Marketing November 23, 2016 Last updated November 22nd, 2016 2,652 Reads share

6 Tips to Writing Killer Listicles

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In an effort to continually come up with interesting blog posts that your audience will click, read, and share, you probably have looked at varying up the style of content you produce. Not every post needs to be 1,000 words of paragraph after paragraph of text. In my next few posts here on Tweak Your Biz, I’ll cover a few different styles of blog posts that will mix up what you offer and help you continually appeal to your audience.

Class, today’s lesson will be on listicles.

What is a Listicle and Why Does it Work?

You’ve likely read several listicles online, especially if you’re a fan of Buzzfeed. These posts, like this very post, include a — wait for it — list of tips, suggestions, ideas, et cetera. So rather than writing paragraph after paragraph to put your readers to sleep, you’re telling them exactly what they’ll get (“6 Tips”) and then delivering 6 points succinctly.

People like knowing what they’re getting into before they start reading. If you promise 6 points, they know that they’re going to get 6 points, not 45. Not 3,000 words (likely). The listicle appeals to people who are looking for multiple solutions or ideas on a given subject.

I’ll give you an example. Recently I was looking for a way to cook chuck steak, so I Googled “how to cook chuck steak.”

Of all the results below, guess which one I clicked?

Okay, admittedly I clicked on a few of the results, but the first one I chose was the “100+ Chuck Steak Recipes on Pinterest.”

100 recipes! I’d be spoiled for choice! I liked the fact that it told me how many (minimum) solutions to my problem the link would provide me. The title pulled me in. Conversely, the top result (not shown here) with its title “Different Ways of Cooking Chuck Steak” was less appealing. How many different ways? Could be two. Could be a thousand. Not specific enough.

So that’s how a listicle works. Now let’s look at writing them.

#1. Start With What You Want to Cover

You’ve got your topic, right? Let’s say you want to write about moss. There are a few directions you can go with your listicle. You could make it a comprehensive study of the topic, like “10 Types of Moss Found in the Pacific Northwest.” Or make it a step-by-step tutorial: “5 Steps to Caring for Your New Moss Friend.”

You could create a post on interesting facts about moss: “7 Things You Thought You Knew About Moss (But Were Terribly Wrong About).”

Or you could provide tips: “6 Unique Ways to Decorate Your Home with Moss.”

As you can see, no two listicles are the same. You can tackle the same topic in a variety of ways, as long as it’s engaging your audience.

#2. Build Your List

I like to leave the number part out of my title until I see how many points I can come up with. So in this brainstorming stage, just list out the numbered points you want to include. If you have a specific word count you’re trying to hit, you can go one of two ways with the points: you can have fewer points but write longer content under each one, or you can include lots of points with just a sentence or two under each.

For a post here on Tweak Your Biz, which tend to be 1,000+ words, I often include 10 points, with about 100 words each.

Everyone’s got a different philosophy about how many points you should have in a listicle. I’ve heard it’s better to do an odd number like 7 rather than the 10 that everyone uses. I don’t know. I think 10 is a nice, wholesome number that makes people comfortable. I encourage you to play around with your number of points and see which do better.

#3. Fill Out the Details

Once you have your points, it’s smooth sailing to flesh them out. Give plenty of value under each point. If you can come up with examples to illustrate your point, so much the better. So for your mossy decor post, you could say “Moss can add an element of nature to your next dinner party. Check out this moss centerpiece on for inspiration.”

(This whole moss example is sending me into a black hole of moss decorating information. I know what my next crafting project is!)

Find links that are relevant to your points, but make sure you set them up to open in a new window so people can click them to read after they’re done with your listicle. Never lead them away from your site while they’re reading your content!

#4. Enhance with Photos

High-quality images are essential for any blog post, and listicles are no exception. You can include one per point, or pepper them throughout less frequently.

I’m not a huge user of GIFs, mainly because I am too lazy to create them, but also because it’s murky water on whether it’s copyright infringement to use them. But many listicles, particularly of the Buzzfeed variety, use these animated images to enhance the content. They can be fun, sure, but proceed with caution. Just like we started seeing the FCC digitally slap people who used licensed images without permission, I suspect we will soon see the same for GIFs.

Instead, use Creative Commons images that are free for anyone to use. Or if your image needs are high, the way they are for my marketing firm, shell out a few hundred a year for a photo subscription service.

#5. Release it Into the Wild

Your little listicle baby is ready for the world! Publish it like you do all your blog content and pay attention to results. Did more people than normal click links from your social media profiles to read it? Did it get shared a lot? Measuring analytics for this post will give you insight on whether you should regularly include a listicle in your blog content lineup.

#6. Pimp Out Your Listicle

But wait! There’s more! Your listicle is a great jumping off point for future content. Let’s say you published “6 Unique Ways to Decorate Your Home with Moss” and it was a hit. You could turn that into 6 more posts, each diving further into each decorating idea. You know the topics will resonate with your audience, and you make it easier for yourself by not having to strain a muscle to come up with new topics. Win win.

Listicles are a great break from the norm when it comes to diversifying your blog content. Have fun with them!

Image: Author’s Own

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

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