How to create a comprehensive guide [+examples] (2023)

The irony that I'm writing a how-to guide about... how-to guides has not gone unnoticed.

How to create a comprehensive guide [+examples] (1)

Fortunately, I've had my experience writing how-to guides for HubSpot over the years; some of my favorites includeHow to make a persuasive presentation,How to Develop a Content Strategy: A Complete Guide, youHow to write a request for proposal.

Here, we'll explore the proper structure to use when creating a how-to guide and how to write a comprehensive how-to guide. We'll also look at some awesome examples of how-to guides for inspiration. let's dive

You can continue reading or click on one of the links below to go to the section you are looking for:

  • What is a practical guide?
  • How to make a practical guide
  • How to write a practical guide
  • Publication of a practical guide
  • Tips for effective how-to guides
  • Examples of how-to guides

What is a practical guide?

A hands-on guide provides step-by-step instructions through an end-to-end process. How-to guides can also offer best practices, show examples of ideal results, or provide trends and information about the guide's topics.

Why is it important to create a practical guide

How-to guides make it easy to learn new skills and understand how things work. They are also useful for learning about a new tool, application or device.

Today, people have more access to information than ever before. This can have a big impact on companies. Customers want self-service options that are easy to use and understand. A well-crafted practical guide can:

  • Support curious and frustrated customers
  • Offer 24/7 access to help
  • Engage the readers
  • Anticipate user needs

How-to guides are also valuable opportunities to reach new audiences with high-quality, useful content. For B2B and B2C companies, how-to guides are often necessary for a healthy lead generation strategy.

For example, consider how many people search "How to..." on Google every day:

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These search queries demonstrate one of the main reasons people turn to the Internet: to learn how to do something.

If your business can reach these consumers with informative and relevant answers to their queries, these users will begin to see your brand as an authority on the subject.

In the future, those same readers you first engaged with with a how-to guide may become loyal customers and brand advocates who promote your products or services.

Of course, how-to guides make it easy to meet high expectations while sharing valuable information. But it's not easy to make a great tutorial.

How to make a practical guide

  1. Understand your target audience.
  2. Research your topic well.
  3. Create a sketch step by step.
  4. Add helpful images, videos and descriptions.
  5. Save screenshots on the go.
  6. Revise your outline and investigate from the reader's point of view.
  7. Link to other resources.

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1. Understand your target audience.

It's easy to write instructions for a person familiar with a process. This is because they only need to be reminded of what they already know.

But most people looking for how-to guides are beginners. This means that when writing a how-to guide, you need to be a subject matter expert. At the same time, you must also be able to see the topic from a beginner's perspective.

Most how-to guides pick a starting point, and that means you'll have to guess where to start.

For example, if you were writing instructions on how to use a specific application, you probably wouldn't take the first step to turn on your computer. Instead, it would start from the most logical place your average user would start.

But until you knowtarget audience, it will be difficult to decide on this first step. Your target audience is a group of your ideal users. They will have similar habits and ideas that connect them. and better youmeet this audience, the easier it will be to make a practical guide they will love.

For this step, start with online community forums like Quora or comments from your community to uncover the top concerns or challenges your target audience might have. This information will help you determine what content to include in your guide.

For example, if you're writing "How to create a content marketing strategy", follow these steps:

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  • Start by looking at the answers to "What is content marketing?on Quora and other online forums. These user-generated responses can help you identify common themes, misconceptions, or confusion about content marketing.
  • Reach out to your network to learn common pain points about content marketing. For example, you might find that the majority of your audience says content marketing is a priority for them, but they don't know how to do it on a budget.

This research will provide you with the information you need to create a practical guide that addresses relevant concerns about your topic. The video below is an example of a practical guide to content marketing that addresses specific audience pain points:

2. Research your topic well.

Your first step in making a how-to guide is to make sure your guide is complete.

