Did you know that…
… the word listicle gets 5,400 searches on Google each month?
That’s what Google’s Keyword Planner suggests.
How could we take something named listicle serious? It reminds me of popsicles.
But the truth is: list posts work.
Here are some facts:
- In 2013, 9 out of the 10 most popular posts on e-Consultancy, the UK’s premier internet marketing blog, were list posts (source)
- In the same year, 6 out of 14 of the most republished Lifehacker posts were list posts (source)
- The most shared Copyblogger post in 2013 was a list post, too (this one)
Why do list posts work?
Digits attract reader’s attention.
A number like 10 stands out, while the word ten blends in. Perhaps numbers stand out because they represent facts. Or maybe we like numbered lists because we love being organized.
Have a look at your Twitter stream. Which headlines grab your attention? Do they contain numbers?
List posts might have a bad name, but that’s only because many list posts contain shallow and regurgitated information. Often they’re articles quickly thrown together without regard for the reader and without communicating a big idea. They don’t help us. They don’t teach us anything. They’re written solely to produce another piece of content. They’re dull and tedious to read.
So how do you write an engaging post? And escape mediocrity?
Writing a good list post starts with deciding how you want to help your readers. What’s your key message?
For instance, 37 Tips for Writing Emails that Get Opened, Read, and Clicked explains why treating your subscribers as human beings, as friends is the key to successful email marketing.
Don’t write list posts because they’re quick to write. Instead, write them because they’re the best format for communicating your idea and helping your readers.
Follow the 4 steps below to write a list post your readers will love reading and sharing.
Step 1. Define your big idea
What is your topic?
And what message do you want to communicate to your reader?
Start with writing down a how-to headline as a working title. A how-to headline forces you to consider how you want to help your readers. For instance, my post 13 Ways to Move Forward When Self-Doubt Sabotages Your Business Progress started simply as How to Cope With Self-Doubt as Online Entrepreneur.
Knowing how you want to help your readers elevates your blog post from a random list of mediocre ideas to a memorable post.
How will readers benefit from reading your list post?
Step 2. Have fun with brainstorming
You can use mind mapping software, but I prefer scribbling ideas on a piece of paper. Being away from my computer sparks creativity–a computer is for productivity, a sheet of paper for scribbling, drawing, and having fun.
Write down as many ideas as you can. Don’t vet them immediately as this may hamper the creative process. Go for quantity rather than quality.
Once you can’t think of any further ideas, cross out the most obvious ideas because you risk boring your readers with common sense ideas. You may find you’ve generated 50+ ideas, but you’ll use only 20.
A shorter list with valuable ideas is more shareable than a long list with obvious tips.
Step 3. Select your post format
List posts can take different forms.
Long lists posts tend to be checklists. They don’t provide detailed information, but link to more in-depth resources. 58 Ways to Create Persuasive Content Your Audience Will Love, for instance, provides a checklist for writing seductive content.
Shorter list posts provide more guidance for each tip. They can be “random” lists–where the order of the tips doesn’t matter; or they can be a step-by-step guide.
Think about the purpose of your post. Are you providing a comprehensive checklist? A step-by-step plan? Or a short selection of more in-depth suggestions?
Step 4. Write and edit your list post
Don’t forget that a list post is more than a simple list:
- Captivate your readers with a seductive opening paragraph
- If your list contains more than 20 items, consider grouping them by topic, and create subheads to make readers curious and keep them reading on
- Add questions in your content to re-engage your readers. Questions interrupt the tediousness of reading tip after tip after tip after tip
- Consider a few bullet points as they add extra white space, break up a dull format, and make readers feel they’re gliding quickly through your content
- Inspire your readers to take action with your closing paragraph
How does your post look? Does your post invite people to read? And keep them glued to your tips?
Your formatting needs to add interest, and interrupt a dreary flow. Your tips need to surprise now and then, and seduce your reader to keep reading on.
Beware of monotony.
The truth about list posts
Don’t write a list post because you think it gets more shares.
Don’t write a list post because you think it’ll be quick and easy.
Don’t write one when you’re bored with lists. Because you’ll surely bore your readers to tears.
Write a list post when it’s the best format for sharing your tips with your readers.
Enjoy the challenge of turning a tedious list into sparkling content.
And enchant your readers.
Recommended reading on blog writing:
How to write with clarity
3 visual thinking skills for bloggers
How to write a good blog post super-fast
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