5 Reasons to Use List Posts on Your Blog: An Experiment for the Month of May

by Ken Mueller on May 1, 2013 · 18 comments

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5NumberFiveInCircle 300x300 5 Reasons to Use List Posts on Your Blog: An Experiment for the Month of MayThe month of May is going to be an experimental month here on the blog. It is the fifth month, and of course some of you will be making a big deal about the fifth day of the fifth month, or Cinco de Mayo. Well, for the reasons I list below, I’m doing an experiment. Every post this month will be a list of five thing. Five tips, five ideas, five reasons, five this, five that. A gimmick? Perhaps. But I want to play around a bit and see how this works. Read on for more.

I love list posts. But I used to hate them. When I first started blogging, I avoided them like the plague, even though all the books and articles I read about blogging told me how wonderful they were. Finally, I gave in and decided to give them a try, and wouldn’t you know, they were right! And to this day, list posts tend to be among my most popular posts on the blog.

List posts are big in the world of social media and online marketing, but they are also met with a lot of scorn and derision from purists and those who feel that lists aren’t intellectual enough. I used to think that way, but lists actually have culture and history on their side. In an interview with Der Spiegel a few years back, semiotician/author/philosopher Umberto Eco was discussing his book, The Infinity of Lists, and discussed the importance of lists in our lives and culture:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.

The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists.

…in cultural history, the list has prevailed over and over again. It is by no means merely an expression of primitive cultures…the list is certainly prevalent in the postmodern age. It has an irresistible magic.

Lists are a part of our culture. We all make lists, whether they be lists of our favorite books or songs, or even something as simple as grocery lists or to-do lists. Lists help us keep track of things and organize our lives. They bring order to our lives and help us focus on what is really important.

In the world of blogging, they can be incredibly helpful as we seek to explain and communicate. Here are 5 reasons I like to use lists on my blog as I seek to educate and inform others on the topics of social media and marketing:

1. They drive traffic

List posts draw people in. The title is enough to entice people in, while setting expectations about what they will be finding. If the title of a post is, “7 Ways to Use Vinegar to Clean Your Home,” the reader knows exactly what they are getting. There are no surprises because the titles tend to be more utilitarian and less literary. When they read the title, they know right up front whether they want to click or not. No matter what, when I look at the traffic on my site, the posts that generally do the best are the ones with numbered lists in the title.

2. They work well with how we read

Sadly, we are losing the art of reading. At least long-form reading. I know that when I’m online and perusing blog posts, I tend to scan. I look for certain words that grab my attention, based on what I expect to find. We scan; we skim. And a nice list separated by numbered headlines or bullet points makes it easier on the reader. And with the rapid growth of mobile technology, this is becoming even more true. When reading a post on a small device, it is much easier to read a list than it is straight text in narrative form.

3. They are built for SEO

List posts tend to be easier to structure for search engine optimization using keywords and various H1, H2, H3, etc. headers. Plus, since they drive traffic, they are more likely to get inbound links. In short, they offer everything that Google wants. That isn’t to say that other types of posts don’t, but it tends to be easier to optimize a list post.

4. They are easier to write

When writing a list post, it’s easier to organize your thoughts in a meaningful way, while avoiding the rambling that can occur from normal narrative writing. Think of it as writing an outline before you write a paper…and then never writing the actual paper. It’s a skeleton on which you can put as much flesh as you want. I’ll admit that when I sit down to write a list post, I generally don’t even have a number in mind. I might start with “7 Tips” and as I write, two more tips come to mind, upping the number to 9. In fact, as I write this post, I keep thinking of more points, but rather than go beyond my goal of five, I’ve decided to try and combine thoughts and make more generalized points. So to that end, the number that you use is purely arbitrary, depending on how broad or focused you would like to get.

5. They are easier to use and remember

Have you ever tried to describe a blog post to someone when it is written in a more narrative form? Sure, it can be done, but it’s not always easy to get to the heart of what is being conveyed by the writer. But if the post is a list, it’s easier to remember and tell your friends,

“Hey, I saw this post with 5 ways to….”

