes into easy-to-follow actions.

This enhances understanding and makes the guide more user-friendly, encouraging readers to rely on your posts for future needs.

Writing Effective How-To Content

Crafting how-to content that resonates and motivates action requires a clear understanding of the art of instruction. The goal is to make your reader feel confident and equipped by the end of your post. Here are specific tips to enhance the efficacy and readability of your how-to posts.

Use Command Language and Active Voice

Direct, command-based language helps to create engaging and easy-to-follow instructions. Using an active voice ensures the steps are actionable and the reader is directly involved.

Example: Less effective: “The button can be pressed by you.”
More effective: “Press the button.”

Maintain Consistency

Consistency in the detail level and format throughout your post helps keep the reader engaged and avoids confusion. Decide early on the structure and stick to it; whether you’re using numbered steps, bullet points, or sections, consistency helps maintain flow and clarity.

Consistency Tip:
List materials needed at the beginning of each section, use the same term for repeated actions, and maintain the same tense.

Transitional Phrases to Guide the Reader

Transitional phrases are the handrails that guide your reader through the narrative of your instruction. They help maintain momentum between steps and ensure the reader doesn’t lose track.

Example of Effective Transitions:
After completing Step 2, you're ready to move on to Step 3.

Now that you’ve gathered your materials, let’s start assembling.

Now, if you're anything like me you might be wondering why bother with the transitions, but the simple truth is they make your content easier to read.

Clarity is Key

Each step should be clear and unambiguous. Avoid any chance of misunderstanding by keeping your sentences short and focused.

Clarity Example:
Incorrect: Attach the thing to the side.
Correct: Attach the smaller end of the cable to the side port marked ‘Input.'

Personally, I struggle with this part of things. See what I did there? It's my natural speech pattern to say thing, thingy, and stuff. If you're a bit like me, remember you can edit it all out later.

Engage with “Why”

While your main focus is on the ‘how,' briefly explaining the ‘why' behind a step can enhance understanding and retention. This doesn’t mean going into a long explanation, but a sentence or two can make a big difference. When someone understands the reasons why, they're more likely to take action especially if the why aligns with their goals.

Engagement Example: “Tighten the screw to secure the bracket — this prevents wobbling when the shelf is loaded.”

Adding the why into the how-to shows your readers why you are the expert, and why they need to follow you.

Remember by implementing these strategies, your how-to posts will not only instruct but also engage and empower your readers.

3. The Power of Visuals in How-To Posts

Incorporating visuals into your how-to posts can dramatically improve their effectiveness. Visuals aid comprehension, retain attention, and can often convey information more quickly and clearly than text alone. Here’s how you can effectively integrate visuals to make your content more impactful.

When to Use Screenshots

Screenshots are perfect for guiding readers through software, applications, or any process on a computer or mobile device. They provide a visual reference that aligns with the text instructions, making it easier for readers to follow along.

Example:
If you're explaining how to change settings in a software application, include a screenshot of the settings menu. Highlight or circle the exact area they need to focus on.

Tips for Effective Screenshots:

  • Highlight important areas: Use arrows or circles to direct focus.
  • Keep it clean: Only show relevant parts of your screen to avoid confusion.
  • Add annotations: Brief notes on the screenshots can guide interpretation and action.

Tools like Snagit, Canva and SketchWow can make life easier when it comes to visuals. Snagit is fantastic for screenshots, adding arrows and step numbers. Canva is excellent for infographics and creating branded image templates and SketchWow is brilliant for diagrams, flowcharts and mindmaps. Fancy a little movement? Canva and Snagit are also excellent tools for creating gifs.

When to Use Videos

Videos are ideal when the task involves physical actions or when movement needs to be demonstrated, such as in crafting or assembly instructions. Videos can show nuanced techniques that are hard to describe in words.

Example:
A video showing how to knead dough will be much more effective than textual description alone.

Tips for Creating Engaging Videos:

  • Keep it short: Focus on the task. Videos should be concise.
  • Use clear, steady footage: Ensure the video is high quality and stabilised.
  • Narrate the steps: A voiceover describing the actions can enhance understanding.

Loom has a business plan for $20 a month that will enable you to record your screen, and then give you a summary of what you said. I've found this faster than transcribing, but… It only works for screen recordings. If you're recording a video where you're baking then you'll need the transcript, and you can then edit this into steps.

Incorporating Visuals into the Blog Layout

To optimise the impact of your visuals, place them strategically within your post. Each visual should directly correspond to the text instructions it relates to. This alignment helps readers seamlessly integrate what they see with what they read.

