To have a successful blog, you need to provide your readers with something useful. As Darren Rowse is always saying, it is quality content that counts when it comes to traffic building, reputation and monetization; pillar articles that support your overall vision or niche topic.
You may provide this usefulness through entertainment, through breaking news, through inspiration, or maybe, just maybe, you could bust out a few ‘how to’ posts on the subject of your choice.
Over at Charade, I regularly put together ‘how to’ posts, often centred around fashion, as I find these generate the most traffic, comments, new subscribers and links. For example: How to do 1950’s Style on a Budget, How to Make Your Dreams Come True, How to Write a Good Essay, heck, I even made a series of it with ten posts on How to Achieve Dream Style. If you provide your readers with something they can use, they will get involved, whether by subscribing, providing a voice, or even buying a product or clicking an ad. So why not give it a go? Here are my top tips on writing ‘how to’ posts:
1. Chances are, you’re telling your readers something they have heard before, so put a fresh spin on it. If you’re telling them how to walk in stilettos, then tell them how to walk in stilettos with a few outfit ideas, or how to walk in stilettos with some bonus tips on foot care. You’re far more likely to strike a chord with people if you’re specific and add your own personal flare.
2. Be as straightforward and simplistic as possible. As much as you want to keep it fresh, there’s a balance between being new and interesting and being confusing. Keep your vital points succinct and clear, and provide as many visual prompts as possible with screenshots, diagrams and photos. By all means be creative but your main aim is to be helpful.
3. Do your research. Find out what other people around the web have written on the same subject. Don’t be disheartened if your favourite blogger has already aced your chosen topic, your spin on it will be just as valid. Be inspired by what you find, but don’t ever just cut and paste. If you utilize a large amount of information from one particular website then give them credit, its bad karma not to.
4. Know your reader. Most readers will not sit and read a 6,000 word post, but some will. If you usually post quick, snappy articles and get a great response, then don’t overdose your readers with your ‘how to’ articles. Keep giving them what they want. Equally, if your longer feature articles have proved popular, take it to the next level by writing an ongoing series on a specific topic.
5. Make it a learning curve. Worried that you don’t have enough authority to write a how to post? Don’t. All it takes is a whole lot of enthusiasm and genuine passion for the subject; that’s what will shine through and get your readers listening. Be honest and admit that you’re still learning, ask for reader tips in the comments section and provide links to other useful articles on the same topic, and you won’t be penalised.
6. You don’t have to be exhaustive. This is similar to the above point, but don’t think you have to cram every last detail into one ‘how to’ post, leave it open for people to give their input and for you to expand on it at a later date, or else you’ll quickly run out of ‘how to’ steam.
7. What’s in a name? Answer: everything. As a rule of thumb, try not to be fancy or clever with your ‘how to’ titles, just tell your readers what you’ve got for them i.e. ‘How to Wear Red’ not ‘Lady in Red: Colour Conundrums.’ Although it seems boring, I’ve made the mistake and learnt from personal experience that titles with an ‘it does just what it says on the tin’ approach are more popular.
I hope this ‘how to’ was helpful! Are there any tips you would add? Do you often write advice posts on your blog? Do you plan to now?
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