Whether you’re building an author platform, a freelance writing business, or a blogging empire, you’ve written your fair share of list posts.
Admit it. It’s become second nature. You probably carry around a little notebook to capture new listicle ideas throughout your day.
But are your list posts getting the love they deserve?
Are they attracting comments, social buzz, guest-posting opportunities?
Are they providing you with valuable brand exposure?
Or, are they falling flat, making you wonder why you spend so much time creating them?
You’re not alone.
Everyone’s shooting for that viral post, for that perfect combination of information and inspiration to take them to the top of the social media heap, to the most-shared list posts in their genre.
And you’re no different, right?
You’re betting on your next list post…
But you have your doubts, too. If it were easy, you’d be reaping the benefits by now.
Sure, everyone loves a list.
They’re light, fun, and easy to read.
But sometimes–rarely, at best—you stumble across one that’s invaluable.
In order to climb to the top, to get your hard work noticed, you’re going to need to focus on the latter type: the essential list post, the type of post everyone’s bookmarking, sharing, and opting into mailing lists to acquire.
So before hunkering down to pound out your next numerical masterpiece, ask yourself whether you’d pay to get your hands on such a list…
Are the wheels turning?
Let’s get started.
No Urgency = No Currency
List posts vary in quality. Some are merely fun and entertaining. Others make you stop whatever you’re doing to click, read, and bookmark. You’ll even subscribe to a stranger’s email list to secure your own copy.
Think about it.
You skim average content, but you devour great content. You’ll even print it out, highlight it, and place it in a special folder for a second and third read.
It all comes down to urgency.
So how do you know whether your topic’s truly urgent?
Ask yourself whether you’d pay money for the information in the article, whether you’d share your private email address or your phone number to read the content.
Urgency speaks to our strongest desires and impulses: the need for more, better, and faster.
Urgency involves our biggest fears and desires: health, wealth, and love.
If you can combine more, better, and faster with health, wealth, and love, you’re on your way to crafting an urgent list, something your audience will love and share with their friends.
Beginnings: Place Your Strongest Points First and Last
So, where and how to begin?
What’s the best way for you to grab your reader’s attention, proving your post is worth the required five to ten minutes for reading?
Science–and will get to that in a moment–shows us that we tend to remember the first and last items in a list. It’s called serial position effect.
Herman Ebbinghaus coined the term after conducting studies on memory and recall. This study proves that people are more likely to remember the first and last items in a list, forgetting the items appearing in the middle.
What does this mean to you, a writer struggling to gain attention and traction?
Frontload your articles with the most interesting, helpful, and controversial list items in the beginning. Afterward, place the next strongest items at the end of your blog post or article. At a minimum, your scanning readers will buy in, opting to bookmark the article for future reference as well as social sharing.
Best case, your readers will take the bait, opting to read the article in full.
Hook Your Readers With a Captivating, Personal Story
Everything we believe began as a story.
Our histories, our religions, our shared societal values evolved from ancient, elaborate narratives. Search “creation myths” to uncover the origins of our belief systems.
Whether true or false, healthy or toxic, these stories engage our emotions, our deeply-held convictions and philosophies.
They push our buttons, forcing us to integrate the details, making them our own.
Scientific studies show that “compelling narratives cause oxytocin release and have the power to affect our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors” (Zak).
Illustrate Each Point With Evidence
The Internet is filled with articles containing little more than weak generalizations of trending topics.
These articles promise the world in their headlines without providing specific, actionable strategies to help readers advance. Avoid this type of thin, superficial article, mimicking the safe, obvious advice one might find in a PLR database or article directory.
Instead, share the latest science, the latest apps, the latest, most innovative ways to solve a problem.
Share the why and the how, the detailed steps one must take to move forward. Backup your assumptions with your own stories, with anecdotal evidence. Share your personal struggles and triumphs.
Don’t leave your reader hanging; show them you care enough to walk them through the process.
Cite an industry leader, a competitor you admire. Don’t be afraid to link out to amazing articles, amazing tutorials available on the web. And don’t worry, they’ll remember you as the valuable source of this information.
Share a Compelling Image
We’re visual creatures.
We respond quickly and viscerally to images.
After the headline, you may only get one chance to grab your reader’s attention. Hit them with a powerful visual. In fact, your reader may resonate with the image before bothering to read the article title.
