As a web designer, I have worked with hundreds of clients and all of them would like more traffic and engagement on their website. An easy suggestion to make is: they should post an industry analysis. They are great for SEO, useful for clients, and establish the brand as leaders in the industry. I have written industry guides for many of my clients.
You can search almost any term imaginable online, and millions of results show up. We live in the Information Age, and the internet is chock full of white papers, blog posts, and videos about almost any topic imaginable. However, throwing up a guide isn’t very helpful to you or your site visitors. You have to dig deeper and make sure your offering adds value to what’s already out there.
You can find an enormous number of resources for almost every industry. Fortunately, you’ll be able to come up with something unique and useful to your site visitors with just a little effort and research.
Colin Finkle (BMB's Founder & Editor In Chief) has launched his own brand design agency: Nordeau
Visit nordeau.com if you need help with your logo, brand identity, or brand strategy.
The 9 Steps to Writing an Industry Guide
Writing an industry analysis is not a complicated process. I am going to quickly go over the steps, and then go into each one in detail later on in the article.
First, you need to research and read existing guides. Then check what Google is looking for in the content they feature. Next, determine what is going to be the focus of your guide. Now it is time to write.
The guide is now written, but that does not mean the process stops. You need to take a pass at editing it yourself. Then you need to have a professional editor look at it and correct issues. You need to publish your guide on your site.
Now you might think you are done; not quite. If your guide is to be successful then you need to establish your name as an industry expert by answering questions on social media. Periodically, you need to update the article to reflect new best practices and technology.
We go into all these steps in detail below.
Know What’s Out There
Start by studying the other guides in your industry. Make notes as you read through them, listing what works well and what you think needs more attention. Are there any holes in their information you can cover?
Part of knowing how to write a useful analysis includes understanding your target audience and their pain points. When you understand the problem your potential customers face, you can begin solving it through your content.
Design Roast’s Small Business Marketing Guide covers information for beginners to advanced users. Having done their research on other marketing guides, they take it a step further and include everything from a basic definition to tips for all levels of marketing experts. The guide is extensive, with 13 chapters on topics such as scarcity marketing and close range marketing.
Check What Google Is Looking For
On most Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP), there are sections like “Featured Snippet,” “People Also Ask,” and “Searches Related To.”
These sections are generated by machine learning based on what people are clicking on and searching next. Thus, they reliably show the sub-topics that people interested in the main topic are interested in.
For example, these sections came up when I searched “driveway paving guide.”
I can deduce that costs, surface preparation, and asphalt thickness are aspects of paving people care about. All of these topics should be in an industry guide about paving driveways.
Determine Your Focus
An industry guide should cover a topic big enough to be a booklet but narrow enough to offer specific, in-depth advice. Figuring out the focus of your analysis isn’t always easy. If you sell heating and cooling equipment, you might want to write a guide on heating and cooling your home, but that topic might be too broad. A better subject might be reducing energy costs or figuring out what size unit you need.
Once you have a primary topic, look at the different questions most likely to arise around it. Go back to other guides on the same subject and make a list of what essential elements are covered and any missing information. Break your guide into sections based on your research.
Write Your Guide
Now, you need to write. Many people will overthink and over-research in order to postpone the writing process. Writing can be a struggle for some, but most people find it cathartic and clarifying when they get into it.
Some people prefer to just sit down and write their stream of consciousness. Let just get your internalized knowledge and inspiration flow onto the page.
Many people aren’t that way, like Colin Finkle, founder of BMB. If you need a more structured approach then arrange the notes from your research in sections in a logical order. Then rewrite each bullet into a sentence. Colin assures me that this approach will always work and does not rely on inspiration.
You do not need to be a natural writer; people are interested in your industry expertise rather than perfect prose. You aren’t writing the next great American novel here. Focus on generating useful content and answering questions and you will be fine.
Make the First Pass on Editing Yourself
Let a day pass and read what you wrote. Delete any superfluous or duplicate content. Rewrite wordy sentences, and eliminate complicated sentence structures. Replace or define industry jargon and buzzwords.
This should reduce the word count for your guide, which is a good thing. You are distilling the content into something stronger. A rule of thumb is that if you can cut the word count in half, then the content is four times stronger.
Also, you need to fix misspellings and grammar errors you can spot. While the Microsoft Word spelling and grammar checker has gotten much better in the latest version of Microsoft Office 365, it is insufficient. BMB recommends Grammarly to highlight errors and give suggestions on fixing it. This article was edited with Grammarly.
Hire a Professional Editor
You might be the top expert in your field and know more than anyone ever thought possible. However, you must clearly communicate the info.
Unless you’re an English major or a professional writer, it’s best to hire an editor to polish up your prose. A professional set of eyes will catch typos and rewrite any awkward phrasing or confusing wording.
Remember that the guide is a representation of your business. The last thing you want to do is publish content that looks like an amateur did it. Even the layout and design makes a lasting impression on your site visitors.
The National Audubon Society offers several bird guides on their website. Each piece is focused on a specific species. Note the professional-looking layout with an image for each bird. All the graphics are similar in size and appearance. The language is clear and free of typos. Every page has a similar, cohesive appearance.
Add the Guide to Your Site
Once you’ve written an in-depth guide, add it to your website. You can utilize a call-to-action (CTA) button on a landing page, enticing people to share their email in exchange for the guide.
Alternatively, you can offer the piece on your site as a way to draw targeted traffic to your pages. Some people choose to break the guide into chapters for easier reading, while others offer the complete piece in a PDF file. Choose the option that works best for your brand.
Wheeler CAT offers their Landscaping Equipment Guide on their blog. This content covers different types of landscaping equipment and delves into topics such as buying versus renting equipment. They’ve considered the questions their users might ask and answered them within the guide.
Establish Your Name as a Top Expert
Highlighting the ways you’re an expert in your field helps you stand out from other businesses. Think about the qualities that are unique to your industry. Perhaps you were the first to develop a new product, or you are known for your customer service. Once you understand what is unique about you, inventory any weaknesses. Highlight your strengths and improve your shortcomings, then share what you’ve learned with your audience.
Sharing the information on your blog is not enough to get it picked up by Google and media outlets. You need to boost your analysis by establishing yourself as an expert by answering questions in forums and on social media. Remember, don’t spam when answering, unless invited to share a link to your business site.
A great place to start is to answer questions on Quora. If you can take 10 minutes of each business day to write an answer about your industry, you will establish a name for yourself on the platform in less than two months. People will be asking you specifically to answer a posted question. The dialogue on Quora is also very respectful relative to Twitter and Facebook.
Revisit Your Industry Guide After Publication
The work isn’t done once you’ve completed your guide. New developments in your industry call for additions or changes to your content. As technology advances, you may find you also need to update your advice from time to time. An online guide for your industry should be a living document that changes over time and grows past the initial offering.
An online guide is an excellent way to increase awareness of your brand. Offering relevant information may increase conversions and give you valuable leads you otherwise wouldn’t capture.