List Posts Fail? You may think I’m contradicting myself after my last post was strongly in favor of the list post format? I’m still a fan but, like any blog post type, quality counts. List Posts, despite their general popularity, can fail.

How List Posts Fail

Where List Posts Fail

1)  When There’s Lack of Research or Information

When long list posts are compiled with little thought or research, and offer nothing unique. A search I made for note-taking/productivity apps brought up one post listing 8 apps and another with over 100. Guess which one I read? I wanted advice on the best, not a list I could have found in the iTunes store. No doubt the long list took a while to put together but it wasn’t at all useful. There were no recommendations, only text and images copied from elsewhere.

There is a place for long lists but only if the context calls for it. Have a look at my A-Z list of Blog Post Ideas for an example. It’s intended as a memory jogger, something to skim through for those short of ideas for blog topics.

2) When long List Posts that don’t keep your readers’ attention.

I recently read a post that obviously took a long time to research and compile. It was a list of over 80 advice quotes from different bloggers. Although some were good, others not so, and there was too much repetition.  I lost concentration half way through and went elsewhere. I revisited it when I wrote this post to look at the end. As I suspected there was a call to action at the bottom. I wonder how many people missed it for the same reason as I did.

3) When a List Post is out of character

If you’re more inclined towards a story telling approach, list posts may not always fit. Dedicated readers of your blog like the way you do things and come to expect more of the same. However, if you keep your post in the same sort of personal tone they can still work. (10 Reasons I ……., The 5 ways I ……)

4) When there’s a bias towards selling

When it’s obvious the bias is towards the blogger’s affiliate interests. I’m sure the “20 best WordPress photo themes”, don’t come from the one design site. Not all the best WP plugins, web tools and apps are premium. There’s a danger of losing credibility and trust, a cornerstone of a blogger’s success.

5) When they don’t give enough information

List posts that don’t give enough information, or explanation, are worth little. If I were to write a post on content marketing tips it would be no use to you if I just listed such points as: “Give value”, “Have a Unique Selling Proposition”, “Use the AIDA principles”. That might just send you away from the blog to search for definitions. (That’s not a suggestion, by the way – please do stay!). It’s the same with lists that only contain links to other sites.

6) When the posts has too many links

Too many links in a post can cause problems.

  1. There’s a danger of including links to sites of poor quality, This doesn’t serve your readers or search engines.
  2. Over time the page or site you’ve linked to might disappear, creating a lot of 404 Page Not Found errors. Although that might not be too bad for your site with older posts that have lost their rankings, those that still rank will start to disappear from search results. (Most of my 404 errors coming from my older posts are from list posts, which were very common in the early days of blogging).
  3. You are sharing your “link juice” with too many other sites. Plus, any internal links lose their impact for your readers and for  SEO purposes. For an explanation of link juice and how to make the best of it take a look at Woorank’s Guide: The Flow of Link Juice
  4. Readers are more likely to click on a link and not come back. For those of you who clicked on the above link and came back, I thank you.

“Link Parties”,  once very common are still alive and well among some niches, particularly food and craft bloggers. If you’re just starting out and looking for ways to establish relationships then they can be valuable. I joined in quite a few when I started this blog but, back then, there were parties that matched my topics. I got to know some bloggers really well because of it.

If you remain anonymous, and just drop your links anywhere you can find, link parties are unlikely to bring you sustained traffic. Hosting parties yourself leaves you in danger of committing to linking to poor quality sites.

7) Slide Show Lists, Ads and more Ads

List Post Fail with too many ads

You may be familiar with list posts presented in a paginated format? Each page includes multiple ads. There are often arrows linking to other ads; arrows easily confused for the link to the next list point. These pages are slow to load and are heavy on browser usage. They are often used on the popular, more sensational type, of site who obviously get away with it. I caution authors of less popular sites against this format.

I’m not linking to one of these here because my browser froze twice when looking for examples! I included the above image instead.

8) Not enough unique content

If your content is too generic it’s likely found elsewhere – on sites with much higher visibility. There’s nothing unique about it. Marya of Writing Happiness puts it well in 3.5 Reasons I’m Sick of List Posts when she says:

“I would like something that is a bit more
than a compilation of information
that even my 7 year old
can put together really well.”

9) Irrelevance

If you plan to write 25 points but get stuck at 23, avoid the temptation to add an extra 2 if they’re not useful to readers. In the same vein, don’t do what I did and add extra points but forget to change the post title. The 8 factors as announced in my title ended up being 12. Oops.

If you go off track and don’t strictly keep to the topic. It’s easily done. Research may bring up something of interest and you go off on a tangent to something not relevant.

Similarly, avoid padding out your post to increase the word count. Instead, do more research or consider using the content as part of a different post.

10) Finally List Posts fail when you don’t know when to stop

I started to write a post about list posts that included advantages, disadvantages and tips. It was far too long. Instead I created a series of three posts. My first was 10 Top Reasons To Write List Posts.  My next post, 8 Key Tips for Writing Successful List Posts, gives you ideas so your own list posts don’t fail. I also explain why I’ve used only 10 points in each.

I know some people don’t like list posts at all. If you are of that opinion please let us know why. To be honest there was little I could find on the topic because most posts I read extol their virtues. My research was mostly from digging into my own brain so I’d love your input.