The phrase “ultimate guide” indicates that a guide is the best, most comprehensive content out there on a given subject.
And, if you’ve ever run a search for a particular topic, you might have noticed that a lot of brands are claiming their guide to be the best.
This contrast has made people skeptical of the guides that are out there, especially when there seem to be a hundred or more “ultimate guides” on even the most mundane topics.
So are ultimate guides still relevant? Are they still worth creating and, if they are, how do you make sure yours isn’t just like every other ultimate guide out there?
In this article:
- How do you know a guide is "ultimate"?
- Why create an ultimate guide and are they still relevant?
- How to write an ultimate guide your audience wants to read
How do you know a guide is "ultimate"?
First of all, let’s cover exactly what an ultimate guide is.
For example, you might have an ultimate guide to email list marketing or a definitive guide to cleaning your bathroom. Whatever the topic, ultimate guides tend to cover every aspect of it under three main headers:
- What: what exactly is the topic at hand?
- Why: why is the topic important?
- How: how can readers “do” something related to the topic being discussed?
An ultimate guide doesn’t need to be the longest piece of content out there on a topic, but it should cover multiple angles of a subject. For example, an ultimate guide to email marketing might cover things like:
- What email marketing is
- Why email marketing is important
- The benefits of email marketing
- The different kinds of email marketing
- Open rates and engagement rates in email marketing
- Email subject lines
- Creating an email marketing strategy
- Measuring the results of email marketing
There are plenty of additional bullet points that would slot into each of these main points, but this outline could cover a lot of information about email marketing.
Why create an ultimate guide and are they still relevant?
There’s a reason ultimate guides are so popular. First and foremost, when done right they create a really deep-dive reading experience for people who can get lots of value from them. On top of that, they come with a set of other benefits:
- Keyword ranking: The length of an ultimate guide often means you have the chance to rank for a number of different (and relevant) keywords.
- Improve internal linking: They often act as pillar pieces that can link out to smaller, more niche pieces which lead to a better internal linking portfolio
- Attract external links: Generating links from high-profile sites is a great way to improve your domain authority and enhance your content marketing efforts. Lengthy and detailed resources like ultimate guides are great linking fodder for external sites
- Become an authority: Creating an in-depth piece on a topic your target audience cares about can help establish your expertise in your industry
For Nick Wolney, creating an ultimate guide for using Facebook Lives netted him an influx of consulting clients and a decent chunk of revenue.
How to write an ultimate guide your audience wants to read
- Choose your main keyword and search intent angle
- Have a goal
- Plan the outline
- Do a little competitive research
- Actually add value
- Sit down and write!
1. Choose your main keyword and search intent angle
Ultimate guides are usually focused on one main topic or keyword.
You can incorporate other relevant keywords, but there should be one keyword that takes precedence. For the email marketing guide we spoke about above, the main keyword would be “email marketing”.
Once you’ve chosen your main keyword, you can create a list of secondary keywords to target other relevant long-tail keywords.
While keywords are important, don't forget about search intent. Search intent is the why behind the keyword.
Make sure you're creating your content to satisfy the user's actual intended question behind the terms they're searching, not just the keyword itself.
After running a keyword search for “email marketing”, we might then include some of these secondary keywords as headers to give the piece a structure and answer some of the search queries people are typing in.
Teamwork’s ultimate guide to design project management appears first on Google for the keyword “design project management” which is perfectly geared towards their audience of graphic design project managers in the creative industries.
2. Have a goal
You need a goal for your guide, otherwise it's just a load of words flung together without purpose. Think about what you want readers to get out of it and what value you want them to extract from it.
Your content will usually have one of the following goals in mind for your audience:
- Teach a new skill
- Gain a better understanding of a niche topic
- Build brand trust
- Establish yourself as an industry expert
The purpose you choose will drive the structure of your ultimate guide and ensure that readers leave having learned something new.
3. Plan the outline
Ultimate guides are long. They can run anywhere from 2,000 words to 10,000 words or more, which means it’s important to outline before you start writing to ensure you’re including everything you need to and it’s presented in an order that makes sense.
You’ll already have some sub-header ideas from your keyword research, but you can get more inspiration from:
- Google’s People Also Asked section: see what questions people are searching for around your topic
- Google’s People Also Searched For section: see what other searches people are running about your topic
- Relevant forums: take a look at what conversations are trending and what kinds of questions people are asking about your topic on sites like Reddit and Quora
- Social media listening: see what discussions are taking place around your topic
When you’ve got inspiration from multiple sources and have a list of topics and sub-headers to include, you can start to formulate an outline for your ultimate guide.
Think about the “what, why, and how” structure and try to fit your sub-headers into that format to maintain the flow of an ultimate guide and to make sure you’re presenting the information in a cohesive order.
4. Do a little competitive research
When you’ve got your outline mapped out, you can take a look at what other information is out there on your topic.
Dig into other ultimate guides to see if there are any areas you’re missing and bulk out your outline, if necessary. Ideally, you want your ultimate guide to be the most in-depth and informative.
As well as checking out other ultimate guides on a similar topic, you can also go to Amazon and run a search for your topic.
From there, check the table of contents of the bestsellers to see what information they include. Books are often a lot more detailed than blog posts and other online content, so they can be incredibly useful for pinpointing any areas you might have missed in your outline.
The contents page for this book on email marketing has plenty of topic ideas to cover.
5. Actually add value
The problem with a lot of ultimate guides is that they all regurgitate the same information.
They all cover the same topics and present the same opinions, making it difficult to trust which one is the most authoritative or the most engaging.
Before writing your ultimate guide, think about how you can add value and make yours different from all the others out there.
Here are some ways you can do this:
- Include stories from your personal experience to add a human touch
- Inject anecdotes to add personality
- Use examples and screenshots to illustrate your main points
- Provide actionable tips that readers can use straight away
- Incorporate case studies for social proof
Adding value will help set your ultimate guide apart from the others but, more importantly, it will add credibility and give readers a reason to keep coming back.
VWO’s complete guide to conversion rate optimization might show up second in the SERPs, but it offers a more comprehensive overview than the first result which will ultimately attract more readers.
6. Sit down and write your ultimate guide
The final step is actually writing your ultimate guide, which can feel like a real slog when you consider how much information you need to include.
The best way to do this is to write it in sections. Break each chapter down into manageable chunks and write them that way.
Alternatively, you can hire freelance copywriters to do the task for you or leverage a powerful AI copywriting tool like Jasper to bring it to life. There are a number of different templates you can use to build out your ultimate guide.
The blog post outline template is a great way to get ideas for what you can include in your ultimate guide.
You can then use the blog post intro template to kick off your ultimate guide in the right way.
Then, use the long-form assistant to start creating your post. Simply enter the title of your piece, choose an AI-generated introduction, and Jasper will continue to write the piece for you.
Try out Jasper's Boss Mode to create your ultimate guide 5x faster than normal while maintaining originality and optimizing the piece for search engines.
Ultimate guides are definitely still relevant today - you just have to do it right.
Make sure yours targets a relevant keyword, includes more value than any others out there, and has a purpose, whether that’s driving downloads, teaching a new skill, or something else.