THE BLOG
11/20/2016 10:55 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2017

The 8 Benefits of "How To" Content in Online Marketing

Simple in nature but difficult to master, it’s no secret why how-to guides have become some of the most commonly used forms of content in online marketing. The name says it all; your goal here is to instruct a reader on the methodology for a specific goal, whether that’s building something, fixing something, behaving in a certain way, or accomplishing any other action. So why are these simplistic, down-to-earth guides such powerful staples in the content marketer’s arsenal?

The Benefits of How To Guides

These are just some of the reasons why how to guides have become so popular:

  1. Addressing customer problems. How to guides often address a particular customer problem—and solving problems is the reason why companies exist in the first place. By addressing a problem directly, you’ll not only filter your traffic down to the people you want to sell to most, you’ll also increase your authority in the eyes of those users. According to LennoxPros, “It’s essential that your customers see you as experts, long before you ever make a sale.” How to guides help you do that.
  2. Use for both acquisition and retention. With the right topics, how to content can be useful for both attracting new audiences and retaining your existing ones. It not only appeals to customers looking for solutions to their problems, it rewards customers for ongoing loyalty with consistent provision of value.
  3. Optimizing for keyword phrases. How to content naturally includes keyword phrases your customers are likely to search for, helping you brainstorm new keyword ideas and supplement your SEO campaign simultaneously. This, in turn, will help you rank higher in search results and earn a greater share of organic traffic to your website.
  4. Capturing early-stage leads. Depending on your strategy, you may prioritize targeting potential customers early or late in the buying cycle. Generally, how to content focuses on early stage leads, which can help you generate new visibility for your brand—but you can always tweak your content’s focus to cater to later-stage buyers.
  5. One-upping the competition. Offering better, more detailed, more practically helpful content is an easy way to get a leg up on the competition. Customers look for brands that are willing and able to help with their problems; your how to content will help customers directly and also lend you more authority and expertise to stand out from your competitors.
  6. Formatting flexibility. There’s no mandatory style or formula for how to content. You can post it as a video, a written article, or a series of images, and you can make it short, long, or somewhere in between. It’s very accommodating, which makes it an approachable archetype for newcomers.
  7. Practicality and universality. In the words of Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic, “The reason we struggle with content marketing is because we haven’t started with ‘Why?’ Customers don’t care about your vanity metrics. Ask them, ‘How can I help?’” Practical content goes a long way because it holds actual, useful value to your customers. You’re giving them something they need, which will make them loyal to you and more likely to bring you value of their own. Plus, any business in any industry can write a how to guide on something—it’s a universally accessible content type.
  8. Shareability. Finally, how to articles are highly shareable. When someone finds a guide that helps them in their own life, they naturally want to share it with their friends and family members to spread that knowledge.

Best Practices for Execution

Knowing the benefits of “how to” guides isn’t enough; you also have to know how to make your guides effective. That’s a topic that deserves its own article, but here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Differentiate yourself. There are lots of companies in your space already publishing how to guides. You need a way to stand out, which may include selecting more specific topics.
  • Include visuals. Instructional articles always benefit with more visual information, such as illustrations, photos, or videos that demonstrate your written instructions.
  • Be as detailed as possible. This isn’t the time for surface-level fluff content. Be as detailed and specific as possible in the body of your work.
  • Create a series. Don’t stop at one guide; make it a series or compile your work into an archive or eBook for your readers.

With these tips in mind, you can start reaping the full benefits of how to guides in the context of your own content strategy. It may take you a while to find the right rhythm or consistently brainstorm new topics to pursue, but once you have a feel for it, you’ll wonder what you ever did without this content.