Writing guides is an art that not all writers can easily master. After all, if it was that simple to explain the answer to complicated questions in a clear and concise way, not many people would bother searching the Internet for advice. For virtually every problem, there are question-and-answer pageswhere everyone and their mother offers solutions to problems. But those vague “advice-givers” often give incorrect or inadequate information, which is mainly based on random guesswork, and are thus not exactly what your readers need.
If you want to write helpful guides, you should have in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and be able to prove your skills. Your visibility, for example through your own homepage or a YouTube channel, will make you appear trustworthy and competent. You must, therefore, create a stage where you can vividly demonstrate the solutions to your readers’ and viewers’ problems via a blog, video or infographic. Once you have proven your expertise in solving your readers’ problems, they will put their trust in you.
A good guide writer is not just an expert in their field, but in a way, they are also a psychologist. After all, the audience wants to be motivated by and even praised whilst reading the how-to content. When writing how-to texts, community work plays an increasingly important role. Successful guide book authors are important influencers for their target audience. Guides are among the most-read content types on social media. Even in the book industry, guides on a wide range of topics are still in high demand. In fact, the sale of non-fiction books make up a good third of total sales revenue.
Because the demand for good advice is so high, guide books are great at increasing traffic to your website and getting high search engine rankings. You can use this type of content effectively to conduct inbound marketing for your products or services. This is passive, non-aggressive marketing with the aim of providing added value to increase visitor numbers and turn satisfied readers into customers.
What you will learn on this page:
We have set up this page as a guide so you can learn how to write an effective guide book and to shed light on the intricacies of this particular type of writing. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do now.
What makes a good how-to guide?
Let’s ask ourselves what really makes a good how-to guide. Many of these texts are in fact nothing more than hidden advertising messages or superficial tips, which everyone knows anyway – and even worse, some provide the readers with incorrect information.
A good guide book should inform the readers, provide them with value and enable them to solve their problems. Let’s say a DIY enthusiast wants to try and build a spiral staircase. In a good tutorial – whether as text or video – you would introduce them to different types of kits and explain their installation process step-by-step. In addition, practical tips should be included, for example, how to work more easily and what safety measures have to be taken into account prior to starting the project. The cost comparisons or objective assessments of different stair models can also be part of the guide book. If you want to go the extra mile, you can write instructions that target advanced users – for example, a complete self-assembly tutorial, from sawing the wood to the finishing touches. After reading your instructions, readers should be able to easily assemble their spiral staircase by themselves.
An instructional text should ideally be accompanied by images and graphics to clearly illustrate what is written. The style of language and tone should be chosen carefully so that readers can easily follow the instructions. Avoid using difficult-to-understand words whenever possible – otherwise your target audience will see them as technical jargon. Having said that, it never hurts to briefly explain something using technical terms but make sure even complete beginners can understand the terms you use. Motivate your readers to learn from their mistakes and encourage them to keep going. If a problem is more difficult to explain than it really is, you may deter users who might become your potential customers. In this situation, it is best to share on your own experiences and how you progressed in your career from beginner to expert. Practical examples make it easier to imagine an abstract problem. It might be more helpful for some readers to watch you solving a problem on a live video.
The guide book’s topic should be included in the headline, with a few sentences that clearly explain your valuable tips. You are welcome to include external quotes, tips or insights, as long as you clearly check their credibility. You should also make sure that no-one else on the web sells your instructions as their own.
In any case, how-to guides should be written in a neutral tone. Give your own opinion without trying to “convince” the reader. Under no circumstances should your content sound salesy – especially if you are active in the relevant industry yourself, as this would come across as unconvincing. You must always focus on the concerns of the advice seekers rather than the product or service you wish to sell.
Once again here are some important factors at a glance:
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Writing How-to Guides: Common Mistakes
It can be quite challenging to meet all the requirements for a good guide book. Uninteresting, false or outdated tips are just some of the reasons why you can deter users from seeking your advice. Here are some of the worst mistakes that lead to the failure of how-to guides:
Content is too plain:
If the content sounds too plain, it can put the reader off quickly. Chatty explanations usually leave a lot of room for interpretation if the solution does not work as described in practice. Moreover, monotonous or unimaginative language tends to bore the readers.
