Why List Posts Suck

I want to make a little bit of a commentary about bloggers who are using list posts constantly. Now, in blogging circles, it’s often thought…

ListI want to make a little bit of a commentary about bloggers who are using list posts constantly.

Now, in blogging circles, it’s often thought that list posts are the thing to do. Because they get shared, people like to read them, they like to get in and out, they like to get their quick advice and they’re like… BAM! It’s awesome, share it on Facebook, something like that. And they’re off to the races.

But the whole idea is that you get all these bloggers who want to write big, long list posts. You know… 65 Ways to do “something”. They think that it’s going to just impress a lot of people, get a lot of social media shares, etc., etc.

And all that might be true. You probably actually will, in a lot of cases, get some social media shares. I have done list posts like that before and they get a lot of activity. People do like the list post.

That being said, let’s talk a little bit about the alternative viewpoint on this thing.

Is It Smart, Strategically?

Here’s the thing, if you’re blogging for business, you want to be attracting people who might potentially buy things from you. The problem with list posts is that very often you’re going to attract the A.D.D type of people.

Now, I’m not going to be literal about that. What I’m trying to say is,  you’re just going to be getting people who are coming in there and they’re just scanning your stuff and not really paying full attention to it. They might hit the share button and leave. If all you want is for people to hit the share button and leave, or to post some comments saying how awesome you are then leave… then great! Do some list posts.

But if you want to attract people who are buyers or who have more of a likelihood of buying things from you, don’t do so many list posts because you’re going to be attracting people who are ADD’d out of their ever loving mind.  They’re not going to be paying enough attention to what you’re providing, or looking for a solution that is going to lead them into buying anything.

So, you’re going to get people who might smack the share button and leave, but you’re not necessarily going to get people who are going to buy things from you.

So, keep that in mind. If you’re blogging for business… YES, you might want to throw in some list posts just for social media activity. That’s surely what they’re good for – social media activity.

But you don’t want to rely on things like that unless the only thing you’re shooting for is displays on your ads.

Now, if you’re actually trying to sell something, you’re trying to sell a product or service, you don’t want to rely on list posts constantly. You’re going to be getting people who are barely paying any attention. They don’t have more than a 4 second attention span and these are not people who are going to be buying things from you.

The GREAT Alternative

The alternative to this is to write something that is going to propose a specific concrete solution to a problem that your prospect has. Give them that solution in the form of a blog post and make it so that they can read that blog post and go and do something about it.

You are now the provider of a solution… and that will attract buyers.

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About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.
  • LOL so far when I do a list post it’s a list of products and all the links are to Affiliate Programs.

    Like “10 Great WordPress Image Gallery Plugins” (http://bit.ly/WdGFw2) or “16 Premium WordPress Theme Download Sites” (http://bit.ly/SvvVCO).

    You can hardly even call those articles, but people click on them, re-tweet them, and buy the products, so it must work for some.

    I think the difference is that at least some of the people who click on posts like that are doing so because they have a need/use for the products in question, so the post is exactly what they need. Even if they’re not spending time on my blog because they immediately start clicking the links in the post, my own purpose is served.

  • Manu says:

    I always have the same doubt about posing stuff that isn’t the main theme of my blog. I have a lot of great articles about happiness, mindset & personal development but I’m always hesitant about wether to post them on my site or no.

    On one hand I think they are really good and can attract some visitors, make me be perceived as a person with other interest, etc. and differentiate, but on the other hand I don’t know if that will affect negatively the main goal of my site, which is make money.

    I know some people who have a main theme but spread themselves and still make a lot of money. However for me that I’m relatively starting off, still wondering… Great point this blog post.

  • Since October 31 has just passed, it’s a good time to look at how list posts can be effective.

