Do you know these people who are told about a problem and get an answer that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic? Sure, who doesn’t. And as a content creator, you can take advantage of this for your content strategy: put yourself in the reader’s hands and give him first-class advice!
Think carefully about what he needs from you – and whatnot. In theory, there it is, the recipe for success for a guide that users will love. In practice, however, there is a lot more to it, so here are the 11 most important do’s and don’ts for successful advice!
What does an advisor have to be able to do?
A guide gives advice; this is the first hot tip of many articles on the topic. Sure, this statement is not wrong, but “giving advice” can mean a lot. If your uncle Thomas comes in a hundred and a thousand and tells you stories from the past just to get to “What I want to tell you …” at some point, that’s also advice.
In other words, don’t be Uncle Thomas. Be cool, and cool simply means helpful in this case. When a user clicks on an advisor article, he expects an easy-to-understand problem solution or information that is currently relevant to him. He doesn’t expect a story that starts with Adam and Eve.
Content marketing professional Julia McCoy sums it up like this: “Audiences want the most amount of information in the easiest and most digestible way possible.” Actually, quite logical, right?
So your job as the author of a guide is to pack the essential information into a content piece that is as helpful and simple as possible. For this to succeed, you have to be able to assess the expectations of your target group correctly. Among other things, this means: You have to know what the search intent is. You can find out how to find out in the video!
You can only do custom work if you know where the user comes from and where he wants to go. As far as the theoretical substructure, let’s go to the details: Clear the stage for a few essential basic rules!
The 8 Do’s for a perfect guide
Maybe you don’t have much time right now; maybe you don’t feel like a lengthy text – fair enough. For those in a hurry, here are eight things that you should consider when writing a guide :
- Provide specific information.
- Write understandable.
- Take the language level seriously.
- Make sure the layout is clear.
- Choose the right content format.
- Keep what you promise.
- Use tools, correctly.
- Make sure the guide is readily available.
In case you would like a little more detail: All the better, because there is still a lot to say about the individual points.
1. Provide specific information
What the reader of your guide does not expect is a commercial word grind. You should quickly forget general posts and empty phrases; after all, you want to leave a reliable impression. Always remember that advice texts are about a real scenario, not hypothetical ideal cases and perfect PR wording.
Accordingly, you do not write anything just to achieve a certain number of words. Instead, your first consideration should be who you’re writing for.
In this article, for example, I do not assume that someone reading it who is going to plant a flower bed and want to get some hot tips in the garden bubble. Instead, I assume that my readership is either budding content creators or marketing people who want to improve their skills. And that’s precisely what I have to do.
2. Write understandable.
It is almost a perennial favourite for everyone who writes texts regularly: the good old Hamburg intelligibility concept. The key idea behind this is that readers often do not understand a book simply because it is formulated too complicated.
Admittedly, there is always criticism of this model in linguistics. You can read exactly what is criticized in the linked Wikipedia entry, here only so much: Despite critical voices, it is the case that the intelligibility of a text-primarily depends on the preparatory work. You can only write a plain text if you correctly assess the text competence of the readers.
For you, as a content creator, this means: You don’t have to have studied linguistics to write good advice. What you need is simply a little empathy and the ability to write empathetically — not convinced yet?
3. Take the language level seriously.
As I said above: good advice must be digestible. So the longer your article, the more critical it is that it is precisely worded and “easily digestible”:
- Say goodbye to box sentences.
You and the box set, you can, of course, stay friends. At least when it comes to online texting, you go your separate ways from now on! Simply because of the mobile view: Imagine you are reading something on your smartphone, and a sentence takes up almost the entire screen. The ultimate reading incentive? Certainly not.
- Use active constructions.
Passive sentences appear distant and cumbersome. Or would you have preferred to read here: “Active constructions should be used”?
- Cut the fluff.
Filler words are like box sentences – beautiful in the right context, but not for texts on the Internet.
- Ask questions the user has.
Do not answer them some time, but immediately.
- Be economical with foreign words.
Aha, so should I write stupid content? No. However, the average user does not want to read a doctoral thesis, but rather simple suggestions for simple everyday problems or questions. When you throw complex terms around you, you have high expectations of your readers. Always ask yourself first if that’s appropriate.
- Shorten your guide, rigorously (see point 3).
Yes, even if you are particularly in love with a sentence. William Faulkner says: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” This applies to literary works and even more so to online texts.
Shorten and correct that is pure perfectionism? No reason: On average, people only read about 28 percent of all words on a page. The article mentioning this number is from 2015, but this percentage is unlikely to have increased in recent years.
TL; DR: Linguistic correctness matters a lot because mistakes are unprofessional and disrupt the flow of reading.
If that sounds like an annoying German teacher, maybe a little example might help: Would you be able to read without any problems which this text, that is, as a guide, would only have been written in such a style? I think we get along.