Content is too technical:
Similarly, even how-to texts with heavy technical terms can leave readers confused. This will only limit your readers to those who are highly educated and can understand the technical terms of your text.
Information is incorrect or out-of-date:
Incorrect guides or those with outdated information completely miss the point and no doubt even cause problems for your readers, especially when your content includes health or nutritional advice. There are many providers on the Internet who make false promises or claims. If your reputation with your readers is important to you, then you’ll take the time to thoroughly research the information in advance. It is also important to take one step further and seek the advice of other experts or external sources about the subject matter.
If external sources turn out to be wrong, you will also have a problem. Similarly, you should take care not to use the information from those sources or websites that are frivolous, legally problematic, of political nature or non-credible.
The guide is not practical:
If your instructions are difficult to implement in practice, you will not help users. To see how others can use your advice, you can test your how-to content on a neutral person before publishing it. Keep in mind that the person you choose should have no previous knowledge about the subject matter, just like your readers.
As mentioned earlier, technical terminology can be problematic. A simple example: If you’re writing about using an adjustable spanner for turning nuts and bolts, be sure to explain that a spanner is, in fact, a tool or include an image of it to ensure that your readers know exactly what you’re talking about.
Content is poorly structured:
Articles that are without paragraphs or subheadings make them difficult to read. Many readers will give up in frustration and continue searching elsewhere. We will further explain how to create a structured how-to text later in this article.
No-one needs the advice:
Do not give advice that nobody has asked for. This includes extreme niche topics that not many people are interested in. It makes no marketing sense to write manuals or guide books if no-one needs them.
Influencing the readers:
If the writer leaves their neutral position as an expert and imposes their own opinions on the reader, it seldom goes down well. How-to texts are not the right place for either self-promotion or for revealing your political or personal views.
The content cannot be found online:
You may spend a lot of time writing your manuals or guide books, but what use are they if they can’t be found on a web search? Factors such as SEO and the rules of content marketing must be taken into account. Since search engine marketing is not our discussion topic today, we recommend that you review our guide to creating successful SEO content.
Know your target audience
Since guides can be written for virtually every aspect of daily life, the variety of different reader types is correspondingly large. It is, therefore, advisable to carry out an analysis of the respective target audience before starting each project. Who are the people you want to write for? What information interests them? And what kind of medium is best for showcasing your content?
In many cases, participating in the social networks and forums that are frequented by your readers can provide you with the necessary information on what makes your target audience tick. Listen carefully when people describe their problems, complain or ask specific questions. Pay special attention to the knowledge level of those users that you want to help in order to create the most original tips that haven’t already been tried and tested a hundred times before. Oftentimes, you will find one or more problems that are affecting your target audience. If you manage to find a solution in a timely manner and present it to the target audience, you will attract many more users. If your advice is helpful, you can look forward to many grateful users visiting your website in the future.
You should also look into the buying habits of your target audience. For example, you can write guides or tutorials on popular products, hobbies or destinations.
In order to reach your target audience, the chosen language style also plays an important role. Speak the language of your readers: Even in your mentoring role, you are still “one of them”. Usually every social group – in this case, the users of an online forum – develops its own tone and style, in which certain terms or sentences are used. If you are already active in the respective groups, you should have no difficulty with grabbing your readers’ attention by using their language.
On the flip side, there is also the matter of authenticity. For example, a person who lives off his land in the mountains and runs a blog about cheese making will sound more authentic if he uses a slightly old-fashioned style of language. Even if his readers mainly consist of young city dwellers who follow new eco trends, it would be strange for the ‘mountain man’ to adopt their language style.
