When you write a blog post you’re ultimately hoping that it brings a flood of traffic to your site. Unfortunately most content you create doesn’t ever rank on Google. Yet there’s one type of content I’ve found that consistently generates results; list posts.
For one site I’m involved in seven out of the top 10 ranking articles on the site are list posts. The two most popular posts on the site, which both happen to be list posts, get me 500+ unique visitors a day from Google.
An article I published just the other day, which was a list of the 30+ best lifetime software deals on the net for bloggers and marketers, generated 111 clicks from Twitter on the day it was launched.
A big number considering I have a grand total of 4 Twitter followers…
I hope some of those examples have convinced you that list posts work. If you don’t want to take my word for it though, look at TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor rank in the top 5 for almost every location specific travel-related search term (for example “things to do in + almost anywhere”). Those rankings are worth a lot of money. The company has a market capitalisation of just over $8 billion.
Think about that!
A company that gets a huge chunk of its search traffic from list posts is worth $8+ billion. And they don’t even create the content themselves, the users do it for them :D
The reason that list posts work so well is that they offer a seemingly simple solution to a search problem. You click on a page and you get 10 – or whatever the number is – answers to your question.
So to help get you generate more traffic to your site here is a list of seven things to think about when writing a list post. This list includes tips on writing style, as well as the kind of content you should look to produce.
1. Solve A Problem Your Audience (doesn’t know it) Has
One reliable way to generate traffic from Google is to create a list post resource that people will naturally link to or share on social media. The best resources are for problems people know they have, but there’s nothing online that solves the problem.
These kinds of resources are difficult to create (because you need to find a gap in the market).
The best way to create these types of resources is to identify pain points in your industry that your customers, or competitors are facing. I’ll give you an example.
A couple of years ago CommentLuv was a popular plugin with bloggers. The reason for this is that anyone leaving a comment on your blog post got a backlink. When I was looking for blogs to leave a comment on, I would target blogs that have CommentLuv enabled.
Unfortunately there was no online resource that listed blogs with CommentLuv. I had to create my own list of suitable sites to target. I had a feeling that a lot of other bloggers were doing the same thing.
Now this term wasn’t generating any substantial traffic when I looked up the search volume on Google Adsense.
When I decided to share this list online though as a post the article was a hit.
It generated a lot of traffic, and allowed me to connect with influencers in the niche I was involved in. That’s a big win.
If you want to copy this, I recommend you use similar tactics to those outlined by Brian Dean of Backlinko; research questions that people have in your niche using forums like Quora, comments on blog posts etc. Then combine this with a bit of intuition, and knowledge of your niche.
I recommend you format your article following the steps outlined in this useful article, by Hunter Branch.
2. Publish an Expert Roundup
Expert roundups are used a lot by bloggers, and online marketers. There are a couple of obvious reasons for this;
- They are a good way to connect with influencers in your niche
- Influencers don’t need to put much work into creating content (it’s normally one or two paragraphs)
- You can leverage their social media connections to promote the content
It’s this combination of factors that make expert roundups so popular. And this format works across a number of different niches.
For example one of the best performing posts on the site Survey Post is an expert roundup from 22 influencers, including individuals who post on the Business2Community website, on the average cost per lead by industry.
This list post has links from 82 referring domains. According to Stefan Debois, the founder of the company, these links were generated organically.
This is a good example of how effective an expert roundup can be.
There’s a great article by Brian Lang, on SmartBlogger, on how to create an expert roundup. It’s one of those complete guides, so should give you all the answers you’re looking for on the topic.
If you are in a niche where expert roundups are rarely used your post should do really well. Keep in mind that some niches, particularly marketing, are saturated with expert roundups. In these kinds of niches it’s harder to get traction.
3. Create an Awards Campaign
An interesting variation of the expert roundup list post formula for the B2B marketplace is an awards campaign. This strategy involves ranking companies according to a set of parameters, and providing a prize to the winner.
