How-to articles are so popular because they serve the basic need of most internet users: problem-solving. You can find step-by-step guides for just about anything you want to learn, packaged as a how-to article. So content marketers know that this is a type of content format worth using.
You want readers to leave your how-to article feeling understood and well-guided — and hopefully with a practical solution to their problem. Today, we’ll show you how to create such a how-to article and also share a tool that will make the task faster and less energy-consuming.
How to write an actionable how-to article in 7 simple steps
Here’s our detailed recipe for creating a how-to article that’s actually worth reading.
1. Choose a topic
For how-to articles, you need to be knowledgeable about your chosen topic. You may not be a certified expert, but you should be able to do in-depth research to tell your reader something new and helpful.
So, choose your topic carefully. A mix of keyword research and audience analysis should help you decide whether writing about a particular topic is a good fit for you in the first place.
2. Step into the reader’s shoes
Thinking about search intent and the needs of your target audience will help you provide relevant information. Adding unnecessary preamble is one of the common mistakes content writers make with how-to articles.
For instance, if you’re writing an article about how to change a car tire, who would your audience be? Perhaps someone who is stranded, looking for a straightforward, detailed, easy-to-follow how-to article.
You wouldn’t want to start your article by describing what a tire is or why tires go flat. Dive straight into the tutorial without unnecessary context. Your tone should be friendly and you would use short easy-to-understand sentences.
3. Draft an outline
Outlines are crucial for how-to articles. While creating yours, walk through the process mentally. Write down all the important steps in chronological order. For example, if you’re writing an article about writing a book, it is only logical that research and writing would come before discussing publishing formats or book promotion.
Disorganized processes can make your article and guidance overwhelming, rather than helpful. So imagine that you were going through the process ahead of the reader. Make sure your rough draft contains information that prepares your reader, much like a tour guide would.
4. Fill in the blanks
This is the meat of your article. Fill out your outlined points by providing in-depth information about the subject matter. Use these tips to make your article stand out:
- Show more than one way to do it
If you’re writing about removing oil stains from clothing, for example, it would be most useful to share several ways to do so. Not everyone will have the same cleaning materials available. Plus, not every method will work for all users.
- Include a list of supplies if necessary
If your reader is all set to work on their project when they find your article, you’re doing them a huge favor by reiterating what they’ll need. That way, they can double-check before they start. No one wants to be halfway through when they realize they’ll need to make a trip to the hardware store or install new software before they can move to the next step.
- Use action verbs to describe steps
Part of being straightforward is using action words to tell readers what to do. Steps beginning with “Run an internet speed test by…” tend to be more effective than “You should try to run an internet speed test…” Get straight to the point and help readers feel more in charge of the process by telling them what to do — that’s why they’re here!
- Talk to the reader
Pay attention to the way you address the reader. Using “you” throughout your text engages the reader, making them feel like you’re talking to them and you understand their challenges. This works better than referring to your readers as “they” or “people.”
- Use a writing assistant
If you’re drowning under your load of articles and it’s affecting the quality of your work, it’s okay to get some help. Using an efficient AI writing assistant is an effective and inexpensive (less costly than a human writer) way to scale your content marketing business while maintaining high-quality content.
We recommend Jasper, a top AI writer with a variety of writing templates for copywriting, social media marketing, and content marketing. Jasper’s Long-Form Assistant — our favorite template for writing long-form articles — will surely save you a lot of time.
Let’s walk you through creating an article using this template. Say we want to write about how to make soy candles at home. There are two ways to write with the Long-Form Assistant.
1. We chose the blog post workflow.
2. After entering some information, Jasper generated headline options for our article
3. Then it helped us write a solid intro paragraph
4. The Long-Form Assistant does require that you add some content along the way, just to keep it on track. So we added a few words to nudge it along. Our words are in the red box. The rest came from Jasper.
It’s really easy — much easier than starting from scratch and brainstorming all the moving parts on your own. The steps we’ve mentioned so far took us 5 minutes! You could write the entire article in 20 minutes and spend around another 20 minutes tweaking and formatting. Think of all you could accomplish if it only took 40 minutes to an hour to write one article.
- Images for visual guidance
Images are super important for how-to articles, especially if you’re writing an article about a complicated topic. Whether they’re graphics, screenshots, or real pictures, don’t miss a chance to explain concepts more clearly to your audience.
- Add key tips and callouts
Spice up your article with areas of blockquotes and bolded tips you don’t want readers to miss. These could be words of caution, expert recommendations, or do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
5. Finish with a resounding conclusion
To close out your detailed article, we advise writing a brief roundup of the main steps wherever possible. This could be as a list of bullet points or even as a paragraph.
For example, to conclude our candle-making how-to article, we could remind readers of any key points, safety tips, and best practices as well as three of the most important steps to get right during the process. This helps the reader remember the main points even after closing the article — more value for them, and of course, more appreciation for your article!
6.Ready to publish
After proofreading your article, it’s time to decide on a headline. You can format your headline in a number of ways. Some go-to styles for how-to articles are:
- How to [Do a Certain Thing]
- [Number] Easy Tips/Ways to [Do a Certain Thing]
- The Best Way to [Do a Certain Thing]
- Your Ultimate Guide to [Doing a Certain Thing]
- Here’s What You Should Know About [Doing a Certain Thing]
Finally, link to related articles. Most readers looking for how-to articles have set aside a chunk of time to learn about a certain topic. Ensure that they remain on your site for as long as possible by providing plenty of good content to explore.
5 how-to article examples and why they work
We love to show our tips in action because it makes them easier to apply. Here are five how-to article examples doing all the right things. We’ve highlighted specific reasons why these posts work for us and what you can learn from them.
This Shopify article uses callouts beautifully to highlight important tips.
It also shares do’s and don’ts as part of the steps. This way, critical points don’t get lost in all the text.
Ahrefs is known for creating highly actionable how-to articles. Besides using simple language, they also add videos to explain tricky concepts, which users appreciate.
We love this conclusion for repeating main points and showing users what to take away from the article.
For some how-to articles, a lengthy intro is pointless. However, for complex subjects like this one, newbies may need a more in-depth intro defining key terms. We love how this article does it.
Remember what we said about using screenshots? These are invaluable, particularly when writing about technical things. Many people have zero tech capabilities but are forced to figure stuff out on their own. This post holds your hand through the process.
This site makes its how-to guide easy to follow by providing a checklist of needed tools for the reader.
They also mention more than one method of achieving the goal, which readers will find helpful.
Our last example does something simple, but necessary by bolding important points to ensure that readers follow the guide closely and successfully.
The easiest way to write how-to articles
Understanding the basics of writing how-to articles is important. You need to meet your audience at their point of need, write detailed step-by-step guidance and additional tips to keep them on track. But it’s hard to do all the work on your own.
Jasper’s Long-Form Assistant takes the guesswork out of your writing and helps you free up your time for other important aspects of your business. We’ve shown you how it works, but there’s nothing like trying it out yourself. Jasper also provides resources to make using the AI easier.
Get started by signing up for Jasper today.