Even if you know a subject incredibly well, research is not a step you should skip. In fact, knowing a topic well can make writing a how-to guide on the subject more difficult, as you may make assumptions about what to cover.

So, follow this complete list of steps for your investigation.

  • If you're already familiar with the process you're talking about, jot down as many of the steps as you can by memory.
  • Follow the instructions and take notes as you go through the steps. This will help you complete the steps you skipped.
  • Do keyword researchto see the words that people who want to learn this skill use to look up directions.
  • UseAhrefs,SEMrush, or another SEO tool to find more similar keywords and queries. This can help you create a comprehensive piece that will answer all of your readers' questions and help you rank on Google.
  • Look at your competitors to see how they write their guides.
  • Look for expert opinions, popular books, and other resources that can provide the details to make your how-to guide stand out.

For example, let's say you're writing a blog post, "how to make an omelette." When you do your search, you will find the Simple Recipe post at the top of the Google search.

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As you dive into the post, you'll see that Simply Recipe has sections including:

  • french vs american tortillas
  • The best pan to make tortillas
  • Ideas for tortilla fillings

If you want to create your own tortilla how-to guide, you might want to cover all, if not more, than Simply Recipe has in their post.

When doing your research, be sure to check your sources. You want to be sure that your guide is reliable and won't get you into legal or other trouble later on.

3. Create a step-by-step outline.

Now that you've done your research, it's time to organize your ideas. First, assemble your initial list of steps with any new ideas you learned during your research.

Then create a step-by-step outline for your guide. This means making decisions that can affect the reader's understanding of each step.

For example, if you were writing "How to take a screenshot on a Mac", you would write each specific action required to take a screenshot. but according tothis practical guide, there are four different ways to take a screenshot on a Mac. Therefore, the correct user instructions will depend on the computer and operating system you are on.

You will need to decide when is the best time to present this additional information to your readers. your readersjump from your pageif it is too difficult for them to find the answer to your question. So your outline can help you get through the steps as quickly as possible and in the right order.

Many readers will also use your how-to guide as a checklist. This means you may need to go over your outline several times to ensure each step is clear and easy to follow.

4. Add useful images, videos and descriptions.

When possible, use visuals like GIFs, images, screenshots and videos to complement your instructions. While it can be fun to add pictures just for fun, the best pictures will come in handy and make your instructions clearer and easier to understand.

If you're not sure what type of image to include, follow the sketch instructions. Does it make sense to take a screenshot for each step? Are there specific materials you want your reader to use? Is there a process that is not easy to understand without seeing it happen?

For example, in the technical competitions of thegreat british roast, bakers are often asked to prepare recipes they have never seen before. If a baker is unsure of what the final product should look like, he will have to rely on the instructions to get it right.

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If they read too fast or if the instructions can be interpreted in more than one way, they are usually wrong. This is a good example of what can happen when a user can't figure out what to do. You can use images and videos to help avoid this confusion.

Try to collect images and videos as you research so you have more of what you need when it's time to start putting together your how-to guide.

5. Revise your outline and research from the reader's point of view.

The last step in writing a how-to guide is to ask yourself: "Why do my readers need or want to know this?"

Understanding the high-level purpose behind a topic can encourage you to write with empathy. In addition, it will help you create content that accurately meets your reader's expectations and needs.

For example, typing "How to Create a Facebook Group for Your Business", it took me a while to learn that readers can search this topic if:

  • They are looking for new ways to connect with customers.
  • They want to create a stronger sense of brand community.
  • Want to promote your products or services

As a result, I wrote:

"A group is a good idea if you're interested in connecting your customers or prospects with each other, want to facilitate a sense of community around your brand, or hope to showcase your brand as a thought leader in the industry. group is not a good idea if you want to use it to promote your products or services or just to post company advertisements."

In the example above, you can see that I've targeted a few different segments of readers for various purposes to help readers determine whether this how-to guide would help them achieve their own goals.

