Today, I’m going to blow your minds with some genuinely good tips on how to write an excellent listicle (list+article), nine tips, in fact, in list form. I think you see where this is going…
1. DON’T HATE THE PLAYER, HATE THE GAME
It’s easy to be scornful of the humble listicle. They’re usually frivolous, frequently meaningless and often just plain drivel. But, in a way, we are the creators of the listicle. It’s our web-blasted brains which love short, visual content, after all. With increasingly short attention spans and an ever-more gigantic internet, is it any wonder many of us love a punchy list full of good stuff?
So, when you’re putting your first listicle together, suspend all of your snarkiness. Instead, take yourself off to that happy, brainless place where you want to be entertained for 5 minutes and all you need to do is
And listicles don’t need to be stupid if that’s your beef. In fact, we’ve seen some relatively worthy listicles flying around:
- These 33 websites are relatively handy
- These sloths make otherwise disinterested people think about climate
change Andhere are 6 insider reasons to bury your archaeological drams
2. COME UP WITH A KILLER TITLE
No matter how incredible your listicle is, if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? Well, actually, I have no idea…probably? What I do know is that, if nobody clicks on your article, nobody will read your list, nobody will share it and nothing will ‘go viral’.
Forget ’10 Cute Ducks’, say hello to ’10 Fluffy Little Ducklings Which Will Kick Your Ovaries into Hyperdrive’. Okay, I’m exaggerating (a little), but you get the picture. Hype up your article and (if you’re feeling like jumping on another bandwagon) use the title to
The final technique – identify with people. Articles along the lines of ’10 things about X only people who X understand’ are rife right across the web. People like to feel part of a club and included. So include them!
3. YOU(R) BEST ATTRIBUTE
The web’s a copyright infringement minefield but, if you want to be a good web citizen, you need to exercise a little caution. Honestly, the big scary internet police aren’t coming to get you if you don’t provide attribution for your images, gifs and multimedia oojamaflips, but using them shows that you’re not a big pinchy Magee. It’s also likely to do you (perceived) authoritative favours, link out from your site to decent sources (good for Google brownie points) and help you to feel like one of the good guys. Remember:
- Creative Commons = the perfect place for images you can use without stepping on toes
- But you won’t find up-to-date pictures of celebs there, so then you’d probably have to buy or get
- Full, recommended attribution can be a big pain and few people go this far
- Using a Flickr pic? This tool will help you attribute instantly
4. KEEP IT MOVING (USE A GIF)
If images and punchy headings aren’t enough to capture your audiences’ attention, it’s time to pull out the big guns, GIF style. You can search for licensed gifs or you can make your own from your webcam, from a series of pictures, from a YouTube video, in fact from any video – go on!
5. HIT ON YOUR OWN MAGIC NUMBER
Five is too few, 10 is passe, 20 (according to weirdo listicle over-analyser Jack Shepard) just “feels real weird”. So how long should your listicle be? And does length matter?
There’s no hard and fast rule here. Personally, I like 15 – not too many, not too few, not annoyingly even, but not arbitrarily odd. Honestly, though, there’s no science. As the graph above shows, 29 is the optimum length for listicles according to Bloomberg. Fewer than 10 can seem sparse, though, and more than 35 will give your readers a case of RSI (Repetitive Scroll Injury).
According to some alarmingly in-depth research (pictured) by Noah Veltman & Brian Abelson. the most repeated Buzzfeed listicle lengths are 10, 15, 21, and 25. There’s also some industry hocus-pocus which suggests odd numbers perform better.
The trick? Use as many items as you need to explore your subject and make it interesting, but don’t bulk up a list for listing’s sake. This is quality control as much as anything else. Just make it good.
6. LET’S GET ONE THING STRAIGHT
…and then get let’s everything else straight too. Your images, your titles, your killer filler…
Listicles are inherently visual, which means that looks matter. We all wish we lived in a less shallow, more substantial world, but alas. Nice, consistent, evenly spaced content = slick, professional-looking, eye-pleasing content. Anything else will look sloppy, capiche?
You’ve hooked click-happy readers with a killer title, now it’s time to deliver on all that promise. Fail to do so and you’ll have disappointed customers, a sky-high bounce rate and a listicle so non-viral it’s basically an antibiotic.
8. CUT THE WAFFLE
A little rich coming at the tail end of a wordy old listicle, but listicle readers have a certain set of expectations, and those expectations don’t include reading a whole lotta words. People want titles, (possibly a strapline) and a picture. So keep it simple. A picture paints a thousand words, so save yourself a job!
9. DON’T GET PRETENTIOUS
…or get your literary knickers in a twist. Remember when everyone thought video games were the dearth of modern culture? Remember when television was the lowest brow medium around? Remember the 1700s when everyone looked down their literary noses at the novel?
The poor old listicle gets a nasty verbal beating, but it’s just a form of entertainment and diversion like any other. Some are good, some are bad, most are somewhere in between. If you set out feeling superior, you’re not committing to this medium and you’re not going to create something fun, punchy or engaging – it’s always going to feel, well, a little bit snide.
So get it off your chest. Feel better. Crack on with a fun listicle your readers will love and share the hell out of.
And that’s a wrap! Interested in filling your site with visual, punchy and of-the-moment content? Get in touch and we’ll create some cracking content especially for you.