A lot of smart writers can’t stand list posts.
What’s a list post? It’s also known as a numbered list post, or a (shudder) listicle, and it’s a post whose headline features a numbered collection of things. This post, for example, is a list post.
There are an awful lot of crummy ones out there. The celebrity sites make frequent use of them (These 17 Celebrities Used to Be Hot, etc.). In fact, all of the CRaP blogs use them liberally.
So it’s natural that a quality-focused content writer (like you) might try to avoid them. But that would be silly.
And here’s why:
Smart marketers have always focused on underlying human psychological drivers. And those drivers change very little, if at all.
One of them, for whatever reason, is that we get a tiny bit mesmerized by numbers.
When we see a number in a headline, a part of our brains gets activated (what persuasion scholar Robert Cialdini calls a Click, Whirr response), and we’re that much more likely to take an action — like, say, clicking on that headline to check out the whole piece.
If you take a look at the Popular Posts category on Copyblogger, you’ll see lots of numbers.
Now did those posts become popular because they had a number in the headline?
No. A number is a nice booster, but it’s not a substitute for strong writing, solid content strategy, or effective promotion.
And that’s the problem with how most people look at list posts.
They start with the number in the headline — but that’s not the right place to start. Which leads to my first tip:
#1: Don’t start with a numbered list
You may have received an assignment from an editor, supervisor, or client to “Write a Listicle on 10 Ways to Do Our Thing.”
Your first instinct may be to bemoan the fact that the word listicle is now part of your life. I’m sorry. If we can figure out a way to burn this out of the English language, we will.
But let’s move forward.
Even if this is technically your assignment, the worst way to…