I know that some people don’t like list posts. I’ve read all the snobs talking about how they’re not really writing and don’t benefit readers. I totally disagree! I love reading list posts, and I love writing them too. And, guess what? Your readers like lists too. This post provides eight tips for writing list posts readers will love.
Why Blog Readers Love Lists
Year after year listicles are one of the most popular types of blog content. They’re typically thought to be second only to how-to posts.
Blog readers love lists because they’re:
- Scannable. Lists allow readers to identify key points quickly and decide if they want to read further. Almost 75% of blog readers say they skim content.
- Short. List posts are easy to read because they are organized in bite-sized pieces. We like to read short pieces on our phones, at least 75% of us do. Engagement on any blog post declines after a person reads for seven minutes. Think about it. Most of the time we read while we’re watching TV or have short spurts of time.
- Easily Understood. Lists are a good way to break complex content into more manageable pieces.
- Sharable. People want to share what they read online with others to help showcase their knowledge and inform their friends. And 30% of people prefer to read and share blog posts with numbers in the title. There is also some school of thought that odd numbers perform better than even ones, although I tend to think the list decides that for you.
I love reading list posts for all of the reasons above. I love writing them because they’re most like my teaching and, probably, my thinking. I teach by introducing a topic, then presenting key points, followed by a short explanation. List posts are formatted the same way.
8 Tips for Writing List Posts Readers Will Love
We know blog readers want to read list posts. You don’t have to write them if you hate them, but I think variety works best on blogs. Blogs should have long and short posts in various formats. True, I probably write more listicles than some other bloggers, but I explained to you above why that is. Even if you don’t love this type of content, it’s helpful to know how to write it now and then.
1. Introduce the Topic
You can’t just jump into your list. Otherwise, the reader won’t know what you’re writing about. You have to introduce the reader to your topic. The introduction doesn’t have to be long, though. A paragraph or two will do. Think of it as setting the scene for your list or helping the reader understand why they want your list in the first place.
2. Write an Enticing Title
Numbers lay the foundation for good blog titles, helping to attract readers and encourage sharing. Numbers also help readers work their way through your list. You probably aren’t serving your blog or readers well if you don’t number your lists. You don’t have to include that number in your headline, but the post will get more traction if you do. Don’t cheat yourself!
3. Be Concise
Use short sentences in short paragraphs to make the post as scannable as possible. Using bold or larger subtitles for list objects also helps make the post easier to read. You’ll want to have a few sentences for each point, but you don’t need to write a book on each point you post. If you only have a sentence or two for each point, consider using a bulleted numbered list instead of H3s.
4. Number Items
As I mentioned above, the best lists are numbered. You may decide the number of items you’ll have beforehand (Ex: I want to have a dozen items on this list.) or list your points first. I list my points first, then number them. I think this keeps my lists as comprehensive as possible. I don’t want to miss points because I’ve arbitrarily chosen a number.
5. Format Items Consistently
Keep your list items in the same structure or format. I like to hold my list items to two or three words and start them with a verb. The structure feels more active to me. And, of course, active writing is more engaging.
6. Pare Down
After I brainstorm all of my points for a list post, I review them to see if I can combine any to make my list shorter. I like to collapse my tips and keep lists as concise as possible without missing out on good information. I don’t know that there’s a perfect number for any list. I’ve seen blogs with super short lists and ones with 100+ items. I’ve even talked to bloggers who purposely leave things off of their list in hopes that readers will engage with them to fill in the blanks. The teacher in me can’t help but be as comprehensive as possible.
7. Think Sequence
Keep your lists in a logical order, introducing and building on concepts as it develops. It’s kinda like when journalists interview a source. We always start with the “slow pitch.” The easy-to-answer questions help the source feel more comfortable and confident. We want to build a rapport and let the source’s nerves settle before asking tough questions. Let your reader settle into the topic before you throw them any curveballs.
8. Seek Help
Before I begin writing a list post, I consult various sources. These include:
- Lecture notes
- Blog posts I’ve saved for inspiration
- My social network
I do this until the information begins to overlap, and I think I understand the topic comprehensively enough to write.
Wrapping It Up
After I’ve written a list, I include suggestions for additions to my list in the call to action. I can use ideas people add on social media or in the comments when I update the post later or even in another list.
List posts are helpful to read and fun to write. They’re a great way to organize and share your thoughts on any topic.
What do you think? Do you like reading list posts? What about writing them? What advice would you give to bloggers writing lists?