Layout Tip:
Place a visual right after the step it illustrates. You can see an example of this in this post. This method keeps the reader from having to scroll back and forth between text and visuals, maintaining a smooth, logical flow through the content.

By integrating well-chosen and well-placed visuals, you not only enhance the attractiveness of your post but also boost its educational value, making complex tasks more approachable and less intimidating for your readers.

4. Using Tools for Better Content Presentation

Leverage blogging tools and plugins that enhance the presentation of your how-to guide. Tools like Canva for creating custom visuals or Grammarly for text refinement can increase the quality of your posts.

For the actual how-to post itself you can use a plugin like RankMath, or Yoast to get real-time feedback on your content's SEO readiness and readability. I use RankMath, I've used Yoast, and AISEO and SEOpressr. They all do similar things. Don't go swapping plugins on a whim. Stick with what you've got and use it so it works. The most common issue with SEO Plugins is that people don't use them, or use them properly.

Encouraging Reader Interaction

Engagement doesn’t stop at the end of your post. Encouraging reader interaction can provide valuable feedback and foster a community around your content. For a long time that engagement used to be on the blog post itself. Now it can be on social media, or in a group. Engagement tends to happen everywhere so look out for it!

Include Calls to Action

Prompt readers to comment with their experiences or questions. This interaction can provide insights into how well your instructions worked for others.

Example: At the end of your post, you might write, “Tried these steps to install your software? Share your experience in the comments below!”

A few years ago I experimented with leaving the calls to action off of a series of blog posts. A regular reader emailed me and said “Never understood the importance of calls to action until you stopped using them! I've spent all day editing my posts and adding them”. People may not notice them when they're there, but they do miss them when they're not!

5. Offering Additional Resources

Provide links to related posts, downloadable resources, or video tutorials. This not only enhances the user experience but also increases the time they spend on your site.

Example: Link to a related post, “5 Common Software Installation Errors and How to Avoid Them.”

By applying these advanced tips, you can ensure your how-to posts are not only informative and easy to follow but also well-optimised for search engines and engaging for your readers. This holistic approach will help establish your blog as a trusted resource, driving more traffic and increasing reader loyalty.

Advanced Tips for Seasoned Bloggers

For experienced bloggers looking to refine their how-to posts, here are advanced strategies to enhance reader engagement and optimise content visibility. These tips focus on integrating SEO best practices, utilising tools for content enhancement, and fostering reader interaction.

Integrating SEO Best Practices

SEO is important for ensuring that your how-to posts reach the widest possible audience. Here are specific actions you can take to improve your SEO

Keyword Integration

Carefully integrate relevant keywords throughout your post without compromising the natural flow of your content. Remember, keywords should fit seamlessly into sentences.

Example: If your how-to guide is about installing software, ensure terms like “software installation” and “easy software setup” appear naturally within the post.

Optimise Meta Descriptions and Titles

Craft engaging and descriptive titles and meta descriptions. These should promise clear, actionable insights, making use of your primary keyword.

Example: Title: “How to Install Software: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners”

It's a Wrap!

Throughout this guide, we've explored essential strategies to elevate the effectiveness of your how-to posts. These insights are designed to not only improve the instructional quality of your content but also to engage and retain your audience effectively.

Recap of Key Takeaways:

  • Always tailor your content to your audience's needs, ensuring clarity and directness in your instructions.
  • Organise your how-to posts with numbered steps and clear headings to guide readers smoothly through your content.
  • Integrate relevant screenshots and videos to aid comprehension and add visual appeal, making complex steps easier to follow.

By implementing these techniques, you can transform your expertise into accessible and actionable how-to guides that not only educate but also inspire your readers to take action.

Sarah x

 

About

Sarah Arrow

With over 20 years of experience, Sarah Arrow (me!) knows the ins and outs of effective blog writing, which is why she makes her excellent at website copywriting, or, as a blog copywriter. My expertise ensures your blog will captivate readers and deliver your message effectively. Experience? This spans various industries, giving me a unique perspective and a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. This extensive background means she can adapt her writing to fit your specific needs and audience.

Ready to elevate your website or blog? I am the writer you need. My experience, skill, and passion for online writing make me the perfect choice for your blog copywriting needs. Contact me today and see the difference a professional content writer can make.

What Sets Me Apart?
Human Touch: My writing resonates on a personal level. I understand human psychology and use this to create content that connects.
Attention to Detail: Every post is detailed. Grammar, style, and accuracy are important in my work.
Consistency: I deliver high-quality content consistently, ensuring your website blog remains fresh and engaging.

If you're ready to get started join the free blogging challenge and do it yourself, or call me on 07816 528421 to do it for you.

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