As saturated as the web is with list posts today, for most of us lists still hold great value. As business bloggers, lists help us organize our thoughts and get them on paper. For our readers, lists are a predictable and enjoyable way to learn and gather information.
Doug Kessler sums it up beautifully in this tweet from the Content Marketing World Twitter chat (#CMWorld):
A2: Headlines with numbers (7 Ways…) signal important things: utility, a quick read and some structure. Readers like these! #CMWorld
— Doug Kessler (@dougkessler) April 21, 2015
(I compiled 10 key benefits of lists for both bloggers and readers in my own list post back in 2011. See The Top 10 Reasons We Love Lists.)
What about the people who hate lists?
As helpful as I think list posts are to both readers and writers, Kaleigh Moore thinks they’ve outlived their usefulness. She writes, “The trouble with these [top 10] posts is that they strive for quantity—not quality—by providing only surface level information rather than taking a deep dive into one particular point.”
Yet that’s exactly why I recommend new bloggers start with top 10 posts. Instead of facing a blank page with the pressure to astound the world with your brilliance, you can break down your years of experience into some quick, bite-sized tips that will really help someone who’s a beginner to the topic. And these surface-level posts are less intimidating for you to write.
When I’m taking a few minutes to read an article online, I’m not looking for earth-shattering insights or a deep dive lesson that requires a big investment to read and implement.
For me, sometimes those 10 points in someone else’s article are just what I need to validate something I already know, remind me to practice something I used to do but got away from, or reinforce my trust in a prospective service provider.
For one attendee of my recent “How to Write Your First Four Blog Posts” presentation at The Creative Space, list posts are a big turn-off. She said there are so many list posts online today they’ve completely lost any meaning or appeal.
I reassured her that if you hate lists, you don’t have to write list posts! You won’t feel good about it and that will come through to your reader. But you can still use the structure of a list to focus your thoughts and move the writing process along.
Popular personal finance blogger Trent Hamm says he starts every post as a list, even though he doesn’t necessarily present the ideas that way. After identifying the questions people are asking about his topic, he says, “I try to make a big long list of potential solutions to the problem. From there, I’ll start winnowing the list.”
Writing your list
When you’re stuck about what to write or concerned about staying on track, block your concepts into numbered points or sections, and keep these three things in mind:
- Use sub-headings and/or list titles to distinguish each separate point and help your reader navigate the page.
- Limit each section or list item to one point.
- Make sure every point delivers on the promise of your article’s title.
If you’re a more advanced writer, or you’ve been blogging for business for several years, by all means you can challenge yourself with Kaleigh’s blog post format ideas. But if you’re just starting out or you’re struggling to keep blogging week after week, stick with what works – and list posts work!