I see a lot of articles come through my inbox from sites I subscribe to. Whenever I see a ‘how to’ article I feel compelled to click on it, possibly because it might teach me something (and I love learning). The most recent one was from Write it Sideways by Suzannah. She always writes good articles so opening a ‘how to’ one is a bonus. This particular one was called How to keep up your writing when you’re sick which includes a list of very useful tips to try when you are at death’s door and have deadlines to meet.
So, what draws people to open articles with these words in the title, and is there some sort of psychology behind it? I did some googling on the subject of ‘how to’ articles to see how and why people write them. Copyblogger.com, one of the most informative and trustworthy sites I have come across, has a brilliant article called How to Write a Killer ‘How To’ Article that Gets Attention. They write “it’s no secret that ‘how to’ articles and blog posts are some of the most sought after, linked to, and bookmarked content online. People want useful information, and they’ll reward you by promoting it to others when you provide it”. They are good enough reasons for me to start writing some!
People are influenced by titles
Having a great title always helps sell or promote a book or article and I wasn’t surprised that Copyblogger mentioned Dale Carnegie‘s book How to win friends and influence people which I have listened to via audio CD many times. The title not only promises that you will learn to win friends but also to influence people. Being clever with your titles, by adding certain words in them such as ‘and’ and ‘that’, is a neat little trick worth being aware of. Even without the word ‘to’ in the title, your post can attract just as much traffic. Here are some examples of titles that demonstrate these points:
- How to write a book that sells (this post would not only tell your reader how to write a book, but also how to write one that sells)
- How to write a book and get it published (as in the above point, this post would not only tell your reader how to write a book, but also how to get it published)
- How writing great content can benefit others (this post is still just as powerful without the ‘to’)
Sharing your knowledge
‘How to’ articles are “your chance to share your knowledge and special talents” writes Wikihow in How to Write a How To Article. The article provides ten steps to guide you, which are all useful points to take on board. People are in need of informative articles and if you have got just what someone needs and you display it well in a ‘how to’ article, you have got their attention.
There appear to be many different ways to plan and write your ‘how to’ articles. I will certainly try adding new titles using this technique as well as going back and revisiting some of my old ones.
- Note 236 – Writing Better Twitter Headlines (mywritingnotebook.com)