Today your challenge is to create a ‘list post’ for your blog

list-postSince I started blogging back in 2002 the ‘list post’ has always been a popular type of post for bloggers. While you may not want every post on your blog to have this format there’s no doubt there are some definite advantages of using them from time to time.

As I look at my most popular posts over the years on my blogs many of them would fit quite well into this category.

So today I want you to create one. Here’s what to do:

  1. Listen to today’s episode (either here on the site or in iTunes or Stitcher)
  2. create and publish your list post on your blog
  3. please share a link to your newly published list post in comments below so we can see what you’ve done today
  4. check out some of the links other share, comment on and share the ones you enjoy the most

In This Episode

Here’s what I cover in todays episode:

  • 8 Reasons Why List Posts Work
  • A Warning on List Posts
  • 3 Types of List Posts to Try Writing on Your Blog
  • Examples of List posts that I’ve written that might give you some ideas

Examples of List Posts Mentioned in this Episode

All of these examples come from my blog at Digital Photography School but please submit your own new list posts below and check out the examples others leave to see them applied in different niches/topics.

Also mentioned in this episode as a tool to check was Buzz Sumo.

Welcome to ProBlogger podcast, episode 2 and day 2 of our 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge. Today, I’ll be talking to you about creating a list to post for your blog. But first, a quick word from our sponsor, 99designs, the best place for new businesses and bloggers to build their brands.

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Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Hi, this is Darren from ProBlogger. Welcome to day 2 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog where each day, I’ll be sharing with you some tips on how to improve your blog and then challenge you to do something based upon those tips. Today, we’re talking about list posts. List posts, as I look back on my blog, have been probably the best thing that I’ve ever done in terms of types of content.

In fact, I just spent 15 minutes looking back over Digital Photography School’s top posts, going right back to 2009 when I started and listed posts featured in the top 100 or so posts that I’ve written in terms of their traffic and very heavily. In fact, probably over half of the posts that I’ve written that feature that, that most-read post list would be list posts. I’ll share some of them as examples with you in a moment.

I just want to touch on why I think list posts are so important. There’s a whole heap of them. Firstly, they’re scannable. As you probably know, people are much more likely, when they’re reading online, to scan content than to read it, or at least they’ll scan through it first to see whether it’s relevant to them. They might go back and read it or they might stop at different points to read, but they rarely just start reading and then get right through to the end.

Lists by their nature, whether they be bullet posts or whether they be lists that have lots of subheadings and images in them, are scannable and people do like to do that. I think also a list can, by virtue of being scannable, is a little bit more digestible. You can actually get the main points just by looking through it and looking at the headings. They’re scannable.

Secondly, I think they keep your posts a little bit more succinct. There’s something about a list that keeps a blogger from rambling, and that’s certainly the case for me. If I sit down to write a post on a topic, if I can break it down, I’m much more likely to be succinct and concise.

Thirdly, lists look neat. I don’t know about you, but when I arrive on a site that’s full of messily formatted text, I tend to disappear pretty quickly. I hit the back button. But if I come to a post, then I can scan it and I can see the main points. I’m much more likely to dig deeper if it actually looks good. I think lists are neat, they keep your ideas in order. They also can be quite comprehensive.

I know a lot of people say that lists posts are light and fluffy, but you can actually write a list post that is incredibly comprehensive. I’d actually argue that if you have a list post that has perhaps 21 points, that actually can be quite comprehensive and I’ll show you some examples of that in a moment. I also think lists can be quite persuasive. I think the accumulation of points towards an overarching argument can really end up with a very comprehensive argument.

Number six is that lists can add to the ease of writing, and I think this is why I first started using them. When I tackle a big topic and I’m going to show you an example in a moment of a post where I tackle the topic of portraiture, portrait photography. It’s a massive topic but I wrote a post that had 10 different ways to improve your portrait photography.

I think if I just sat down and said I’m going to write everything I know about portraiture, I wouldn’t have ever written that post. But by brainstorming 10 things that I wanted to touch on and then just writing it piece by piece, paragraph by paragraph, breaking it down into that list made it a lot easier to write.

The seventh thing that I love about lists is that they tend to be shared quite a bit. If you look at sites like BuzzSumo, which measures the shareability of content, you’ll see again and again that the most shared posts on different topics tend to be lists. For some reason, people like to share them and maybe it’s the accumulation of all the other things that I’ve already argued about lists. 

The last thing I like about this is that I have the potential to break down really complicated arguments. As someone who actually doesn’t want to just write content to get page views, I’m not really interested in the stats. I actually want to teach people. I want people to be changed by my content. I want people to learn from what I’ve got to say. I actually think, as a teaching tool, lists are fantastic.