Ultimately, understanding the purpose behind your how-to guide is critical to ensuring you cover all the various components or angles of the topic at hand.

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6. Link to other resources.

It's also a good idea to point readers to other helpful resources if they want more information. Link to other relevant blog posts, main pages, or eBooks so readers can find follow-up information on topics mentioned in your how-to guide.

When linking resources, be sure to cite the original source whenever possible. This is another way to build trust and authority with your audience.

How to write a practical guide

When you're ready to start writing your how-to guide, you might be wondering if your tone or writing style should be different compared to other types of writing.

In short: yes, it should.

How-to guides should offer practical, tactical advice on a topic so readers can start following steps right away.

When people search “How to…”, they are often in a rush to find the information they need. That means it's essential that you write short, concise sentences to respond quickly.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when writing a how-to guide:

Use verbs when writing the steps.

Verbs put your instructions into motion. So active verbs can help your readers visualize themselves doing the task while teaching them how to do it. For example, say "Write your company's background" instead of "Your RFP should start with a brief summary of your company's background."

When writing, you should also avoid passive verbs like the examples below:

  • "flour and waterthey were scrambledtogether."
  • "The page tabwas opened, so we can click the box at the top."

If you find that you tend to use the passive voice while typing, use agrammar check toolto detect and correct your errors.

Make your how-to guide easy to flip through.

Many people skim through the instructions. This means they quickly skip over text that includes longer stories, data, or details. Browsers may pay more attention to introductions, summaries, or the first and last sentences of a text. Bold, underlined, or highlighted text can also catch your eye.

Use numbered lists, headings, and bullets to break up your text. These tactics make it easier to read and understand.

Offer examples to show your readers what you mean.

Show readers what you intend to bring your instructions to life. First, use sensory detail and action to create a picture in your head as you write your how-to guide. Combine images with written text for readers who can't load the image on the screen or don't understand what you're trying to say from the image itself.

Write with empathy.

How-to guides generally appeal to a wide range of readers, all with different levels of experience. So, recognize that it can be frustrating to learn or perfect a new skill.

For example, the guide "How to create a YouTube channel" probably appeals to YouTube newbies who want to create a channel to view and comment on their friends' YouTube posts.

How to create a comprehensive guide [+examples] (7)

But it will also likely appeal to marketers who need to create a channel for their business to attract and convert leads.

With such a diverse audience, it's critical that you write clearly but not condescendingly. This can help you ensure reader retention, regardless of skill level or previous experience.

Is there a difference between how you would write a tutorial and how-to guide?

Often, tutorials and guides are used interchangeably to define content that explains how to complete a specific task. While some would argue that one is more descriptive than the other, you'll find that it varies from brand to brand.

Perhaps the most striking difference is between an instruction guide and a user manual. A how-to guide is typically top-of-the-funnel content designed to engage users and generate leads.

A user manual is usually created for someone who has already purchased a product or service and needs step-by-step instructions on how to use it.

While one falls under marketing materials, the other is more product-related.

Publication of a practical guide

Test each step of your instructions.

Once you've finished writing your guide, it's time to test it out. When testing your instructions, take careful notes. If you need to scan an instruction more than once, you may need to add context or add an image for clarity.

Ask someone else to proofread your guide.

It's always a good idea to get different points of view when reviewing a how-to guide. You never know how a word choice or set of instructions will affect someone else, so it's smart to try it with a small group of friends or colleagues.

A polite request for help goes a long way. It's also a good idea to make the review process as easy as possible for your helpers. Clearly state what you're looking for, expect critical questions and feedback, and connect with a diverse group of people to gain the most actionable insights.

Share your how-to guide.

Whether you're offering a QR code or promoting word of mouth, your next step is to share your guide with your audience.

Other popular ways to share your guide include:

  • newsletters por e-mail
  • Offer for download on your website
  • social media carousel

How-to guides are also great forreuse content.

