5 top tips for writing blog lists – or listicles!

Jul 26 2018

The internet is packed with lists of bite-sized chunks of information that are simplistic clickbait designed to boost traffic, but a well-designed list of great content is a fantastic way to communicate.

From the Ten Commandments to Buzzfeed’s mind-boggling list frenzy, human history is filled with lists that have a fantastic capacity to grab and then focus our attention. Humans, it seems, are hard-wired to engage with lists and that means they are an excellent content marketing tool.

Listicles – articles in list form – are effective as they deliver information the way our brains like to process it. Todd Essig, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who writes for Forbes, sums up how easy they are to digest: “They comfort and soothe with neither challenge nor commitment.”

They are also very efficient, allowing us to gather information rapidly, which is a huge benefit in our hectic, digital world – especially as, according to a Microsoft survey, the average human attention span fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2016. “Many are overwhelmed and overburdened these days,” Essig adds. “The only solutions considered viable are ones that don’t stretch the already over-stretched. Wanting a simple solution makes sense. And that’s where listicles come in.”

The listicle, then, has power. A trusted and thought-provoking list will be shared and can boost brand awareness; a bland and unconvincing list, however, can undermine trust and damage a brand. We think well-planned and delivered lists can play a valuable role in your blogging strategy. Here are five tips on how to create a listicle that is liked and shared by your target audience.

  1. The voice

Setting the tone of your listicle is essential as it will not only help communicate your brand’s values but also helps you to choose and then talk about each piece of content in the most effective way. A financial company may deal on a regular basis with vast amounts of nuts and bolts information, but that doesn’t mean its voice needs to be grey. It should still be compelling – humorous, even, once authority is built – and supported with in-depth knowledge and lively anecdotes. Consistency is also beneficial. You are building long-term relationships and success relies on building trust.

  1. The headline

A punchy headline is vital for success. A number helps as it stands out against a sea of letters, but it is also essential to find a balance between making interesting claims and managing expectations. The headline “10 amazing facts about cryptocurrencies” has to have 10 amazing facts about cryptocurrencies. If not, it fails. “10 Things you didn’t know about cryptocurrencies” is more intriguing and easier to support. “Everyone knows that a headline determines how many people will read a piece, particularly in this era of social media,” Maria Konnikova wrote in the New Yorker. “But, more interesting, a headline changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it.” It’s wonderful to be taken on a journey of discovery when reading a blog, but very frustrating to have out time wasted by gung-ho headlines that disappoint.

  1. The structure  

As we often skim read when we are online, lists are perfect as they’re a series of definable content types – headline, subhead and information nugget. Each has a role to play in presenting information in a clear way. Everything is discrete. However, it is best to ensure the list remains readable. A great GIF or well-designed infographic can help, but too many large images may disrupt the flow and the, well, “listiness”. So it is valuable to think about the points you are making and how best to support them with other media. How best can you tell your story to your audience? The balance of words, images, video and audio you choose will also help tell your brand story. If in doubt, keep it short, keep it sweet and keep it simple.

  1. The authority

Lists are also popular as they are a quick way for us to gather information that has already been researched and curated – ideally – by an authority in the field. Many of our clients are specialist with the in-depth knowledge their potential clients would like to read about. So producing a list on a topic related to their commercial activities is an excellent way to show authority while also introducing information about their products or services. It’s a classic win-win. However, once again, there is a balance to be achieved. Is this a product-heavy sales-driven list or a content-driven list with information designed to be shared? As part of your content strategy, we believe the latter is a powerful way to get your story across, to build authority… and then make sales.

  1. The opinions

Lists can deliver valuable information. They can also promote positive debate by including considered and interesting views. Given one of the prime objectives of blogging is to engage readers and then encourage them to interact in some way, strong opinions are highly valuable. You want readers to share the article and perhaps comment. Readers can agree to agree or agree to disagree – both are beneficial as long as the opinions themselves are valid and supportable. Being controversial for the sake of it, however, is risky.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating – and you have made it to the end of our list! They are not only readable and shareable but very efficient for a variety of other reason. They drive traffic and hits and are excellent for search engine optimisation as keywords can easily be integrated into a relevant theme. If you are interested in discussing your content strategy please contact us. Our team would love to talk to you.

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