My mentor says, “The thing about a research question is that it’s a question.” It sounds like pretty obvious advice until you have a room full of grad students posing hypotheses as research questions.
I think about this advice when I edit “how to” pieces. Because the thing about a “how to” article is that it tells you how to do something. If it doesn’t clearly provide steps, it’s not a “how to” at all, and you may want to reconsider your approach or at least your title. Just like, if it doesn’t end in a question mark, it’s not a research question.
“How tos” are one of the most popular types of blog posts. The reason is pretty simple — people come to the internet trying to learn something. They’re trying to solve a problem they have, which means they’re immediately attracted to a Google search result with a title of “how to” solve that problem.
You’re likely reading this post because you aren’t sure if your “how to” posts are up to snuff. Good! You’re in the right place to improve and learn more about how to write a “how to.”
1.Choose a Topic
The first thing you need to do when writing a “how to” post is choose a topic. Of course, you may get assigned a topic, depending on your circumstances. But either way, you want your subject to be related to your niche or expertise. You also want it to be something you know from experience and research that your audience wants and needs to learn more about.
2. Write an Appealing “How To” Title
The title is a critical part of your blog post. It takes a reader five seconds or less to decide if they’re going to click on your post. They read the title to make this decision. That’s why it’s so essential to write click-worthy blog titles.
Of course, “how to” blog titles are a bit easier than others because you simply use the words “how to” and whatever you’re teaching the reader in the post.
3. Draw the Reader In
You want the introduction to your blog post to draw the reader in and make them want to keep reading.
In a “how to” piece, the intro should establish why it’s essential to know the information you’re going to teach. Why does the audience need this?
Write your intro in an appealing way, and make sure to use keywords for search purposes.
4. Explain “How To”
For some reason, this step is where writers tend to go astray. A “how to” needs to explain the steps of how to do something, just as promised in the title and intro. You don’t have to number the steps, but they should be clearly defined and explained.
Research the steps in advance and jot them down, so you know exactly where you’re going with the post.
Each step ideally should be an H2. Add H3s and bulleted lists as necessary to further explain each point.
Here’s a brief outline for a “how to” post:
- “How to” title
- An optional “what or why” graph that explains what the thing is. You only need this if people don’t readily understand what you’re talking about.
- Step-by-step “how to” for doing the thing
5. Wrap It Up
The post’s conclusion typically circles back to the piece’s introduction. It will reiterate (using new language) why the reader needs to know how to do the thing. It also may explain why the piece is a trusted resource on that topic.
The conclusion also may include a Call-To-Action, offering the reader help with doing the thing or providing information about other related products or services.
6. Edit the Piece
Of course, you need to edit every post for grammar, spelling, word usage, etc. Remember that the cleaner your copy is when you submit it, the less likely your editor will make changes. You’ll not only get the thrill of seeing your words in their original format, but you’ll get better assignments because of the trust you’re building with your editor.
If you don’t have an editor, you certainly want to take a critical eye to your writing before publishing it.
Either way, don’t forget to reread your “how to’s” steps during your editing process. Did you forget anything? Do the steps make logical sense? You want the reader to read the title, then the H2s, and have a strong overview of the post’s logic.
Let Content Journey Write Your “How Tos”
We know we made writing “how tos” look ridiculously easy in this post. We always make writing look easy, even though it’s certainly not for a lot of people. Writing is our expertise.
Whether you’re looking for “how tos” to attract readers and help them solve their problems or more long-form content to explain a complicated concept clearly, let Content Journey take care of your writing needs. Start your journey to better content and more attention for your brand by scheduling a free consultation with us.