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Content Marketing & SEO Blog

Blog about startup growth strategies revolving around content marketing, SEO, CRO, and social media marketing.

How to make how-to guides

Sean Smith

Do you want to make a good how-to guide?
Well that's good. You've come to the right place.

 

First, lets start with some examples of awesome how-to guides that were wildly sensational

Tim Ferriss's "How to peel hard boiled eggs without peeling" video. Prepare yourselves, tomorrow morning will be a new experience for you. 

Are you wanting to get up and boil some damn eggs now? Yeah, I thought so. This is the feeling you want to make. You want to get people excited. Excitement is the linch-pin to sharing. Sharing is the linch-pin to sensationalization. Sensationalization is the linch-pin to a shit-ton of views. 

Tim Ferriss hit a home run with this video. He got over 4,000,000 views off of this video and got featured on Lifehacker. This obviously helped grow his already staggering following, helping his book, "The 4-Hour Body" become a #1 New York Time's Best Seller as well as his subsequent book, "The 4-Hour Chef." 

He posted this video on his blog, instead of his usual extremely long form content and it took off like a stabbed rat.

Next. Want to know how to "Bag a Roo?" Or better put, "catch a fucking kangaroo?" this guy shows you how.

Okay, so this one doesn't have as many views as Tim Ferriss's guide, 12,000 instead of 4 million.. but that's still a good number and to scale it's pretty sensational. The caveat with Tim's was that he was already a very well-known e-celeb. He had already had a #1 New York Time's Best Seller and a massive blog following to boost his video traffic. 

This audacious aussie had NOTHING! Nothing but a shopping bag that is. He bagged himself 12,000 visits and a fucking kangaroo and walked off. That's how you make sensational content.  

It was hilarious, so hilarious that I shared it like crazy. How-to's are a good time to be goofy in a serious field. 

 

So let's learn the steps you can take to make your how-to sensational.

 

The steps to making sensational how-to guides

These aren't exactly "steps" per-say, more of guidelines really. So I'm going to use an un-ordered list instead. Excuse my thinking via text, here's the skinny:

  • Make it simple. The simple things are often the most lucrative. It's an interesting dichotomy but Tim Ferriss actually talked about how his first shot at a TV show didn't even get widely adopted, but when he made his "How to peel hard boiled eggs without peeling" video, it got over 4,000,000 views in a heartbeat.
  • Make it a common interest. Everyone wants to know how to peel a damned hard-boiled egg. They're obnoxious. Even with the ease of making them, peeling them takes it to an unnecessary level of complication. 
  • Solve a problem.  "Obviously Sean, it's a fucking how-to" Yeah, yeah. I mean seriously solve a problem. Have a point. A problem, a solution, a conclusion. Don't stray from the point, don't ramble, stay on track and get the problem solved.
  • Keep it [relatively] short. Now.. this may sound counter-intuitive after my "How to Blog" post where I literally went more long-form than anything I've ever done (6,000+ words to be exact). But it's all a matter of relativity. In video, you don't want to make a how-to guide that is 3 hours long. Nobody is going to listen to it, you're not Tolkien, you aren't making a movie about "how to destroy the ring of power" keep it short with video. I made that post long because I wanted it to be the one-stop shop. It needed to be huge to solve (in my opinion) all the major pain-points of getting started with a blog and sticking to it. Tim's was short because it was a very very direct problem with a simple answer. The length should be relative to the size of the issue, as well as the medium through which you are solving. Video = typically short. Blog posts = depends but I'd say long-form. Ebooks = definitely long form. Vine = well, you've got 7 seconds, good luck.
  • Make it a common interest.  Everyone eats eggs, dude. Well.. yes, vegetarians don't, but for the most part it's right on key with a common gripe. The only way he could have nailed the head of the breakfast chain any better is if he had some how-to wrapped around bacon. I just used the words "wrapped" and "bacon" in the same sentence.. brb, must cook.
  • Make it hilarious or have an "awe" affect. Come on, when that roo dropped into the bag without him practically doing anything did you laugh? Or think "holy shit!" ? Yes, me too. I would always recommend using some humor in how-to guides, it breaks down the seriousness of a "how-to" and adds that very human nature to it. And everyone want's to share funny shit. 
  • Make it make something easier. I will never peel another hard boiled egg the same way again. That's the effect you want to give. People will have to use your way after they use your guide because it struck them that radically.
  • Target your audience.  You know what you sell, you hopefully know what your customer's other likes are, use those.

 

That's how you do it. Follow those criteria, amplify it correctly and it will reap bounds of bountiful benevolent barons of bantering behavior. That's enough b's, it's going to bring the cheddar. That's what counts.  

Some examples I'm just going to pull out from thin air could be

  • If you have an e-commerce store where you sell different kind of coffee makers, make how-to videos with each kind. French press, Keurigs etc. Put a funny spin on them, be creative. "How to make coffee in the woods" I'd suspect would be a good one. Typically the hipsters that drink a butt-load of coffee also like the outdoors (I know I do, and I'd watch it) use that shit. Catering to personas. 

 

  • If you have a florist shop where your customers constantly tell you their gripes via asking you questions, turn those gripes into how-to videos and point them to your youtube channel. "How to cut fresh flowers" would be easy to make. If you want it to be sensational though make a video called "How Vodka will help your flowers live longer" Yeah, that is actually a thing. Try it, it's wonderful.  

 

  • If you have a mens-wear store determine the common gripe of your customers, typically mine would be the fit of pants and denim. "How to determine the right fit of pants" would be one I'd instantly check out. That's easy to do, hell I could grab my GoPro and walk in Express and do that right now. Low rise? Bootcut? Give it to me straight dude. Even better, make it hilarious. Make the guy in the video really attractive, make him have no shirt on, make the person helping him find the right fit be a girl, have him try on the pairs that don't fit right, make the girl say "NOO! UGH" (even though he will look really ripped and good regardless) until she makes him try on the right pair to which she goes ape-shit and tackles him into the dressing room. Boom, fit-guide and viral content. You're welcome, Express. Give me money.
Those are just examples, but you get the just.
  1. Find a common gripe.
  2. Find the answer to that common gripe. 
  3. Find a way to put a creative spin on it. 
  4. Share it effectively. 
  5. Profit. 
Let's make better how-to's