10 Reasons Why Your List Post Sucks

list graph

Have you noticed that everyone is leveraging list posts? Why? Because after infographics, list posts get the most social shares.

They are so popular that there are blogs devoted to list posts exclusively.

The sad reality is writing a list post doesn’t ensure that you’ll generate social shares or traffic. Why? Because chances are your list post sucks.

A printable cheat sheet of 10 reasons why your list post sucks.

So, how do you write a great one? All you have to do is avoid the following 10 reasons for failed list posts:

Reason #1: You’re not using the right number of items

How many items should you have in your list post? The number is 10.

Ok Dork and Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million articles. They found the most popular posts featured the following number of items: 10, 23, 16, and 24 (in this order).

The difference in popularity is significant: list posts containing 10 items got 4 times more shares than the runner-up – posts with 23 items.

Reason #2: Your list post isn’t scannable

The whole purpose of a list post is for someone to digest the information quickly. This means if your post isn’t scannable, you’re doing something wrong.

Just look at this post… You can figure out the main points I am trying to convey by scanning each headline. That’s it!

You don’t have to read any more than that if you are short on time.

Reason #3: You forgot to write an introduction

Just because you are writing a list post doesn’t mean you can start the post by diving straight into your first point.

You have to warm up your readers. Let them know the purpose behind the post and why they should read it.

Next time you are writing a list post, make sure you include an introduction.

Reason #4: You forgot to include pictures

A picture really does say a thousand words. By including visuals, you will help people better understand the points you are trying to get across.

The images need to be relevant, and they can be data-oriented. For example, I used a graph at the beginning of this post to convey how successful list-based posts are.

If I hadn’t used that graphic, you may have not been as convinced as you are now that you should be writing list posts.

Reason #5: You placed lists within lists

This list post has 10 main points. Had I created a list within a list, breaking down a specific section into subsections, I would have made the list confusing.

Readability is a huge component of how well your list posts will do. If you add lists within them, you’ll lose your readers and social shares.

If you want to break down specific points in your list further, use bullets. Just make sure you avoid using a list within a list.

Reason #6: You forgot to write a conclusion

At the end of your post, you need to summarize its main message.

By adding a conclusion and clearly labeling it as a conclusion, you’ll be able to get 10% more of your visitors to read your content.

Scroll maps will tell you that people will land on your list post, scroll down to your conclusion, read it, and then scroll back up to read the rest of your post.

Reason #7: You didn’t engage with your readers

Just because you are writing a list doesn’t mean you can’t engage with your readers.

Use the words “you” and “I” within your posts to help create a conversation and keep people engaged.

You can also ask questions. I did it at the start of this blog post when I asked you whether you noticed that everyone is using list posts these days.

Reason #8: You didn’t go into depth

Creating a list post doesn’t mean you can be lazy. Listing 10 points isn’t enough.

You need to go into detail and make sure your readers are actually learning something. Plus, the more content you write, the more search traffic you’ll generate.

If you are targeting search traffic, having 2,000 words is an ideal number if you are looking to rank on page one.

Now, you can’t just cram 2,000 words within a post. The content has to be good and contain no fluff.

Reason #9: You didn’t make your list tweetable

If you have a popular blog, you don’t have to worry about this very much, but chances are you could use some extra traffic.

By making each of the list elements within your post tweetable, you’ll get 30% more tweets on average.

A simple way to integrate this within your blog is to use Click to Tweet.

Reason #10: You’re not optimizing for the right audience

Writing a list post for consumers is much different than writing it for businesses.

Businesses want more details and information than consumers do. Consumers have shorter attention spans and just want to see the information as quickly as possible.

For example, if I were writing a list post for a consumer blog, I would use more visuals than anything else. On the other hand, if I were writing for a business blog, I would use more stats and data.

To get a rough sense of how to write for consumers versus businesses, you should read this checklist.

Conclusion

Writing list posts isn’t rocket science. If you avoid the mistakes I talked about above and use the solutions I gave you, your traffic should increase.

I’ve found list posts to be a very successful type of content to grow traffic, no matter what industry you are in. So, make sure you start using them.

What other mistakes do people make when creating list posts?

P.S. If you want to learn how to write exceptionally great list posts click here.

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Comments

  1. Hi Neil,

    Great list about lists 😀

    – Hard to find that right number – would be really interested to hear how you do your research determining what is the right number for a list!

    – I think intro’s are really important, they give context to your lists.

