BlogCompass: Yes, List Posts Are A Thing

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List posts are one of the central pillar posts of blogging.  Take a look at any popular blog on almost any genre you can think of, and you'll see an almost overwhelming amount of them.  The reason for that is very simple:  Readers like reading them.  They're easily scannable.  I don't know about you, but any time I run across a list post that even remotely interests me I scroll down past the introductory stuff to get to the list.  If the list still holds me after I've read it, I might go back and read the introduction.  In fact, I usually do now that I think about it.   

I can tell you when I don't go back and read the whole post:  When the intro is long and rambling.  List posts are supposed to get you to the main idea quickly.  If I have to scroll through a few chapters of Crime and Punishment to get to your point, the chances are I'm going to eject before I get to your list.   So, right off the bat, we've got two reasons why list posts are central to your blog: They can be read easily, and quickly. 

Lists, by their nature, can make a persuasive argument for the reader.  The more points, and the more comprehensive they are, the more compelling they can be.    Personally, I find some lists to be deceptively persuasive.  You're looking at a post that has 6 points, but as you dig in, you realize the writer has subsets for every point, each one with sources and links.    Easy to get sucked in.  

Two things that we absolutely know about List Posts for sure is that they get READ a lot, and they get shared a great deal.  If you look at any site dedicated to content analyzation you'll see that list posts are among the most consistently shared kind of blog post.  If you don't feel like doing that kind of research, just go look at BuzzFeed.  They're the list post KINGS.  (maybe also the clickbait kings, but that's another story isn't it?)  We like reading lists, and apparently we sure as hell love sharing them.  

Finally, let's just be honest.  Depending on your blogging platform, and how you format a list...they can look pretty cool.   

  1. The Post IS the list.  
  2. An extended list (intro paragraph, list point with a paragraph to justify...or some bullets underneath it. These can go long)
  3. An essay post with a list underneath.  

I'd like to take a second and tell you what I do with list posts.  After a little trial and error, what I have settled upon may not get me the most views, but it does give me the best engagement on a post, which I consider to be more important. 

The headline should clearly state that this is going to be a list.  "Seven Reasons to not get up at 5am every morning", for example.

I'll start with an introductory paragraph that addresses the topic of the post. 

Next, I'll tell a personal story related to the topic.  This takes as many paragraphs as it takes, but I like to keep them relatively short.

After that, I'll write a pivot paragraph that transitions to the list. 

Now we've finally reached the list.  I like creating my points, and then writing a paragraph or two to justify it.  Even better, if I can tie that paragraph back to my personal story, popular culture, or some kind of obscure knowledge that will get you points at your next Bar trivia night, I try to do that.  

Finally, I'll close out my post with a recap of what we've learned, and I might ask you for your comments by way of a question.   

Action Items:

  • Come up with a list of at least three reasons why...insert subject here...is awesome. 
  • Alternately, a list of three reasons why it's literally the worst thing ever. 
  • Can you tie one of those reasons above to a personal story?  That's the one you go with.