how to write listicles

How To Write Winning Listicles That People Will Actually Read

Listicles are a great way to get people to read your content. They are engaging, entertaining, and informative. However, not all listicles are created equal. If you want to write listicles that people will actually read, you need to follow a few simple rules. In this blog post, we will discuss 9 ways to write a listicle that people will actually read

What Are Listicles?

A listicle is an article that uses a list format as the basic outline with expanded paragraphs for all the points.

The overall listicle format varies from a basic introduction and several points to a post like this one which includes both list points and more in depth information on the subject.

You can choose just about any subject and include whatever style of information you want. We strongly recommend learning how to create strong, engaging, and clickbait-free listicles and intend to help you do just that by the time you've finished reading through this listicle.

Before we get into the main points, let's look at some listicle examples.

Listicle Examples

  • The 10 Most Common Causes of Hair Loss by Maryann Mikhail is an example of a basic listicle containing an introduction, key points, and a conclusion. Each list has around three or four paragraphs to make sure each is covered thoroughly.
  • The 100 Best Movies Of All Time by James White takes a similar format to our previous example with an introduction, key points, and conclusion. Each list has minimal content, two or three small sentences, leaving you little in the way of helpful information. These listicles are commonly used by readers who just want to scroll through the headings rather than learn more than the specific topic they're searching for.
  • 16 Weird Things You Won't Believe People Used To Believe, Believe Me by Hilary Mitchell brings us to an example of the infamous clickbait Buzzfeed listicles. You can take one look at a title like that and immediately know that you're about to waste several minutes of your day, but you still click on it juuuuust in case there's a bit of interesting truth in it. Spoiler alert - there never is!
  • 11 Best Toners to Hydrate Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists by Dori Price functions as a content marketing listicle to promote sponsored products. We'll provide detailed tips for marketing your listicles in our 9-tips section.
  • 49 Startup Business Ideas To Consider in 2022 by Startup Geek takes a slightly different approach to listicles by layering the 49 ideas under five main categories, helping the reader consume a large amount of content in digestible chunks of information.

How Should You Plan And Write A Listicle?

Writing successful listicles is a lot easier than you might think. We'll take you through our step by step guide for planning and writing a listicle, as well as provide tips for producing high quality content throughout:

Have Your Topic Ready To Go

You need to know what your many readers may expect from the topic you choose. While the easy option is to pick something you find interesting and hope your readers do too, the smarter choice is to do some research.

If you have a keyword research tool, you can use this to help you find topics with high search results. If not, the simplest option is to search with the basic term of your intended topic.

For example, let's say you wanted to write about the topic of restaurants in Spain. Let's take that basic keyword phrase, 'restaurants in Spain,' and pop it into one of our most commonly used search engines, Google. You should already see a few listicles showing up on the first page, so you know this is a good keyword to use now.

image2

Let's now scroll all the way to the bottom of the page until we find a list of 8 similar searches. These are often some of the best phrases to use as you already know lots of searches have been made using that phrase.

image4

image4In this example, the closest related search to what we're looking for would be 'popular restaurants in Spain,' so go ahead and create a unique, interesting title around it.

Alternatively, if you wish to specify the city that you mean to create a listicle around, you could pick one of the other options that have city names in them, making sure that the restaurants you include in your list are all in that city, of course.

Check Your Topic Makes Sense

As we explain this next point, you'll understand why we selected the specific topic phrases above. You can't just take the most popular keyword, stick a high-ranking title onto it, and assume it will work well.

For example, let's say we took the phrase 'best restaurant in the world, Spain' instead and tried to make a title out of that. You'd end up with something like this:

'Top 7 best restaurant in the world, Spain'

Does that title sound enticing to you? For a start, you've included the keyword phrase 'in the world' and a specific country keyword, 'Spain,' which simply doesn't work.

When it comes to making listicles for content marketing, we need to consider what entices the reader as much as what may assist your ranking on search engines.

Determine How Long You Want It To Be

The length of your listicle has an impact on how likely someone is to stay on your page once they've found it. The fastest way to figure this one out is, once again, through the power of a simple Google search.

Using the same example again, we can search with the phrase 'popular restaurants in Spain.' The highest-ranking listicles have a list between 10-20. The two list posts contain 15 and 20 list points but are both around the same length of 3000 words, meaning this is likely a good ballpark to aim for.

image2

Choose Your Format

The main listicle format options you have to choose from are basic or detailed. Basic lists have a higher number of list items with basic two or three-sentence descriptions, while detailed lists have fewer list items but with several paragraphs of detail for each one.