Tips for effective how-to guides

  1. Simple is better.
  2. Let it be brief.
  3. Start with an overview.
  4. Help the reader prepare for each step.
  5. Write instructions at a constant level.
  6. It tells an interesting story.
  7. Stay positive.

1. Simple is better.

Simplicity will make your guide easy to find, use, and understand. To make sure your how-to guide is really simple, take a good look at your topic.

Your guide should focus on the one thing your reader should be able to start and complete after reading your guide. If you take a look at your guide and you don't meet that benchmark, it's time to keep it simple.

Some quick ways to simplify your procedure include:

  • Break your topic into smaller, more specific topics
  • Limit your target audience
  • Scan your guide for additional content that might distract and edit

2. Be brief.

Writing concise copy takes a lot of practice. If your guide is longer than necessary and you're not sure how to trim the extra text, these tips may help:

  • Cut "the" and "it" when it makes sense
  • Limit adverbs and adjectives like a lot, really and literally
  • Replace three- and four-syllable words with shorter alternatives

3. Start with an overview.

A great how-to guide starts with a clear overview. This overview should include:

  • A brief summary of your guide.
  • What your audience will need to use it
  • What will they achieve when they follow instructions
  • Why is it worth doing?

It's usually easier to write the first paragraph last. That way all the details are filled in, you just need a few quick attention-grabbing sentences to engage your readers. Please refer to this post if you are having difficulties.write introductions.

4. Help the reader prepare for each step.

Many steps are great at the beginning or easy at the end, but can get muddy somewhere in between. This can create frustration for users, especially when they reach a step they are not prepared for.

To avoid this, try to anticipate the questions a reader might have at each step. For example, don't just give an overview of the materials needed for the project as a whole. Talk about what materials they will need and when, and how to store them if you think it will be helpful.

Add features that help your users understand how all the different pieces fit together.

Repetition can become annoying for some readers. But it is essential for a practical guide. Repetition is crucial during the learning process, as it can help readers get comfortable with new information more quickly.

5. Write instructions at a constant level.

If you are a subject matter expert, you may mix beginner and advanced terms in your writing without realizing it. This can confuse your audience and make your guide difficult to understand. It also creates a lack of consistency that will make your instructions harder to follow.

If you think this might be a concern, check your how-to guide for jargon as you review. You can also ask reviewers from other niches and industries to check that your vocabulary is appropriate for beginners.

6. Tell an interesting story.

The best how-to guides are not only helpful but also fun to read. To keep your guide interesting, don't forgettell a story.

Make sure you have a clear message throughout the guide, add personal experiences, and use conflict to build interest.

For example, let's say you're writing an instructional guide on how to add software to a computer. A potential sticking point is when there is not enough disk space to complete the installation.

That doesn't sound like much, but if you've tried it, it can be very frustrating. If you can paint that picture vividly for your audience, they're more likely to follow your instructions.

7. Stay positive.

Anyone looking for a practical guide seeks to expand their knowledge of the world. That sounds simple enough, but it's also a big risk. Many people stop trying new things because they don't want to look stupid. So, as you write, remember that learning is exciting, but often also uncomfortable.

Keeping your writing positive can help your readers feel more comfortable venturing into the unknown. Uplifting stories, word choice, and tone can make difficult instructions seem easier. They can inspire and motivate.

You can also add some positivity by softening negative information. For example, instead of saying, "You'll probably fail the first time," try saying something like, "This skill may take some practice before you become proficient."

Examples of how-to guides

Practical guide example: B2B

"How to write the perfect 90 day plan"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:This practical B2B guide provides important background details for the 90-day plan, including "What is a 90-day plan?" and "What should be included in a 90-day plan?" The play is well researched and written with empathy.

Best of all, the guide provides a downloadable PDF of the 90-day plan, so readers can download and use the Atlassian plan with their own team right away.