The above example may sound a little over the top, but you will come across as unpretentious if your blog sounds authentic. Guide writers are usually very close to their readers anyway. After all, both sides have common interests. By the way, you should be prepared in case your readers seek direct contact with you, for example in the form of comments or additional questions about a guide book text you’ve written. The dialogue with your followers is part of the community work you do and will further consolidate your reputation as a reliable and sympathetic guide book expert.
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The decisive factor: your expertise
How well your guide succeeds ultimately depends on your expertise in the chosen topic. Intensive research and your knowledge are the basis for comprehensible and useful instructions. How well do you really know the topic for which you want to write a guide book?
All the sources should be checked as thoroughly as possible. Before you give advice, you need to make sure it works. You should master every aspect of your guide book, so that you can provide reliable information about every little detail. Keep in mind that small problems for an expert like yourself can appear as major hurdles in the eyes of an amateur. Only when you know all the pitfalls, can you explain how to avoid them.
If you still have a lack of knowledge or skill, don’t give up. Practically every skill can be learned with enough patience. You can then write an informative article on how you have overcome all the obstacles on your way to becoming an expert.
A clearly laid out content structure is recommended for all types of texts. But with a how-to guide it is important that the reader can easily understand everything and doesn’t get misinformed. It is, therefore, especially important to structure the content in a visually appealing and well-laid out way. Meaningful paragraphs and subheadings increase readability. You can further break up the paragraphs by including appropriate quotes, bullet points with useful tips, or lists, such as checklists that readers can work through.
Use different colours to make each section stand out. . In this way, particularly complex topics can be clearly subdivided into individual sections.
If you want to write a guide book or a technical guide – whether in an eBook or print form – you should include illustrations and graphics. In addition to the detailed information you provide, the visual appearance of your text is just as important. When your readers take a look at your pages before making a purchase decision, the illustrations or photos will appeal to them far more than a wall of text.
Different types of guides
Since guides can be written on virtually any topic, there are many different types to write about. In the following section, we would like to introduce you to the most common topics vorstellen. Ideally, you should be an expert in your chosen field in order to create guides that add value for your readers.
Do-it-yourself or DIY guides:
The do-it-yourself phenomenon has kept the entire DIY hardware shops in the UK alive for decades. But it’s not just the DIYers, it’s also many other hobbyists, travel enthusiasts, recreational cooks and artists who use their time to acquire new skills and knowledge. This is where you come in as an expert writer to provide tips on the topic. The primary focus of DIY guides is teaching someone to do the task themselves.
Make-up, beauty, and wellness tips:
These types of cosmetic or beauty guides are hugely popular among all age groups – predominantly, but not exclusively, among women. There are some young YouTubers who already have several million fans following their make-up tutorial videos. . From very subtle make-up to face painting for carnivals, this topic offers countless variations. While many beauty tips can best be displayed in video format, you can write a lot about the topic, especially on wellness, instructions for relaxation, or meditation for a healthy lifestyle. There is high demand for such articles, and the wellness topics often overlap with others, such as sports and nutrition.
Fashion is always a hot topic – for both men and women. We are living in a time where it’s no longer trendy to follow a certain style. Today, there are countless subcultures that often define themselves through a particular style of clothing. A subtle taste is required to recognise when one is considered “well dressed” in the respective scene. In addition to the look of the clothes, they must be practical and comfortable to wear. Thus, sportswear, work clothes or outdoor clothing are each designed to serve a specific purpose, like plenty of pockets, protection against wind and rain, and guaranteeing maximum freedom of movement. Fashion writers can, therefore, focus on the aesthetic and trendy side of the clothes as well as their practical and functional aspects, or entire fashion collections.
In contrast to tour guides, who often give more general information about the travel destination, its history and language, travel guides offer specific tips, often up to the regional level or for individual places, hotels and other accommodations. Usually the author has stayed at the place before or just paid a visit prior to writing about the destination. Accordingly, helpful advice can be given so that other holidaymakers can implement directly. In addition to tips on where to eat the best food or take in the most beautiful sights, you can also warn readers about where the bad hotels are, the no-go neighbourhoods, or the tourist rip-offs. Insider tips are very well received by readers to help them discover the hidden corners and get to know the country and its people better. In addition to mass tourism, there has been a trend towards alternative tourism, hiking and backpacking for several years.
