One of the most popular phrases online is "how to." Instructional and informational content isn't new, but it is also still as popular as ever. When you type "how to" on Google, you'll get back more than 16 billion results, spanning posts targeted for various industries, countries, and demographic groups.
Why is How-To Content So Popular?
How-to content is empowering. It awakens people's eagerness to learn something new, lets them work out a solution on their own, and allows them to enrich their lives with new skills or knowledge. If you can't construct an object or figure out a formula, a simple search online will teach you how. People like how-to content because it affects their lives positively. However, what implications does that have for you, the marketer? If people like this type of content, how do you incorporate that organically in your plans?
Incorporating How-To Content in Your Plans
Some industries lend themselves well to this kind of content. For example, you can write how-to blogs about remote work, collaboration, and productivity if you offer cloud-based storage solutions. Meanwhile, a pest extermination service provider will have to think carefully about the how-to content they put on their website—in some places, it's against the law for private citizens to capture wild animals, even ones that infest their homes.
Still, it's crucial to have how-to content on your website. This type of post addresses urgent or essential concerns of your audience and are directly linked to your brand. There are also many ways a how-to piece can organically include a call to action. Here are some ways you could find ideas for how-to content:
- Speak to your audience: The first thing you could do—the simplest and most effective way to identify potential topics for how-to articles—is to ask your readers. Survey your email list, post a prompt on social, or call your clients. Get their opinions, know their challenges, and ask them what they want to know. Doing this lets you create better content.
- Research topics online: Answer the Public, BuzzSumo, and similar tools let you discover what people are asking across the internet. You can also check the comments sections of content that you've published already. Chances are, your followers would be asking relevant questions there. Have you covered all their concerns? If not, you could write a whole article to do so.
- Ask your sales team: Besides talking to your clients or customers directly, speaking with your sales team will also let you uncover potential how-to topics. Since they're the ones with direct access to your audience, they'll have a clearer picture of your market's worries, concerns, and issues.
If you don't know what to write in your how-to posts, you can start with top-of-funnel posts introducing your company to audiences. The how-to guides in this stage of marketing might be indirectly related to your services or offerings. They are primarily for introducing your brand to potential customers.
For example, if you sell craft supplies, you can create how-to posts for DIY enthusiasts. "How to make a bullet journal" or "how to start scrapbooking" will be a good fit for your target market. People looking up these types of content are likely to already have notebooks or other supplies in their homes. Creating posts like these introduces your brand to people and helps them see you as a trustworthy source of supplies for their hobby. The article you make doesn't have to be about craft supplies as an industry—you can focus on things your target market likes that you know are related to your offerings.
Making How-To Content Interesting
For some brands, the challenge isn't coming up with ideas for how-to content; it's improving on existing how-to posts or videos. This requires a little more strategic thinking on the part of the marketer—you need to think outside the box. Don't assume that it has to be costly or extravagant, though. You can make your how-to content better without having to spend so much.
For example, suppose you have an infographic on SEO best practices. If you want to improve on it, you can't just rehash the words and use a different color scheme on the picture. You could, however, find a different way of presenting the items. One way to do this is by creating a short series of videos that talk about these best practices. Adding videos can get people more interested in your message and have them stay longer on the page.
You could also build on the existing information—provide something other than the "original" how-to. For instance, if you're writing a post on how to cut your hair, you can include a section that teaches people to study their faces and choose hairstyles that complement them. You're building on the original DIY and creating a new piece.
You can do this for any topic. Here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- Be specific about what you want to teach people. Since there is so much how-to content online, what you're teaching might already exist elsewhere. Type the how-to keyword you want to write for and check the posts that come up before you start writing. If you find it, then you must look for other angles you can explore. Writing a how-to for specific times of the year, for example, could be a solution. Instead of writing a generic how-to on planning a winter trip, for instance, you could write about how to plan a winter trip to a particular city.
- Compile inspirations and create a swipe folder of how-to content that you want to recreate. Use the competitiveness of your niche to your advantage and get links to your favorite posts.
How-to content will always have an audience, so you should include it in your marketing plan. However, you need to be strategic about it—do you know which of your other how-to pieces perform well? Do you know which ones don't? You will only make relevant how-to pieces if you know what people are looking for in your niche.
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