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3 Ideas for Moving Beyond List Posts: Creating an Experiential Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 28th of April 2010 Writing Content 0 Comments

A guest post by Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl.

As a design & craft blogger, I often struggle with putting tips from sites like Problogger into practice. But I diligently mull them over and translate them to fit my needs. One tip I struggle with regularly is mastering the art of the “list post.”

You know, the “5 Tips for Yada Yada” or “7 Ways to Blah Blah” posts. Sure, these posts are helpful. I like reading them. I frequently glean good information from them. They really work to provide useful, actionable information in an easy-to-read form. They attract traffic to information-driven blogs where people come with real problems seeking concrete answers.

But I don’t write that kind of blog.

My blog, Scoutie Girl, is much more experiential. It’s driven by images, creativity, and stories. Readers come to my blog and others in my niche to experience the artistry & passion of others. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, that’s why readers visit your blog too…

Do your readers long to connect to something greater than themselves? Are they searching for a little inspiration in a crazy world? Maybe they crave a bit of humanity or to know that they’re not alone.

Perhaps, our blogs are not so different.

Ironically, I present you with 3 ideas for implementing a bit of “experience” into your blog:

  1. Consider a lesson from your past that has shaped who you are, why you blog, or what you blog about. Share this story with your readers, embrace the personal introspection that you’ll need to endure, and find common ground with your readers when they comment in response to your post. Tell your story succinctly but completely, include details,  free yourself from a few boundaries. Use telling your story to set up a narrative around the point you are trying to make or problem you are trying to solve with your post. Once you’ve told your story, don’t just revert to your information-driven style, embrace the narrative and let the lesson flow.
  2. Take the time to source creative or inspirational images for your posts. There is so much more out there than stock photography. Check out the Flickr Creative Commons and use the “Attribution” library to find images that photographers would love for you to use, if you just provide them with a little credit! If you’re feeling especially brave, you might allow a post to be driven by a fascinating image that you find while browsing.
  3. Bring in unrelated inspiration. I am constantly amazed how much inspiration I can draw from just listening to public radio, watching good (and, yes, lots of bad) television, or watching my daughter interact from the world. None are directly related to what I blog about but each has provided fodder for some of my most popular posts. Allow yourself to be inspired by outside interests and you might hit pay dirt!

These posts my be more difficult to optimize for search engines but they are sure to engage your readers and elicit great comments. I’m betting you’ll see a nice little surge in social sharing, too! A foray into more “experiential” blogging might just give you the opportunity you’ve been looking for to reach a new level of connection with your audience. It has for me.

Tara Gentile is the editor of Scoutie Girl, the blog with a penchant for the passionately handmade, and the owner for a boutique web design business. You can also find her blogging on her personal site, Write Well, Create Often.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Yeah haha I’m sure they are quite hard to optimize…though since you’ve said this and there was that post from This Time It’s Personal (which was published on Problogger a couple days ago), I guess I should give it a try.
    But now…how DO you optimize the posts?

  2. Tara, you’ve put into words what I try to achieve with my blogs. The great thing about writing from personal experiences is that the supply is endless.
    Every now and then I do the Numbered List post, but for the most part, I think my blog stands out because I inject my heart and a bit of my life into my posts.
    I think that’s the only way to do it. So what if it’s not search engine optimized – I’d rather be “people optimized” any day! :)

  3. Very interesting ideas to draw on my past experiences and turn that into a post. Considering I’m only 20 years old, I don’t feel that I’ve had many issues in my life that have shaped who I am as a finance blogger. Maybe I should step away from that area and just write about my past…

  4. Hey Tara,

    Thanks for sharing this experience with me. I never thought about using people’s photograph. That is brilliant!

    I like to use list but with my experience behind it. This way I can show people that problem I had and what I did do overcome them.

    Chat with you later…

  5. I couldn’t agree more. For the most part, I swore off list posts a long time ago. Although, sometimes they are the best way to explain a particular event or principle I have learned.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Yes!! A guest post from a non-informational/non-self helper/ non metablogger! I can so relate that it is hard to apply probloggers advice to a creative/personal blog. But your advice rocks. And I am taking it to heart!