The classic among the do-it-yourself guides. There is always something to do around the house – this is what most homeowners say. There are countless topics to write about here, from big projects like renovations or extensions to small jobs like building a bird house. Building and repairing furniture, the right way to wallpaper or tile – these are all topics that are especially lost among the younger generations. How to use a tool is another interesting topic, because many people do not know how to use drills, grinders or saws properly until someone shows them. You could, for example, experiment with tools, paints or materials in your own workshop and complete various projects. The main thing is that your how-to instructions must include everything, from text and images to videos.
Of course, there are countless other hobbies in addition to the do-it-yourself ones that you can write how-to guides about. Model making from kits is a versatile hobby pursued by many people, with the possibility of creating different crafts and painting instructions from it. From collecting stamps to designing creative gift wrappers to testing and reviewing board games – if you love a hobby, you can write great guides about it.
Home and garden guides:
Houses and flats are more welcoming when they are nicely decorated and tastefully furnished. The same can be said about gardens, where the garden shed, fish pond, fences, etc. must be skillfully cared for. What’s more, indoor and outdoor plants can also enhance the look of your garden and home, and there are many different types that are easy to care for. You could write general guides for the home and / or garden or specialise in one particular topic. As an interior designer, landscape gardener or provider of decorative products, you will benefit from increasing traffic on your homepage.
For many people, pets are permanent members of the family. The most popular and common pets are dogs and cats, but there are also hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs or fish that can be great topics to write about. Aquariums, just like terrariums, are of course a very special field of their own. Although horses are not the classic types of pets, the enthusiasm of so many people for equestrian sports offers the potential for writing guides on accessories, riding schools and the handling of the animals themselves. In general, the most important topics include pet food, pet care and pet buying tips.
Guides for baking and cooking:
There is hardly any other topic that provides so many resources for writers to write about than food. However, in the culinary field, you also face a large number of competitors. So it’s best not to overdo it and always start with simple recipes. Incidentally, the saying “eat with your eyes first” also applies to these guides. Your presentation should be clear, and easy to understand in terms of ingredients and the required effort. Photos can help, but photographing food is an art in itself. If the important rules are ignored, the result will look anything but appetising. However, as “foodography” is becoming increasingly popular, there are also plenty of guides on this topic.
Sports and fitness guides:
This topic ranges from playing sports as a hobby or seeking a career as a professional athlete. In addition to the correct practice of the various activities, it is also possible to write advice texts on sportswear, sports equipment and other accessories. Since incorrect or vague advice can have negative consequences for your readers’ wellbeing, you should ideally be highly knowledgeable or experienced in the field of sports. You should be active as an athlete, trainer or therapist in the chosen discipline in order to give reliable and credible advice.
Money makes the world go ‘round – and even during the global financial crisis, investing in the stock market never lost its appeal. In fact, today more people are searching the web for investment tips or how to make quick money than ever before. However, the financial sector still has a mediocre reputation as the fear of fraud is great. So always take particular care to appear legitimate when writing financial guides. Needless to say, you should know your chosen topic very well.
Guides on writing and other creative skills:
If you know how to write, or perhaps you even earn money from it, you can also teach other beginner or novice authors. Whether it’s nonfiction or entertainment literature, fiction or factual reports – who does not dream of writing their own book?
Here are some general how-to topics that can not be listed in the do-it-yourself section.
Writing guides can be a challenging and time-consuming job. If you don’t have the ability or the time to write yourself, we can help. At Textbroker, you have access to a vast network of talented authors with experience in a variety of topics.
After reading this article, you should have a better idea of how to use guide books to attract more satisfied customers to your online store, workshop, flower shop or organic farm.
Whatever your specialty, use your expertise to help other people. Remember to always do research on whether your guide book is understood in practice and can actually be put to good use by your target audience.
We wish you a lot of success with your guide-writing tasks.
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