Listicles are still known as one of the effective content types. In this post, you’ll learn why are listicles so effective and how you can create and use them to improve your content marketing strategy.
Trends in content marketing come and go. We may be producing nothing but infographics one year and working on in-depth how-tos the next. However, while content formats can be more or less in vogue at a certain point, just because they are no longer fashionable doesn’t mean they don’t still work.
The same is the case with the listicle. Once so popular that everyone seemed to be doing them, today it has reverted to a more varied use. But it remains a fun and engaging way to structure your content and share information.
Let’s explore its effectiveness, and then we’ll dive into the best ways to use it.
They are Easy to Read
Online readers love to skim articles, as opposed to reading them word for word. That’s especially when they are scrolling from their phones. This makes the listicle an ideal format for skimmers.
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Look at it as a condensed format that allows you to share just as much information as a blog post. You’ll agree that its appeal becomes evident.
They Are Easy to Digest
Whereas blog posts can run on and on about a point, that is certainly not the case with the listicle. They are snappy and to the point, which means all of the information they share comes in bite-sized chunks. This makes them much easier to get through, and they won’t feel as much of a chore as full-length posts.
They Can Teach You a Lot
Like many people, you might associate listicles with the Buzzfeed brand of humor. Nonetheless, they are great for packing a lot of important or valuable information into a condensed and more appealing format. For instance, a post along the lines of “42 ways to save the planet from your living room” can be just as actionable as a piece titled “How you can start living a more eco-friendly life today.”
They Are Highly Visual
Listicles often come with a lot of images, which is great for grabbing your audience’s attention. But even if you don’t add an image to every entry, they’re still formatted much better than regular blog posts.
First, there are the numbers. They make orientation easier, and you have an exact sense of much there is to go. And second, the use of bold and italics, as well as the shorter sentences with plenty of white space left are the kind of content users like to see.
Finally, listicles are also very sharable, so you’ll often find them in group chats and on social media. That’s precisely because they tend to be so fun and engaging. They’re fantastic for conveying interesting, entertaining, or highly useful information in an appealing format. We hate to bring up Buzzfeed again, but they’ve built an entire empire around this content format. It clearly works.
Now, let’s look at the best ways to create and use listicles!
Ensure Your Topic is List Worthy
First of all, you need to make sure that the topic you are choosing is suitable for a listicle.
Can you actually provide a list of key points? For example, this post could easily have been turned into a listicle about the X things you need to do to create share-worthy listicles. But we thought that might be a bit of an overkill.
The topics that usually lend themselves to listicles well are either entertaining, somewhat surprising, or have that engaging twist on a familiar topic that will make a reader want to click. But they can even be borderline boring, in fact. In that case, the listicle format is what makes them digestible in the first place.
Choose the Best Title
Your titles certainly need to be engaging and provide that twist, but they should be as far removed from clickbait as possible for a listicle. There are people out there who will refuse to read an article, even if it’s incredibly good, precisely because the title sounds too clickbaity.
The title should feature a compelling reason to read the post and use power words that convey its value. It should also feature the main terms that can sum up all your points. Bear in mind that these are not necessarily the keywords you want the post to rank for.
You might start off with a title like “21 project management tools to try in 2021” and end up with something like “21 tools that will allow you to sleep in on weekdays in 2021”. You get the idea.
Use the Right Keywords
Listicles also need to be backed up with keyword research, just like any other piece of content. And like you have just seen from the title example above, you don’t have to start with any specifically creative ideas. Know the general subject you want to write about, so look into the keywords that best describe it.
Once you’ve identified the main keyword, you can look for similar terms or terms that have a high search volume or that boast a lot of traffic to the top-ranking posts that you can feature on your list. If we were to take our above example, perhaps there is a project management tool people are searching for that you can rank for in the second spot?
Decide on the Right Visuals and Formatting
Once you have your topic and main list elements down, you need to decide on the formatting.
This will entirely depend on your topic.
Maybe the best format is to just stick to the list, without any added images? This list of essential pantry items is nothing more than a list, but this is what best works for the topic. You don’t need to explain what salt and pepper are and why it’s good to have them in your pantry.
