Top 5 Reasons Why List Posts Work

As much as we all hate to admit it, if you really want to grab some attention and get new eyes on your pages, list posts are an incredible way to increase traffic to your blog. There is a reason that every year Road and Track runs their Top 10’s. It is consistently their best selling issue all year long (every year) as they nail down what they thought the best was in each car obsessed category. With this kind of success on and off line, if you are not preparing a list post for your blog…you are missing out on one of the biggest way to attract new subscribers. But…why is that?!

Top 5 Reasons Why List Posts Work

In true list post fashion, here are the top 5 reasons why list posts work. You didn’t actually think you were going to get through a post about lists without one embedded in did you?!

#1 – Easy To Digest Information

You have probably heard this theory until you are blue in the face, but your readers want to be able to digest your information quickly and easily. That is why we use short paragraphs, title tags, bolds and italics…so the scanners out there can use the scroll wheel and still absorb your content. Lists posts are the ultimate “quick read” for blog readers. They can quickly scan down the list and see the meat and potatoes of your article right away. For this reason, list posts are great for both the scanner and the “I have to dive deeper” reader that want to soak up all that is good on your blog.

The easier to digest your words are…the more people you will have taking it in…that is a simple fact in blogging.

#2 – Goes Viral Quickly And Easily

List posts tend to go viral for two different reasons.

  1. They are easy to digest and spread (see #1).
  2. If the person is in your list (or their product/service), then they are more likely to spread it for you.

List posts are one of the most common forms of traffic generation in blogging. Why do you think all of those bloggers are making their “Top 50 Bloggers” lists? They are compiling what they believe to be top quality content, but they are also banking on the fact that at least some of those bloggers in the list are going to want to spread the article as well.

Now…before you start thinking that this only works in the blogging/MMO niche, think about this. When you make a Top 10/25/50/whatever number you choose list of products, don’t you think the manufacturer would want to spread the word? What about your readers that have a favorite product that made #1 on your list? You are validating feelings and that spreads your article quickly. When you start thinking about what list you want to put together, think of Road and Track or some other product based niche and start to get the wheels turning outside of the blogging/MMO niche.

#3 – People Like To See Things Ranked

David Letterman has done an incredible job at attracting new viewers to his late night show through his nightly “Top 10” list. Why does this work so well? People inherently like to see things ranked (and be entertained through humor in Letterman’s case). How many times during the day have you thought, “great…but how does this compare to this?” When you are looking to make buying decisions, you want to know how competing products or services relate to each other. Well…guess what?! So do your readers.

List posts are an incredible way to show ranking amongst products, services or people within your niche. Your readers are yearning for this ranking and by giving it to them, you become a more valuable resource within your niche. List posts are just another notch in your belt in your quest to position yourself as the expert in your field.

#4 – List Posts Have A Defined Purpose

The title of a list post tells you exactly what to expect in the article. With this defined purpose, you are more likely to grab some attention in that long RSS list of your readers. You have picked a topic that your readers will be interested in and now your list post stands out amongst the massive “to read” list of the day. List posts typically perform very well within your current subscriber base for this very reason.

#5 – Everyone Is A Critic

List posts in the blogging world are 100% personal opinion. What do people love to do when you give your opinion?! Give theirs! One of the things that I find hilarious in the blogging world is that readers who want to shoot down your opinions are…in effect…just increasing your traffic and comments. List posts are the most common form of blog article that generates the most controversy. Because of that controversy, your blog will spread in a positive way since you did not start the argument (in other words…the list post was not a rant or flaming post).

By feeding off the need of certain people to criticize, you can strategically grow your blog at the same time.

Start Writing Your List Post Today

Find something your readers are passionate about and write up a list post. Try to think a little bit outside of the box and come to table with something new that will generate feeling amongst your readers. While it may seem like a lot of work to put together, list posts (love them or hate them) are still the #1 way to get your words to spread so you can pick up new readers and subscribers to your blog.

Have you done a list post lately?

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Jean Sarauer May 10, 2010 - 7:51 am
I try to mix a list post in every couple of weeks or so. They seem to generate a lot of comments on the blog, and I have fun writing them too.
Robb Sutton May 10, 2010 - 4:33 pm
They are great conversation starters. Especially if you touch on reason #5...
Edward May 10, 2010 - 8:17 am
List posts are easy to make and I like to read them myself. That's why I make them whenever the topic allows that form of post.
Jewelry Secrets May 10, 2010 - 8:21 am
I often mix lists in with my niche. "10 Worst Diamond Inclusions" lol Mine never go viral, but I get great search engine traffic from it. :)
Robb Sutton May 10, 2010 - 4:34 pm
That is a great point. List posts also tend to be very keyword/search engine friendly, so they pay for themselves over time as well.
Mike May 10, 2010 - 10:41 am
Funny. I have one scheduled to go out tomorrow... I live by this rule..."People don't read paragraphs, but they will read a list of 10 things" Its true. If I can scan a list and find a point to start I will. If I see a set of paragraphs with no subheadings, I usually scan the paragraph or move on.
Robb Sutton May 10, 2010 - 4:35 pm
The easier you can make your content to section off...the more people will engage with your content. I always laugh when I see bloggers with really long, blocked paragraphs...and then they wonder why no one sticks around.
Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey May 10, 2010 - 11:42 am
List post are very informative and they map out the whole idea in a way that has take away value. I agree what you said, they are easy to digest. Thanks for sharing!!
Curtis Chappell May 10, 2010 - 6:27 pm
Robb, Here are 5 Reasons to Leave Compelling and Appropriate Comments 1. Get the Attention of the Blogger 2. Receive Links Back to Your Site 3. Promote Yourself and Your Abilities 4. Generate Further Discussion on the Blog 5. Step Out from Behind the 85% of Readers Who Lurk These 5 reasons for leaving compelling comments are just the tip of the iceberg...but certainly are helping my readership to grow...cheers for your inspiration and tenacious posting! Write On!
alex May 11, 2010 - 6:04 pm
Great post Robb and so true! Lists break up the monotony of that huge chunk of text that can put off a lot of readers too, but point no 3 and 5 are the most poignant and they also interlink somewhat. If I can see a list ranking something, AND there is a bit of personal opinion injected in, chances are more likely that I will comment Here's my reason why this post is so good: 1: it is in a list format 2: I just wanted a list of my own in the comments section
Joe Boyle May 11, 2010 - 9:46 pm
List posts are great because they are EASY to get the INFORMATION from. I really don't have time to sit there and read 10 articles that are 500-1000 words long, so instead, I can look at the list, pick out anything I think is interesting, and just read that. I am sure many bloggers feel the same way.
Samuel May 18, 2010 - 12:05 am
All the major tech sites and social media sites use list posts. We can even go offline and look at some magazines that do it ( i.e Forbes list, Entrepreneur Magazine, etc).
lorrie May 18, 2010 - 4:34 pm
thanks for this great idea i might do a list of 40 things to do before I turn 40 or some other list
Brandon Connell May 21, 2010 - 1:55 pm
It has something to do with how the eyes hit the words. The layout structure of lists keep you engaged rather than the large paragraph type posts. If books were printed in the format of lists, I would probably read more often.
Tushar May 23, 2010 - 2:01 am
they are very specific....readers know what to expect from the post....
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