Construction worker with laptop

Go to any bookstore and you'll find huge sections devoted entirely to How to, Self Help and Do It Yourself. In addition you'll find "Dummies" books on any number of issues from Advertising to Zune mp3 players. Publishers know that people are always looking for information on how to get things done and done well.

Practical Articles - The Gold Mine in Marketing Currency

When it comes to content, the how-to article is a gold mine in marketing currency. If you can help someone accomplish a goal, whether it involves their business or personally, you can gain a friend and a potential client.

These articles let you become the subject matter expert in areas where you have proficiency. They are not time-sensitive, like the News Flash or Trend pieces, so they can be written at any time. They are also easier to write because you are dealing with a familiar subject.

Before Beginning a How-To Article

Never jump quickly into developing a how-to article. Since you are so familiar with these subjects, it is very easy to put your energy in the wrong direction. You need to take time to plan your strategy.

  1. Write down a list of processes, projects or work goals where you have familiarity and are relevant to your readership.
  2. Prioritize the list on the basis of what you think most people care about.
  3. Set up a schedule – when you want publish each article – and stick to it.

Writing The Basic How-to Article

How-to articles are just what they describe - how-to. You are simply explaining a process or providing instructions that will allow someone else to be able to accomplish something successfully.

Here is a basic outline to follow for writing this article. Often, as someone who is highly familiar with a process, you will be able to write and edit a how-topiece in an hour or two if you have planned ahead. Here is a process that will make your article easier to write and clearer for the reader.

  1. Outline your article: Outline your article first, identifying the steps for the process or job and the details you really don't want to miss. If you can give examples or illustrations for further explanation, please note them before you begin to write.
  2. Summarize in your introduction: Your introduction should always describe what you are going to tell the person and the conclusion should re-tell it.
  3. Use straight-forward language with headers and sequential steps: Write the article using headers to separate the steps in the process. Be sure to make your points sequential and keep your language clear and understandable. A how-to article is not the place to embellish with flowery language. Often, the best way to write a how-to involves just putting down on paper what you would say when explaining a process to someone face-to-face.
  4. Include a list of what is needed: Be sure to include a list of tools, equipment and supplies that are necessary to accomplish the task. If possible, let people know how long a process should actually take.
  5. Include potential problems: The article should also describe problems that may be encountered. If you can include some troubleshooting hints for solving these problems, that increases the worth of your content.

Using the How-to Content

Many how-to articles are what they call "evergreen." You can use them for long periods of time and often they only require a small modification unless you are covering technology or other industries where information is more perishable. In addition to blog entries (let's face it, this article is a how-to), you can turn them into white papers, web sections and other uses.

How-to articles may generate some additional communications from people who have applied what you have written. This must be viewed as an opportunity to build strong public relations and market placement not an interruption to your routine. You may end up helping with some trouble-shooting or hearing ways to make your article clearer. Your ability to follow-up with inquiries may be an indication to a potential client that you are someone who will really follow-through for them.

Keeping Material Fresh

All articles, but how-to's in particular, need to be viewed as a work in progress that can be tweaked through field testing of the process. Don't afraid to update content or add insights. This will all contribute to the overall value of your content and tell search engines you are keeping things fresh.

How-to articles are easy to write, since you are familiar with the topic, and can be written at your leisure. Just be sure that the subject will be of interest to your readers.

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