I would really encourage you to take today’s challenge and to create a list post. Perhaps you don’t write in this style very often, but to occasionally go back to it, you may actually find that it’s a really useful way to write and there’s a whole heap of different types of lists that you can create.

I will give you a little bit of a warning, though. I think some blogs go too far on the lists and every post they write is in that same format. That might work but sometimes readers get a little bit sick of writing in the same format every day. If you’re a little bit over the top with your list posts already, maybe this is one that you want to try and write a different kind of list post.

In general, I would say there are three types of lists and we cover this in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook. Really quickly, the first type is your post itself is just a list. I’ve only written a few of these. I tend to go on a little bit longer, but there are a few posts that I’ve written and there’s no introduction. The headline itself introduces the idea and then I just write a list of 10, 15, 20 or so things and their bullet points, very short, sharp. Sometimes these types of posts, because they’re short and sharp, can be quite effective in communicating.

The second type is an extended list and this is what I tend to do. I usually introduce the topic, might take 2 or 3 paragraphs and then I might go through 10 different points. For each point, I might write a paragraph, two paragraphs, or three paragraphs. Sometimes I even break the points down into sub-lists. Point one might be on one and then it might have A, B, C, D or some bullets underneath it. These posts actually can end up being quite long. I’ve written list posts that are 4000 or 5000 words so they can be quite comprehensive.

The other type of list that you might create is just at least in the middle of your posts. You might write your post as an essay but halfway down it includes a list, a bullet point list and this is probably what most bloggers do most frequently.

I want to give you some examples of lists and all of these examples come from my blog. That’s the blog I know best. It’s probably what I like to talk about the most because it’s the stuff that I wrote or I published. Each of these posts comes from Digital Photography School and in the show notes, I’ll include links to each of them so you can have a look at them.

Some of these posts are quite old and I probably need to go back and update some of them because the formatting is not great and the images are perhaps a little smaller than I would use now, but they’ll give you an idea. All of these posts have been viewed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of times over the years.

Let’s start with the first one. It’s actually one I mentioned in the workbook as an example as well, 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know. This is a really simple post in many ways, it’s just 21 ideas and it’s an overview of the why the subject of photography. It’s quite a big topic. It’s just things that you should know if you’re a new camera owner. It’s a simple list, an overview of a wider topic. It has a short introduction and then it just gets straight into the lists.

Each point basically just has a heading and one paragraph on that point. It’s not very comprehensive in and of itself, but each point also links to an article that I’ve already written on the blog, which went into a lot bigger depth or a lot larger depth. In many ways, this is what I would call a sneeze page. You can find an article on sneeze pages or sneeze posts in the archives of ProBlogger. It really is designed to sneeze people deep within the site. It has 21 points and then 21 links where you can learn how to do each of those points.

The other good thing about this post is that the title makes a massive claim, a claim that you really want to follow up 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know. It’s no wonder that it’s been viewed so many times. This is a post that continues to this day, even though it’s been written about seven or eight years ago. It continues today to do quite well.

The next post is similar in some ways, it’s 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits. This one also is an overview post in some way. It’s not quite as wide a topic as the first one. It narrows down to portraiture but it’s still an overview. We actually have this type of post for most of the main categories on Digital Photography School.

For instance, in Landscape Photography, there’s a post, 11 Surefire Tips for Landscape Photography Tips. These types of posts do really well and I quite often, as I start a blog, will write these types of posts and will refer back to them, link back to them quite a bit. Each point in this post has a strong title, their headings. Each point has at least a paragraph, sometimes two or three paragraphs on the point. Each point also has a really strong image that illustrates the point. I find that if you can insert images into your lists, you’re much more likely to draw people down the post.

This post was so popular, I followed it up with a second post and you’ll see at the bottom there’s another link to another post called 10 More Tips to Take for Stunning Portraits. Throughout the post, there’s a whole heap of links to further reading. It’s not quite as many as the first one I showed you, this post gets people deeper into the site again.

The next post I want to talk about briefly is How to Make An Inexpensive Light Tent. This is a bit different in some way. It doesn’t have a number in the title. It’s not presented as a list post in the title, but it’s largely a step-by-step walkthrough of a process of making it a DIY project. It’s really two lists if you look at it. The first list is a list of materials needed and then the second list is the step-by-step process. This is the type of post you could do on many different topics, anything that you could walk your readers through step-by-step is a great way to create a list post.

The next post is 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Women. This actually was a guest post that was submitted to us and really, it’s all a list of images. Each point in the post does have a short paragraph, but I don’t think many of our readers actually read the text. They are just there to look at the images and to get ideas on how to pose a particular subject. This post spurred a whole series of posts.

