There's an overabundance of information on the Web, but most of it is not actionable content. Business folks and consumers alike do not have the time or inclination to read volumes of words that have no immediate relevance or application to their specific challenges. They want "news they can use."
This has given rise to the "how-to blog," one of the most popular genres in the blogosphere. A "how to" blog post does exactly that -- it teaches your audience how to do something by illustrating the process in a series of easy to digest steps. Want to grab your customers' attention and earn their loyalty? Teach them to do something faster, cheaper, or better than someone else. Tweet This!
With that introduction, following is a template to guide the development of your first "how-to" blog-post.
STEP 1: Planning & Research
Core Planning Questions:
- What are your customers' most pressing challenges and obstacles?
- What are your customers' core competencies in which your company has particular expertise?
- What are the latest trends and newest technologies for your customers' industry?
- Survey a sampling of your customers to find out what issues are keeping them up at night. What blog content would they find useful? What are their specific "how-to" needs?
- Have you done your research? Know the subject matter inside and out.
STEP 2: Create an Outline
How-to blog posts must be presented logically, clearly, and efficiently. Begin with an outline. An outline helps you group ideas into key points and see their logical connection and flow.
STEP 3: Write!
Let your outline serve as your guide; expand on all of your points as needed. Aim for writing that is concise and easy to digest; refrain from dense paragraphs and excessive wordiness. According to Medium, the ideal blog post length shouldn't take the reader more than 7 minutes to read. That equates to roughly 1,600 words (Tweet This!).
Some prefer to avoid all distractions during your writing process, but we prefer to constantly have writing resources on hand. We have a list of go-to resources to reference during content creation. Check them out here.
STEP 4: Conclusion/Call to action
In the final paragraphs, you will summarize your key points and takeaway messages. But your job is not done. All of your marketing communications, including blog-posts, must have a call-to-action that prompts your readers to take a specific action. Whether it's to contact your business for a consultation or to download a white paper, the call-to-action is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your prospects.
Every piece of content, especially how-to blog posts, should guide the reader further down the marketing funnel. This is an important part of your marketing efforts, and it should be optimized using A/B testing. Check out our Performance Marketing blog now for more information on effective call-to-actions.
STEP 5: Write a catchy headline.
A matter of a few words -- shouldn't take long, right? Actually, this is where you want to devote a good part of your time. Without an urgent and inviting headline, no one's going to read your blog to begin with. Save it for last.
If you're having a difficult time creating catchy headlines, be sure to check out these free topic generators. Tweak Your Biz Title Generator allows you to input any noun or verb and returns hundreds of ideas. If you're looking for just a few ideas, head over to Hubspot. Their blog topic generator offers about five suggestions, but they're a bit more unique.
- Check your post to ensure it is optimized for Search Engine Optimization. Otherwise it will be practically invisible in the search engines (Tweet This!).
- Suggest additional resources enabling your readers to dive deeper into the subject matter. If your website has more detailed content on a given subject, create hyperlinks to those pages. This also enhances your SEO.
- Use enticing visuals and graphics to accompany your blog-post, including design elements and photographs. Screen-shots featuring how-to text are particularly effective.
- If you don't have in-house resources to produce this kind of dynamic content, then consider farming this function out to an agency with the expertise.
Check out these how-to blogs:
(Image via freedigitalphotos.net)