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Everything You Need To Know About Writing SEO-Focused Listicles

When it comes to writing blogs, lots of clients ask us for SEO-optimized titles. And, we’re happy to do it. But when we share our recommendations, we often hear a painful groan as clients explore the titles.

“I hate lists…”

“Can’t I write this title as an essay?”

“I don’t want to dumb down my ideas, lists aren’t for me.”

“I would never read a listicle, do clients really read lists?”

If we had a nickel for every person who said a version of these objections, well, you get the idea.

The truth is, some SEO topics are better as a list vs an essay. Below you’ll find out why listicles are so popular, why they matter, the truth about “dumbing it down” and more.

What is a Listicle?

A listicle is a type of article that presents information in the form of a list. The term “listicle” is the combination of the words “list” and “article”, and it has become increasingly popular in today’s online media landscape. In fact, in many cases, you see lists exclusively explaining various topics because the format is better for that kind of article.

Why Listicles Are Important

Listicles are famed for their user-friendly nature. They allow you to present a complex topic in a simplified, linear format. Because of this, they are widely popular on blogs and social media platforms like LinkedIn.

Technically, due to their structured layout, listicles reduce cognitive load, making it easier for your reader to absorb and retain information.

The nature of the list also allows the reader to seamlessly move through various points or steps, fostering a natural flow to reading. This is particularly important given how short many people’s attention spans are. Readers often skim content looking for key points, especially when they’re reading something they are familiar with.

Listicles provide their points in a tidy, efficient package, enhancing user engagement and time spent on the page. Ultimately, their approachable format can vastly improve readership and shareability, making them a powerful tool in any content strategy.

What Included in Listicle

What’s Included in a Listicle?

A listicle usually comprises several key components that come together to create this unique form of content.

  1. First, it includes a numbered or bulleted list, which is the structure of the article. This list encapsulates the main points or steps that the writer wants to convey.
  2. Second, each point on the list is supplemented by a brief explanation or discussion. This can range from a single sentence to a few paragraphs, depending on the depth of information you’re offering to readers. Images, infographics, or other visual elements are often incorporated to enhance understanding and engagement.
  3. Finally, a compelling headline is a crucial part of a listicle. Headlines are often numerical (e.g., “10 ways to…”), which serves as an immediate draw to the reader. It sets the expectations for the article including presumed length, comprehensiveness and goal.

Listicle Headlines

Beyond offering a linear or step-by-step process for your article, listicles can meet different search intent needs that readers have.

Consider doing a search for summer camps for your kids. Would you like a list of 3 options or 12?

What about vacation spots on the California coast? Would you like the top 5 or a list of 35 that are “off the beaten path”?

Or coffee alternatives if you’re trying to get your caffeine from non-coffee sources. Would you like the top 3 or a list of 9 ideas to explore?

When it comes to listicles and SEO, it’s important to spend some time considering what the reader (or user) will want from your article.

In some cases, less is more because too much is overwhelming. In other cases, more is better because it’s a highly experienced topic and your reader has likely tried a lot of things already. For your article to be meaningful, you have to offer something new.

Do Listicles “Dumb Down” Ideas?

The idea that listicles “simplify” content or ideas is a topic of considerable debate. Detractors contend that listicles oversimplify intricate subjects, condensing nuanced discussions into easily digestible fragments. Nevertheless, proponents of listicles assert that this format does not necessarily belittle topics but instead enhances their accessibility to a wider range of readers.

When the topic is complex, listicles offer readers a starting point for a deeper discussion, sparking curiosity and encouraging exploration. In this respect, listicles serve a crucial function in an increasingly fast-paced world where people are minimally curious about a topic and need “just enough” information to know if the topic is worth spending more time on.

So, while listicles may simplify concepts in their delivery, their ultimate goal is to engage, inform, and provoke thought, rather than to “dumb down” content.

The last thing to say on this is that “dumbing down” is also a function of the writer and their choices with what is put on the page. You can have a complex step-by-step article that is more easily read because it’s in a list vs being in paragraph form.

Dumbing down is a choice. There’s nothing that says you can’t speak with integrity about your topic in a list form. Ultimately, it’s just how the words are laid out on the page, not the words you choose. That is up to the writer.