4. Ensure a clear layout.
Language is one thing: the design is another. Your guide can be as understandable and informative as possible – if it consists of pure text blocks, it is especially difficult for the reader. You can find detailed examples and tips on the topic in the video:
Loosen up your text, for example with
- Boxes with notices
You don’t have to overdo it, of course: if your guide consists of 600 words and six infographics and GIFs are built-in, this is just as tiring for the reader as a 6,000-word guide without pictures.
This also applies to bold words. Only the critical messages in one section should be emphasized, everything else seems restless. Especially in mobile view – which is not precisely unimportant, keyword Mobile-First – it seems rather intrusive when a paragraph that is almost wholly greased jumps out at you. You could immediately write everything in capital letters (please not).
5. Choose the right content format
To avoid confusion: Yes, a guide is in itself a content format. Apart from that, size also means the outer shape. You theoretically have a large selection here, but not every content format automatically fits every advisor. Here’s how it works:
- Interviews and expert quotes: how-to guides
- Infographics and diagrams: a guide with statistics/lots of numbers
- E-books or white papers: very extensive guides on complex topics
- Image galleries: Tips/instructions, e.g. DIY tutorials
- Experience report: Product test as a guide
This is just a small selection. Which format works best depends on what topic you’re dealing with, who you want to reach, and how creative you are.
6. Keep what you promise.
If this tip goes without saying for you anyway: Congratulations, you have a lot ahead of many other advisors. Click baits are an absolute no-go and still felt to be found everywhere. Well, with a headline à la, “You never have to work with this trick again!” You might get clicks, but also a tremendous bounce rate.
Users want to read what you promise them in the headline and the teaser.
On average, the first ten words in the introduction decide whether someone stays on your side or not. Anteaserning means that you convey excitingly openly and honestly what the guide is about. It may sound easy, but it is not necessarily – short, crisp texts are much more challenging to write than long ones.
As soon as possible after your sexy introduction, you have to bring precisely this announced content. Cliffhangers and extravagant suspensions work in Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, but never in an online guide. If you don’t deliver the promised answers as quickly and as efficiently as possible, you’ve missed your chance.
In other words, don’t expect the user to put your offer above everything else. At the first click, your guide is like a Tinder match – if the content is uninteresting, the user has enough other options. You are dependent on him as a (converting) lead, but he is not on you.
7. Use tools properly.
You need empathy for good text, and there is no tool for it. For everything else, there is… not MasterCard, but a few essential tools. Don’t rely on the idea that the content will somehow fit.
Use SEO tools to check how the text performs actively:
- Is the keyword density correct?
- Did you hit the search intent and covered all subtopics?
- Are your subheadings formulated appropriately?
- Are the levels of difficulty and the length of the text correct?
You can examine these and other factors before the advisor goes online. Likewise, you should then monitor the performance and optimize the content if necessary. After all, having typed the last word does not mean that the guide is perfect and untouchable for all eternity.
8. Make sure the manual is readily available.
If your guide is excellent, the user ideally wants to share it with others. The first step is, therefore, social share buttons at the beginning or end of the text. By making the guide available for download as a PDF or e-book or by including a contact form for inquiries, you also ensure that your content is particularly easy to access.
The more comfort and service you can offer users, the better for you. Oh yes: think of a memorable title for the guide. In case of doubt, the user can quickly find the text with a Google search for this title.
The 3 Don’ts: How you’re guaranteed to ruin your guide
So now you know how to do it right. However, if you would like to drive your guide correctly against the wall and are wondering how you are guaranteed not to do it right: read on!
1. Cheat yourself with Duplicate Content.
A sin that neither the Google algorithm nor the reader forgives is copy-paste. If you simply copy the texts from other pages and only change the layout a bit, you will notice immediately. It makes no difference, by the way, whether you copy from your blog or steal someone else’s work – duplicate content stays that way and that.
Quoting is the magic word, and this is expressly desired: good sources make your guidebook more trustworthy. It is only essential that you remain original and that the information you quote is still correct.
2. Make the guide to the doctoral thesis.
As I said above, an online advisor doesn’t have to be a scientific breakthrough. The user does not expect this. On the contrary – with high-quality phrases and long sentences, you will not impress anyone, but instead, put you off.
Unfortunately, awkward language often leads to vague, vague statements. This is 100 percent, not what you want to achieve with a guide. The trick is to find the fine line between superficial talk and too much information. The fact is: the user jumps off at a certain level of difficulty.
3. Hide your guide.
The easiest way to lose potential readers is to make the guide as difficult to access as possible. Five pop-up banners that have to be clicked away, as many bright colours as possible and maybe a newsletter registration before getting through to the text: Would you do this just to come to an advisor? Just. Generating positive user signals is different – more on this in the video!
A good guidebook is not created in half an hour and by merely copying what others have already written. You will not produce the perfect advisor content the first time, but you will first have to find your formula for success. No template works for every material and every branch without exception. It would be boring. And because, as you know, practice makes perfect: Good luck writing your guidebooks – we look forward to practical experience reports!