  7. Lists seem to be taking over the blogosphere..

    I can’t even count how many blogs I’ve seen that are nothing-but-lists; lists are nice, but there’s a line that needs to be drawn..

    Your blog is a really nice break from the mundaneness I that is 90% of the internet…. I’m personally a big fan of pictures, and it looks like you are too!

    I’ve subscribed to your blog, looking forward to seeing more great posts in the future!

  8. I completely agree!

    lists and pictures are a visitors magnet!

  9. I like these ideas and I try to put a lot of myself into my blog. The balancing act I struggle with is: how much is too much?

    I’m almost afraid to tell friends I blog these days. Their first reaction is, about what? Who wants to read about your life?

    I have to explain to them my blog is not an online diary, it’s a publication that talks about issues I think are relevant and interesting. But to be honest I do bring a lot of my own life into my blog. It’s how I relate the life lessons I’ve learned.

    So how much is enough to create a connection and when am I talking too much about myself?

  10. I get so tired of reading list posts. Thanks for bringing some originality to the mix.

  11. Writing a guest post on popular blogs with massive traffic will help you out in getting more readers tp read your list posts.
    It’s quite impressive

  12. List posts, in and of themselves, aren’t bad, but those sites which rely on them heavily appear to do so because the author lacks anything concrete to say. It’s gotten to the point where when I see a list post I read “regurgitated list gotten from Google searches.” This may seem harsh, but their overuse seems to pervade some blogs.

    Of course, I’m sure there’s a segment of readers which prefer posts designed in that manner. I’m just not one of them.

  13. I’ve always been on the fence about writing for search engines. I rarely do and maybe I won’t get a much organic traffic as a result, but I do get engagement from my readers. Definitely some rock solid ideas on writing compelling content. I’m going to have to experiment with them a bit.

  14. thanks, everyone, for the great feedback!

    @aaron – how DO i optimize my posts? well, on many posts i basically ignore SEO except for using good alt text and keyword optimized titles. on my more textier, if you will, posts, i tend to be inspired by something i read elsewhere and use a keyword phrase from that article to craft my post in response with my own opinions & philosophy. that seems to be working really well and gives me the opportunity to write something fresh while still gaining inspiration from elsewhere!

  15. I got how to use flickr images for blog posts and that is my biggest learning for today thanks to Tara Gentile her blog for this.

  16. I’m often conflicted about list posts – on the one hand, I know that some people find them useful, and they definitely seem to attract more attention/shares/RTs.

    But on the other hand, I find list posts to be dry, pedantic, and even condescending at their worst, and I cringe at the idea of writing them.

    What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that the idea of an experiential blog appeals to me a lot – but what appeals to me even more is the reinforcement of the idea that there isn’t one right way to blog. List posts may be the quick and dirty way to write, but there’s certainly no need to write them if you don’t want to.

  17. It’s sways back and forth… I would say spend year 1 and 2 on blogging big chunky content… Then in year 3 shift up a gear with more creative visual posts and have a big presence on Twitter and Facebook.

    If you slow down on the the chunkier “wordy” content go for a bit of video SEO, this can get serious traffic from “YouTube”…

    I’m in my 3rd year now so I am going to start illustrating more and making more videos…

    Thanks guys!…

  18. Hey Tara, Thank you for the lovely post. I just checked out your blog and bookmarked it as I love the style and good, hand-made artwork and design. It is very inspiring. You wrote what I’ve been trying to articulate:

    “Do your readers long to connect to something greater than themselves? Are they searching for a little inspiration in a crazy world? Maybe they crave a bit of humanity or to know that they’re not alone.”

    I think for those who write about issues other than how to make money (and even those who do) will find this to be true–especially about connecting to something greater than oneself. I have. I didn’t have these words but I’ve copied and pasted them and will let them guide future pieces. Thank you.

  19. Hi Tara,
    I understand where you’re coming from with the list vs experience blog post topic. I try to use a mix of both including beautiful images or images that contribute to the mood of the story. Bringing in lessons from life keeps things juicy. Anytime I can add in something that’s current in the news helps me feel connected.

