Last updated May 29th, 2016 at 07:13 pm
These 8 major tips for writing successful list posts complete my series of 3 articles on blog post list posts. I’ve covered the advantages and disadvantages of this popular post format but how do you write successful list posts?
Here are the first two posts in this list series
1 ) Writing Successful List Posts Means Quality
Good list posts contain the elements of any quality post, they’re just written in a specific format. There’s no point using the power of a numbered list post heading to attract visitor clicks, if you don’t follow through with good content.
Take time to think about the topic and research it well. Work out what needs you need to meet. Are you solving a problem, offering guidance, teaching, entertaining ….?
Only write a list post if the topic calls for it, not for the sake of it.
2 ) Successful List Post Content
Use this simple formula from Quick Sprout’s article 15 Types of Content That Will Drive You More Traffic
- Introduce the topic,
- List your points,
- Provide a conclusion.
List posts which don’t succeed are those that written quickly, not researched well, and those which don’t include enough information.
Include only relevant information. Stick to topic. If another idea comes to you that doesn’t quite fit, make a note of it for another post.
Make sure each point is complete in itself
- avoid the urge to
- split them up just
- to add extra numbers
(That was an extreme example but I hope you get what I mean).
Add links to good quality 3rd party articles where you need to give more detail and to add value.
3 ) Captivating Titles
Good post titles are always important to capture attention but it’s often difficult to come up with something unique. It’s not so hard with list posts because there’s more of a set formula to them. They lend themselves to words that show you are offering help and guidance.
- Number of list points. A numeral and not text number catches the attention more. (8 and not Eight, 10 and not Ten),
- An attention grabbing powerful adjective that speaks to your reader’s needs and interests (best. proven, sure-fire, easy, quick, winning, shocking, valuable, thrilling) Have a look at the lists included in my post 7 Sure Fire Ways to Write Absolutely Compelling Blog Posts I know I went over the top with that particular title but it seemed right for the topic.
- What you are offering (tips, reasons, ways, steps, lessons, examples)
- The Subject, of course.
4 ) Tips for List Post Layout
Wherever possible, order your lists in a logical way. Some posts may call for alphabetical order, some need sub-points, some order of priority. Another tactic is to work out which are the strongest points on your list. Start of with one or two of the strongest, end with a strong point and dot the rest around. This is a way to keep your readers interested throughout.*
Consider using different sections with numbered headings and multiple paragraphs. This helps draw a readers eyes onward and helps them scan the page better. Search Engines favor headings with keywords. They pander to Panda which is now a part of the core Google algorithm. (That last sentence was an example of not keeping a list post relevant!)
List posts points don’t have to contain a short sentence or just one paragraph. They can be very thorough. Take a look at the detail Adrienne Smith goes into with 5 Reasons Your Blog Will Fail This Year
Adrienne commented and let me know about Neil Patel’s recommendations for using numbered headings, which is much like formula I mentioned above for captivating titles,: Stop Writing Boring Headlines: 11 Types of Headlines That Pique Reader Interest Thanks Adrienne
5 ) Visual Appeal
Add images to enhance the look of your post. If it’s hard to find photos that suit your topic then add titles and text on background images. (Don’t add an image that’s totally off topic as I did there with Susan Zentay’s, of a place close to where I live.) Please take a look at the free background images on my Resources site. (I’m working on lots more)
If your blog is highly visual then consider adding all your list points to photos or images. 19 people who can’t put down their phones either is a recent example from Mashable.
Consider using slide shows of images with text.
If you prefer video posts then add the main points as a transcript in list form. This caters for those who only have time to skim your post or prefer reading to listening. (There are still some of us left)
6 ) Formatting Numbered Lists
Here’s a bit of technical information:
- Paragraph breaks in numbered lists automatically create a new number. So when an item contains more than one paragraph use a page line break instead. In Windows using Shift/Enter normally works. Some advanced editing plugins might not like this and you need to enter line breaks manually. Go to the text editor and add the line break code, <br />, before where you want your new paragraph to begin.
- When your list post is split into sections, numbering will automatically start again at the number one.
If this is because each point has its own header just add the numbers manually, rather than using the numbered list feature.
- If the numbers start again, because of adding an image, new formatting such as centered text, or your headings contain more than one number, then you’ll have to manually continue the numbering. A quick way is to go to your text editor and manually add the start number like this: For example if the last number was 6 replace the <ol> that follows with <ol start=”7″>
If you need further help with this please let me know.
7 ) How Many List Points?
When I first researched for this series, I was convinced that the magic number for the number of points in a list post is 10. Then I researched more. Considering I wrote 10 points in each of my first two list post articles, I should have done this research first!
- According to a RJMetrics, who studied the top performers of Buzz Feed’s “best of” lists, the most popular contained 25 list points.However, Buzz Feed is heavily laden with list posts and attracts a market that likes them. So maybe in this example the higher number is always best.Each Buzz Feed point isn’t too long either. 25 is too long for posts that contain lots of information. This is why I split mine into 3. Otherwise you’d be plowing through nearly 4000 words.
- FastCo Design, in”Why We Love Top 10 Lists“, talks about the “top 10 effect”, a psychological phenomena where we naturally tend to group things into round numbers and see anything else as inferior. The article is based around research by Mathew S. Isaac of Seattle University and Robert M. Schindler of Rutgers University.For part of their study, they searched the term “top [number]” in Google, using all numbers 1 through 100. Titles ending in zero dominated, those ending in five came a close second. But, despite including “Top 10 Lists” in the title, there’s no mention that the number 10 is better than other “round” numbers and it seems that 25 is considered a round number too? The study only convinced me that the number 10 works better than 11, so at least I got that right in my first 2 posts.
8 ) Other uses for lists
- Use a list post as the launching point for a series of subsequent articles, or a summary linking to earlier posts.
- Rather than adding a menu item leading to a Category, write a list page instead. If you check out my Image menu item above it leads to a list of my up to date posts on images. This let me add more information than just a list of posts and a page is likely to rank better than a Category archive.
- Consider adding links to content curation sites. Sites like Scoop and Delicious basically contain lists of links and include a social networking element.
*For those of you who’ve read this far, I hope I kept your interest throughout. Thank you for reading this all through and I wish you all the best for writing your own successful list posts. You might also be interested in another post I’ve written that uses the same formula of writing posts in the same format as the topic “A Roundup Post About Roundup Posts”
Here are the other 2 posts in this list post series: