How to Write an Effective How-To Article
As a professional in your field, you hold valuable knowledge and expertise that you can share with your customers. Granted, it might feel counter-intuitive to do that, because you expect your customers to hire you for your expertise. But there are basic, simple things you can teach them, that will add value to them and to you. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll be demonstrating your expertise and strengthening your brand. In addition, educational, how-to articles are valuable SEO content that can drive potential customers to your website. This is how you go about writing a how-to article:
- How to pick a topic
When picking a topic for your article, try to research and see what your audience is interested in reading. If you know of an issue your customers are struggling with- then this could be a good starting point.
How you can figure out what to write about:
- Do your research online and look at industry blogs and media outlets.
- Ask your customers, either in one-on-one conversations or even through an email campaign.
- Social media. Ask your social media followers what kind of a how-to guide they’d like to read. A social media poll can also be a good idea.
- Consult your associates.
- Picking a headline
Picking a headline off the bat will help you give yourself direction and focus your article. Your headline should be:
- Informative. It should state exactly what a reader could expect from the article. For example, How to Lower Your Energy Bill in the Winter. Don’t go for headlines that are too vague, such as How to Save Energy.
- Engaging. Your headline should entice the reader to read further. It should promise answers and solutions to problems and pain points you know your audience has.
- Succinct: Overly long headlines tend to turn away readers. Try to be succinct but not vague, giving just enough information for the reader to have a clear idea of the topic
- How to start writing
You can go for one of two methods:
- The stream-of-consciousness method
This technique can help you if you have a writer’s block or aren’t sure where to start. What you can do is just start writing everything you know on the subject you picked. The trick is not to get “stuck” on specific details or parts of the article, and just to write whatever comes to mind.
After you’re done writing, go back and edit what you have. You can recognise the parts that talk about the same thing and group them into sections. You can also single out the parts that are repetitive and edit them out.
- Creating a structure and filling it with content
This method works well for writers who have a fairly clear idea what they want to say but aren’t sure how to create a coherent article.
The first thing you need do is think about the structure of your article and what is the overall idea that dominates it. Then you need to create a flow, which will consist of different sections. Write down their headlines, or working headlines (you can change them later), and make sure you put them in an order that makes sense, or creates a logical flow.
The next step is outlining, in bullet points, what you want to say in each paragraph. Once you have this basic “skeleton” of an article, you can start filling It with content, following the structure you’ve created.
- The article’s structure
- Intro: The first paragraph in your article should be the introduction paragraph. The intro paragraph needs to explain why you’ve decided to write the article and why your topic is important. For example, if you’re writing an article about lowering your energy bill, you can mention that you’ve been getting questions about it from many customers.
You can also mention the percentage reduction customers can achieve in their energy costs by using their appliances correctly (“In fact, you can lower your energy bill by 10% just by using your appliances correctly”). Focus on numbers and arguments that will encourage your audience to read more and set the stage for the main body of your article. In this example, you should first mention that it’s possible to lower your energy bill and then follow up with tips on how it can be done.
- Main body of the article: This is the place to elaborate on the headline and the intro paragraph and provide the advice you promised. Make sure to divide the article into proper sections, so as to not overwhelm your readers.
It’s a good idea to divide the sections themselves into paragraphs, that aren’t too long. Long blocks of text are hard to read and may tire out your readers. A good rule of thumb is limiting your paragraphs to four sentences, but they also should be grouped around a common theme, so try not to cut your paragraphs mid-idea just because you’ve reached those four sentences. Paragraphs can also be a bit longer or a bit shorter than four sentences.
Another thing you can do is divide your text into bullet points, where it’s relevant, much like we’re doing in this article.
- Summary: Your last paragraph can be a summary of everything you put in the article or a conclusion. You can also do without a summary paragraph, but sometimes it ties everything together and adds a nice touch.
Visuals improve every article: they break up the long text sequences that may seem tiring to some readers and they engage your audience with the article.
The visuals you pick need to be relevant to the content you’re writing. Going back to the example about How to Lower Your Energy Bill, you can use images of winter, or people with a cup of tea or a hot water bottle. Images of scenery and people usually work best and appeal most to the readers of any given article, but in this case, a nice image of a radiator can also work.
Pick images that are clear and high quality. If you are using the 12handz system, we have a bank of free images for you to use or you can use image banks (some of them cost some money, others like Unsplash are free).
- Writing style
When writing, you need to have your readers in mind. You can even envision a specific customer that you know well – what will interest them, what are their challenges, etc. This will help you use the right tone of voice in your article.
Your writing needs to have the tone of voice your readers will be able to understand and relate to.
If your customers aren’t technical people, avoid using overly technical terms or industry lingo.
If you do need to use professional terms, be sure to explain what they mean, so every reader has a chance to understand your article.