Images tell stories. Give your audience the chance to “see” the story you’re promising in the article. Studies show that articles with images are twice as likely to receive clicks. While you’re at it, add visuals throughout the text to increase engagement with the entire article.
Find the perfect royalty-free visual at Pixabay, Morguefile, or Pexels.
Include data (science sells).
Ever wonder why advertisers use data and statistics to sell their products?
- Four out of five dentists recommend…
- 60% of Americans survey respondents want…
- Save up to 70% on…
People want to make informed decisions; however, they don’t really want to conduct the research. Including the latest scientific data will add instant credibility to your blog post.
Take your data to the next level by adding visual graphs and charts.
Capture Your Reader’s Frustrations, Needs, and Desires
Have you ever read the first paragraph of an article and thought to yourself, “wow, they’re talking about me; it feels like they’re reading my mind.”
The difference between a good article and a great article comes down to knowing your audience.
- What are your readers struggling with?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What fear or desire consumes their waking hours?
When you zero in on your reader’s pain point, press on it. Paint a vivid picture of the problem. Capture the important emotional elements, and stir the pot repeatedly. Forecast a future with this problem intact. When you’ve reached an emotional crescendo, offer your solution.
Demonstrating a thorough understanding of an issue builds trust.
Let them know that you feel their pain, that you empathize with their unique struggles. Let them know that you’ve been there as well.
Tweak Your Title
Every day, with hundreds of websites and blogs in my feed, I consistently encounter bland, clunky titles.
Sadly, many of these titles come from excellent writers (from expertly-written articles). It looks like these writers spend mere seconds on their titles.
Treat every title like a headline, like a high-stakes advertising campaign—something that’s costing you money! Before publishing your next post, come up with several titles (10 or 20 if necessary).
Remember, you’re competing with hundreds of other messages. In the span of a few internet minutes, we’re inundated with news, ideas, and advertising messages. It’s a battleground for your attention.
So don’t show up to the fight unprepared. Consider the time you spend researching, drafting, and polishing an article. Are you ready to risk countless hours of hard work and dedication on a 30-second title?
Get the click, or you’ve wasted your time.
If you need help, and you’re unwilling to read a book on copywriting, check out Portent’s title generator. Try to reverse engineer their suggestions. Find out what works.
If you’re still needing help, and you’re still unwilling to read a book on copywriting, spend an hour researching popular content on content aggregator sites like Alltop and Popurls to see what’s working.
Look for common denominators.
Provide Resources for Further Exploration
The best list posts are thorough and actionable, but you can’t be all things to all people. Furthermore, you don’t want to give all of your knowledge away for free.
Offer resources beyond the scope of your website or blog. Pepper your articles with outside links for further exploration. You don’t have to reveal everything in a single post.
Share helpful articles, infographics, forums and online communities with your readers, and they’ll remember you as a generous, trusted source for quality information.
Step Beyond the Why: Show Your Reader How
Why posts are great for motivation, but there’s no substitute for showing them how.
What important task can you illustrate in a series of logical steps?
Break a complex process into manageable chunks to share with your readership. Include screenshots and videos where applicable. Take them from step one to the finish line.Break a complex process into manageable chunks to share with your readership. Include screenshots and videos where applicable. Take them from step one to the finish line. Click To Tweet
Your tutorial could go viral.
If it’s especially valuable (and time-consuming to create), consider writing a teaser article that links to a premium download. Start with the whys, and capture their email address for the tutorial.
If you’re new to the how to post, here’s a helpful template.
Capitalize on Fear
I hate writing about this one because it feels manipulative, but it’s true. It’s also scientifically proven. It’s called negativity bias or the negativity effect.
Readers respond to fear.
Negative messages have a greater effect on the psyche than positive messages of the same intensity.
If you want your readers to engage, to feel, to remember an important message, they’re going to have a stronger response to unpleasant and/or fearful ideas.
If you want to deliver your message effectively without bumming everyone out, choose strategic locations to exploit this technique.
Use it in your headline. Use it while priming your readers’ pain points. Just don’t leave them alone in that dark place. Show them a viable solution to the problem. Show them there’s hope and light on the other side.Use it in your headline. Use it while priming your readers’ pain points. Just don’t leave them alone in that dark place. Show them a viable solution to the problem. Show them there’s hope and light on the other side. Click To Tweet
What’s your favorite listicle strategy?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.