Seven steps to a perfect listicle
Listicles are here. Raise your hand, if you haven’t spotted articles—especially online—giving advice on a myriad of things packaged into lists.
Listicles are everywhere, in evening papers, women’s magazines as well as the more businesslike publications, let alone blogs.
I’m talking about articles such as these:
- Five Tips on How to Succeed at Everything
- 25 tips and tricks to help you get a better sleep
- 11 Ways to Use Video in Your Content Marketing
Pretty inviting, huh?
But why are listicles appealing to us all?
It’s because we’re lazy and curious. Humans have a built-in desire to learn to do things better—and more efficiently. We’re forever prowling for new information to help us tackle daily challenges at home and at work.
At the same time, the pace is picking up all around the world. Nobody has the time to endlessly educate themselves. We all have to do with just 24 hours to a day.
This is precisely why an article promising to wrap up all the main points of a given subject shortly and concisely is a surefire way of grasping attention.
What’s the point with numbers?
The popularity of numbered lists lies in the fact that the human brain is built to process numbers faster than words.
For a busy information hunter, a listicle promises something downright irresistible: a limited amount of information structured in advance for you, instead of pages and pages of endless prose. Numbering forces us to break down the information into snackable items.
As a result, the reader is able to effortlessly scan the main points without, God forbid, having to actually stop and read the entire article.
What kind of a listicle works?
Statistics show that odd-length lists perform better than even-length ones. In fact, the human brain is found to process information best when the mass of information has been divided into an odd number of items.
There is also a deep-rooted belief in marketing communications that odd numbers are more credible than even numbers.
Why is this? An odd number sounds more authentic and deliberate to the reader. You may want to think again whether to write your headline in the Top Ten fashion.
Are listicles hype?
Very possibly. They’re popular for a reason, however. Well executed they’re really useful to the reader—and therefore irresistible.
Here’s how—7 tips for a snackable list
1 Hone your headline
Your headline will sell your article to the reader—or not. So you’d better spend a moment or two on working on your headline.
Don’t forget sub-headings. If each point of your list consists of more than a line or two, it’s a good idea to add a short sub-heading.
The sub-heading can also be a question. A classic example:
…or Keep It Short (and) Simple – KISS.
Concise and easy to understand sentences will beat long and winding ones—always.
3 Remember rhythm
Don’t exhaust the reader with long and heavy paragraphs. Keep them as short as possible—and vary their length. An important point is highlighted when presented in a short paragraph of its own. Monotonous, long paragraphs belong in school essays only!
As a result, there will be welcome variation in the structure and the text will be easily snackable. The reader will thank you.
4 Be concrete
Use concrete language and illustrative examples; they’re useful for the reader.
5 Stick to the point
Define the scope of the list tightly to make it more interesting to the reader. Nobody’s interested if you’re trying to tell the whole world everything under the sun.
Could your point be illustrated, using images or video? You can leave the actual work to professionals, but don’t forget about this important step.
7 Use odd numbers
Packaging your points into an odd number of items is more likely to attract readers than an even number list. Why? An even number may appear too calculated and therefore contrived to the reader.