Both formats are acceptable, but you should think carefully about which format option would suit your topic best.

Choose Your Angle

Most listicles fall under one of these categories concerning your angle:

  • Best/Top - 8 Best Smartphones in 2022
  • For Beginners - 13 gardening tips for beginners
  • Personal Use - 5 Best Massage Guns that I Use
  • Tested with Proof - 7 Off-Road Vehicles that Live Up to Their Names (Tried & Tested)
  • Expert Reference - 43 Tips to Reduce Insomnia, Backed by Experts

You're free to choose whichever unique angle suits your writing style, or you could look at the same high-ranking results that you used to determine your word length and follow their angle.

Create a Brainstorm

Yay, we're almost ready to put our outline together! Brainstorming for list post ideas is the basis of building a high-quality listicle because you can't simply search for existing ideas and add them to your own listicles.

Feel free to research other similar listicles to get a pretty comprehensive idea of what others have thought to include, but make sure to come up with unique sub headings that no one else has included in their articles.

If you're struggling to come up with unique ideas, remember you can always include fewer items and expand on your descriptions of each instead. A good listicle provides that extra detail while still keeping those readers with short attention spans from giving up on following each list item.

Expand On Your Brainstorm

Now that you have your numbered list ready to go, you can consider adding additional headings to give your readers more information about the topic in question.

Go back to our Google search result once more and find the section stating, 'People also ask.' Think carefully before adding any of these headings, as you wouldn't want to add them simply to fluff up your published listicle.

In our 'popular restaurants in Spain' example, we have four questions that would fit nicely into a little FAQ section to pop at the end of the article. You could take this even further by searching using your full title to see what other questions may pop up.

Flesh Out Your List Format Sections

Once you're happy with your outline, go ahead and start fleshing out each section of your listicle, remembering to follow the sizing of either a simple or detailed list, as well as your chosen angle.

It is important that you include only interesting and factual information in this step. Adding fluff or data not backed up with facts is only going to cause your readers to lose interest and seek their answers elsewhere.

Try your best to keep each section about the same length, not showing a preference for any specific point in your list unless you are using a numbered list with a chosen winner.

Your angle will also determine what kind of facts or opinions you can safely include in these sections. If you chose the expert angle, for example, you would need to add facts that are relevant to the expert you are referencing. On the other hand, a personal use angle allows you a certain level of opinion based on your experience with the product.

Add Images To Illustrate Each Point

Relevant images are incredibly important for listicles as they catch the attention of your readers and provide a visual aid to go with what you've written.

A big mistake that many listicle writers make is to include random images just for the sake of having a picture between each list item, causing confusion for many of their readers.

Try to include both relevant and useful images, such as graphs or infographics, when applicable. The type of relevant image will depend on your topic and specific list items.

Are You Ready To Plan And Write Your Interesting Listicle?

We hope this eye catching list of tips and advice for planning and writing listicles has brightened your horizons and inspired you to start making your own right away. The steps may seem complicated at first glance but are actually quite simple once you've had a chance to read through them.

Using what you've learned, we're confident you will be able to join us in the ranks of interesting, non-clickbaity listicle writers to help those poor souls sifting through Buzzfeed post after Buzzfeed post finding nothing of use. It is simply not enough to rank your content and use clickbait to get more website views when you could do the same with fantastic content and hold onto those readers for the long term.

FAQ

What Is The Correct Way To Punctuate List Headings In A Blog Post?

There are three proper ways to punctuate your list headings:

  • H2 or H3 headings - no punctuation required
  • Full sentence - colon or period
  • Phrase - colon

What Is The Most Important Thing To Remember When Writing A List Article?

Put an emphasis on factual, interesting content over clickbait and fluff. Content is king!

Why Is The Listicle Format So Popular?

The primary reason has to do with the average human's short attention span, based on the findings of the Technical University of Denmark. Their studies indicate that the average human's attention span grows shorter as more information is available at a younger age.

Listicles provide the perfect means of absorbing said information in a short amount of time as the reader may scan the provided bullet points in whatever particular order they wish in a decent amount of time.

Written by: Oran Yehiel, Founder at StartupGeek.com

Oran Yehiel (CPA, MBA) is the founder of  StartupGeek.com  which helps startup founders make the right moves through unbiased advice, pro info, and helpful tools. He writes about venture capital, marketing & sales, accounting & tax, software tools, entrepreneurship, HR and more at StartupGeek.com

Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
🕒 7 mins read
Dec 12, 2023

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Article by
Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
Ajay enjoys tinkering with new link building strategies, building teams and processes around it and in general, has enjoyed being a part of the industry for the past decade.

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