10 Tips on How to Write a Listicle

What is a listicle? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Put simply, a listicle is a “list article”. 

Listicles, or list posts, allow the writer to present a large volume of content structured in an easily consumed format. By breaking down otherwise complex information into small distinct chunks. Listicles allow us to skim over information and take it all in without needing to think too hard. 

Listicles promise an easy-to-read alternative to otherwise lengthy and attention-consuming articles. They are typically structured as an introduction, a numbered list of key points, then a conclusion. This appeals to the reader for three key reasons

  1. Content is easily scannable, each entry heading alone should be enough to understand what that entry is about.
  2. They are easy to understand because each point is broken down into chunks that are structured in a “statement first, explanation second” format.
  3. It’s easy to gauge progress, each list entry is numbered, telling readers how far through the listicle they are. 

A wide range of content can be delivered in a listicle format, from informative list posts like “10 Tips on How to Write a Listicle” to less informative ones like Buzzfeed’s “15 Hedgehogs with things that look like hedgehogs”.

Here are 10 tips on how to write a listicle.

1. Choose a topic

Have a careful think about your business’s goals and intentions, you can’t craft a compelling listicle with no purpose in mind!

If you’re lacking ideas or inspiration, the internet offers many topic ideas. Take a look at your own content, keywords, competitors’ content, Google Trends, or sites your readers go to for information, like Reddit, or Facebook groups for topic inspiration. 

Make sure to choose a topic that will work in a listicle format, ask yourself “can I break this idea into distinct, easy to digest, sections?”. Some topics which are heavily complex may not be able to be broken into smaller, distinct chunks and therefore may need reworking into an appropriate listicle format. 

2. Choose a listicle style

Like your topic, you should choose your style of listicle with your intentions in mind. 

Some popular styles of listicles include:

  • A step by step guide
  • A comparison of tools or products
  • Tips or advice from experience 
  • A compilation of ideas

You should also consider what angle you are going to take on this topic, the tone of voice you’ll use, and how detailed your descriptions will be. 

3. Outline the key points

Before you delve too far into your listicle, make sure you have a solid set of key points to cover. 

The amount of list items you choose is up to you. You don’t need to waste your time coming up with an even number of key points, you just need to write as many points as you can provide high-quality valuable content for. Oddly enough, research has shown that many users prefer lists with an odd number of items (1). 

4. Flesh out each point

You need to decide whether you are going to write long descriptions for each entry, or keep them short and sweet.

Typically, listicles with a lot of entries less detailed, comprising of just a couple of sentences per point, or sometimes just the heading! While listicles with fewer entries tend to be more descriptive, explaining each point in more detail. That being said, just as there is no magic number of how many entries to include. There’s no hard rule on how much you should describe each entry, as long as they’re long enough to provide value, but not so long that they put your readers to sleep. 

5. The title is everything

A mistake I see many writers make is spending hours perfecting their content, only to slap it under the first title that comes into their minds.

Your headline is the first impression readers get before deciding whether to read your article or not. On average, 80% of readers will read your title, but only 20% will go on to read the actual article (2) – that’s a lot of missed opportunity!

Choose a listicle title that will increase clicks. Your title needs to describe exactly what your readers can expect to read about, otherwise, you’re just setting your readers up for disappointment. 

6. Make it scannable

Having a clearly defined number and heading for each section of your list exactly what makes a listicle a listicle. 

Long texts are “risky” to readers, you don’t know if it’s going to give you the information you want, or if it’ll just be a waste of time to read. 

When you see a list, there’s no risk. You know exactly what you’re getting, you can skim through easily, the heading tells you exactly what you get. Numbering each key point creates a sense of progress and activates the brain’s reward system, helping them to retain interest in your article 

7. Keep all your list items on one page

While from an ad revenue standpoint it may seem like a brilliant idea to place each entry on a separate page, for your readers, this is much less inviting. 

Readers click on listicles because they’re easy. They’re quick to scan through and don’t require much effort. Page load times are slow, forcing your readers to click onto a new page for each new list entry completely defeats the purpose of what a listicle should be. 

8. Add images

We process pictures so much more quickly than words. GIFs and images can add personality to your listicle, but make sure they’re relevant and help aid your content’s intentions! 

9. Cite the original research 

If you’re incorporating facts and statistics into your listicle, rather than blindly citing the source you obtained this information from (which may very well just be another listicle!) take some time to instead find and cite the original research. Whether you follow the link of your source, or simply google search the statistic, taking a few seconds to cite the original source will greatly benefit your credibility.

10. Provide a solid closure

You wrote an intro for your list (I hope!) so write an ending too. Whether you write a few sentences of conclusion or end it within the last list item, a solid sense of closure is needed to avoid leaving your readers feeling like they’re stuck on a cliffhanger. 

The bottom line

Listicles provide a light easy-to-read alternative to otherwise lengthy and text-heavy articles. While sometimes given a bad rep for being clickbaity, if written correctly using our 10 tips, listicles can provide effective content for your business’s content marketing strategy.

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