No denying this. Listicles have become the most compelling format by which information is fed and consumed these days on digital media. Scanning an article that has been broken up into small, chewable, bulleted bits is so convenient for modern, distracted audiences to read on their palm-top devices that listicles have emerged as the single-most powerful formula for content dissemination.
Traditional journalists abhor listicles, calling it a dumbed-down, stupidification of content that requires no structuring, no thought, no analysis, and certainly no gift of authorship. But the cake-versus-cupcake argument still triumphs, and dumb or not dumb, this is what majority of readers have time to glance over and share in viral proportions on social media.
Buzzfeed.com, the supreme arbiter on matters of trivia, entertainment and cat videos has made such an indisputable pop icon out of listicles, that no social content marketer worth a single Facebook `like’ can afford to ignore them these days.
And your website content is seriously out-of-date if you’re not using the listicle format in blogs and social material you generate.
Now, there is still such a thing as `good’ listicles and `bad’ listicles. The bad ones, obviously, are cheap, cheesy click-baits where all the 5 minutes of preplanning has gone into attention-grabbing headers like `11 Tips For A Hot Funeral Selfie’.
A `good’ listicle, on the other hand, uses the format in a more responsible manner, making sure that the money shot is not merely in the headline. It fulfills the promise of good content with thoughtful, useful material to build the entire body text.
And rewards for this `good’ listicle practice are plenty. For one, you’re not diddling your audience, who will gradually stop engaging with you if you keep promoting dud listicles on your blogs and social pages. Second, there are search engine spiders, who are always watching out for quality content. Do well by the spiders, and your search engine traffic will increase exponentially. Feed them rubbish, and you’re pretty much dead in the water.
To give your listicle-building skills a bit of extra fillip, I am sharing 5 clever insights that will ensure you’re always on the `good’ listicle side. And you’re attracting brand new traffic with the blessings of Google as well.
#1: Don’t Sacrifice Content Length
The temptation to finish a listicle in 300-350 words is strong when you’re generating multiple blogs every week for your website. Don’t do that. Make each bulleted point count, by treating them like mini articles. Fill them with relevant information and links. Add images and infographics as much as possible. In other words, be Google-friendly and in sync with the search engine expectation of high word-count. Search engines love long-form content, as they naturally promise a deeper, more informative and reliable reading experience. Win that trust with well-written listicles, and your social traffic will love you as well.
# 2: Know The Magical Number Of Bullet Points In A Listicle – It’s 29
Not always possible to do, but keep this magical figure in mind. 29 is the optimal number of bullet points in a Buzzfeed listicle, according to Gilad Lotan, Chief Data Scientist for New York’s Betaworks. So beef up your listicle with 29 morsels of information whenever you can.
# 3: Title Your Listicles With A Prime Number
It’s not just mathematicians who are obsessed by prime numbers. Somehow, they seem to resonate subconsciously with ordinary folks like us as too, and a listicle with a prime number in the title tends to get a lot more clicks. Instead of getting into the math of what prime numbers actually are, just know this list: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97, 101.
# 4: Top, Most, Best
The three most powerful hypnotic words to include in a listicle title. Who has time for second-best these days?
# 5: Borrow Some Celebrity Off Brad Pitt
Generic listicles get a lot of extra oomph when you associate a celebrity with them. You don’t need permission from Brad Pitt, for instance, to use his name if your listicle has to do with something the movie star is already known for. For Example: “11 Summer Pizza Recipes That Brad Pitt Will Love”. A well-known connoisseur of all kinds of pizza, you’re well in the clear when you’re anecdotally using the movie star’s name. And your audience will obviously be more interested in making pizza to please Brad’s tastebuds than yours.
As writer and editor, Nabanita (Nita) has worn many hats. She started her career as a magazine journalist – and launched and edited India’s largest-selling weekend magazine (`Brunch’) before moving to the United States in 2007. She has also written travel books (for the award-winning `To Asia With Love’ series) and countless columns and articles for newspapers and magazines in the United Kingdom, United States and Asia. She has been working in digital content marketing for over 10 years now with a relentless curiosity about what drives and motivates people when they’re interacting in the online space.