Since Google is cracking down on website scraping (even though Google is the biggest website scraper out there giving viewers condensed content scraped from other sites right in a box at the top of SERPs), the ‘how to’ article has become a bit of a taboo. In reality, unless you have an entire site built around ‘how to’ articles (i.e. eHow, Yahoo Answers and Instructibles, etc.), you are fine to go ahead and continue using this click-heavy format:
– Introduce the problem
– Present the benefits of your solution
– List the steps
– Provide detail
– Wrap it up and call to action
The Right Way to Write a How To
In fact, since everyone else is scared to write a ‘how to,’ you’ll be one step ahead of the competition. Just make sure you do it correctly, that is to say, in the following order:
1. Introduce the Problem You are Solving. Obviously, you want your reader to know that they are in the right place to solve their problem and that you are the person that has the solution. Make the reader understand that even if they don’t realize they have this problem, they likely do or will, and thus, need to read the solution.
2. Present the Benefits of Your Solution. Why is your solution better than anyone else’s solution? Why should the reader keep reading? Are you going to solve the problem in the blog or are you going to provide half the steps and then a free eBook download at the end with a comprehensive look at the solution? Are there going to be videos? Is this a multi-part blog? Let them know!
3. Give Them the Steps. Your steps should be laid out in a list, a screenshot, a picture, etc. Just give them them the basics and a brief explanation. If you need to, you can get into more detailed paragraphs or chapters on each step in later blogs or an eBook. But laying out the steps in a numbered or bullet list will allow faster-paced readers to skip to the sections they need. Perhaps they have half of the solution and just need the last few steps. Remember, the easier you make it for every single reader that comes to your site, the better it is for you. Cater to the beginner, but also make it easy for the seasoned pro to glean what they need and get on to the next step. Don’t waste anyone’s time and they won’t waste yours.
4. Detail is Key. The detail to your solution is going to be key here. For instance, if you provide a solution without an example, what’s to say that the writer really has life experience solving this problem? They could just be an affiliate for a product spinning content from their associates. Graphics, step-by-step instructions, easy to follow language, all of this falls under detail.
5. Conclusion. Your conclusion is where you wrap up the ‘how to’ and recap the benefits that your reader now possesses. It’s important to never forget your call to action. If you don’t have one specifically and are just writing an informative or authoritative blog, add your contact information and have the reader sign up or contact you for more details. You can also link to other solutions you’ve provided, or have an opt in or email sign up for a newsletter or eBook.
As you can see, there is absolutely no reason to abandon such a highly effective blog format. Google is really just trying to punish ‘how to’ sites at large, not the average internet marketer.