Learn How To “How To”

One of the most daunting things about starting your own Internet business is the idea of creating regular, unique content for your website. You can raise your eyebrows and sigh. It’s okay. But you are going to need this fresh content if you want to get anywhere with search engines. Plus, your site visitors will expect you to continue to provide them with relevant and useful information … if you expect them to keep coming back.

Call it writer’s block or just plain old brain freeze, but finding topics to write about isn’t always easy. There is one type of article, though, that can pull you out of this creative quagmire. It will keep your readers happy and help boost your search engine traffic at the same time.

I’m talking about the “how to” article.

“How do I figure out what to tell them how to do?” you may ask.

Your customers can be your best guide on this. They are probably already asking you questions like “How do I use this TIG welder?” “How can I bake a vegan birthday cake?” Or “How can I cook ribs on my new BBQ?”

Simply listen to their questions and address them in your “how to” articles.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1. Choose your subject. Perhaps “How to plant potatoes.”

Step 2. Explain how to plant potatoes, giving examples and clear instructions.

“(1) Determine the recommended planting time for your climate, normally two weeks before your last frost. (2) If planting in the early season, about a week before your planting-out date, place the seed on a bright, warm windowsill for a few days. This will bring the potatoes out of their dormancy and help them germinate in the still-chilly spring ground. (3) A raised garden bed will warm quicker than the surrounding ground. This will help your potatoes germinate quickly. You can create a raised bed by cordoning off a 3-foot or 4-foot wide area. (Make it as long as you wish.)”

Step 3. Point out some of the potential problems, concerns, or setbacks your reader could face.

“Buy good quality, preferably organic, seed potatoes from a reliable supplier. Potatoes in supermarkets are treated to prevent them from sprouting and do not produce good crops.”

Step 4. Include professional tips, “gotchas,” and time-saving techniques.

“Once the potatoes sprout and are 3-4 inches above the ground, cover them completely with soil or straw. Repeat this about three weeks later. That way, you can trick the potato into a bigger harvest. The tuber will put down more shoots and you can quadruple the yield.”

Step 5. Include photographs of your potatoes. And, if you wish, insert customer testimonials on how YOUR seed potatoes or gardening supplies and/or customer service are the best.

You may also want to include a link to a free report on a related “how to” subject. This is a great way to provide further information in exchange for a site visitor’s e-mail address. You can then send them relevant, interesting, useful, and timely information on the topic of interest … or your newsletter on gardening techniques … or whatever else it is that you do or offer.

You may already have the basis for this free report. Perhaps it is something you give out as an information sheet. Maybe it’s a photocopied document your customer service reps refer to. This type of material can make great “how to” articles too.

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Many online businesses use “how to” articles to get good search engine referral traffic. For example, my friend Nathan sells aromatherapy oils. He found that most people like the fragrance of these natural oils, but have no idea what to actually do with them. So he wrote an article on “How To Use Essential Oils.” The article explains how to use them in the bath and in massage. It even mentions which ones cannot be used with children or pregnant women. And there are links to his products throughout. So when, for instance, you’re reading that essential oils can be used for a chest rub to ease congestion, there are links to eucalyptus, rosemary, and fir essential oils.

Nathan’s article is about 1,700 words — four pages if printed out. That may sound like a lot. But if you asked any aromatherapist “How do I use essential oils?” you’d receive an equally enthusiastic and comprehensive response.

“How To Use Essential Oils” shows Nathan’s site visitors that his company knows its stuff when it comes to essential oils. And that they can teach you how to benefit from their products in a friendly, “non-pushy,” helpful way. This single “how to” article accounts for about 7 percent of Nathan’s overall website traffic. And it has generated tens of thousands of dollars in sales.

You probably get many questions from your customers and prospects about your products, services, and more. Your answers to them in the form of “how to” articles — interspersed with product and service links, suggestions and recommendations — make great content for your website and e-mail newsletter.

Just follow my five-step plan for developing your “how to” articles and you will have loads of ready-made content that will bring in prospects, turn them into customers, and keep them coming back.

P.S. “How to” articles are just one way to boost your business and create content for your website or e-mail newsletter quickly and easily. Members of my Internet Rant service have received hundreds of other strategies and techniques for e-mail marketing, search engine optimization, and more. To find out more about me and the Internet Rant, go here.


  • Margaret Mason

    I can’t find Part 1 of Uncle Sam: Subsidizing a junk food nation and I’d really like to read it! Help, please!

  • Since subscribing to the Early to Rise Newsletter I have been nothing if not impressed with the quality and timeliness of the content and different subjects. It’s as if the ETR writers and editors were plugged into my brain… and so it happened again when I read David Cross’ “Learn How To “How To” article in today’s (August 14, 2009) issue. As I set up my Internet businesses, I’ve struggled with how to write content for each site, but Mr. Cross’ article, arriving providentially at just the right time, helped me solve that problem. Thank you again for inspiring me into action with excellent and timely content.