September 22, 2021

How to Write How-To Articles That Are Actually Helpful

In this post you'll learn:

Struggling to write how-to articles that generate traffic? Focus on helping your readers. This article breaks down how to write a good explainer article.

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How-to articles are so popular because they serve the basic need of most internet users: problem-solving. You can find step-by-step guides for just about anything you want to learn, packaged as a how-to article. So content marketers know that this is a type of content format worth using.

You want readers to leave your how-to article feeling understood and well-guided — and hopefully with a practical solution to their problem. Today, we’ll show you how to create such a how-to article and also share a tool that will make the task faster and less energy-consuming.

How to write an actionable how-to article in 7 simple steps

Here’s our detailed recipe for creating a how-to article that’s actually worth reading.

1. Choose a topic

For how-to articles, you need to be knowledgeable about your chosen topic. You may not be a certified expert, but you should be able to do in-depth research to tell your reader something new and helpful. 

So, choose your topic carefully. A mix of keyword research and audience analysis should help you decide whether writing about a particular topic is a good fit for you in the first place. 

2. Step into the reader’s shoes

Thinking about search intent and the needs of your target audience will help you provide relevant information. Adding unnecessary preamble is one of the common mistakes content writers make with how-to articles.

For instance, if you’re writing an article about how to change a car tire, who would your audience be? Perhaps someone who is stranded, looking for a straightforward, detailed, easy-to-follow how-to article. 

You wouldn’t want to start your article by describing what a tire is or why tires go flat. Dive straight into the tutorial without unnecessary context. Your tone should be friendly and you would use short easy-to-understand sentences.

3. Draft an outline

Outlines are crucial for how-to articles. While creating yours, walk through the process mentally. Write down all the important steps in chronological order. For example, if you’re writing an article about writing a book, it is only logical that research and writing would come before discussing publishing formats or book promotion.

Disorganized processes can make your article and guidance overwhelming, rather than helpful. So imagine that you were going through the process ahead of the reader. Make sure your rough draft contains information that prepares your reader, much like a tour guide would. 

4. Fill in the blanks

This is the meat of your article. Fill out your outlined points by providing in-depth information about the subject matter. Use these tips to make your article stand out: 

  • Show more than one way to do it

If you’re writing about removing oil stains from clothing, for example, it would be most useful to share several ways to do so. Not everyone will have the same cleaning materials available. Plus, not every method will work for all users.

  • Include a list of supplies if necessary

If your reader is all set to work on their project when they find your article, you’re doing them a huge favor by reiterating what they’ll need. That way, they can double-check before they start. No one wants to be halfway through when they realize they’ll need to make a trip to the hardware store or install new software before they can move to the next step.

  • Use action verbs to describe steps

Part of being straightforward is using action words to tell readers what to do. Steps beginning with “Run an internet speed test by…” tend to be more effective than “You should try to run an internet speed test…” Get straight to the point and help readers feel more in charge of the process by telling them what to do — that’s why they’re here!

  • Talk to the reader 

Pay attention to the way you address the reader. Using “you” throughout your text engages the reader, making them feel like you’re talking to them and you understand their challenges. This works better than referring to your readers as “they” or “people.”

  • Use a writing assistant

If you’re drowning under your load of articles and it’s affecting the quality of your work, it’s okay to get some help. Using an efficient AI writing assistant is an effective and inexpensive (less costly than a human writer) way to scale your content marketing business while maintaining high-quality content. 

We recommend Jarvis, a top AI writer with a variety of writing templates for copywriting, social media marketing, and content marketing. Jarvis’s Long-Form Assistant — our favorite template for writing long-form articles — will surely save you a lot of time.

Let’s walk you through creating an article using this template. Say we want to write about how to make soy candles at home. There are two ways to write with the Long-Form Assistant. 

1. We chose the blog post workflow.

Jarvis long-form assistant writing a how-to article

2. After entering some information, Jarvis generated headline options for our article

3. Then it helped us write a solid intro paragraph

4. The Long-Form Assistant does require that you add some content along the way, just to keep it on track. So we added a few words to nudge it along. Our words are in the red box. The rest came from Jarvis.