    I wonder, though, about your unwillingness to use lists in your posts – or do you mean in your headlines?

    It seems to me that crafts are all about step one followed by step two followed by the need to improvise if it didn’t go your way. Creativity is built on structure.

    I vote for a mix of both and – as someone already mentioned – good balance :D

  20. I’ll do list posts occasionally, usually when it’s something super informational and almost borderline tutorial. I’m in the same niche as Tara, so I totally understand where she’s coming from on this issue. I think especially within the indie design community, engaging your audience can be much more important at times than optimizing for SEO. People will share your links if you’re open, honest and engaging. Don’t most of the experts tell you to write for people first, search engines second anyway? That said, for design bloggers like us, we can always use the title tags of those image heavy posts to help drive SEO.

  21. @cheryl – my “craft” blog isn’t really tutorial based like many are. it’s more about handmade shopping but also on the inspiration and passion behind the people of the creative community, which is why it tends to be more story based.

    i’m not at all unwilling to write list posts – it’s more something that i’ve struggled with finding juicy topics for. actually, after writing this post, i’ve written a couple that have been very well received while having a story by at their core at the same time. stretching myself everyday!

  22. Really awesome post Tara. Bringing that creativity to a writing style that isn’t the seo-norm so-to-speak, and really understanding what your readers are coming to you for, are two powerful ways to find your success online.

    Mixing experience with the list-style writing is another powerful way to build a huge readership that continues to return.

    Thanks for the good read!

  23. I do like throwing out list posts from time to time, but I do know that a lot of times they just don’t really teach.

    Posts like “the 500 best blog designs” are great for entertainment, but when’s the last time you actually learned from something like that? I do like list posts as they are easy to read, but most of them just don’t have anything all that unique to them and just serve as something to draw loads of social media traffic to their blog.

  24. I especially like your point about letting the story and the lesson flow. Our readers are smart and they’ll know instantly if we’re holding back on whatever it is we want to say. It’s always better to let our thoughts flow freely when writing, and just doing an appropriate amount of polishing afterwards.

  25. @alex – couldn’t agree more! they’re great for SEO – but then how many of those visitors become engaged readers who are going to stick around, contribute, and then ultimately buy what you’re selling?

    thanks for the feedback!

  26. Everyone loves a list. It peaks their curiosity.

  27. Tara – This is excellent and a great response to the “me too” problem on the Internet.

    Sure, top lists create link bait, but brands and blogs are built on thinking. Creating. etc.

    One thing we do is interviews. Some are more How-To some are more inspirational, but the idea is to be different and not fall into the category of mediocre.


  28. List post have become common-trite in my opinion. They are very useful though. I try to break up the monotony of list post and include inspirational post, story telling based post in conjunction. I like for my readers to feel less like I’m talking at them and more like I’m relating to them on their level.

  29. Good advice! Actually, I think I need to try writing some more list posts in the near future. Haven’t done many of those yet! I’ll definitely try to go experiential too.

    That’s what makes blogging so fun, so many options to explore, different techniques to experiment with!

  30. I too have found that as my blog posts have become more experiential and a bit more personal, my readership has gone up. Just sharing lists or good ideas is not enough to get visitors reading your blog and returning to it. You have to put a bit of heart into it! I suspect that my recent post about struggling with finding the balance between online time and time spent experiencing life will strike a chord with my readers because it is both experiential AND personal.

  31. List posts, in and of themselves, aren’t bad, but those sites which rely on them heavily appear to do so because the author lacks anything concrete to say. It’s gotten to the point where when I see a list post I read “regurgitated list gotten from Google searches.” This may seem harsh, but their overuse seems to pervade some blogs.

    Of course, I’m sure there’s a segment of readers which prefer posts designed in that manner. I’m just not one of them.

  32. Great guest posts and comments this week!
    Thanks for inspirational and useful tips!

  33. oh yeah I LOVE list posts! and heaps of pictures – I hate reading long posts (more than 400-500words) – what is your preferred length of a post?

