Alright, let’s just cut to the chase here! How-to articles are awesome because they 1) provide actionable content for your readers, 2) are often searched for, and 3) can quickly go viral.

With that said, check out these 5 fast and effective ways to come up with ideas for how-to articles.

[Note: This blog post was originally inspired by the book Feature and Magazine Writing. I read the heading “Where to look for how-to ideas” in the book, but I didn’t think any of the tips themselves were very helpful for bloggers. So I came up with my own list!]

These first 2 ideas can be either read below or watched as a video screencast immediately below:

1. Google it, part 1

If you want to see what other people are writing about, go to Google and type in yourniche “how to.” I did this for kayaking (keep in mind that I don’t know a single thing about kayaking) and here’s what the results came up with:

In seconds and without even visiting these sites, I’ve got ideas for posts, including:

  • How to lift a kayak
  • How to care for a kayak
  • How to choose a kayak paddle
  • How to get into a kayak from the water
  • How to do an Eskimo roll
  • How to buy a kayak
  • How to learn to kayak

And that’s all just on the first page! Venture into the second, third, and beyond pages and who knows what treasure troves of how-to awesomeness you’ll find.

2. Google it, part 2

As long as we’re there, let’s stay on Google for a minute. Let’s say I want to write about rock climbing (I seem to be in an adventurous mood today). So in the Google search bar, I type in “climbing how to” and then wait for to Google auto-complete some searches for me. This is what I got:

From that we’ve got “how to crimp, “how to belay,” “how to clean a route,” and “how to clip.” Not bad for two seconds of work, is it?

3. Think about the milestones

Ok, let’s pick a different niche for this one. How about… Digital photography? What are some digital photography milestones (a milestone can be defined as a significant event)? Off the top of my head, here are a couple:

  • Buying your first digital camera
  • Upgrading from a point-and-shoot to an SLR
  • Selling your first photograph
  • Getting published in a magazine
  • Selecting a flash for your camera

How do we turn these into how-to article ideas? Well… just take off the -ing and add “How to” at the beginning! Observe:

  • How to buy your first digital camera
  • How to upgrade from a point-and-shoot to an SLR
  • How to sell your first photograph
  • How to get published in a magazine
  • How to select a flash for your camera

See what I did there? Super simple and super fast. Digging deeper into a digital photography blog would undoubtedly give you a lot more ideas.

4. Think about things you buy

Time for another niche. Let’s go with gardening. Think about the things you buy for gardening, and then create a “How to buy X” post for each of the things you buy. Examples:

  • How to buy a garden hose
  • How to buy a birdfeeder
  • How to buy a trowel
  • How to buy gardening gloves

You could write enough of just these how-to posts alone to last you a long, long time.

5. “How to deal with…”

This one’s easy. Just fill in the blank: “How to deal with ____.” Let’s pick another niche. Hmmm… I’m trying to be as far-ranging in these niches as I can be… How about… spousal relationships?

  • How to deal with the in-laws
  • How to deal with your spouse being gone
  • How to deal with a miscarriage
  • How to deal with disagreements

This and the previous two methods can benefit by having another mind to help you brainstorm, but you still shouldn’t have any trouble at all coming up with ideas on your own.

And to finish off…

There are other ways out there to get how-to article ideas, but these 5 are the fastest and easiest I’ve found. Got any other ideas or tips? When you use one of these techniques for a post, be sure to leave a link to it in the comments section below!

Blog improvement task:

Come up with 5 how-to post ideas by using one of each of the above methods and then use one of the ideas as the basis for one of your next blog posts. Add the rest to your “Things to blog about” folder.