If you”ve been paying attention to search results, blogs, and other online content, you’ve probably noticed the shift in focus to lists. Every post you see, even on the first page of Google search results, is “7 Reasons for This…” and “12 Ways to Do That…”
More than a simple internet trend, the list article, or “listicle,” is far more than a click-baitey way to get you to read someone’s post. Lists actually tap into our very nature as people.
Love them or hate them, list articles aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Here’s why:
1. People just like lists!
As humans, we are pre-programmed to want to sort and organize. We look for patterns in everything we see. We look for shapes that will work well with other shapes.
We do the same thing with information. We organize and sort the information we have into lists simply because it’s one of the primary ways we’ve learned to keep things organized in our minds. Grocery lists, to-do lists, guest lists, contact lists….the list is a simple, efficient, and effective method for displaying, and acting on, information.
2. A list tells you what it’s going to tell you.
When you read a list article you know what you’re getting into. You know that an article, like this one, that only has a few things in the list is going to be relatively short. A longer list, say, if this was “21 Reasons List Articles are Here to Stay,” is going to be a much longer and more involved read.
3. Lists are digestible.
Walls of text simply do not translate well for online reading. When working with a computer screen, we like to skim and we like to move on rather quickly.
A list article allows this to be done while, at the same time, providing enough information so that the reader still feels that spending time reading the post was time well spent.
4. Lists are easily shared.
I love when people in my social networks share content with me. It’s like getting a glimpse at the inner workings of their brain. Not only do I usually enjoy the content that they share, I enjoy pondering why they thought the content was so good that they had to share it.
Lists are much easier to share than a long form post. When sharing a list, you know that you are not asking a friend or colleague to read something that is going to take a large amount of their time. A list allows them to take your shared content, scan it, determine if it really does apply to them, and then decide whether they want to read it more in depth or simply discard it.
5. Lists can prompt action.
Providing information in list form is one thing but when you really want to convince a reader to do something, give them a list of reasons why they should do it. “8 Reasons You Should Fill Out Our Contact Form.” “These 5 Steps Will Make You Better at X.”
I’m not going to read a page of information forcing me to pick out the reasons why interacting with your company is the right thing for me to do. However, I might spend a minute and scan a quick list of reasons.
You Never Know If You Don’t Try
If you’re hesitant to put list posts on your blog or website simply because you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, stop and consider this: Everyone else might be doing it because it actually works. Give a few list articles a try, see what the data says, and then come back and figure out whether your next post will be “9 Ways List Articles Boosted My Web Traffic.”