Every article writer needs to know how to write a how-to guide because they are so popular with readers.
The great thing about the Internet for content writers is that people are always looking for solutions to their problems.
They are also searching to discover how they can learn to do something or develop a new skill.
When you can write articles that fulfill these needs, you have a great chance of finding new online readers.
How-to guides are evergreen
The biggest advantage of writing how-to articles is that they are usually evergreen content.
They don’t date, so an article can stay useful for new readers for years.
When you are planning an article, take your time and make sure it’s a topic that will stand the test of time.
When you do that, you can attract new readers over the long term.
If you select a topic about using technology or software, there is a chance it could become out of date within a year or so.
But you can always update an article like this and keep it relevant for readers. In fact, it’s a good idea to check any how-to articles you publish and make sure you keep them updated.
Ideas for a how-to guide
Before you can write an article, you need to come up with an idea.
There are lots of approaches you can take. One of the easiest is to think about something you recently learned how to do.
You can also look at comments on your articles and see if any of your readers have asked questions.
Another way is to use a search engine. Type in how to followed by a letter of the alphabet.
Look at the ideas in the dropdown list. If you want more, try another letter.
When you find an idea that you think might be worth exploring, take a look at a handful of the top results.
For example, I selected “how to export bookmarks from chrome” from the list above.
When you do a quick scan read of the top-ranking articles, you can get an idea of how they cover the topic.
You can also see how the articles introduce the keyword phrase in the first sentence or paragraph.
You can find even more ideas by looking at the “People also ask” panel. It’s a great tool to find the questions that people ask when searching for help.
If you want more ideas, click on the last down arrow to get more results.
The best part is that you can use these questions in your article or title and know that there are readers out there.
At the bottom of the first results page, there is often a box of related searches.
You can see in the image above that the suggestions give you more longtail keywords ideas for your new article.
Once you decide on your topic, you are ready to write a how-to guide on the subject.
Now let’s look at the steps you can take to help you write an excellent guide for your readers.
1. Draft your plan
All great writing starts with good planning.
Don’t spend hours on it, though. All you need to do is draft an outline of your thoughts and ideas.
It might only be five or six points, but it can often be more. Think about each point you need to cover, and then put them into a logical order.
You need an introduction to the problem or learning point. Or, in other words, why a reader needs this information.
Then you might have a small list of tools that will be necessary, followed by the steps to take. Think here about how recipes are written and formatted.
You can include the benefits of learning how to do it and perhaps how to apply it to other situations.
Lastly, you can add a quick summary, perhaps with the most critical points or extra information.
2. Decide on your images
Whenever you write a how-to guide, you will need images.
Look at your plan and decide what images you will need.
They might be graphs, screenshots, diagrams, or photos. You can also use free stock images if you can find ones that suit your article.
Then make sure you resize your selected images to suit your article and also compress your images so they will load quickly.
3. Research your article title
People need to find your article before they can read it.
The best way to achieve this aim is to research your title carefully. If you use Yoast or AIOSEO, you may also need a different SEO title.
Go back and look at the ten top-ranking pages in Google for your topic and compare the titles. Take note of the common keywords they all use.
Now write your headline or title incorporating these keywords.
You can use Sharethrough, which is a free headline tool to help you write a compelling title. Try to get a score of 65-75 with the tool.
4. Write your article
Write in your natural style.
But when you write a how-to guide, you need to use more of the imperative form.
It means that instead of writing, You should now click the activate button, you say, Click the activate button.
When you give instructions in your article, keep to the imperative form.
But when you are expressing your opinion or ideas, you can write in your usual style.
When you use images, always explain the content of your image in your text.
For instance, if you use a graph, describe each factor and how each one is relevant. With a screenshot, go into the details of what it is and how to use it.
Use images as an addition and support for your text and not as a replacement for writing and explaining.
5. Format your article
You want your article to “look like” a how-to article.
Some of the common features are numbered paragraph headings and often a table of contents.
You can include bulleted or numbered lists but keep them plain and simple.
1. Use ordinal numbers
• Use plain bullet discs
Use italics, bold, and underlined to highlight key phrases or important points in your text.
Keep your paragraphs short and concise and avoid long sentences to make your article super easy to read.
6. Grammar check and proofread
The most crucial step.
Nothing irritates readers more than typos and grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
There are plenty of free grammar apps around to help you find your writing mistakes, so there is no excuse.
But that’s not enough. Once you correct your errors and typos, carefully proofread your article.
Look for omissions or where you could explain or expand on your ideas better.
Also, check that your title is consistent with your content. There is nothing worse than a headline saying seven useful ideas and the content only covering six.
Anytime you find a correction or edit you need to make, start your checking again.
It’s so easy to make a copy and paste mistake or introduce a new grammar error when editing your article.
Now proofread it again.
If you have time, it’s often best to leave your article aside and proofread it again the next day.
Publish your article only when you are 100% sure your text is perfect.
It’s easy to write a how-to guide if you follow the basic steps.
Get everything in the right order and use an appropriate writing style.
If you use the Flesch Reading Ease score in Yoast, aim for a score between 75 and 80, which says your text is easy to read.
Another factor to keep an eye on is using too much passive voice. Use it only when necessary or unavoidable.
Usually, the most challenging part of writing a how-to article is finding a terrific topic.
It often takes me longer to find and research an idea than it does to write about it.
But it’s time well invested because I know, or at least hope, that it will be a topic that resonates with readers for a long time to come.