    – Photo’s breath life into otherwise boring sets of bulleted lines

    – Any time I make a list, I like to explain why the point, tip, idea, or a link made it to the list.

    Thanks for these points.

    What do you think one? http://blog.linkbird.com/en/seo/top-7-guides-to-seo/

    I think aside from the number and the conclusion, I did a pretty good job 🙂

    • Karan, Glad you found it helpful:

      – In regards to researching the right number I went off empirical data and other sources to come up with the numbers.
      – Intro’s are how you contextualize all the numbers in the list — great point!
      – Without Photos the post just looks dull
      – I think you are on the right track with explaining all the tips you list out. Context is ultimately the most important thing

      I just checked out your list. You definitely did a great job! You covered pretty much everything I highlighted in this article.

      • Thanks for the feedback!
        And keep up the good work.

      • Dear Neil,
        I am so amazed that where from you find these unique idea for always new titles everytime i got a subscription mail from you.

        And everytime you got some unique point to share with us the same with this one! I love your work 😉

        with regard,
        Altamash Sid

    • I think one thing i realized about lists, is that i focus a lot when it’s a list of ten things. If its more than that, my concentration dies the moment i see that it’s a list of 30 things, I’ll just read maybe the first 10 things, then leave the rest or just quickly skim through. But that’s just me and oh! was answering your first question about the number of lists. And most of the time if it’s a list of more than 10, then i probably won’t share it. 10, just like Neil said in the post, is the number.

  2. Sound advice. If you want me to engage with your list post then make it scannable and short enough for me to want to get to the end of it.

    • Luke, glad you found it helpful. I think making a list scannable is something people often disregard. In this time crunched era, people just don’t have the time to look for the meat of the article. Which is why scanning is useful.

  3. It’s really one heck of a great list article, Neil. Indeed, 10 is the magic number! 🙂

    • Nino, glad you liked it. I have found through my work that 10 really is the right number. That’s not to say others numbers won’t work, but if you want to play it safe go with 10.

  4. I don’t mind list posts, but after awhile, people write them because that’s probably the easiest post to write. If you do, make it the title something that grabs my attention, or I end up deeming it as yet another stupid list post.

    And besides, list posts are so played out and all bloggers use them myself included, but if you can’t write with depth (you know variety), you need to find something else to write about.

    • Sonia, great points. I think list posts are easy wins for marketers, however, they are so overused that you really have to work on the titles to grab readers’ attention.

      It’s important to stand out from the crowd if you really want people to share and engage with your list post. Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Good and very informative article on list posts. Thanks Neil for coming up with such good articles.

    • Frederick, glad you found the post helpful. I really wanted to put a post together that addressed an issue not many people talk about — how to write effective lists.

  6. Maybe that’s why this post of yours says “10 Reasons Why….” 🙂

  7. Oloyede Jamiu :

    Hey Neil,

    Here is another awesome article by you.

    I love reading this.

  8. Hey Neil
    Great post and genuine points to write list blogs.
    fortunatley I also have a list blog and I am avoiding these mistakes…
    Thanks a lot for boosting up my confidence that I am doing it the right way. 🙂

    • Karan, glad I could validate some best practices. As long as you follow the blueprint you should be good. Let me know if you need any other help along the way.

  9. I’m with James (above) on the word count. I read every word of this article but probably would have scanned if it was double the word count. Figuring out what the happy medium between engaging readers and engaging search engines at the same time is the real chore. M

    Great article though, we have a list blogging template I give the bloggers at my company and it matches this list of specs to a T (word count is a 500-1500 range, but I’ll increase it based on this).

    • Amanda, many people are like that, which is why I like to incorporate sub-heading into my articles. In this case the subheadings would be the actual lists. It’s important to really have compelling titles for each number on the list. That way if an article is long people will still feel inclined to scan through.

      I would be interested in hearing more about your template when you have the time.

  10. Hi Neil, These are some real nice must-do quick-checks before publishing any kind of list posts.

    I wanted to add some more insights to your point about the number of points in a list. Although 10 is a good data-driven approach by Noah Kagan but sometimes competitiveness of the niche also matters – more the points you share, the better. Brain Dean’s Backlink Factors post is a great example of this. Another interesting resource I wanted to share is this (bakermarketingservices.com/?p=1775) according to which odd-numbered lists always perform better!