And then rattle off the five points from the post. They are easily actionable because they are easy to remember. This is one of the reasons why we write recipes the way we do. They are easier to follow. And if lists are easier to read and remember, they will also get shared more often, as people find them useful.

Coming up Fives

So now, for the rest of the month of May, all of my posts (at least the ones on weekdays) will be lists of five. Some will be original to me, some will be guest posts. In a few cases, I might take an older narrative post and convert that content into a list of five things. Even my non-marketing posts for the Friday Blogging Experience will be lists of five. In fact, if you’d like to contribute to this month’s experiment with a list of five, let me know in the comments and we can chat about what works, and I’ll share the results of this month-long experiment with you sometime in June.

And if you’re curious, here are a few of the most popular list posts I’ve had here on the site:

18 Mistakes Businesses Make on Twitter

10 Mistakes Businesses Make on Facebook

12 Tips on Promoting your Events

4 Important Elements of Every Blog Post

Do you keep lists? How have you used lists on your blog?

 5 Reasons to Use List Posts on Your Blog: An Experiment for the Month of May
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11 comments
Patrick McNease
Patrick McNease

List posts are great especially if your list post is niche specific. A majority of my popular posts are list posts. I compiled lists of blogs, hip-hop artists, marketing masterminds and more. Thank you for this informative post.

dbvickery
dbvickery

You lost me at Cinco de Mayo. We literally took that little event and spread it between about Tres de Mayo...to about Quatro de Julio. Heck of a year, that one!

Good luck w/the list posts. Bite sized chunks do work well for skimming and still getting the message, and those handy little bites are perfect H2 tag candidates.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I would provide you with 69 reasons why I don't like list posts but I just don't have the time. They are easy to write and read so I appreciate that.

And I have had success with them, so I suppose that my dislike is sort of like cutting my nose to spite my face, but I am not a fan of doing things that feed the instant gratification society that hates to read more than 5 words.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Great idea for a theme Ken. Here are my top 5 reasons why I like this post:

1. It offers practical advice 
2. It's easy to read, and provides actionable information
3. List posts took you outside your box. We all need more of that.
4. The post spurs ideas, and helps get the creative juices flowing
5. There are links to previous List posts you have written that I didn't know about which could be helpful to me

Thought the least I could do was reciprocate this great post with a list response!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I agree with you to a degree. I hate feeding into that as well, but on the other hand, I know when I'm looking for information on how to do something, etc, I hate having to read through a lot of other stuff to find the meat of what I'm looking for. We're all pressed for time. I think it also comes down to understanding that what I'm writing here is not literature. It's not an academic paper. That's not my audience, so I want to make sure my audience (people who own and operate small businesses or nonprofits), who is strapped for time, gets what they need in an easily digestible way. And as Eco points out, literature itself is filled with lists. This is nothing new.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@John_Trader1 haha. nice! thanks, John. And perhaps you have a list of 5 that could be written in a guest post for my little experiment this month, eh?

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@KenMueller I'd love to write something for you in the future Ken. Let me reassess my commitments for this month and see if I will have time to write something for you.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] another remarkable confluence of the Friday Blogging Experience and my month of May experiment with list posts. Today’s guest post comes from my friend LauraEllen [...]

  2. [...] 5 Reasons to Use List Posts on Your Blog: An Experiment for the Month of May (inklingmedia.net) [...]

  3. [...] my month of experimenting with list posts draws to a close, I find myself thinking about blogging and all the work I put into it. I think [...]

  4. [...] 5 Reasons to Use List Posts on Your Blog: An Experiment for the Month of May (inklingmedia.net) [...]

  5. [...] to find all of the information we needed right when we needed it. Isn’t that the way it goes? Blog posts are a great help for promoting your products and services, but lists are the way to go for sure. In [...]

  6. […] Media legt uit waarom lijstjes zorgen voor traffic. De reden dat ik een lijstje heb gemaakt. […]

  7. […] some reason, people love list posts. Five of this, seven of that. I think it’s because it manages our expectations. We know […]

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