A listicle is an article in list form such as, “Ten Best Crockpots,” and most of them are too boring to remember.
In fact, I’ll admit here and now that I’ve written some pretty mundane, run of the mill type listicles, too.
But no more.
Let’s cover why most listicles all read the same (yawn!) why listicles can be awesome traffic drivers and how to make your next listicle sizzle like a steak on the grill.
Most list articles have a title like, “The Top 10 Washing Machines” or “The 5 Best Ways to Drive Traffic.” Reading these is like eating dry toast. Unless you’re starving, they just don’t cut it.
And even if you get your listicle to rank well, it won’t rank for long if it looks like all the others. Pretty soon your competitor will write one with the top 15 washing machines and yours will be forgotten.
When written with some flair and panache, your listicle can become a massive traffic driver. Not only is it easier to get list articles ranked in the search engines, but it’s also easier to get people to forward them if they are truly interesting and different from all the others.
Which brings up my first point…
1: Use a strong, novel hook
Most list articles are researched with a quick Google search, resulting in a list of the first 10 things found on Google.
The top ten plugins for WordPress, the 10 best herbs for insomnia, the 10 ways to clean windows on the second floor. Do a Google search, find the results and rewrite them.
This type of article isn’t even useful since the information is already out there.
A truly great listicle needs a truly great hook.
Instead of using a word like, “Best” or “Top”, use something like, “overlooked” “overrated” “craziest” and so forth.
Target a particular reader for your article. Instead of the top ten natural energy boosters, write something like, “10 Under-the-Radar Energy Boosters for Online Marketers.”
Or you might focus on a particular product trait, such as being free, low-cost, never-heard of, available only to a certain group of people, undiscovered, easy to use, newly released and so forth.
And you might want to include the end result in your title. If you’re doing the best traffic generation software, then you might only include results that bring in at least 1,000 new visitors per day. “10 Free Plugins that Drive 1,000 or More Visitors per Day to Marketing Blogs.”
2: Be Persuasive
Rather than simply dumping stuff into your listicle, why not add your opinions as well?
Think of the difference it could make. Instead of the top 10 diet tricks, it becomes ‘The 10 So-called Diet Tricks I Hate the Most’ or ‘The 10 Diet Tricks that Shrunk My Butt 2 Sizes’. I’d read either of those articles even if I wasn’t looking to lose weight.
You really do want to make a case that your list is the truly best or even the worst. Persuade your reader that your selections make sense for your criteria and explain your thinking behind each choice.
You’re taking your reader along for the ride and showing them your thought process in addition to listing out the items.
Why did we include this one? Because my brother-in-law Phil swears by it, or because it’s sold a gazillion copies so we thought there might be something to it.
Why didn’t we include others? Because they were all about the hype and not delivering results. Or because we excluded anything that didn’t include a free 30-day trial period. Or because it was too new and completely unproven.
Why did we include something that at first glance doesn’t fit this list? Because one of the features is that it can do this exact thing and lo and behold we’ve found that it does it really, really well.
3: Put even more of yourself into the list
Here’s where you share your own firsthand experience and your results. “I tried this and here’s what happened and this is the result I experienced.”
By putting your own experience into the article, you are offering information that no one else on the planet can offer.
Use your own anecdotes, screen shots and photos to back up your story and show that you really do use the product or that you’ve tried it for the purpose of adding it to the list.
4: Add other people’s experiences, too
If your list is 10 items and you’ve only tried 3 of them, what are you going to do?
Well, you might hit social media and ask people if they’ve tried the other 7. Get a personal anecdote or two for each item, and again you now have content no one else offers.
If the products are sold on Amazon, then read the reviews to find anecdotes, both good and bad.
If you’re listing the best companies to use for a certain purpose, hit their websites to find case studies.
It really doesn’t take much legwork to find stories for every item on your list, and it adds an entirely new dimension to your article that makes it truly worth reading and sharing.
5: Go out on a limb
Here’s where you’re going to choose one of the items on your list and take a stand that this is your personal recommendation.
10 herbs to help you sleep? You recommend they try this one first.
10 different plugins to drive traffic? Your favorite is this one and here’s why.
Your job as the author of a listicle is to help your reader to make a decision. While all the other list articles are simply listing stuff and not helping the reader to make a choice, you’re going to come out and say, “This is the one and here’s why.”
You’re showing that you did your homework, you did the research, you discovered what’s good and bad about each, and this is THE ONE you recommend.
You’re not hedging your bets. You’re not trying to be dry toast to please everyone. You are stating your opinion for all to see.
“Wait a minute, that all sounds good, but if I can get people to read the same old generic listicle, why should I add in these extra steps?”
It’s true that long copycat articles without opinions, anecdotes and recommendations can still get pageviews.
But they don’t generate fans. They don’t make readers want to see what else you offer. And they sure as heck don’t generate revenue.
One last note…
5.5: Add humor
If you can, where you can, insert some humor into the article. I can tell you that if I’m reading your listicle about 10 tastiest chocolate cake recipes for kitchen klutzes and you tell me in a humorous way about your chocolate cake failures, I’ll be joining your list and reading more of your stuff.
I need more humor in my life, and I think that’s true for most everyone.
If you’re not funny in print, then don’t try it.
But if you can insert a little levity here and there, by all means do it. The Tens Weight Loss Methods You Tried This Month? Make #2 a story about trying to walk your cat for your own exercise (talk about your severe blood loss and cornering the market on bandages because kitty does not share your weight loss goal). And #7 might be a day of nothing but cabbage soup (which you detest and which allowed you ample time to catch up on your reading in the bathroom) and you’ve got the makings of two humorous stories. The other eight items can be serious and then you make your recommendation at the end.
See how easy that is?
It will make a refreshing change from all the other list articles out there that are simply offering the same old drudge.
A few more quick tips:
Make your list scannable. One of the great things about listicles is how easy they are to quickly scan, searching for what a person might be looking for.
Give each item either the product name as the title or a catchy title that evokes curiosity. If you’re talking about ten products that give a certain result, then use the product name as each item title. But if you’re talking about methods, you might want to make your titles catchy.
Insert images. The images should be highly relevant, funny or both. Using images will create a better reading experience and can improve your SEO.
Use an odd number for your list or use 10. Research shows that odd numbers work well for listicles, and so does the number 10. And some people swear by the number 29, but how often do you really want to make a list that long?
The more list items you have, the shorter each item will generally be. If your list is 5 items, then each item might have several paragraphs, whereas if your list is 29 items long, then each item will likely have just a couple of sentences.
Use the ending to recommend your choice. This is a strong way to finish and lets you give a call to action, too.