    I totally agree with you about the word count of articles for search traffic. I have been able to successfully rank many blog posts (on a not very authoritative domain) in first 3 results just by writing insightful content which is more than 2000 words.

    Of course, with long articles one thing should always be kept in mind that you need to constantly interact with the readers by posing short questions and sharing lucid images, else the readers would be bored to death and leave your website in just a few seconds.

    However, I feel that you should have added a point about the title of the list post. A title is the most important aspect of any kind of post and according to CopyBlogger’s Magnetic Headlines, 80% effort should be put into deciding the most worthy title and 20% effort on the content.

    Thanks,
    Debjit

    • Debjit, I always enjoy your feedback as it is well informed and insightful.

      There is a lot of data to support odd numbered lists, however, in my experience the number 10 has always worked best. Glad we are on the same page in regards to word length, I think you have to really provide substance and lots of images (as you mentioned) if you go the length route.

      I felt like I addressed the issue of titles, but I guess I should have gone into a bit more detail. Titles are integral and should catch the reader’s attention. That’s how you get away with lengthy posts.

  11. Hi neil
    I also created some lists but it really not working for our readers and finally i found out here mistakes
    Thanks for sharing

    • Yogesh, glad this article could help out. I think following the blueprint I have outlined above will really help fix some of the issues you are facing.

  12. Filip Ciolcan :

    As always, Neil, a really informative post that saved me time and also gave me a few ideas about what list post to write.

    • Filip, glad I could help. I think the overall point I want to make ( in regards to saving time) is to allow your readers to easily scan through your content. Everyone is trying to save time and gather information quickly.

  13. Madame Ostrich :

    Hi Neil!

    Once again, great post! Do you by any chance have any insight on the best way to integrate images? Would it be an image that sits above each point’s header? Or should the header go first and then the image? Or is it best to wrap the text around the image?

    I was inspired by one of your previous list posts and decided to make one–however, I felt like the images were distracting from the post itself. Any pointers?

    XxMO

    • Madame Ostrich,
      Love the name btw 😉

      Ultimately, it really depends on the design of your blog. I tend to test images out to see which composition and layout works best. Often times it’s hard to really say an image will work one way, all the time.

      You just have to get a feel for the colors and composition to see what works best. Trying a heatmapping or a/b testing would be my suggeston.

  14. Readers get bored with list posts without intro and pictures. You have listed some nice points here.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Kuldeep, that’s why it’s important to follow a blueprint and provide value in each number you list out. Thanks for the feedback.

  15. Kanishk Kunal :

    Where did my comment go? Did you delete my comment since I somewhat disagreed with your first point? Sadly I didn’t save the text of my comment and I don’t feel like writing it all over again.

    • Kanishk,
      I didn’t see your comment. Sometimes because of the spam filter comments don’t show. Was your comment link heavy? In any case I can still answer any questions you had here.

      • Kanishk Kunal :

        No, it wasn’t link heavy. Infact it had just one link to one of my post where I included less than 10 points because I didn’t want to dilute the post by including more but weaker points to reach the number 10.

        Anyways, I see that you yourself don’t follow the number 10 in your list posts all the time, so I am sure you would have agreed with me.

        Hopefully you will do something about your spam filter and make it less aggressive. 🙂

  16. The magic number will also depend on the information being delivered and the target audience. Try searching “guerilla marketing ideas” and see what I mean. The top articles comes with 80 items but this also rests on other variables. On running a quick analysis I also notice the shareability of the article is good. So I guess it comes with the territory.

    • Tim,
      As I mentioned in some of the earlier comments — there is no solid number. However, through the data I have compiled and my experiences I have found that 10 works best. Some others say that odd numbers work for them. It’s all about finding that balance. I do want people to try the 10 out though.

  17. Janine Gerard :

    Great advice I agree with all the points listed, I do think 10 is the ideal number for list post. Thanks for the tip on ‘Click to Tweet’ as well.

    • Janine, glad you found it helpful. Try out the ten and let me know what you think. Glad I could help out with the tip. I think click to tweet just makes things easier for everyone.

  18. Mary Jaksch | A-List Blogging :

    Great stuff! I recently created a list post that had a huge number of shares, called “33 Top Blogging Tips By Spectacular Bloggers”. Of course you, Neil, were one of the spectacular bloggers!

    What made it work like magic was that I chose an interesting snippet from each tip and made it tweetable. I think that’s better than making each list element itself tweetable.

    I do think that good on-page SEO is crucial. I used a lot of images on my last listpost and made sure that each image link included my target keyword.

