5 Things to Take Advantage of When You’re Starting Something New (Copyblogger)
12 Really Important Reasons You Are Running Late (BuzzFeed)
You get the idea. These bad boys are everywhere. List posts are a fixture of content marketing.
But rather than merely accept them as being, we should understand them. More importantly, we need to know if they’re effective or simply a tacky way to push content online.
So, here’s a list post that will give you everything you need to know about list posts.
1) List posts get results.
Here’s the bottom line. If you want to stop reading this article at this point, fine. You will have gotten the main point.
The fact is, list posts get results. Heck, even Google (basically) says so!
(Screenshot taken on August 25, 2015; not photoshopped.)
What kind of results? True to my promise, I’ll tell you what you need to know in the rest of this article, but for now, let’s do a flyover of these benefits:
More social sharing
More dwell time
More organic traffic
Less bounce rate
See what I mean? List posts work. Let's get to why.
2) List posts provide a specific number, and the brain loves specificity.
The whole organization of the list post is around a number. The list post, as Copyblogger explains it “makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader.”
The brain loves that.
Why? Psychologists surmise that it’s a result of cognitive functional specialization. What’s cognitive functional specialization? It’s the idea that different areas in the brain are specialized for different functions.
There are functionally specialized regions in the brain that are domain specific for different cognitive processes ... One of the fundamental beliefs of domain specificity and the theory of modularity suggests that it is a consequence of natural selection and is a feature of our cognitive architecture.
Because our brains are organized in function-specific ways, our cognitive and neuropsychological preference for ordered lists is simply one of the results of this organization.
You know how some people just love to make lists for everything? They are responding to the well-ordered intentionality in their brains. Every human has an innate desire for order and organization. Numbered lists speak to that innate desire.
As a result, we click faster, dwell longer, and anticipate being satisfied with what we view.
Jacob Millen, who contributed to CrazyEgg, said it really well. Advising on the power of specificity, he writes this:
Get super specific … Headlines aren’t the place for ambiguity. Get specific. Get REALLY SPECIFIC.
I think you get the point. The best list posters in the world make super specific list posts. I mean, how specific can you get?
3) People prefer numbered list headlines over any other type of headline.
There’s a simple headline formula to making ultra-clickable headlines: Throw a number in there.
Seriously, it’s that easy. Obviously, you want to do a bunch of other smart things with your headline, but numbers are clutch.
Lotan dove into BuzzFeed’s love for lists, crunched the numbers, and came up with an unstoppable truth: “Using data, we’ve found statistically significant difference between performance of odd vs. even numbers.”
Other research, thankfully not just from BuzzFeed, confirms the same theory. Steve Davis of Baker Marketing explains, “grouping information in parcels of three or five can help people absorb information better.”
Maybe it’s because we have an easier time processing it. Maybe it’s because we’re just odd. Whatever the case, odd numbers perform better.
At this point, we feel confident about the number 25 being the top performer in “best of” lists. While we can’t guarantee a million views each time you include 25 in the title, we can say that it consistently performs better than any other number.
So if you’re wanting me to just give you the best number for a list post, there it is: 25.
9) Numbered lists might make you unhappy.
Behind every silver lining is a dark cloud. Some people aren’t so happy about list posts. In fact, they declare that list posts can make you unhappy.
Honestly, I’m not sure that these sad facts are unique to list posts. List posts, after all, aren’t in such a powerful position of clutter-creation, tunnel-visioning, and instant gratification over some other article type.
Whether or not you’ve felt sad after reading a list post, I don’t know. But I do know that I wanted to add another number to my own list post, and this seemed like a good point to add.
Besides, now I have an odd number. ;)
The internet is a place for all things listed. Sure, listicles have been a bit overused perhaps. But they still work.
They are a content marketer’s go-to technique, a masterful method for accomplishing anything meaningful, and an effective technique for organizing your thoughts and message.
So, go ahead and give the listicle a try.
Do you like list posts or loathe them? Why?
Originally published Oct 2, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017