One of my friends recently posted this on Facebook:
Dear Internet, I am really getting tired of roundups and top ## lists. What happened to good content and well-written copy? Personally, I am going to try and not click on any roundups or top ## lists for at least a month. It’s like a diet, but instead of counting calories I am reducing the amount of crap I read!
If you blog, chances are you’ve been told that you should write list posts. Just about every blogger uses this popular post format – myself included. However, my friend’s rant prompted me to delve deeper into this issue.
Although ‘roundups’ and ‘top ## lists’ are different, they are both lists, so I’ll refer to them as ‘list posts’ throughout the rest of this article.
Do List Posts Work?
We are often told that titles containing numerals get more clicks and readers. This is because eye tracking studies have shown that the eye is drawn to numerals.
Go to any popular blog and look at their ‘most popular’ or ‘trending’ posts. Chances are you’ll find lots of list posts. I reviewed the following blogs and saw that list posts figured heavily in their top posts of 2012:
- Hubspot’s 10 Hottest Marketing Blog Posts of 2012
- Best of MarketingProfs 2012
- Best of Copyblogger 2012
Even my Fresh Marketing Blog had a number of list posts in my best of 2012.
If They Work, Then What’s the Problem?
List posts can bring you more readers and well-written ones can help your marketing efforts. However, many list posts lure in readers with clever titles but fail to provide valuable content in the rest of the post.
Here are three common problems with list posts:
1. They aren’t credible.
Many bloggers write list posts, because they are a quick and easy way to get content on their blogs. However, they often sacrifice quality for quantity when they do this. For example, bloggers may put together a list but fail to explain why each tip is important.
When writing list posts, be sure to back up your tips with research, statistics or stories to give your content credibility. Many of the blogs that I write for have been asking their contributors for more examples, as their audiences want real-world cases. For example, if you’re providing a list of tips on how to improve your cyber security, cite examples from companies that have put these tips into practice. You can even add pictures, screenshots, charts and videos to help your points stick.
2. They don’t provide new content.
Many bloggers put together resource posts, where they pick a topic and link to a bunch of articles about the topic. These articles may be on their blogs or on third-party blogs.
Resource posts can be a great way to bring visitors to your blog and improve your SEO rankings for your keywords. If you’re linking to third-party blogs, they can also help you build relationships with other bloggers.
However, proceed with caution. Your audience might appreciate having all of the resources for a broad topic in one place, so they can save it and refer back to it. However, they might also get overwhelmed if they go to your blog post expecting to learn something but then see that they have to read 10 other articles to do so.
3. They are generic.
One of the hardest things about blogging is finding new angles on popular topics. This is why many list posts sound the same. However, infusing your posts with your unique voice and insights can make them much more compelling.
One way to do this is by tailoring your topic for your audience. For example, there may be a thousand posts on getting the most out of your contact management software. However, you won’t find nearly as many posts on how finance professionals can use contact management software to improve customer relationships. Tailoring the post can help you better engage your audience.
I’m not saying that you should stop writing list posts. A compelling list post can bring you more readers – which can lead to more opt-ins and greater conversions. Just make sure that you take the time to craft posts that your audience will find valuable.
What about you? Are you tired of list posts? Please share your thoughts below.