Okay. You are a mechanic or perhaps an electrician, you have taken your “web guy’s” advice and decided to write a few blog posts every month. But what to write? One reason why you went into this trade in the first place was that you were far better with a ratchet wrench than you were with a pen. But, you need people to come (and hopefully stay a few moments) to your blog posts, so that you can rank on Google. Other than wishing you could go back in time thirty years before this whole SEO business, there isn’t much to be done. So, you fall back on the tried and true “How-To” article. "How to replace an outlet” or “How to change a tire.”
It’s not a bad idea. After all, YOU know how to do this thing, and many people do not. At least, not the correct way. In theory, it should generate some traffic. But you are forgetting something. The Internet is full of “experts” and there are tons of articles out there. How will you set yourself apart?
The good new is this: these articles are all written by non-writers. They are in the same spot you are in... or were in before you happened upon this article :). I am going to give you four key ideas to make your “How-to’s” stand out. Let’s jump right in.
1. Assume a reassuring tone.
Right now, someone’s dishwasher is overflowing and they may have poured Drano in to unblock the clog (DO NOT DO THIS). While their kitchen is filling up with foam, it occurs to them that Drano isn’t a great item to mix with the place you clean your dishes. They are panicking! As the narrator of a “How-to” on proper drain clean up, you can help by setting a calm and reassuring tone. “You can do this.” Be clear and direct, but also help your customer with some pep talk and remind them that everyone starts somewhere. Having a few tips on when it is time to seek professional help is also a good idea. Pretend you are teaching your high school child this exact task. Don’t dumb it down by any means; just have a kind and patient demeanor.
2. What makes you the expert?
Have you ever looked up a recipe? You follow the directions exactly, but your end product looks NOTHING like the picture. Anyone can write down the six steps to making a grilled cheese sandwich, but what can you add to make the grilled cheese truly delicious? If you’re unsure of where to start, ask yourself these four questions:
Are you aware of any pitfalls that readers should know about?
Are you aware of any other helpful tips that would help the reader?
Can you provide examples that prove your technique is better than another?
Can you explain your technique in a way that hasn’t been used before to make it more clear?
3. Tell a story.
I want to make waffles, not read “War and Peace.” I get it. I am not looking for a novel, but you are going to want to provide an example or two. Nothing too wordy that you may lose the reader, but a very short blurb. If you look at this article, each step has about a paragraph, and in each I give you the meat of my point and try to add in one idea to hammer it through. It’s the sugar to make your medicine go down. It also provides a touch of humor and an easy reference for you to use as a pneumonic device. Stay in the business professional zone (no dirty jokes), but let some of your unique personality spill in to your post.
4. Have an Editor.
Remember that this isn’t your normal thing. Mrs. Dunning from 9th grade composition isn’t going to be grading this. Find someone, a relative, a friend, or even that pesky web guy who is making you do this, to read your posts BEFORE you post them. You are not just checking grammar and spelling (although that is extremely important). Remember you are the expert here and this stuff will make sense to you. You want to make sure it makes sense to the non-expert. Have them try to do the thing you are describing. Ask for brutal honesty on your writing style and your way of describing the task. Do not get offended by the feedback you receive. Read the comments if anyone leaves them. The only way to get better at this is to learn from the feedback you receive and improve one article at a time.
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