  34. yup, same with you, i think great comments are more meaningful than SEO :-)

  35. Hi Tara,

    Interesting post, thank you. I agree with your point about taking the time to source creative or inspirational images for blog posts. I’m writing mainly information based posts at the moment (for English language learners) and I find that images really help with learners’ memorization and recall of language points. I use Flickr Creative Commons and it’s a fantastic source of relevant and creative images.

  36. When it comes to list, i guess people loves as is.

  37. Hey Tara,
    List Posts is really a great way to attract visitors. I do write list posts from time to time and many time they work great (at least for me). Thanks for sharing this great post :) !!


  38. I find it effective to mix personal experience with a numbered list. “Something may have happened in the past, this is what happened, but if faced with that situation again I would do the following five things first,” sort of a thing.

    It gives you the ease of a list with the personality of a story.

  39. Tara, I write the type of blog you mention. I am eager to try suggestion #2!

  40. Great post! I’ve actually been meaning to create a “who am I?” and “why do I do this?” type of post, but it’s always being pushed to the backburner. Guess, it’s time to move it up again.

    Oh, and yeah, that second suggestion is great! I’d never thought about that before!

  41. I wonder if it’s possible to burn out readers with list posts. They have become so common place that I don’t know if they still have the same punch.

    Yahoo is still using them here and there so there has to be some value.

  42. Yes, the reader always want to read posts that could give them inspiration – not just talking this and that.

    Sharing lesson & inspiration with readers is a nice thing to do – something which I ignore before this. And now you make me realize about it.

    Thanks a lot =)

  43. I loved all your points here. Thanks for the flickr idea! Can you give an example of point number three (in your list :)?

  44. Hey Tara,

    This post inspired me. Since most people enjoy talking about themselves and the lessons learned, this is a wonderful idea.

    I’m thinking it would humanize my gift shop. (not really a blogger), but still need great ideas to encourage visitors and I find them here.

    We have a brand new look! Check it out!

    Thank You!


  45. “You know, the “5 Tips for Yada Yada” or “7 Ways to Blah Blah” posts.” That’s so funny! I have to blogs, The HCG Diet 411 Blog @ http://www.hcg411.info and i-Blogger http://www.i-blogger.info and I can’t tell you how many posts I have written like, 5 Tips For Yada Yada Yada. Classic!!!

  46. Tara, I follow both Scoutie Girl and Problogger, so I was really pleased to see your guest post this morning! I really love your suggestion to get brave and perhaps write an entire post about an inspiring CC licensed image. I can look through Flickr for hours on end in amazement and fascination with all the beautiful and creative images people post. I don’t know where we’d be without CC, what a phenomenal tool for the blogging/publishing/photography community. Thank you for your fabulous tips!

  47. Tara, I think experiential blogs are harder to get a foothold. We have one and though people tell us that they love our site, I feel like list blogs do better, especially in the travel world. I try really hard not to do list posts because I find them to be dull and often stereotyped — especially in travel — because people tend to write lists like, “where you should go this year,” the “next hot spot,” etc. The question I have is how do you make an experiential blog also a “scannable” blog. It’s a tough question.

  48. I love your advise. I am new to blogging and about everything else online. I have been online for 11 months attempting to market my handmade porcelain ceramics. Your advise is easy to understand and I really appreciate your style as it is so much more creative then alot of advise I have been trying to absorb from other sites. As an artist it is great to find someone who can translate this techy stuff in an interesting and creative way.
    Thank you and keep up the great work!

  49. @frenchee here’s a post that i wrote that was inspired by the “true cost” of the american health care debate and how that related to buying handmade goods: http://www.scoutiegirl.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=6755 i think that’s a pretty good example of my third point. thanks for asking!

    @akila as the writing on my blog gets longer & longer, i’m using tags more often, as well as headlines. not always for the usual headline purposes, sometimes just for dramatic effect ;) i think those techniques really break up my writing and give a dynamic effect that a physical page doesn’t have!

  50. Writing stories about where I live is what my blog is all about. I save the ‘lists’ for my talk radio show on http://www.roatanradio.com

    -What you do and don’t need on Roatan.
    -How you can tell a newbie will make it on Roatan.
    -Things I’m glad I can’t get or don’t want on Roatan.

    Those are the only kind of lists I use. So far it’s working pretty good.

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