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Creating Ultimate Guides and Using Them to Build Your Marketing List

You’ve seen them – ultimate marketing guides to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other important digital marketing resources. Creating ultimate guides are a great way to attract traffic, links, and social shares to your blog or website. The issue most people run into is with the number of blogs out there (especially ones on online marketing) – how do you create an ultimate guide if there are already tons of posts on a given subject?

In today’s post, we’re going to look at the steps to creating the ultimate guide to anything and how you can use your ultimate guide to get mailing list subscribers.

Step One: Subscribe to Lots of Blogs in Your Industry

Ultimate guides are successful when they are written about trending topics, and the only way to know what is a trending topic is to see what others are writing about. In our previous post about turning your RSS reader into a topic generating machine, we suggested using Google Reader to subscribe to blogs in your industry via RSS so you can see blog titles at a glance.

This is a great way to find out what is trending – the more you see the name of a product, service, or network pop up, the more it means you should be writing about it. You’ll want to do this for four reasons:

  1. When people are excited about a topic, they will want to consume all of the information they can find about it. Your post should be a part of that collection of information.
  2. The newer your post is, the better it might do in search results if someone is searching by posts made within the last week, month, and so on.
  3. When someone reads about a new topic, they might ignore it as something they don’t have time for. Think about the reactions to Google+, for example. But as time goes by, they will realize that it is something they need, and if your guide happens to be the one they come across at that juncture, they’ll embrace it.
  4. When it comes to topics like social media, things are always changing rapidly. If someone did a post a month ago, chances are there are some slight to significant changes since then that need to be covered.

Step Two: Read Posts on Your Topic

Next on your task list is to actually read posts on the topic you want to write your ultimate guide on. If you feel like too many people have written about the topic and that there isn’t anything left to cover, you might be pleasantly surprised. No matter how many in-depth posts there are about a topic, you will still find…

  • Different ways to explain the same information.
  • Things that have changed since others have written about the topic.
  • Small (or even large) details about your topic that others left out.

Step Three: Write Down What Is Missing

As you note things that are missing from others posts, write them down. If you’re writing a how-to post, be sure to go through the steps yourself after you read posts by others. Then jot down things you notice during the process that others might have missed or not explained thoroughly. It also might help to sit down with someone who is unfamiliar with your topic (like someone who hasn’t started renovating their Facebook page for the new design) and see what questions they come up with.

Step Four: Combine the Basics and the Missing Parts

To create your ultimate guide, simply combine the basics plus the additional details you found were missing from other posts. This way, people who are coming across your guide as the first piece of content they have read about a topic will get all of the basic information, and people who have read a lot of other guides will be wowed by all of the missing pieces that you included.

Step Five: Include Lots of Screenshots

One thing I always find missing from other “ultimate guides” are good screenshots. Take yours using your own personal account of the topic as opposed to the generic stock photos. This will make it easier for others to follow along and visualize their own experience using yours.

The best program I have found for creating great screenshots is Jing. It’s a free tool for Windows and Mac that allows you to grab portions of your screen to save in .png format. You can also annotate parts of the screen using arrows, box outlines, highlighting, and text boxes.

jing features

If you need to make any additional modifications, such as blurring out sensitive personal data or covering distracting elements to draw the focus on the subject at hand, you can use Gimp, a free photo editing tool. These are the only two things you need to create impressive screenshots that will help drive any point in your guide home.

Step Six: Add Real Life Examples

Once you have the basics and missing pieces down for your ultimate guide, look for some good examples of your tips in action. If you’re talking about creating great Timeline cover photos, then include some examples of them from pages in different industries. If you’re talking about using Pinterest to drive traffic, then link to some top Pinterest users who are doing things right. Think about your target audience and find examples that they can easily relate to so they feel they must follow your advice to be successful.

Step Seven: Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Since you did a lot of research going into creating your ultimate guide, you probably found a lot of great posts on your topic. Don’t be selfish – give some link love to those other posts. Doing this will set your post apart from all of the others because it shows your audience you want them to truly have the ultimate guide to your topic.

Step Eight: Don’t Break It Up on Your Blog

There is a lot of advice out there that you should take huge posts and break them up into a series so you can get people to come back to your website over and over again. But I find that if someone hits a piece of content that says 101 Tips on ___, and the post only includes steps 1 – 20 with the promise of more to come, they move on to find everything they are looking for elsewhere. People want to consume information now, not wait for it to be continued. And when they read the words ultimate guide, they are going to expect to get everything in one chunk. So unless you are planning to write 5,000+ words on a topic, keep it in one piece.

If you are looking to write more than 5,000 words on a topic, then at least make each piece self-contained. If you’re writing the ultimate guide to Facebook marketing, then make part one – setting up your personal profile, part two – setting up your business page, and part three – setting up your Facebook ads. This way, people don’t feel like you’ve left them hanging to the point they feel they have to go to another source of information to complete their task. If they move on to another source of information, they probably won’t be back to finish your series.

Step Nine: Promote Your Guide

An ultimate guide is no good if no one reads it. Considering the amount of time and energy you have spent on your ultimate guide, you owe it to yourself and your readers to promote it well. Do so by:

  • Sharing it on all of your social networks. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ are the best. Take it to your personal and business accounts if possible.
  • Sharing it in groups on social networks. LinkedIn, for example, has some great groups on particular topics. Facebook has some as well, although many are full of spammers who are just there for their own promotions. This will expand your guide’s exposure from just your network to all of the members of the groups you select.
  • Emailing your list. If you have a mailing list, let them know about your latest and greatest piece of content.
  • Repurposing your content. If you can turn your ultimate guide into an infographic, video, slide presentation, or PDF document, you can spread it on even more networks.

