A listicle — which is simply an article presented as a list — is one of content marketing’s most basic tools. Great for grabbing attention and conveying quick bits of information, listicles can be highly effective when used correctly.
Here’s how to write a listicle in five simple steps:
1. Decide on a topic for your listicle.
Contrary to what Buzzfeed would have you believe, not all content should be presented as a listicle, especially when it’s for marketing purposes. Be sure to consider the goals of your article, your messaging, your audience and what part of the buying process they’re in.
Listicles are ideal for presenting lighthearted content, how-to instructions, recommendations and the like. Think “25 Breathtaking Places to Visit Before You Die” and “8 Ways to Write Faster.” Because the actual amount of copy in a listicle is usually pretty light, this is not the vehicle to tackle heavy or in-depth topics, as you risk irritating your audience by not delivering all the information they want or need. For example, you’d likely never be able to cover “What You Need to Know About Medicare Before Turning 65” in a listicle. That’s a topic that’s much more suitable for a guide, white paper or ebook.
2. Nail down your list.
Once you’ve settled on a topic, now you need to formulate your list and prepare an outline. Sometimes your topic creates an outline for you. For instance, if your topic is “Planets in Our Solar System,” then your outline would consist of an introduction and the names of the eight (or nine, if you’re Team Pluto) planets in our solar system.
If your list is less finite, then it’s up to you as to how many items to include. In general, feel free to go wild with recommendations and lighthearted lists, a la “The 100 Must-Read Books of 2022” and “53 Spring Recipes to Get You Really Excited for the Season.” On the other hand, it’s probably best to keep tips and how-tos to a dozen or fewer bullets. (No one wants to read “How to Boil an Egg in 67 Simple Steps”!)
One last note on numbers: Some readers are unconsciously turned off by lists that contain a round or convenient number of items, such as 5 ways, 10 tips or 20 products. So, if you have the option, use an odd number whenever possible. It will make your list seem less contrived and more authentic.
3. Research and write.
Now for the nitty-gritty. As we mentioned, listicles aren’t traditionally very copy-heavy and thus shouldn’t take long to write. But they should be informative. And because of the reduced word count, you’ll need to make the most of the space you have. So focus on the most interesting and useful information and cut the fluff.
4. Link to supporting content.
Because these pieces are short and word count is tight, listicles are an especially good opportunity to link off to more in-depth content — such as any related narratives, podcasts and pillar pages — that live on your site. That way, you keep the listicle scannable while still offering readers the ability to learn more if they want to.
5. Promote, promote, promote.
Listicles are irresistibly scannable, making them some of the best pieces of content for bringing readers in via, say, an email newsletter or social media post. So once yours is written, promote away!
Listicle writing checklist
How do you write an effective and engaging listicle? Be sure to do these things:
- Choose a topic that’s not too serious or in depth.
- Write an outline.
- Decide how many items will comprise your list.
- Research and write.
- Link to more in-depth content on your site.
- Promote, promote, promote.