Archive for writing a list post
Guest post by Tracey Grady, web designer
Creating lists is a very well-practiced blog strategy, and it’s easy to see why: lists are extremely popular, bringing traffic and incoming links to your blog. When done well they’re easy to read and absorb quickly. If you draw up a list of your own tips, you’re positioning yourself as an authority for the subject matter you’re writing about. When a list contains links to articles or material on other sites, you’re likely to attract reciprocal links from those sites. All of this is good news for your site’s traffic and SEO.
When you start collating a list for a blog post, inspiration can sometimes take full flight and you find yourself with dozens of potential inclusions. Great – it will be more comprehensive, and will demonstrate to your readers just how much research you’ve done, right? Well, both of these might be true. But beware falling into the mindset that the best list is a long one: in most instances, the opposite is true.
Before you publish that post on 120 best CSS Galleries or 85 Fly-fishing newsletters you MUST subscribe to, ask yourself if that’s really the ideal length for your collection. Short lists are easy to scan; readers can quickly get fatigued if the list runs on and on. When you’ve published a collection of links to articles off-site, your readers will naturally want to visit those sites to read the resources for themselves. But if the collection is very large, there’s a good chance that readers won’t have the time to check out all of the links in one sitting. They can bookmark your list, but they may already be frustrated at being presented with such a huge volume of information, even when it is of high quality.
What’s the ideal size for a list?
Because information is easiest to digest in short bursts, the best size for a list is between 5 and 10 entries. Not only are the contents more reader-friendly at this smaller size, but a short list also comes across as a quality selection. You the author will give the impression that you’re capable of editing your own copy. These are important considerations when you’re striving to create the best content for your blog.
But if your latest blog list is absolutely brimming with must-have material, here are some suggestions on how to handle the blow-out.
Start each entry with a short phrase or outline, in a bold or highlighted format. This makes your lengthy list much easier for readers to scan quickly
Divide the list into categories. Your post will be easier to digest and readers can skim over sections they’re less interested in if they choose. If your categories are strong enough on their own, then the next suggestion is worth considering:
Turn it into a series of posts. Instead of one long list, break it up into a handful of shorter, more reader-friendly articles. This enhances the impression that you have really researched your topic, and you are likely to attract readers and new subscribers who want to catch the next installment, and the next.
Publish only half (or one third) of the list now, then another half or one-third in a few weeks’ or months’ time. If you’re certain that your list will be very well received, why give all of your information away now? Holding back some of the material for a follow-up list “due to overwhelming popularity the first time” is a great blogging strategy and also highlights how good your initial post was (so long as the first installment was genuinely popular).
Depending on the material you are collating, a longer list can be easier to read in some instances. A list of brief tips (where each entry is no longer than a phrase or a short sentence) can run to, say, 50 and still be readable: here is an example. If the list is especially funny or entertaining, it might even get away with being quite a bit longer again.
If you still feel you should post your list of 95 AJAX tips to improve your e-commerce site, make sure it’s really good. Sites like Smashing Magazine have created a niche for themselves by publishing definitive resources for their audience. It’s possible to do the same, so long as your material is up to scratch.
What are your thoughts? When is a blog list too long? Not long enough?