Example of Listicle

Example of a Listicle

Let’s take a look at a simple listicle example to better understand this concept. The article could be titled “5 Reasons You Should Start Meditating Today”.

  1. Boosts Your Mental Health: Regular meditation has been linked to reduced levels of stress and anxiety. When you incorporate meditation into your daily routine, the focus on your breath brings you into the present moment which allows for less mental energy on things outside of your control. This can contribute to feeling more positive about the world around you.
  2. Improves Concentration: Meditation helps to increase your focus and concentration levels. If you’re someone who easily gets distracted, this could be a helpful solution.
  3. Encourages A Healthy Lifestyle: Meditating regularly can also bring about a conscious awareness of your health, encouraging better lifestyle habits.
  4. Enhances Your Self-Awareness: Through meditation, you can develop a deeper understanding of your inner self, fostering growth and self-improvement.
  5. Promotes Emotional Health: Studies have shown that a consistent meditation practice can lead to an improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life.

In this example, you’re looking at a standard listicle layout. Each point could obviously be developed further and the study mentioned in #5 needs to be cited for verification, but you get the idea. The piece offers the beginning of a compelling reason to start meditating and you could offer further elaboration on each point.

In addition, you could add a visually engaging image or infographic to further explain your ideas.

What Topics Make For a Good Listicle?

When it comes to creating a listicle, choosing the right topic is crucial. A good listicle topic is one that can be broken down into clear, concise points or steps. These topics typically fall into one of several categories.

  1. How-to Topics: These provide step-by-step instructions for completing a task, such as “How to Bake a Chocolate Cake” or “How to Start Your Own Blog”.
  2. Tips and Tricks: These offer valuable advice in an area of interest, like “10 Tips for Improving Your Photography Skills” or “5 Tricks to Boost Your Productivity”.
  3. Recommendations: These can include book or movie lists, travel destinations, or favorite products. Examples include “7 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read” or “Top 5 Pizza Places in New York”.
  4. Explanatory Lists: These explain complex concepts or ideas in a simplified way, such as “5 Theories of Quantum Physics Made Simple” or “Understanding the 7 Principles of Design”.
  5. List of Facts or Stats: These provide a collection of interesting facts or stats on a particular topic, like “10 Fascinating Facts About People with ADHD” or “7 Surprising Statistics About Social Media Usage”.

And of course, you can have an article like this one where there are lists embedded in the essay. All of it works. Just remember that the main goal of a listicle is to provide value to the reader in an easy-to-digest format. It can be a lead in to a longer essay or it can stand alone. The idea is to use the listicle to give people enough information to either complete their task or to get them thinking at a deeper level.

As a writer, this is one article layout you want to use regularly when the topic you’re covering requires something clear, concise and linear.

Writing SEO-Focused Listicles (FAQs)

What is a listicle, and why are they so popular in online content?

A listicle is a type of article that presents information in the form of a list. They are popular in online content because they offer a user-friendly, structured format that makes it easier for readers to absorb and retain information. Listicles are also visually engaging and cater to shorter attention spans.

What are the key components of a well-structured listicle?

A well-structured listicle typically includes a numbered or bulleted list, brief explanations, or discussions for each point, and may incorporate images or infographics to enhance understanding. Additionally, a compelling headline is essential to draw in readers.

What topics work best for listicles?

Listicles are versatile and can work for a wide range of topics. Some popular categories for listicles include how-to topics, tips and tricks, recommendations, explanatory lists, and lists of facts or statistics. The key is to choose a topic that can be broken down into clear, concise points or steps.

How can listicles improve my SEO strategy?

Listicles can enhance your SEO strategy by providing structured, easy-to-read content that is more likely to engage readers and encourage them to spend more time on your page. They also cater to different search intent needs, offering options for both shorter and more comprehensive lists, depending on the topic. Additionally, listicle headlines with numbers can attract readers and improve search visibility.

If you need support with SEO headlines for your articles, please reach out. We’re happy to schedule a complimentary consultation to explore your blogs and what you need to be more successful with your SEO.

author avatar
Melanie Gorman
Melanie Gorman is the owner and operator of Crownsville Media. She holds a masters in counseling psychology and has been in the fields of web development, SEO optimization and content creation for more than 20 years.

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