This may be contrary to what a lot of people tend to believe about blogging but your readers really don’t want “How To” posts. There’s nothing wrong with posts like “How to install a WordPress Blog” or “How to build a list”. They’re cool and they may get you some search engine traffic but it’s really not what your readers are looking for…
You may be thinking to yourself, “But Matt, I’m a reader of your blog and I want ‘How To’ Posts.” You may think that’s what you want now… but it’s not really true…
In all actuality, people really want to see real world case studies… They want to see examples of exactly what worked for someone else so that they can take those ideas and those actions and implement them themselves.
When you were taking math classes in school, what was the better way to learn? Did you like it when your teacher said, “this is how you do this math problem, so remember it.” or did you prefer to receive the explanation of why it worked and how it would be applied in the real world? Maybe that’s not the best example… But you probably learned a heck of a lot better when you received the explanation as well as the application. This is what real case studies actually do. They give true examples of the application.
Not only do case studies give the “how to”, they give examples of exactly how the specific technique was applied in real life. They prove to your readers that the results that they are looking for really can be achieved by taking the same actions that you took.
What would you think would make for a better blog post?
Example A: How to build a mailing list really fast.
Example B: How I built my mailing list from 15 people to 2,000 people in 2 weeks.
One of those blog post titles sounds more appealing to you, doesn’t it?
Both of those blog posts are going to teach the exact same topic but one of them backs up the “how to” with real world results. This IS what your readers want to see. They want that “how to”… But they want it with a little bit of results to prove that something actually works.
I came to this realization when I looked over and saw what my current most popular posts are as of writing this. 2 of my top 5 posts are How I Got To Where I am Today and How I’ve Done What I’ve Done. I’ll admit that these aren’t the best titles for blog posts, however, they both have one thing in common… They are both stories about how I did something. They aren’t necessarily “how to” posts. They are posts about real world achievements and how I achieved them.
When you take a look at the success of the popular blog, Shoemoney, you’ll realize where its success came from. Go back to some of his oldest posts, right when his blog was starting to grow, you’ll realize that they are all case study posts about how he achieved various successes through PPC and ad campaigns.
If you step away from the internet marketing niche and look at something like the health niche… The blogs that get popular are the ones from people who were, at one time, out of shape and have done what it takes to get their bodies back to where they want them. One of my favorite health blogs is a site called ZenToFitness.com. Many of the posts on this blog are case studies of how they managed to overcome issues with their weight and health. They give you the steps by showing you how they implemented them themselves.
When people rethink their “how to” posts and convert them in to case study posts, they will find that they are creating material that people really love to read and can really get excited about. Think about this when you’re writing your next tutorial. You will be surprised at how much better of a response you receive from your post.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you prefer when how-to posts give real world examples in the form of case studies or do you think standard how-tos are good enough? Please leave your comments below.