How-tos are a staple blog post idea for business blogs big and small. They join the Internet’s ocean of tips, tricks, fixes, walkthroughs and hacks. You’d think with all this content, we’d all be living our absolute best lives already!
But only a small portion of the content created is actually useful. Just browse the homepage of Wikihow to see everything from “How to Charge a Car Battery” to “How to Befriend a Wild Cat or Kitten”
How do you build your own how-to blog post? There are three basic formats: video only, text instructions only, and post with both video and text. My roundup of great posts below has examples from all three formats. But, if I had to recommend a format for everyone, I’d go with the video-text combo.
If you can demonstrate your instructions with a video, do it. Video alone can be hosted on YouTube and shared with millions. You might then embed your video in a longer how-to blog post that expands the video content with a transcript or written instructions and illustrations or stills from the video.
I’ve grouped my how-tos below by format so you can see examples of this great blog post idea.
Video Only How-tos
Let’s talk about the best thing you can do for your own how-to: make a video. Yes, get on camera! It’s the elephant in the room, but you have to think about it. We’ll talk about text-only how-tos that you can sit down and write. But let’s be honest. Video is the easiest way to show someone how to do something.
For example, my car’s right tail light went out last year. I’d never replaced it before, but it seemed simple and needed to happen soon to avoid being pulled over. So, I found the bulb at an auto part store and Googled to find a DIY video.
Can you imagine writing out these instructions and tips? It’s an amateur video, but it’s one of the most useful for me. I watched it twice and then did the task myself. Then I forgot everything and watched the video again six months later when the bulb on the other side went out.
Especially in a home or car maintenance situation, video is the quickest way to accurately convey a technique or method. Writing it all out is helpful too, especially for hitting on valuable SEO keywords. But we simply don’t have the patience to hang on every written word.
My next example is a mini how-to toward the end of a video about hand-made shoes and fancy/nerdy shoe care. While that stuff is fun, this clip was a game changer. According to the guys at “Put this On”, we’ve been tying our shoes wrong the whole time! Say it ain’t so!
“But there’s one simple correction you can make to save countless hours of headache.”
I’m so relieved! Let’s watch. Skip ahead to 08:15 for the good part.
Is your life changed? It should be. I love the introduction where the man drolly sets up the problem, the solution and the benefit in a quick sentence.
While the style of speech and presentation might not fit your business, the setup is compelling because it’s concise. Your own how-to video might be 3 minutes but the first few seconds need to immediately summarize the content and tell me why it’s worth watching all the way through.
Do you know about Cooking with Dog? Food and recipe videos are some of the most common how-tos. While Julia Child is the original master of on-camera cuisine, I think Dog is a compelling new host on the scene. This first video is rough but they’ve gone on to make a new Japanese cuisine video every week for years. Watch How to Make Sukiyaki.
BONUS BONUS VIDEO
It is just so relaxing to watch Mrs. Hattie fry fish. Compared to most how-tos, this 13 minute video is an epic. Don’t make yours this long. But learn from Mrs. Hattie how to be practiced and authoritative, yet totally authentic and true to your self. She just does what she does best. Watch How to Fry Fish 101.
Text-only How-to Blog Post
There’s another side to the how-to blog post idea: text-only. I don’t have a beef with basic text, in fact I’m about to feature one that I wrote myself. However, as we’ll see later on with the text-video combos, the video makes things much richer than either on their own.
Another life-changing mini tutorial comes from Lifehacker. Between this site and the venerable Wikihow.com, you can find specific instructions for every oddly specific problem in your life. In this case, how to peel off a sticky note. The how-to for this doesn’t have any steps. Just this: peel sticky notes from the side of the pad, not from the bottom.
Voila! Amazing, right? Now your sticky notes stay flat and fall off less. This is a prime example of clever bloggers making a mountain out of a mole hill to take advantage of high interest in the classic “you’ve done it wrong your whole life” genre of how-tos.
Is there anything simple you wish every customer could do? What basic steps do most people miss? Don’t be afraid of short posts that answer very specific questions. And if you’re doing video (hint hint), create short, shareable video clips from these “doh!” moments.
What about how-tos that aren’t so short? Long-form posts take a lot of work, but they’re keyword rich and re-packagable so they keep their value for a long time. One of my own posts in this form is “Make a Moodboard for Your Web Design.”
This topic actually benefits from a text-only treatment. Since most of the steps use your computer to research and record design ideas, it makes sense to format the instructions so they make sense at a glance.
But both of these how-tos could be enriched with a video. Let’s take a look at two pieces that pair rich, long-form content with a great video.
How-to with Video and Text
Simon and Martina are my favorite YouTubers. They’re a married couple who lived in South Korea for years before moving to Japan. They’ve been recording video and writing blog posts about their experiences the whole time. A recent video explains the many variations of onigiri, a common hand-held snack.
Clever animations and witty narration make this video useful and entertaining on it’s own. But the blog post takes things to another level. It brings in a bonus anecdote from Martina’s personal experience, additional context about the snack’s name, as well as an extra reference chart for the snack varieties mentioned in the video!
Between the shareable video content and the deep dive of the blog post, Martina confirms her authority on the subject and presents herself as an appealing video host as well!
While the explanation of onigiri didn’t change my life like learning to tie my shoes properly, this next piece comes close. Do you know the best way to tuck in your shirt? Most people figure out the basics early on. But there’s so much more it. The Art of Manliness goes to great lengths (long-form text, detailed illustrations AND a video) to explain all the nuances.
Did you ever think there’d be so much to learn about something millions of people do every day? There is. And guess what? This post ranks second for “how to tuck in your shirt” on Google Search. Nice job.
All together, what do these how-tos teach us? I’ve got four points.
Keep it simple and specific. Most searchers want to know how to do just one thing.
Make a video. If your topic is something people do with their hands (like make a meal, fix their car or tuck in their shirt) a video is the quickest, easiest way for you to help. If it makes sense, write a post to extend the content and make it even more useful, but the best how-tos start with video.
Have you found any how-tos that dramatically changed how you work or helped you make something great? Share your links in the comments or connect with us on Twitter @roundepg.