28 April 2009

Blogging Tips : Write a List Post

Blogging Tips

Write a List Post

Today your challenge in the 31 Day project that we’re running here at Problogger is focused around writing a post and is to write a ‘list post’.


Today’s Teaching:

Using ‘lists’ has always been a popular and effective technique among bloggers wanting to write content that gets spread from one person to the next. Just look at pages like the front page of Digg, TweetMeme and Delicious and you’ll see that many of the ‘hottest’ content on the web at any given time are written in this style.

Check out this screen shot of Delicious from yesterday:


You can see there that every post in the most popular page of Delcious at this point was a list of some type.

8 Reasons Why List Posts are Powerful for Bloggers

‘List posts’ are popular because:

1. Lists are Scannable - online readers are notoriously lazy and tend to scan content rather than read it word for word. A list helps communicate a number of points quickly and easily and helps readers to know if a post contains information that interests them and which they should actually read more of.

2. Lists keep posts succinct
- there is something about a list that keeps you as a blogger from rambling. Each point has a start and end whereas with an essay style of writing points often bleed into one another.

3. Lists look ‘neat’
- I don’t know about you but when I surf onto a site that is full of messily formatted text - I don’t tend to stick around for too long. Lists on the other hand can be quite visually pleasing and more likely to stimulate someone to start reading.

4. Lists can be comprehensive
- while some might argue that lists ‘dumb down’ ideas and concepts - when written well they can actually be just as comprehensive as any other style of writing.

5. Lists are persuasive
- if you want to mount a case for something quickly presenting numerous arguments in a list can be quite convincing. Again - it’s about identifiable points that together go to forming a convincing argument.

6. Lists can add to the ease of writing
- I like writing in lists because they break down my thoughts into bite sized pieces which is good not only for readers but me as a writer as I consider how to express myself.

7. Lists go Viral - lists can start epidemics of ideas. For the above reasons (and others - bloggers and those on social media seem to love sharing lists and as a result they have the ability to spread quickly through out the web (and beyond)

8. Lists break down the complicated - one reason I find list posts to be powerful is that they can be great for breaking down complex ideas or tasks. I know on my photography blog that many of our photoshop tutorials work best when our authors present their instructions as ’steps’ - meaning a procedure that can at first seem overwhelming becomes a list of bite sized tasks.

Warning: don’t go over the top with ‘list posts’. They can be incredibly powerful but on many blogs readers can become frustrated with them if that is all you do.

Your Task for Today - Write a List Post:

Today your task is to write a ‘list post’ on your blog. You may not choose to publish it today if you already have something lined up - but aim to publish it in the next day or two if you can.

3 Types of ‘List Posts’

There are a variety of ways of incorporating lists into your blog. Depending upon the topic and style of blog you’re building some of these options might be appropriate for you:

  • The post as a list - in this case there’s nothing in the post except for the list. The title of your post introduces the topic and then the list speaks for itself. The list can be quite barebones - short and to the point. However readers often like them because of their bluntness and the way that they tell it like it is. Example: 21 Ways to Write Posts that are Guarantees to Grow Your Blog.
  • Extended lists - this is how I generally approach ‘list posts’. I’ll show you a couple of examples below but in a sense this type of post is not dissimilar to an essay or article but the main points are broken down into a numbered list format. Generally there is a heading for each section (highlighted in bold or heading tags) with a paragraph or two under each one. Example: 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits.
  • Lists Within Posts - the post you’re reading right now probably illustrates this type well. In this post there are two lists that present ideas in the midst of other content. In a sense the list becomes a way of breaking up your text. I find that often these posts do quite well as other bloggers looking for a quote to share with their readers will many times grab your list.

Some bloggers do at times get a little ‘anti list’ and suggest it is an overused technique and a lazy way to write - but this need not always be the case. There’s nothing to stop a blogger developing a list post that is in depth and on topic for almost any blog.

List posts will not suit everyone’s style and probably are harder to use with some blog topics than others but they are a useful style of post to have in your tool belt for when the opportunity arises.

Highly Recommended Reading: If you’re after a little extra reading on the topic of writing list posts check out this excellent and practical guest post from late last year on ProBlogger with 10 steps to writing the perfect list post.

Examples of List Posts

I know some of our participants will find today’s task easier than others. Some of you have successfully written a lot of list posts while others have not. Some have topics where these types of posts ‘fit’ better than others. I hope that in the following examples (both from my blogs and others) that you’ll find a little inspiration that might help you to discover a type of post that might work with your blog.

Also: also check out this long list of ‘list posts’ written in a group writing project by readers of ProBlogger. This list of posts has hundreds of examples (some good and some not so good) on hundreds of topics. Hopefully some of them will give a little inspiration).

Share Your New List Posts

It’s time to go away and write your list post. Once you’ve done it - do come back here and leave the link and title in comments below. My hope in this is that participants will get a little traffic but also that you’ll inspire one another with your posts and give a much more comprehensive list than I’ve come up with above of great list posts. I’m looking forward with what you come up with!

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