3 Reasons You Should Use How-To Guides for Your Online Store

Ecommerce content marketing can be difficult, to say the least. While software and B2B companies can write several paragraphs about their platforms and general business practices, doing the same for a physical product can feel awkward. How are you supposed to write thousands of words about a clothing store, or coffee?

This is where how-to guides come into play. Not only do they work for just about any ecommerce niche out there; they also boost conversions through effortless online lead generation.

For many online stores, how-to content is a key component of customer experience management—the strategy you use to make your customers stick around.

What Exactly Is a “How-To” Guide?

How-to guides (often called complete guides or ultimate guides) are pieces of content that work to answer all the questions surrounding a given topic.

For example, you could write a guide that teaches your customers how to choose the right bathroom vanity, like Volusion customer BathroomPlace does:

(Source: BathroomPlace)

You can also write content that's geared toward helping other small business owners, such as this ultimate guide on securing cash flow loans (it includes helpful tips for stores that need to order lots of inventory):

(Source: Lendio)

Yet another approach could be something like the below guide from Eterneva, a company that turns ashes into diamonds. Their guide walks readers through the process of how they turn cremation ashes into precious stones:

(Image Source)

The options are limitless, but the goal remains the same: teach your customers (and potential customers) how to solve problems, improve their lives, and ultimately convince them to buy from you.

Read on for three major benefits of using how-to guides as part of your ecommerce content strategy.

Ranking at the top of search results for keywords in your niche is critical to SEO because it creates more organic and social traffic that can fuel your sales:

But content is everywhere these days, and not just any post will earn you better SEO rankings.  

How-to guides are often long-form in nature, meaning the content contains thousands of words, helpful images, and sometimes video, too. This allows you to include and answer common questions associated with the keywords you are targeting:

Because they cover such a wide variety of potential keywords, how-to guides have the potential to show up in countless keyword searches.

Additionally, since they're more in-depth than most blog posts*, how-to guides can appeal to both search engines and individual users who are looking for a one-stop shop (with information) to solve their problems.  

If your guide can cover all the details under a specific umbrella topic, users won't have to search repeatedly for related topics. Instead, they can find everything they need from your comprehensive guide. This provides a great user experience while improving your SEO.

* What About Blogs?

Starting a blog is still a great way to generate SEO value and host helpful content. How-to guides and blogs are two important—but functionally different—pieces of your overall content marketing strategy.

2. Build Brand Awareness and Increase Domain Authority

With over 342 million websites in the world, standing out is becoming more difficult by the second, the minute, and the hour. As more online stores are built, your chances of growing your business become slimmer.

How-to guides can round out your content marketing strategy and help your brand stand out in a crowded niche.  

For example, if you sell travel products (suitcases, backpacks, gear) like Adventure For Less does, you can stand out by writing a trail hiking guide:

(Source: Adventure For Less)

Writing this sort of guide will help establish your brand as a leader not only in your niche industry (travel gear), but also in the ultimate/how-to guide space—and that brand awareness is more valuable than ever.

3. Sell Without Selling

While you can link directly to your products from a how-to guide, selling shouldn't be the main focus—nor does it need to be. Many customers can see through those tactics, and they may not appreciate being sold to while still gathering information.

When you focus your guides around solving a problem, you're providing value without asking for anything in return. Customers will naturally begin to trust your brand as a leading source of information; once you’ve generated that trust, a sale is much more likely to follow.

Volusion customer Fitness Finders does a nice job of linking to a product without making it the primary focus of their content:

(Source: Fitness Finders)

This is the epitome of selling without selling: even when you don't directly link to your products, you're selling your brand as the go-to source of information on a given subject.

Email Marketing

Did you know that many successful email marketing campaigns also incorporate how-to guides (or links to guides) as part of their content strategy? Make that how-to content work even harder by promoting it in your email newsletter.

Final Thoughts

Think of how-to guides as an ecommerce tool that should always be in your toolbox; they’re as critical for growing your online store as your ecommerce platform or your fulfillment system.

As an integrated part of your content marketing strategy, how-to guides can help you rank higher for popular keywords in your product space, thereby exposing your brand to new customers. By increasing brand awareness and building an authoritative reputation, you'll secure more business for years to come.