Put off– Consider what eBooks, PDFs, graphics, Canva layouts or Google Sheets you can create in-house and offer readers for download. Readers will appreciate the option to immediately apply what they've learned.

More practical B2B examples

"How to build brand consistency"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:Partnering with complementary companies and services can add depth and perspective to your hands-on guide. This example is comprehensive and full of useful resources from HubSpot and Brandfolder. It also uses relevant data to highlight key sections.

Put off- Look for creative ways to add value to your how-to guide, especially when writing about a topic your audience is already familiar with.

"How to Attract More High Quality Leads with Google Ads"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:When creating guides to more advanced topics, it's essential to build a foundation for your readers. This guide begins with a detailed introduction to the topic citing current statistics and trends. It then touches on relevant topics at each stage of the buyer's journey. It then provides a helpful checklist, links, and resources to put this learning into practice.

Put off: A clear structure makes challenging topics easier to understand. So think about ideal starting and ending points for your expert readers when writing about specific and advanced topics.

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Practical guide example: B2C

"How to become a freelancer"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:This guide does a good job of providing links and relevant data to create a comprehensive view of what it's like to be self-employed.

Also, the post uses action verbs to inspire the reader.

In "How to Start a Freelance Business". you'll see suggestions like "Do your homework," "Build a brand," and "Plan ahead." The language used in this post goes a long way toward encouraging readers to get started quickly.

Put off: Use action verbs and concise language to keep the reader interested. When possible, start with a verb rather than a noun when listing steps.

More practical B2C examples

"How to start a successful blog"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:This is an excellent, hands-on guide for beginners because it includes resources that offer multiple ways to learn the material. This guide contains checklists, links to courses, templates, and tools that can help anyone start a blog.

Put off: There are many different learning styles. The more options you give your students to absorb the information you are sharing, the more likely they are to derive value from your guidance.

"how to be a leader"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:This example offers a personal perspective on leadership that goes beyond typical advice. He also uses creative headlines like "Beyond the Paycheck: What We Want," "Sceptics: The Dangers of Learning from the Exceptional," and "Great Companies Don't Always Make Good Decisions" to engage the reader in the content.

Put off: Teach broad practical topics from a unique perspective and add interest with relevant stories.

Practical guide example: lifestyle

"11 ways to quickly stop stress in your life"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:I clicked on this post expecting some quick and easy stress-busting tips. Instead, I became engrossed in the first section of the post, "The Effects of Stress on Your Life."

While I mentioned earlier the importance of starting with a quick answer to practical search engine questions, there are exceptions to this rule.

In this case, it is important that readers understand the why and not the how.

Put off: Play around with the structure. Consider what your readers need to know in order for the rest of the post to matter to them. For example, you might start with a section, "What is XYZ?" and "Why XYZ Matters" before diving into "How to XYZ." That way, your readers are completely interested in knowing how these tips can improve their life in a small (or big) way.

More practical lifestyle examples

"how to make honey cake"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:This how-to guide is well organized so readers can quickly determine a) what makes this recipe special, b) the ingredients needed, and c) how to make the recipe.

If a reader already knows the necessary ingredients for honey cake, he can click "Go to recipe" to get started right away.

Put off: When creating your own how-to guide, consider how you can best organize it so readers can get straight to what they need.

"How to be more productive"

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Why we like this how-to guide example:How-to guides are more than written instructions. Helpful images, detailed pages that highlight external links, and infographics are all powerful additions to this example. It has a great balance of features and white space to make this guide easy on the eyes and quick to flip through.

Put off: It doesn't matter how good your how-to guide is if it's not designed well. Take a look at the how-to guide examples for inspiration for how your guide's design will look.

Create a practical guide worth sharing today

The right practical guide can change someone's life. It can also give your business a huge boost, improve your customer experience, and much more.

All it takes is a little planning, research, and insight to create a great step-by-step guide. Your experience can help someone make a difference, just create a guide that makes your knowledge worth sharing.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

Subjects: content planning


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