Step Ten: Break It Up for Your Mailing List Instead

Now we’re going to take the content in your ultimate guide and use it to build your mailing list. Instead of breaking up your content on your blog, break it up on your mailing list instead. Take your ultimate guide, break it into seven steps, and create an autoresponder series entitled “Learn How to ___ in 7 Days”. This way, those that do want to space things out have the option to and will subscribe to your list to get the breakdown.

Step Eleven: Turn It Into a Free Download

The alternative to creating an autoresponder series is turning your ultimate guide into a PDF instead. Then you can make a call to action to download the free guide to your topic. This is a great way to encourage opt-ins to your email list as visitors to your blog may have missed the post, but will notice it as an attractive graphic in your sidebar.

Have you created an ultimate guide on your website or blog? What other tips would you add to making your ultimate guide a success!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing for personal, professional, and business bloggers. You can follow her on , Twitter, and Facebook.

  1. Thanks for the insight, great post thanks!

    At the moment bussy to make my pdf guide how to survive 2012 online



  2. This is excellent information. While it isn’t about a trending topic, I’m working on a free, downloadable guide right now for the exact reasons you outline here. Great stuff.

  3. Neil,

    Concise, complete, useful. Thanking for a splendid education so short a space. Step 6 adding real life examples is something that we sometimes miss. Often as we strive to learn and implement we forget the human factor. Save the text books for school. Show how it relates to the reader. Step 8 Don’t break it up on your blog is a new one on me. As you explained it, it makes perfect sense: it’s like being short changed. Promise ten, deliver two and then, what, deliver eight…later?

    Thanks Neil, great stuff per your usual self.

  4. Hey great tips thank you Kristi – I started my guide and then lost momentum on it so have started to use a website called which has helped me to break the task of creating my guide into more manageable daily chunks Hope its helpful!

  5. Todd Tresidder Mar 31, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I’ve enjoyed your prior “ultimate guides” and appreciate this inside look at how you create them – particularly the “screenshot” info which always eluded me.

  6. Thank you for the tips Kristi.

    I have been hearing a lot of great feedback on Jing but I never actually decided to use it. I might give it a few test runs and see what I can do with the service.

    Thanks as well for tip #8 on not giving the information in chunks on our blogs. Something I’m afraid I was doing at an earlier stage.


  7. Thanks for the insight, great post thanks!

    At the moment bussy to make my pdf guide how to survive 2012 online


  8. Very resourceful! I liked that you included screenshots; when reading a blog having a screenshot as a guide is such a great help.

  9. Excellent work Kristi!

    I would like to add too that it is very VERY important to move quickly. If you can get someone to help you create your ultimate guide, do it.

    I once wrote a 155 page guide on Facebook, but it happened right as they were doing their last rounds of major updates.

    We found ourselves updating sections after they had been written when the rest of the framework for the ebook had been published. The sad part was, by the time we were done writing it, the platform had changed so much that entire sections were invalid because screen shots and information simply were… different.

    So move quickly, and take note on the site you’re covering’s developer’s blog so you can be aware of changes before they happen, and plan accordingly.

    • Very good point Tommy! I’ve known several people writing books on Facebook that had to change their publishing dates just to revise everything they had done due to major platform changes.

  10. Giving away a free e-book is a great way to build your opt-in e-mail list, but I think you should think bigger about the content. Give away an epic piece of content to build your opt-in. These are now prospects in your sales funnel.

    Continue to give away great content in your e-mail list and lead up to promoting a paid product – paid e-book guide, a membership site where all of your best content resides. Give away enough, but lock up the best stuff behind a paywall. People are willing to pay for great, organized content.

  11. Stacie Walker Oct 22, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Hi Kristie,

    I love how you break down the important factors to creating an ultimate guide for success with any marketing campaign. From the looks of your advice, it absolutely WORKS!

    Anyone reading this advice and applying it should have no problem building an avalanche of leads for their business, product, or service.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    To Your Success,
    Stacie Walker

  12. Kristie, Hey. I’m so glad you posted about bloggers not limiting the time for comments on their posts because it’s the very reason I can add my say right now. Thank you for your excellent article, you sound like Neil, is he your mentor as well?

    You know, Neil is one of those pied piper types. He knows just how to draw me back and forth between his blogs. And now you seem to be on that track.

    I appreciate all you teachers, Alice

  13. Kristi, me again, Alice. I’m sorry about misspelling your name. It’s one of my pet peeves and I couldn’t let that go. Thanks much, Alice.

  14. Mind=blown.

    An ultimate guide about how to make an ultimate guide. Love it.
    eriously, this is an incredible post. It’s literally a step-by-step guide to getting blog traffic:

    1. Find what’s missing in your niche
    2. Post ultimate guides that fill the void
    3. Profit

    i actually just tried to do this with my recent post on guest blogging: and I got a great response using many of the same techniques that you outlined here.

    Thanks again for the post.

  15. First let me thank you for a valuable article!

    I’m curious about your comments on breaking up longer posts. As I understand it the benefits are increased page views but as I would be the one juicing the stats I would not be impressed by my own trickery. Is there a benefit to increased page views past the warm fuzzy feeling of having more readers?

    And you wrote that you felt readers tended to move on after say the first part of a three or four part system. Forgive my naivete but is that something you “know,” “feel,” “are not really sure” about?

    Thanks again!


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