Why do you think people read guides, after all?
They want to get a concrete result after taking particular actions. They read, “Press the green button on the remote control to turn on the TV.” They get:
- Action – Press the button
- Result – The TV starts working
Hence the verdict:
An efficient guide should have two components:
- A specific algorithm of step-by-step actions: It shows what a user should do to get the result. The details will depend on the audience: The less they know, the more detailed the guide will be.
- A concrete result: A user follows the instructions and gets the result – a delicious borscht, a business plan, or a ready-made WordPress website.
In this article, we’ll give practical tips on how to write guides users will read, love, and share. You’ll learn what details to consider for a guide to become valuable and how to structure it for better engagement and conversion.
Let’s start with an example.
What Makes a Good Guide
Your guide won’t skyrocket and bring any added value if it doesn’t provide a specific result users get after reading and following all the instructions you shared.
Say you’re writing a guide on choosing a microphone.
The process looks simple:
Go online, type “buy a microphone” in Google search, go to a website, choose a manufacturer, make an order, and wait for a delivery.
However, people choose microphones for different purposes: live streaming, recording studios, podcast, stage performances, etc. Microphone types are different, either: condenser, dynamic, or tube. And which one to choose if you have a limited budget?
So, the above guide would have no specific result.
If we were to write a “one-size-fits-all” guide, we’d end up writing the Harry Potter book series, i.e., it would be too long and generic. No one will read it. Microphone reviews would work better here, helping users decide which product to choose.
“Where to use the guides then?” you ask.
Guides work when you need to describe the process of doing something, breaking it down into stages (steps). Back to the microphone example, a guide could be something like “How to connect a microphone to a sound card and set up a sound recording program,” not a generic “How to choose a microphone.”
A specific algorithm of step-by-step actions to get a concrete result, remember?
How to Write an Efficient Guide Users Will Love Reading
And now, to practice. If you want your guides to be valuable, actionable, and bring results, consider the below tips:
1. Remember the Audience’s Knowledge
You decided to write a guide, “How to Grow Cucumbers in Any Soil.” The first question to ask yourself before writing is, “Who will be your reader?”
- An experienced agronomist from Elon Musk’s team who has personally grown a million cucumbers and is now preparing to build a greenhouse on Mars?
- Someone’s grandmother, who also has a lot of experience but doesn’t want to spend money on expensive fertilizers?
- Or maybe it’s a high school student who got homework on Biology for the summer.?
You’ll need different guides for each group of these target readers. These guides will differ in length, details, points, structure, number of pictures and examples, and narration style.
It is unlikely that a grandmother will understand the professional jargon of a breeding scientist, while a student doesn’t need the information on scales as he needs just three cucumbers to grow.
Important: If you don’t define the target audience for your guide, you’ll waste time. Know your reader inside out and write for them: Guides for newbies and experienced users have different specifics.
2. Delete the Extra; Leave the “Meat”
There’s no need to write flourishing descriptions or use literary techniques from books for writers in your guides. Stay up to point and remember the reason why people read guides:
They want to solve a problem and get the result.
Free the reader from sophisticated lexical items, excessive details, or redundant info. Leave the essence. Guide them through the process: step one, step two, step three, and a result.
The goal is to take the reader from point A (what it was) to point B (what it became). Delete all the details that don’t lead to a result: Even if your guide appears short, let it be so.
3. Illustrate It to the Max
Remember that people are visual learners, processing most information through images. Visualization is crucial for your guide’s success, specifically when you write about the hard-to-explain processes requiring the “Show, don’t tell” principle. Like making a crane from paper, for example.
Pictures make it much easier to show the process, the result, and possible mistakes. Competent illustrations help the user understand what he does right and where he goes wrong. Instead of a lengthy description of where to click, you can make a screenshot. And sometimes, it is better to use video: Thus, you won’t overload the guide with numerous pictures.
Important: Don’t illustrate guides just for the sake of it. By visualizing each tiny detail, you risk complicating the perception of your information.
There’s no need to illustrate the evident things. Chances are, your user knows where the Enter button is. Remember your reader’s level of knowledge: The number of points that need illustrating depends on it.
4. Share a Personal Experience
There’s one expression that is hard to disagree with:
“To teach something, one should know how to do that.”
When writing a guide, you need to understand the topic and know the specifics inside out. The ideal variant would be to describe own experience; otherwise, mistakes and inaccuracies are inevitable.
If you’re an expert with no writing skills, ask professional editors to help you. If you hire freelance writers or outsource specialists to craft texts, check their works for errors once you get their final drafts.
Anyway, the authors of the best guides are those with expertise and personal experience in the niche.
5. Follow the Sequence of Steps
“Take the soil for planting that you prepared a week ago…” Such expressions should not come as a surprise to the reader. If we “take the soil” now, it means there was a previous step that looked like “Prepare the soil you’ll need in a week.”
Save readers from unexpected or unclear info: Stick to the logical sequences of steps when writing your guide.
Once you finish the guide, please don’t hurry up to publish it on the blog or other marketing platform you have for it. Test it! Check how it works: Use the guide step by step and see the result.
The alternative (and even better!) option would be to involve the target audience in the tests. If they solve their problem with the help of your guide, voila! It works, so it means you’ve done the job. Don’t hesitate to share it with a broad audience now.
- What business niches do need to use guides on their resources?
Guides work best for the e-commerce sector. Financial companies like banks, insurance, traders, or brokers can also use this content type to tell more about their services. Those working in tourism can diversify their blogs with guides, either.
By and large, guides as a genre are practical for many business sectors, and they can work well in almost any niche. When sharing relevant and valuable information, companies gain a loyal audience that, if benefiting from their guides, is likely to convert into clients. It’s actually how content marketing works.
- What’s the difference between a guide and a review?
These two content types have different goals:
While a review presents and describes a particular product, a guide tells how to choose or use it. A guide is a step-by-step instruction for a user to follow for coping with the task of choosing a brand or a product that suits their needs best.
- How to know who will read the guide?
If you are a freelance writer, ask a client to share a detailed buyer persona. If you are an expert who will craft a guide by yourself, talk to the people whose problem you want to solve. Get to know their level of knowledge in the topic, pay attention to their language, and determine the most appropriate writing style for your future guide.
Read the comments at topical forums and online communities: How do people solve the problem you plan to discuss? What do they miss?
Interview your sales managers or support team to learn FAQs users have about your product or service.
- How long should a good guide be?
Your guide should be long enough to help users get results. The shorter and more practical, the better. If you can solve the reader’s problem in one sentence, just do it!