The Internet has become a mecca for people who want to learn how to do something. Businesses are using how-to articles and videos to capture the attention of consumers and draw them to their website. Look for a particular niche in which you can become the expert and develop your own library of how-to information.
The Basics of How-To Writing
There is a format for how-to articles that works best to deliver useful information to the consumer. It allows them to think through the process and decide if they can actually do the task or not. The sections of this article include:
Clear and complete description and title: The title and description should accurately say what the how-to article is about. This is important for SEO and will help people query your topic. For example, “How to Change Oil in Your Car” or “Making the Perfect Cupcake” should represent the literal purpose of an article. Don’t include a section about why you should use high-mileage oil in your car or how to select healthy, organic ingredients for the cupcake. Those are different article topics entirely and should be used to build up your how-to library with additional information.
Experience level needed to do the task: This sets the tone of the article for consumers. By saying “This recipe is good for beginning bakers,” the viewer knows up front what to expect from the instructions. “This is an easy project for people experienced with using an acetylene cutting torch” also lets people gauge whether they should even continue reading the article.
Tools and supplies required: This is more information that the viewer needs up front to decide if they should attempt the project. Don’t leave out something critical until halfway through the article. Mentioning the use of sea salt for the first time in the middle of an article on making caramels frustrates the reader who thought they had all of the supplies mentioned at the start of the article.
Step-by-step instructions: Break up the task into small steps and cover each one carefully. The reader will follow each step and expect perfect results. Don’t jump back and forth between steps. Make your how-to articles a line-by-line guide to how the project should be done. If you have alternative suggestions, put them in the next section of the article.
Additions and substitutions: This section can give the reader some different ways to do the task or additional steps to be more successful. An article on “How to Speed Through Spring House Cleaning” could include homemade cleaning solutions for windows, countertops, and floors in this section.
Variations on Your Theme
The article writers that you use have many creative ways to make these how-to articles more interesting an entertaining. Mix these styles in with your other formats to give the viewer a different way to look at their task:
The “How-Not-To-Do-It” article: This can present the same information as your how-to article using a tongue-in-cheek approach describing the worst ways to do something. “Making the World’s Worst Tuna Casserole” and “Destroying Your Yard with Creative Landscaping” can cover the best approaches to casseroles and yard care by explaining what not to do.
The “How-Professionals-Do-It” article: Write these articles as if you are telling the viewer how a professional baker or mechanic would do something like bake a cupcake or change oil. The content is nearly the same, but the approach sounds more authoritative. “How World-Class Bakers Created the Perfect Cupcake” is an article that draws attention.
A library of interesting and helpful how-to articles will draw people to your site over and over. Give them something that helps them with little tasks in their daily lives and they will be back to see where you can help them with other problems. For a little effort you can develop a loyal following of viewers looking for assistance with their projects.
Mark B is a freelance writer who focuses on business, technology, and healthcare. He has written how-to articles on topics such as how to give your cat a pill and the wrong way to wash a car. He is a believer in the power of information and knows that a little bit of humor can make difficult topics more enjoyable. He continues waiting for someone to hire him to write “Breaking the Ice at a Dinner Party with the Pope” and “Creative House Decorating with Plastic Wrap.”