When you write your article, follow all the usual advice about writing well. Avoid the passive voice, vary your sentence structure, use vivid language, and get rid of unnecessary words. Those are things you should be doing when you write anything, of course.
What is a listicle?
Simply put, a listicle is an article written in list-format. Each list item will typically include either a few sentences or multiple paragraphs, and a listicle is meant to either educate or delight readers. You might read a fun listicle, like ‘The Top 10 Movies of 2020’, or a more informational one, like ‘7 Steps to Build a Website’.
As marketers, we’re often tasked with writing about drier topics to educate our viewers and attract leads. A listicle can help the reader scan for information they need and feel less overwhelmed by the amount of content.
By reformatting the post into a listicle — “How to Build a Landing Page in 10 Easy Steps” — you’re breaking complex content into bite-size pieces for your readers and enabling them to feel like they do have the time to consume your content right now. Best of all, if readers are already familiar with some steps in the process, they can skip to sections most applicable to them.
Additionally, listicles are incredibly shareable on social platforms. I’d likely share “13 Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Inspire and Get You Started With Your Own” on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook with colleagues or friends, since I’d imagine my followers would enjoy clicking through visual examples. I’d be less likely to share a more text-heavy piece like “How to Start Your Own Influencer Marketing Campaign”.
Make Sure Your Article Belongs in a List Format
Before you get started, take a minute to think about whether your article makes sense as a listicle. We love listicles—this article probably makes that clear—but they’re not right for everything. Always ask yourself, “Can I break my article down into several discrete points?” Only write it as a listicle if the answer is a firm yes.
Narrative pieces shouldn’t generally be listicles. If you want to tell a story about the time you went pearl diving in Tahiti, it probably shouldn’t be formatted as a list – although it’s possible that as you’re writing it, you’ll discover it would work better as a listicle than a straight-up narrative (“10 Things That Surprised Me When I Went Pearl Diving in Tahiti,” for example).
Check That Your Title Matches Your List
Imagine that you’re reading an article called “7 Surprising Benefits of Taking a Gap Year,” and item number four is “Make Sure Not to Bite Off More Than You Can Chew.” You can see what’s wrong with that, right? It’s good advice, but it’s not really a “benefit,” which is what the title promised the article would be about.
That list entry would make perfect sense in an article titled “7 Tips for Taking a Gap Year,” but it’s not appropriate here. It makes it seem like the title and article were written by different people.
Mistakes like this look amateurish, but they’re fairly common. How do they happen? In some cases, it’s because the person who wrote the title actually wasn’t the person who wrote the article. Other times, it’s because the article’s writer was distracted.
Don’t fall into that trap. It’s tempting to take shortcuts when you’re feeling the pressure to produce a lot of content very quickly, but you still need to check your work before you publish it.
Be Careful Not to Write Clickbait
Although listicles are popular, they don’t have a perfect reputation. There are a lot of listicles out there with titles that mislead the reader, and you don’t want your article to be associated with them, especially if you’re trying to establish yourself as an authority and a source of high-quality content.
How to write listicles: tips and examples
- Consider your audience: Are you writing for casual readers looking to your content to be entertained, or is the target audience of your content more business-oriented? If the audience is more casual, consider adding embedded or uploaded media to your listicle items to further engage your readers in the content. If the tone of your content is humorous, add GIFs or memes to lengthen each listicle item beyond the content you write.
- Plan out each listicle item first: Before you fill in the content of each listicle item, plan out your listicle and each item you want to cover in the overall article. This will help you stay organized and make writing each section easier for you.
- Research keywords (if writing for SEO): Just like any piece of SEO content, if the goal of your content is for it to rank high among search engine results pages (SERPS), do some keyword research before you begin to write your listicle and make sure you are including keywords and keyword phrases with high search volume. Find ways to include those high-value keyword phrases throughout your listicle content. Bonus points if they can be included in your listicle items’ subheads.
- Research your competition: Along with doing some light-to-moderate SEO research, you’ll also want to make sure you spend some time researching your competitors and consider how they have presented content on your topic. What has your competitor done that you could do better? Maybe they have created a listicle on the same topic, but it’s not very deep. Consider adding more items to your listicle that your competitor may not have covered.
- Write an odd number of list items: Because search engines are commonly fed with listicles of standard numbers (ex. “5 Tips for Improving Your Copywriting Skills” or “10 Ways to Write a Listicle for Your Content Marketing Blog”), give your listicle an odd or unusual number to help it stand out. If you plan to go back to your listicle at a later time and add more content to it, leave the number of items out of the slug but include it in your title.
- When possible, have list items open up to new landing pages: The goal is to have your reader scroll as long as possible through your listicle. If you are backlinking or linking to external sites from your listicle items, you want to try to keep your reader on your page. If it is possible, consider designing your links to open in in new landing pages in other tabs.
You can see an example of listicle content from ClearVoice in “Mantras for a Better Freelance Writing Portfolio to Catapult Your Career.” You may notice that the listicle items are not numbered — that’s OK. They do not need to be as long as there is a list of items for the reader to scroll through.