TripAdvisor are a great example of a company that has successfully implemented this strategy across the hospitality and hotel sectors. Restaurants and hotels that are highly rated on TripAdvisor receive a commendation. This commendation is provided to businesses that then use the prize as a testimonial of quality.
Another company that has applied this strategy is G2. They are a site that reviews software. They created an awards campaign that ranked the best software companies in different niches.
You can see how companies that appear in the top 100 might use these awards.
There’s an interesting case study on the Buzzstream blog of how G2 used this same competition approach to compare the top 25 tech hubs in the US. This content marketing strategy resulted in a huge number of backlinks for the company.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of Controversy
If you plan to create content that gets clicks it’s worth thinking about injecting a little bit of controversy. One of the most successful list posts I’ve seen is an article by Fluent in 3 Months titled; 17 Cultural Clashes this European Had in America.
The article is a list of 17 criticisms about people from the USA, and is inherently controversial.
Unsurprisingly the content generated a lot of clicks.
It also generated a lot of backlinks. There are 178 referring domains. Rather more interestingly, the article had 157,000 views from StumbleUpon, 11k likes, and 1,700+ comments (before comments were removed from the site.
That is a lot of engagement from a list article.
Of course you don’t need to be as controversial as Benny to get clicks to your list post. Ryan Farley from Lawn Starter for example regularly gets success by writing posts that compare cities against each other on a wide range of gardening topics.
A rather amusing example of this is the ‘15 Best Cities for Observing Naked Gardening Day’ post, which generated 1,100+ shares on Facebook. This article is a good example of how to develop an interesting content marketing strategy that generates wide engagement, outside of the core marketplace.
5. Review the Competition
Before you start writing your article I recommend you review the competition to see what kind of content people have already posted for your keywords. This should be standard practice, but it’s especially important for list posts.
A list post offers the promise of an easy solution to a problem. Obviously the higher the number of things you offer, the greater the promise.
Check out the screenshot below that shows the results of a random Google search related to ‘content marketing’.
As you can see the list post with the highest number ranks higher.
While I haven’t ever done a statistical review, I’ve noticed that this happens a lot when you look at search results. As I mentioned earlier, the reason I believe this happens is that people think the article with the higher number has more value.
It would be great if someone with more time on their hands could test this assumption :-)
6. Be Careful Of Mega Lists
Now I know I said before that you should always outdo the competition, which is true. Just don’t go overboard.
For example, there are list posts that list 100+ different things.
The reason I suggest you don’t go overboard isn’t that this tactic doesn’t work. It can be hugely successful. For example the post by Backlinko on Google’s 200 Ranking Factors has generated 30,000+ shares on social media.
The problem with such long form content though is that people are unlikely to consume all of it. So if you do decide to go down the route of creating huge list posts, make sure you stack the best content at the beginning.
On one of the sites I’m involved in I use this tactic a lot.
For example if I list more than 20 things in a post, I normally start separate the list into two parts.
- The 10 most important things
- Other ideas to think about
This strategy helps signpost the user to the most important content, while providing additional material they might find interesting that will help your content rank. Keep this strategy in your back pocket when writing your own list posts.
7. Nail the Headline
If you want to get clicks to your article either through social media, or Google you need a good headline. It’s really important!
According to some studies 8 out of 10 people will only read the headline copy.
As I mentioned, using a numbered list post formula works really well for a headline. A few things to think about when coming up with a good formula for your list post include:
- Include the year: A great way to make your content look relevant and up to date is to include the year in the headline. You can do things like – Top 10 Content Marketing Trends for 2019
- Use Superlatives: Including words like ‘best, unusual, perfect’ help get clicks to your headlines. Packing superlatives together helps you create a clickbait headline – 3 Unusual Content Marketing Methods to Create the Best Headline Ever
- Be Explicit: People searching the internet are looking for answers. By ensuring your headline explicitly states what the reader will receive will help generate more clicks to your content
Of course these are just three tips. There are lots of great articles that cover how to write a great headline, that include plenty of examples, across the internet. If you’re looking for inspiration I suggest checking out this article on the OptinMonster blog.