It’s a blogosphere favorite for good reason — “list” content works, in large part due to the attention-grabbing power of the headline.
What may be news to some bloggers is that the effectiveness of this type of headline and content is as old as the advertising hills. So you shouldn’t worry about it dying out anytime soon.
Any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because, once again, it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader. A nice quantifiable return on attention invested goes a long way toward prompting action, and as long as you deliver with quality content, you’ll have a satisfied reader.
Plus, these type of posts and articles are perfect for building your authority and demonstrating a mastery of your area of expertise. If you’re business blogging, that’s key.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at 7 classic “list” headlines that you can remix on your blog when you’re looking to boost readership (and maybe even get a little link love).
1. Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of High Blood Pressure?
Use this type of headline to demonstrate the expertise that only comes from really knowing your business or niche. People love to get a “heads up” on potential problems.
2. 10 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Living
A classic that can only flop if you fail to deliver. Concentrate on writing content that sparkles, and people will acknowledge that you not only know what you’re talking about, but you also communicate it well.
3. Five Familiar Skin Troubles
Commiserate with your readers by setting forth problems you know they are having, and they just might determine that you are the right solution.
4. Six Types of Investor — Which Group Are You In?
Let the readers self-identify themselves by providing categories into which they will likely fall into. You know about the power of using the word “you” when addressing readers, but people love it even more when they can focus on themselves.
5. How to Give Your Children Extra Iron — These 3 Delicious Ways
A “how to” headline mixed in with a list — it’s almost not fair. Note that the word “these” plus the number of items, followed by “(adjective) ways,” is an extremely specific and powerful use of 4 simple words.
6. Free Book Tells You 12 Secrets of Better Lawn Care
Use this style of headline and content structure with a free report or tutorial that you are promoting, and you should get wider circulation.
7. 76 Reasons Why It Would Have Paid You to Answer Our Ad a Few Months Ago
An especially bold headline that worked wonders for a popular news magazine. The number of reasons given is so large it’s almost absurd, and that’s good from a value standpoint with free content. Plus, by referring back to previous ads, the piece points out the peril of not paying attention earlier.
Gutsy, but effective.
I think I’ll try it next time I’m mining my archives:
11 Reasons Why You Should Have Subscribed to Copyblogger Months Ago. 🙂
David Garfinkel’s headline swipe file book (with analysis and examples) available from Amazon.
More resources …
If you found this post useful, be sure to pick up our Magnetic Headlines ebook. It’s free, and part of the comprehensive content marketing education available from MyCopyblogger.
Reader Comments (16)
I think every poster on Digg this week reads your blog. I’ve never seen so many lists in my life. It’s getting so bad with the lists, I’m almost to the point I don’t want to read a post if there’s a list.
Of course, I’m still writing posts like that, because it works!
Peter Cooper says
What amuses me is there’s been a whole online generation doing this before the advent of Digg, del.icio.us and blogs. That is.. the ‘free article’ sites and e-zines. ‘Free’ articles are usually just shills to sell some e-book in the byline, but they’ve had these sorts of headlines and list elements since I first saw them in the mid-90s 🙂 It’d do some of the Digg-baiters a world of good to use some of headlines from the free article word as a swipe file 🙂
Matt Ambrose says
The increasing use of lists in posts and articles could be seen as a result of the increasing competition for the readers’ attention. With so much info to wade through everyday lists are the best way to get your info across as quickly as possible. I’m not sure if readers would be too keen to spend much more time reading your blog if its just a series of lists though – finding the balance, as always, is the key.
Easton Ellsworth says
Having numbers in my post titles also helps me think more concretely about what I’m really saying. Yesterday I posted about the responses of 22 bloggers to the newest version of the coComment blog commant tracking service. Everything in my mind was 22, 22, 22 … so I was limiting myself to a specific set of individuals, but analyzing that particular group more deeply than I had simply said, “Here are my gut feelings about the general response to this new thing.” Numbers can help people focus.
1 Reason Why List Posts will Always Work….. People are *insert your word of choice here* and they don’t like to read. Instead they prefer something that they can skim.
In the magazine world, it’s proven that numbers on covers draw in readers more. It has to do with getting to the point, less fluff, more useful information.
Seems like the same idea fits online lists perfectly.
Hmmm .. I resisted doing this exactly for the reason someone mentioned earlier, Digg is full of lists. But I guess “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “If you can’t beat them – join them” works well together in this case.
I guess I’m off to my first list of 10 ways to … errrr let me see …
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