We now have part two of this photographing women but also photographing men, photographing children, photographing groups of people, photographing couples and so on. This could work in lots of different types of blogs. You might do a list of images that are examples, case studies, or screenshots, illustrations, variations on a theme. You could also do it with videos as well. 

The next post is How to Photograph Fireworks. This isn’t presented as a list, it’s not 10 ways too but if you look at the post itself, it’s actually a list. It’s got 10 tips on the topic of photographing fireworks and some of the points are then broken down further. You’ll see a couple of them there have lists within the list. As always, images throughout the post which helped draw people’s eye down the post, keep them engaged, keep them a little bit inspired.

The next post is DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers. Again, this is a 10-point list. We tend to do a lot of 10-point lists for some reason. It’s a nice round number. In it, we show an image and a short description of 10 different DIY projects and then we link to where people can learn more. This is a bit different, it doesn’t link to many posts now in archives. It actually links to other people’s sites. This is a curated content piece.

I wrote this quite early on in Digital Photography School when I didn’t have a whole heap of archives to link back to. I just found good content from around the web. It’s great for building relationships with other sites. It shows your readers that you read wider than your own blog, and it’s an easy way to create content.

The next one is The 30 Most Popular DSLR Lenses with our Readers and this is a product-based bestseller list. It’s based upon the reports that we get from Amazon Associates Program, their affiliate program that shows us what our readers buy when they click our affiliate links. Then, we just assemble the bestseller list from that. Our readers love this type of post because it shows them what other people are doing and what other people are buying. It’s great for social proof.

The other good thing about this type of list is that we link back to Amazon for each of the products and its link is an affiliate link. This post and others that we do like earn us affiliate commissions, and we disclose that throughout the post. We actually do this type of post every quarter. We do 30 most popular digital SLR lenses, we do digital SLR, we do smaller compact cameras, we do photography books. Every week or two, we’ll do a number of these types of posts. Our readers really love them and they share them quite a bit.

The next one is 10 Photography Quotes that You Should Know. Again, this is a really simple post to write, it’s just a list of 10 quotes. We didn’t say we didn’t create them, we just curated them.

The last one I’ll just briefly mention is 100 Things I’ve Learned About Photography and this is a long list. This is a hundred different things. It’s a comprehensive list although each one is really short. Again, this post is one of our earliest ones to this day. It still gets read a lot.

I hope these examples give you a few different ideas on the types of lists that you can create. Also, you can go to BuzzSumo, which I mentioned earlier. It’s a great place where you can type in any keyword that you’re interested in and it might be your niche. See what other people are creating. You’ll see they’ve listed the most shareable kind of content and many of the most shareable posts that you’ll see listed, there are lists. It might give you some ideas of what type of list works well in your particular niche.

The last thing I’ll say about creating lists is that you really need to pay attention to the formatting of your posts. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in this particular podcast, you want to use images as much as you can. A great image will draw people’s eyes down the post. It will illustrate the points that you’re making and make your post more comprehensive, more persuasive.

The other thing is to use formatting that breaks up the list in some way. You might use bulleting, but I find even more effective than bullets if it’s a long list with sort of paragraphs or content in the middle, is to use subheadings—big, large subheadings. Use your H tags and that will draw people’s eyes well and help them to scan that content and draw them into the posts.

There are heaps of lists on the Internet and again, some people don’t like these list posts because they think they’re a little bit fluffy but give it a go, see how you like it. Try a different type of list perhaps than you’ve tried before. Let us know over a where today’s show notes are […].

Love to see a link there to your list post, surf around, and check out some of the other list posts that other listeners are writing as well. This way, you’ll see some different styles of blogging, but you may also meet another blogger that could be useful for you later on in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog because this is really about broadening your network as well.

I look forward to seeing your list posts. I’ll share a few of them if I can, on Twitter as well, and hopefully, send a little bit of traffic out to listeners of this podcast. Thanks for listening today. Please do subscribe to us on iTunes. Leave us a review, a rating if you’ve got a moment and we’ll see you tomorrow on day 3 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

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Show Us Your List Posts

The key to this 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge is that you DO the challenges. So your challenge today is to write a list post and then to share the link in comments below.

Note: Please only share NEW posts that were written as part of this challenge and not old archived posts. This is about getting you to write something new!

Once you’ve shared your link please check out the links that others leave and get to know some other bloggers involved in this challenge.

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Pick up the 31DBBB eBook at 50% Off

Don’t Forget You can also grab the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook with a 50% discount using the coupon code PODCAST50 during the checkout process here.


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