It’s really easy — much easier than starting from scratch and brainstorming all the moving parts on your own. The steps we’ve mentioned so far took us 5 minutes! You could write the entire article in 20 minutes and spend around another 20 minutes tweaking and formatting. Think of all you could accomplish if it only took 40 minutes to an hour to write one article.

  • Images for visual guidance

Images are super important for how-to articles, especially if you’re writing an article about a complicated topic. Whether they’re graphics, screenshots, or real pictures, don’t miss a chance to explain concepts more clearly to your audience.

  • Add key tips and callouts

Spice up your article with areas of blockquotes and bolded tips you don’t want readers to miss. These could be words of caution, expert recommendations, or do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

5. Finish with a resounding conclusion

To close out your detailed article, we advise writing a brief roundup of the main steps wherever possible. This could be as a list of bullet points or even as a paragraph. 

For example, to conclude our candle-making how-to article, we could remind readers of any key points, safety tips, and best practices as well as three of the most important steps to get right during the process. This helps the reader remember the main points even after closing the article — more value for them, and of course, more appreciation for your article!

6.Ready to publish

After proofreading your article, it’s time to decide on a headline. You can format your headline in a number of ways. Some go-to styles for how-to articles are:

  1. How to [Do a Certain Thing]
  2. [Number] Easy Tips/Ways to [Do a Certain Thing]
  3. The Best Way to [Do a Certain Thing]
  4. Your Ultimate Guide to [Doing a Certain Thing]
  5. Here’s What You Should Know About [Doing a Certain Thing]

Finally, link to related articles. Most readers looking for how-to articles have set aside a chunk of time to learn about a certain topic. Ensure that they remain on your site for as long as possible by providing plenty of good content to explore.

5 how-to article examples and why they work

We love to show our tips in action because it makes them easier to apply. Here are five how-to article examples doing all the right things. We’ve highlighted specific reasons why these posts work for us and what you can learn from them.

Shopify: How to get reviews for your Shopify apps


This Shopify article uses callouts beautifully to highlight important tips. 

Shopify how-to article example

It also shares do’s and don’ts as part of the steps. This way, critical points don’t get lost in all the text.

Shopify how-to article example 2

Ahrefs: How to implement the 4 Ps of marketing

Ahrefs is known for creating highly actionable how-to articles. Besides using simple language, they also add videos to explain tricky concepts, which users appreciate.

Ahrefs how-to article example

We love this conclusion for repeating main points and showing users what to take away from the article. 

Ahrefs how-to article example 2

Semrush: How to set up a WordPress Sitemap

For some how-to articles, a lengthy intro is pointless. However, for complex subjects like this one, newbies may need a more in-depth intro defining key terms. We love how this article does it.

Semrush how-to article example

Remember what we said about using screenshots? These are invaluable, particularly when writing about technical things. Many people have zero tech capabilities but are forced to figure stuff out on their own. This post holds your hand through the process.

Semrush how-to article example 2

Sensible Digs: How to remove paint from brick walls

This site makes its how-to guide easy to follow by providing a checklist of needed tools for the reader.

Sensible Digs how-to article example

They also mention more than one method of achieving the goal, which readers will find helpful. 

Sensible Digs how-to article example 2

Zapier: How to turn off Smart Compose

Our last example does something simple, but necessary by bolding important points to ensure that readers follow the guide closely and successfully. 

Zapier how-to article example

The easiest way to write how-to articles

Understanding the basics of writing how-to articles is important. You need to meet your audience at their point of need, write detailed step-by-step guidance and additional tips to keep them on track. But it’s hard to do all the work on your own.

Jarvis’s Long-Form Assistant takes the guesswork out of your writing and helps you free up your time for other important aspects of your business. We’ve shown you how it works, but there’s nothing like trying it out yourself. Jarvis also provides resources to make using the AI easier.

Get started by signing up for Jarvis today.

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Meet the author

Austin Distel
CMO at Jarvis.ai

Austin Distel is the CMO at Jarvis.ai, your AI content writing assistant. He's also an Airbnb superhost in Austin, Texas and fun fact: Forbes recently wrote an article about his stock photography being the most popular on the internet with over 700 million views. You can follow Austin's adventures around the internet and the world at distel.com.

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