    My next post is definitely going to feature the number 10 🙂

    This blog has awesome content. I love it!

    • Mary, awesome to hear that your post did so well. I am also humbled that you would use me in that post. I think short snippets are essentially what people are looking for, and you definitely tapped into that. Images, as you also mentioned are crucial. It’s all about providing value to your readers in any way possible. Let me know if you need any other help along the way.

  19. Hey Neil,

    Thanks for the nice blog post on lists! With my blog of Funny Top Ten lists I try to meet all these items on your list. And I will tell you my secret! Sometimes funny stuff doesn’t always happen in 10 discrete easy entries so if that happens- I will skip Number 4 or 3! usually no one notices but if they do – then I turn that into an opportunity for engagement.

    • Bill, Humor is a great way to get the conversation started — so you are already on the right track. Can you expand on your point about humor not happening in 10 entries? I am not sure I quite follow.

  20. Good post. I am impressed to see many of your post on other top blogs like Huffington Post. You do a good job of using images and infographics.

    • Leigh, thanks for the feedback. To get onto those top publications it’s vital to tap into the viral factor. Images and titles are crucial in that regard. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  21. Again this post taught new things to me.
    thanks Neil

  22. Hello Neil Sir,

    Wonderful post. Really you are a treasure chest of great ideas! wow!! I am going to print out this post and have this at my side, within reach, at all times. Thank for sharing such an excellent and informative post.

    Regards
    Debarpan

    • Debarpan, glad I could help. You should also check out some of my other guides as they tap into others ways to help you really attain traffic. If you need any help along the way let me know.

  23. mohammad umair :

    Hi Neil.

    I would like to add one more point. Keep the sub-heading (in this case list point) interesting enough to not to give away too much. this should be intriguing enough to compel the reader to read what is written under that point.

    so I think #2 and #8 contradict each other. One of the reasons for writing a post is that the readers should get something useful.

    If the list can be easily scanned why would the reader into details. And if the content is in details how will it help the reader who is just scanning the post. In both the scenarios, the effort put in creating the post by the writer is at the risk of getting wasted

    • Mohammad, Great point. I didn’t address this as much in my post but if you look above to some of the comments I replied to I expanded on it further.

      I am not quite sure that 2 & 8 contradict each other, can you explain a bit more on why you think so?

      Your point about scanning is in line with what I wrote in the article — so it sounds like you are on the right track!

  24. Just learned something totally new. To my embarrassment I never heard of List Post 🙂

    Thanks for the great post!!

    • Elena, glad I could help. You should also check out my previous post on here. There are a list of tools that can help you really grow your audience.

  25. Nice list Neil. You obviously have this figured out. I really appreciate how you do the research to get some real data to pair with these posts.

    Thanks,
    Vi

    • Vi, glad I could help. I think at the end of the data if you don’t have data to support your points, then you aren’t doing a good job. Thanks for the feedback and I look forward to hearing much more from you.

  26. Yeah, Nice article Neil. The main factor to be consider is a right audience.

    • Lissa, definitely. It’s all about finding out who your buyer/user personas are before you start writing and engaging fully.

  27. Hi Neil,

    I think that soon “number 10” may lose its top position because 10 has become quite a bit of cliche. Odd numbers might attract more eyeballs. But that is for time to tell. Thanks for yet another good post!

    Lalit

    • Lalit, it really depends on how you position your content. As I mentioned in some comments above — the content will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the number. Looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  28. venkatesh i khajjidoni :

    Best post on list post, Neil.As you says,introduction,lists,and conclusion are very important.Thanks for 10 digit list post.

    • Venkatesh, glad I could help. The list posts essentially need context — which all of the items you mentioned provide.

  29. I liked the point make list twitable to share post.

  30. very nice blog. loved it

  31. Hi Neil,
    Great ! And Very helpful list of Post. I hope Its time to learn much more from this post thank you for sharing your great thought.

  32. Great article!
    It helps me to understand about list posts. I’m including it in a post.
    This post bounds me to tweet.

    • Vishal, glad you found it helpful.
      What are you currently doing in regards to posting? List posts are definitely easy low hanging fruit when it comes to topic ideation.

      I look forward to hearing much more from you.

  33. Hi Neil! This has been a really helpful post. Now I know the best way to write a list post. Thanks!

  34. hi neil …nice post..a helpful one…it helped me …thank you

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