By now, it’s well-known that high-quality, educational content can attract your target audience. Hopefully you’re also aware that your content marketing strategy should include every stage of the buyer’s journey and address their pain points at each stop.
But what about the way you deliver your message? The format of your blog post or video should depend on:
- What seems to perform best with your target audience
- What best serves the topic of your content
- Whether it’s time to “mix things up”
One of the most effective forms of both B2C and B2B content marketing is the “how-to” article/video.
But what is “how-to” content, where does it fit in your content marketing strategy, and what purpose does it serve?
What Is ‘How-To’ Content?
Your target audience is looking for knowledge (especially if you’re putting together a B2B content strategy). And rather than traditional advertising, the majority of today’s internet users prefer to learn about products through content.
But how-to content isn’t always about products or services. In fact, how-to content is designed to educate your audience and solve a particular problem. You could also refer to how-tos as instructional content.
For example, a marketing agency could write a blog post on how to increase your website traffic. (In fact, we’re doing it right now.) The post would most likely be filled with information about SEO and using email and social media tactics to increase your brand awareness. In the introductory section, the article would emphasize the benefits of getting more traffic -- in other words, why the reader should bother to keep reading.
So how often should you be producing this type of content, and where exactly does it fit into a content marketing strategy?
What’s the Purpose of ‘How-To’ Content?
Providing instructional content builds trust with your readers. This marks your brand as a leading authority in your industry and establishes credibility among your audience. If you were to neglect this type of content, many of your potential readers will look elsewhere for the information.
How Do You Make ‘How-To’ Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy?
Now that you understand everything there is to know about “how-to” content, it’s time to take a closer look at how you create it.
Creating instructional content can broken into four simple steps:
- Researching your topic
- Planning your outline
- Considering search engine optimization (SEO)
- Implementing visuals
Once you’ve learned how to successfully carry out these steps, you’ll be on your way to creating effective instructional content.
Researching Your Topic
It’s easy to come up with topics in your head, but that doesn’t always mean you're an expert on the subject.
Because of this, it’s important for you to conduct adequate research so that you can successfully relay the information to your target audience. If you try to provide insight without knowing the information for yourself, your readers will likely catch on and seek the info elsewhere.
By doing your research first, you’ll be able to build trust with your audience and gain authority as a leader in your industry. Consult trusted sources on the internet, and get your internal team -- or your client -- involved if you need specific insider knowledge.
Planning Your Outline
Once you’ve conducted your research and know what to tell your audience, it’s time to plan your outline.
This step is important because it provides your content with a structure and allows you to organize the information in an order that’s befitting a blog post or video. That is, strongest ideas go first.. If you try to start writing without having an outline built, you’ll likely find yourself stumbling over ideas.
This is also the stage where you can confirm that how-to -- or another format -- is the proper style for your content.
The way you organize your content will have a big impact on how your audience consumes it. If the sections are in an order that allows one idea to flow into the other (and include a hook or cliffhanger), your audience is more likely to keep reading. If you waste time by jumping around from point to point or including superfluous information, it’s going to exhaust your reader and you’ll most likely lose them.
Now that you know how you're organizing your content, it’s time to make sure that it’s SEO-friendly.
Focus on keywords that you think your target audience will be looking up when seeking the information that you provide. Rather than trying to cram the most popular keywords into the blog as many times as possible, find relevant long-tail keywords. Your focus keywords should be achievable -- in other words, a small shoe store in Erie, Pa., has no shot at ranking for “Nike sneakers” in Google search.
Don't forget that many people use voice search on their smartphones, meaning their Google search will probably be in the form of a question. Think about this when creating your topic, and do your research to make sure that there are keywords that will complement your content.
With written content, you need to find ways to break up your blocks of text in a manner that will keep your readers engaged. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include visuals such as charts, photos, or videos. If you’re creating a how-to video, make sure it’s not just someone reading a script. Include product demos, charts, or whatever else you need to illustrate the point.
Try to incorporate a visual that also lends itself to educating your readers. Because visuals grab the attention of your audience quicker than text does, it provides a great opportunity to include a vital piece of information.
Just be careful not to overstuff your blog with photos and other visuals. This will make your page or video look “busy,” and could overwhelm readers trying to look for a quick answer.
Where Does ‘How-To’ Content Fit Into a Content Marketing Strategy?
You obviously don’t want to make all of your content based on how-tos. If you did, you’d never learn whether another type of content resonates well with your audience. Plus, you might be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole in terms of delivering your message. Therefore, it’s important to provide your audience with a mixt of content that goes beyond instructional posts.
Other styles of content marketing pieces include:
- Listicles (i.e. “10 Reasons Free Virus Protection Is Just As Good As Premium”
- Industry news and trends that could impact your target audience
- Comparison of two or more solutions
- Q&As and guest writers
- Case studies
- And a whole lot more!
Your digital marketing strategy should encompass everything that your target audience needs -- informative content from each stage of the buyer's journey. Knowing when to produce “how-to” content is essential to incorporating it into your content marketing strategy.
One of the best times for a company to produce “how-to” content is when they release a new product or add a new service or capability. Another good time is when you notice your target audience asking the same questions repeatedly. (Your sales team can help you with this.) This allows you to swoop in and be the “educational hero” that your readers so desperately need.
Other Content Marketing Strategy Essentials
“How-to” content plays a vital role in your content marketing strategy. It helps you build authority and trust with your readers, and targets a very specific group of readers from your target audience.
If you want to know more about creating a successful content strategy of any kind, download our free guide of Content Marketing Essentials: