It’s well established that an effective content marketing strategy is a critical component to SEO.
Optimized content delivers your brand message and the value you provide directly to your core audience.
Great content builds interest, generates traffic, and encourages conversions.
For all of this to take place, content needs to be centered around being generally helpful to the person engaging with it. It can be entertaining, but that’s not always what it’s about.
Take for example, that 74 percent of today’s internet users prefer to learn about products through content rather than traditional advertising methods.
This tells us that audiences aren’t just looking for an entertaining tidbit to take up a few minutes of their time, but that they often want to walk away from content feeling informed and enriched in some way.
In other words, they want something “meaty”, and instructional or how-to content can be a great way of meeting their needs.
Why How-To Content Is an Important Element of Your Content Strategy
To understand how important instructional content is to your overall digital marketing success, the first thing you need to do is step outside of the box of what how-to content is supposed to be.
It makes sense that when a business is promoting a relatively unfamiliar product or service that they feature instructional content to go along with it, but what about the rest of time?
How does instructional content fit into any ordinary strategy?
Your audience craves knowledge, and showing them that you have a wealth of it establishes authority and relevance for your brand.
Where other types of content are meant to capture attention, briefly entertain and fuel SEO, instructional content does all of this but also takes engagement to the next level and helps to move the audience a little further along the customer lifecycle.
Often, a business will realize this but become intimidated by the process of creating how-to content.
Even if you’re entirely new to the content creation game, there’s no reason to shy away from infusing your strategy with the type of value that instructional content provides.
It actually isn’t that difficult to create awesome how-to pieces that will build visibility and respect for your brand.
Here are five important tips for creating how-to content that hits the mark every time.
Step 1: Start with Some Research
Sometimes, coming up with topic ideas for your how-to content is easy. Maybe you’re releasing a new product or a topic fits in naturally with a service you’re providing.
Other times, finding the right topic is more of a challenge.
Before diving headfirst into content creation, start with some research that will lead you in the right direction.
You could start with content research by tapping into your analytics or using any number of tools that have been created especially for content creators.
The insights provided by many of these tools will help you generate topic ideas that are already trending in your industry.
For example, during the fall a local restaurant/bar might feature a how-to video for creating new and classic drinks to serve at a holiday party.
You can also get a little more interactive with your research.
Using polls and quizzes, either through social media or on your website, is a great way to level up audience engagement while feeling them out for the type of how-to content they’re really craving.
Finally, when researching topics, don’t be afraid to step outside of any self-imposed limits. You don’t want how-to content that’s so directly related to what you do that it basically replaces your services.
Going back the above example about holiday drinks, this restaurant should withhold the recipes for their signature drinks and encourage the audience to come to try one instead.
Step 2: Think It Out
There’s no getting around it:
Great how-to content requires planning.
The right approach will allow you to put out something that not only informs and engages but also persuades the audience to become more invested in your brand.
Once you’ve chosen a topic, the next big decision is the medium that you’ll use to deliver it.
Are you planning on including the piece in a blog or distribute it in email?
Would a video be more appropriate for the subject matter?
Keep in mind that today’s audiences love engaging with video and the visual format also helps them get more of a hands-on feel for the information you’re presenting to them.
Next, rather than dive in, carefully plan out how you’re going to compose your how-to content. Anything that’s even remotely instructional needs to be thought out to avoid any confusion – or even worse, leave you looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Where other types of content can be created and published in the blink of an eye, how-to pieces demand more attention to detail.
Step 3: Make Sure SEO Fits into the Picture
The days of creating content simply to have a place to stuff some keywords is long past.
The goal is no longer to create content for search engines, but for the people using them.
If you’re sitting there thinking “but what about SEO?”, you can relax because this is exactly the approach that Google and other search engines are looking for.
How-to content can be difficult enough to create without worrying about catering to the specifics of search engine optimization.
Instead, try removing the SEO element completely at first and focus entirely on the person who will be engaging with your creation.
Taking this approach immediately elevates your content into a piece that’s more enjoyable, more engaging, and more informative – basically everything that search engines love today.
Additionally, when you focus on appealing to the viewer of your content, you’re probably tapping into SEO naturally anyway.
Take for example how the keyword phrase “how to” is such a top performer.
When search engine users are looking for answers, they’ll often type in or say, “how to” or “how do I”.
Including keywords that appeal to natural language patterns and the way your audience is asking for help is easy to do when you’re more focused on the person, not the search engine.
Step 4: Break It Up
Once you get the hang of it and start generating success with your how-to content, you’ll find a new enthusiasm for your content marketing strategy and will constantly be looking for ways to create more.
As with everything else, there’s a balance here that you want to hit.
Too much of a good thing usually isn’t good at all.
The problem is that once a business has had success with a couple pieces, they’re more likely to take a few risks – like maybe venture out into instructional content that their audience has no interest in just because they’ve run out of great topic ideas.
There’s a solution to this problem, and it isn’t pushing out irrelevant content.
It’s stretching out the how-to content that’s already captured your audience’s attention.
What we’re talking about here is creating a how-to series.
Returning once again to the restaurant example, they could do a series that features hot drinks in one piece or drinks that featured a certain type of spirit. This helps to break the content up into smaller, digestible pieces and encourages the audience to keep coming back for more.
Step 5: Don’t Forget Visuals
Visuals are important to your how-to content, even if you don’t present it a video format.
If we’re being completely honest, sometimes instructional content can be a little dry and lose the reader right when they need to be paying attention the most.
This is a double negative because not only does it lose their interest, but they’re also less likely to come back for more.
Inserting a few visuals can help liven up dry content and easily make it more engaging.
If you have a few awesome images of the process you’re explaining, then that’s even better.
Even if you don’t, inserting memes or infographics helps to visually break up the text and revive the reader’s attention.
A Final Word
At the end of the day, the last thing you should be doing is stressing about how to create the best how-to content.
The only way you’re going to see results is if you just put yourself out there and do it.
Stick to topics and a medium that you feel comfortable with at first and see what happens when you share your knowledge and expertise with the world.
You’ll be rewarded with an audience that sees you as trustworthy, respectable, and a brand that they can’t wait to see more great content from.
It all starts with one simple how-to piece, and now you have everything you need to get started.