Admit it. You looked, didn’t you.
You were intrigued by the headline, and you wanted to see what this was all about. You wanted to see what the 3 reasons were — I nearly called them 3 secrets — and whether you could pick something up.
What if there was really only one secret? (Don’t worry, there are three.)
Would you be disappointed? Would you hate me for tricking you?
And what if the headline had been “Boost your Blog Traffic” instead?
Well, you wouldn’t be here, would you?
So why, how, what? Why are list posts so good? How do they work? What are the three reasons?
1. List posts create order out of chaos.
What if the original title of this post had been “Boost Your Blog Traffic”? That is so wide open that the advice could have been about anything. It could have been about writing, social media promotion, speaking at conferences, or even wearing a sandwich board. And I’ve seen blog posts and magazine articles that are just about that jumbled.
But a list post promises us something easier to digest and understand.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, Italian novelist and all around smart guy Umberto Eco said this about lists.
The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.
To make infinity comprehensible. Based on many of the blog posts and articles I’ve seen, it’s going to take a hell of a list to make those comprehensible. And readers know that when they’re being told how to “Boost Your Blog Traffic.”
But I’m giving “3 Reasons,” which makes the infinite comprehensible, and I’ll get more readers every time.
2. They promise a well-defined, finite amount of knowledge
If an article is too long, it won’t be read. We’ve trained our brains to read in short bursts. A typical newspaper column is 550 – 750 words. A blog post is around 300 – 400 words. And a post that is going to appear on a mobile phone? No more than 300 words. That’s because a typical smartphone can hold 100 words, and people will typically swipe two more times before they get bored.
So if I promise a list of only three items, people know what they’re in for, and they may stick around a little longer since I’m only begging their indulgence for a short while.
3. Lists are easy to read.
Whether you use the <li> or <h3> codes (I used h3 in this post), lists are easy to scan and read. By using white space and either bullets or large, bold-faced type and a few paragraphs, you can make posts that people can breeze through in a matter of minutes.
If someone comes to your site and sees a heavy block of text that could crush an adult, they’ll hit their back button faster than Billy the Kid. But if they can see white space and something easier to read, they’ll stick around.
Photo credit: puuikibeach (Flickr, Creative Commons)