But, when you’re sitting there looking at a blank screen, what in the world do you write about?
It will depend on your purpose. If you’re looking to promote a product or service, you’ll have a blog-writing campaign around that. If you’re welcoming newer readers, you’ll want to show them something of who you are and what you stand for to build trust.
One thing you can be sure of though, is your readers are interested in their future. A better future for them. We all are – we’re curious, doubt-filled, wondrous creatures on the hunt for answers. And that’s where the ‘how to’ blog post structure comes in.
A ‘how to’ blog is a perfect way to provide an answer. To take your reader from a place of not knowing, uncertainty and lack, to wisdom, skill and happiness. It’s a magic spell.
I know we’re not all dealing in philosophy and huge life transformation. Some of us are selling coffee, massages, writing skills. But don’t be shy – whatever you’ve got can make someone’s world a better place, in big ways or small. Own that. Own your power to help people. I like coffee. If you’re selling good coffee you can make my life better.
‘How to’ blogs perform brilliantly because they’re practical, and actionable. They promise a better future and they deliver it, all within the space of a few hundred words. Magic.
So – let’s get to it. Here are the steps to creating a powerful, irresistible ‘how to’ blog post:
Remember who you’re writing for
Think about your reader: their needs, their interests. Hopefully you’ve spent time identifying your buyer persona or ideal client, so you know who you’re talking to, what keeps them awake at night and what lights them up. I always prefer to write for a specific person, so I picture a client I’ve worked with recently (someone I’d like to work with again!) and write for them.
Craft a compelling headline
Headlines are mega important – only 20% of your audience will read through from your headline to your content. So it needs to draw us in. Make it clear, make a promise, go for simple over clever. Don’t agonise too much at this stage, you can refine it before you publish. Here’s a nifty headline tool to help you.
Identify your teaching point
Where are you taking your reader? What new piece of knowledge, skill or understanding will they take from your blog? Again, keep it simple. If there are related points to write about you’ve just given yourself new blog topics, which is marvellous.
You can also include links to other posts on your site as part of your post. This lets you get deeper into related points – which is great for boosting your credibility and keeping readers on your site. Linking to other sites that support your message is also worth doing. It’ll show your reader you’re trustworthy and what you’re saying is backed up by other people.
Show you know what it’s like to be without this info. You don’t have to over-egg it, we’re not offering life-saving surgery. Keep it honest. Something like:
‘Ever sat at your screen and stared, just willing the ideas to come? And… nothing? That pressure to write a blog post (you know it’s good for your credibility, you want to share it across your social media, you want to help people). But your brain’s gone blank.’
Preview the journey
Explain how you’ll take your reader from that uncomfortable feeling to a position of knowing. You’ll show them how they can move from A to B right now. Let them know you’re ready to start.
List your steps
Use sub headings to break down your message. Sub headings are signposts for your reader as they go through the blog post. You’re helping them pick their way through the forest, one step at a time, in a logical order. I’m using sub headings in this blog to break down the elements of a ‘how to’ post.
Along the way, give stories, stats and examples to bring your message to life. Talk about a client who’s followed your advice, write about how your ‘how to’ has helped you, share an anecdote, use pictures to illustrate.
Examples make your writing real, and they help your reader translate the message to their own lives.
I used to worry that I was giving too much of myself away in blog posts – that I’d appear vulnerable by sharing too much about myself, or that I was giving stuff away for free when I should keep it close so people will pay me for it. But since blogging for myself and my clients, I’ve realised this isn’t the case. People want to see the real person. And providing valuable content is what brings clients closer.
Plus, I enjoy writing more when I’m not stressing about what I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ share! This may be a ‘how to’ post, but I’d like to ban the shoulds – use these pointers as an aid, not as a strict mould to lose yourself in. Honest writing wins hands down over any formula or template. Anyway, back to this post…
Summarise what you’ve just taught and remind your reader how it will help them – what the point of it all was. Finish off by asking a question or encouraging your reader to interact: comment, post in your group, sign up for a freebie (if you want to get my free guide on using values in your copywriting, you can do that right here, by the way. Sure you can see what I did there…).
And that’s it. That’s the structure I use when writing a trusty ‘how to’ post. The joy’s in knowing your clients, and knowing that you’re doing something practical to help them. And, as well as being great karma, who knows what might happen off the back of that?