Style Guidelines

Tips for Writing a Great "Success Guide"

Thank you for clicking onto this page! We appreciate your commitment to quality and your effort to deliver a consistent product for our readers.

Feel free to email our content manager if you have any questions.

The Big Picture

Audience

Deliberate Directions provides “Success Guides” for small- and medium-sized businesses owners, executives, and people looking to advance their career.

Actionability

Our readers are looking for advice and specific action steps. By the time they finish reading your guide, they should know exactly what they need to do to follow your advice. They should also understand how to overcome challenges they’re likely to face.

Consider structuring your piece as a step-by-step guide with each header discussing a different step. If your guide covers a topic more generally, you can add “action steps” either throughout your piece or in a section near the end.

Length

Generally we recommend 2,000 words so you can go deep into your topic. This length is also best for SEO and social media shares.

We’ll happily accept more. We’ll also accept less so long as your guide gives people a solid idea of how to implement what you recommend.​

Focus

We encourage you to dive into one topic and spend 95% of your guide on that topic. If you refer to another subject, you can give a sentence or two of background information.

If you want to provide more context about a related topic, just link to another article where readers can get more information. (You can link to an article on your site if you like.)

Original Text

We require 100% original text. This creates far more SEO benefits for your company and for ours. It’s ok if your text is a summary of ideas that you’ve expressed elsewhere online. Just please make sure the text is original and not a copy/paste edit. We check all content on the Small SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker before publishing.

Conclusions

Most readers will scroll down to the conclusion as soon as they open your article. Providing they like your summary, they’ll scroll back up to read the details.

To accommodate this typical user behavior, include a quick summary (2-3 paragraphs) at the end of your piece. We suggest using the simple header “Conclusion” to make it easy for people to find.

Lead Magnets

We want you to get as much out of publishing your guide as possible. We recommend ending your guide by promoting a lead magnet on your website that readers can gain access to by giving you their email address. This can be a checklist, cheat sheet, template, or video tutorial that will be useful to readers as they implement what you just taught them. If you don’t have a fitting lead magnet yet, you can email us at a later date and ask us to add one.

Style Concerns

Consistent Headers

Lately we’ve moved toward making our H2 and H3 headers into concise but complete sentences. This approach makes it easy for people to skim your guide.

We think lists make great H2 headers. In other guides, we’ve recently tried writing H2 headers as questions so readers can easily find the answers they need. Please choose the header format that works best for you, just make sure you’re consistent.

We suggest 8-12 headers for a typical guide.

External Links

External links are good for SEO and our readers, so we encourage you to use 5 or more outside links in your guide. Just underline your link text and put your hyperlink next to it in parentheses… like this (http://google.com). We’ll link your links for you in WordPress.

Interviews

We’d love to get input or advice from your clients, colleagues, or some authorities in your network. This isn’t necessary, but can help to back up your points or show how the process you’re teaching is effective.

Paragraph Length

Our paragraphs range from 1-5 sentences. Most are 2-3 sentences.

If sentences closely relate to each other, they probably belong in one paragraph. If a sentence succinctly sums up a whole range of thoughts, we’re fine if you make it a 1-sentence paragraph and then move onto your next thought in the next paragraph.

Pictures

We can source all photography for you. However, it’s always nice to give our readers a break from stock photos and to personalize each piece. So if you happen to have a collection of high-resolution photos from around your office that could work with your guide, you’re welcome to send a link to the collection. 

With each guide we include a photo for the H1 header and photos for each of the H2 headers. If you want a specific photo to appear with a specific header, just let us know.

Pronouns

We suggest writing with the words “you” and “I.” This gives people the feeling that they’re having a conversation with you rather than listening to a college lecture. This encourages your readers to listen and engage in the comments.

Still, we want you write in whatever voice is comfortable for you. Please just be consistent throughout your guide.

The Little Things

  • Please do not double space after sentences.
  • Put periods or commas inside your quotation marks, “like this.”
  • If you cite a specific statistic, please link to its source. Just paste your hyperlink after the sentence it relates to and underline your preferred anchor text, then we’ll add the link for you.
  • We love bullets! If you’re listing 3 or more ideas or solutions, consider making a bulleted list.
  • We prefer to print all numbers as numerals even if they start a sentence. We also use the % symbol instead of spelling out “percent.” We know it’s different, but we think it makes facts easier to read.
  • We’re fine with contractions (as you’ve probably noticed).
  • If you’re referring to an unspecified employee or person, use “he” sometimes and “she” other times. You can also refer to “employees” or “mangers” to avoid gender references.
  • Spell out terms. If you want to abbreviate, then use the term’s first instance to spell out the term and the abbreviation you’ll use in the rest of the guide, like this: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

What to Expect

We’ll generally publish your guide within 3-4 days of receiving it.

We’ll edit your guide as needed to reduce repetition, tangents, or errors. You can ask for anything to be changed back. However, in our experience, contributors have consistently been happy with all changes.

We hope these guidelines help you deliver an outstanding guide that will rank well in search engines and generate more traffic for your business. If you would like to change anything at a later date, you’re welcome to submit an updated edit.

We’ll share your guide with our 10,000 email subscribers and our social media followers. We’ll also include a do-follow backlink to your website. If there is anything else we can do to support your business, please let us know!

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