    The most famous “list post” of all was written on October 31, 1517 by Martin Luther, when he posted the 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg (the 16th century version of Facebook). With 95 items on the list, it was a very long list. However, it wasn’t a scattershot list researched by interns, but a logical progression of inter-related statements that invited – demanded – debate within Luther’s target audience (the religious and educational hierarchy of his day).

    Of course, most of us are not Martin Luther, and many of us do not have the passion that he had about his topic, nor have many of us spent years researching our topic like Luther did. But this exception illustrates how list posts can be effective, and demonstrates the problems with those lists posts that are ineffective.

  • Joi says:

    I have to agree with you. A few times, I’ve done list posts and each time I did so because I was overworked at the moment and wanted to take the easy way out. It’s a lot easier to just throw your thoughts onto a page and number them than it is to connect them in a cohesive manner.

    However, when we do connect them, we use more content and search engines love content like I love chocolate. It’s always the better way to go. Thanks for the reminder. Next time I’m feeling lazy, I’ll take a refreshing walk – then return to my computer and do things the smart way.

  • Kerwin says:

    No way David, I use lists post and they work well. As a matter of fact my most read post is a list post and @Michael, I researched and wrote it all myself as I do all my lists post.

    David, it depends on the site you run and how you write the list post. I do a combination of reviews, how tos, lists posts and tips on my sites. The combinations works well.

    I’m writing a new one at the moment and I assure you it’s well researched.

    • David Risley says:

      They can get traffic, yes. But, my point is… do they attract people who BUY?

      • I agree with you 100% David. If you are going for prospects, keep it high quality and digestible. If you are just going for social media attention, then do what you want.

  • I think the odd how to or list post is OK for your readers. But it depends what type of site you are building. Is it a high quality site with content that you read, think and act on or is it a site for people doing research into specific problems like Smashing Magazine where they have a lot of list posts that compliment research into a particular design / technical problem I have. I for one would rather write high quality content, but there is a place for list posts.

    • David Risley says:

      I think there is a place for list posts, but it has to do more with social media fuel. 🙂

  • I have the feeling those mega list posts are actually researched and written by outsourced writers and/or interns. It may work for Mashable, but as you point out maybe not so much for lead generation.

    My pet peeve with list posts is that they’re lazy: concept and headline in one go, no thought required. And that translates into no real benefit to the reader because that kind of (usually) vapid content just doesn’t really help a highly qualified prospect.

    We know the right kind of list post works, which is why they’re so popular. But let’s ensure the content is excellent first. If it happens to have 9 or 11 points in it, maybe you can edit or add to have a nice number ten and then you’ve earned the right to have a “10 Ways to…” post.

    The times where the concept of simply having a list of points makes for excellent content are not as often as people want to believe. It’s just easier and faster to write like that. It’s a shortcut, and we all know the price of shortcuts.

    • David Risley says:

      It can be a shortcut in SOME cases, but in others, it takes a lot of work to make a list post.

      But, my point is that that kind of content attracts people who want the “quick hit”. That’s why those kinds of posts work well in social media, where attention is scarce. And, I bet a huge amount of retweets and shares of list posts are from people who didn’t even READ the post. They just like the sound of it, and the promise of “quick tips”.

      Again, fuel for shares, but people with a 4 second attention span don’t often make buyers who will spend money with you.

      • Very true, and I confess I don’t always thoroughly read everything I share if I trust the source or got the gist of an article.

  • Frank Daley says:

    David, I agree. ..these posts are attractive (but so are four-alarm fires!).
    I’ve seen the long lists do well in terms of circulation but who knows if they attract people who even sign up let alone buy anything. It seems more like a Face Book post much of the time.

    Can’t hurt, I guess, in terms of being “out there,’ but the helpful posts are better.

    Also, why wouldn’t you say” 99 ways to “X” “and offer the first 10 with an opt-in link for the rest?
    Might be able to kill two birds with one etc… that way

  • Owen Marcus says:

    I agree. List are like table of chips vs. a real sit down dinner. I much rather have a delicious and nourishing meal.

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