On the other hand, maybe you want to add some images that showcase how certain things can be done or what certain items look like? This pasta hacks list works much better with all the varied images. True, they could have been a bit smaller, but the visuals certainly add to the post and help the readers understand what it is they need to be doing better.
You can throw in a couple of images, do your own illustrations, embed videos, and so on. Whatever works for the audience and the topic at hand. You can test several different formats with different listicles and find the one that works best for your audience.
Have a Table of Contents
Even though it may seem that a table of contents in a listicle just gives the entire show away, it’s still better to have one than to choose to omit it.
True, it means readers can just read the table of contents and click off without scrolling any further. However, if you have done your research right and have managed to align your topic with your readers’ search intent, they are much more likely to stick around.
On the other hand, if you have a 40+ entry listicle without a table of contents, they may get fed up with scrolling and miss out on some key points.
Something very simple, like in this marketing courses wrap-up post, will work fine.
Plus, it will also make the entries clickable, meaning users can jump between the facts they find most interesting.
Create a Master Listicle
A popular listicle format is what we have chosen to call a master listicle. This is essentially a roundup post of all the other posts you have on a specific topic, linking out to all of them from one master article.
Here’s a listicle on Starbucks recipes. It features some very appetizing images and gives a brief overview of each recipe, but you have to go to a different page on the same blog to get it.
This is an excellent way to hook readers who might be interested in the master topic and get them to visit different pages on your blog they would find interesting. This works incredibly well for food blogs, but you can find umbrella topics in most other industries as well.
These posts will also be easier to rank, and they’ll trickle that SEO value down to all the other posts they’re rounding up.
Choose the Right Tone
It should go without saying that the tone of voice of the listicle should be in line with both your brand and the tone that appeals to your target audience. Naturally, it should be appropriate for the topic as well.
You may be able to get away with a hilarious post on the “X reasons to get health insurance”, if that’s the usual style of your brand. If you are solemn and professional at all times, you might want to consider your audience’s reaction.
However, do bear in mind the goal of the listicle: shareability, entertainment, and value in digestible formats. You can’t use run-on sentences and make the post completely devoid of character if you hope for it to be successful.
Add to the Conversation
Another incredibly important point to remember is that you can’t just create an amalgamation of all the other listicle posts that have already been published on the subject (or at least the top 5).
Of course, it would be perfectly easy to just read through what others have done and turn their 10 tips and 8 tips and 12 tips on a certain subject into an “18 tips” kind of post. But what is true in every other format of content marketing is true here: you need to be adding value, and not regurgitating others’ work.
You don’t have to come up with something no one else has said before. In fact, that might even be impossible. What you can do is offer a new take on a familiar topic. You can illustrate the points with different examples. You can speak from personal experience. You can add new research to the topic.
Here’s a Harry Potter listicle from Buzzfeed (because how could we do a post about listicles without mentioning Buzzfeed as an example?). What makes it unique is the specific angle it chooses to adopt.
If you have chosen your topic well, you should be able to add to the conversation relatively easily.
Link to Reliable Sources
Just like you would with any other piece of content, you should be linking out to relevant research, data, stats, or other valuable resources from the post.
However, when it comes to listicles, there is another reason to rely on sources: word count.
You don’t want to go too in-depth with your entries, especially if there are 20+ of them. Instead, what you would normally stick around and explain, you can now just link out to. If you can provide an internal link, that would be amazing, but if not, make sure you find a decent resource that covers the topic well.
Try to gauge your audience’s level of knowledge (and it always helps if you know who you are writing for). Maybe they are perfectly comfortable with more complex terms already?
Use Examples to Illustrate Your Points
Finally, you want the listicle to feature some personal and illustrative examples. Just like we’ve peppered plenty of examples through this post, you want to add your own to ensure your audience understands what you had in mind very clearly.
Personal examples are also a great way to connect with your audience. They will show you’re not just a faceless brand but that you have funny anecdotes to recount as well.
So, as our final example, here is this Hubspot number on team building games. You’ll find that some of the points have reached for the Hubspot team’s own experiences with playing them.
Listicles can be a fun, engaging, and very compact way to share information with your audience. They allow you to transfer knowledge and expertise in a format that is much less boring than the regular blog post. Just bear some of these tips in mind when composing yours, and you should see that valuable traffic pouring in.