List posts – where a blogger share a list of X items about a specific subject – have always been popular on blogs, but also subject to many controversies. While social bookmarking sites frontpages are often filled up with those “list” posts, lots of blog readers are complaining about seing those lists everywhere and the lack of original content.
In this article, I’m going to discuss both the good and bad points of “List” posts.
List posts popularity
[tweet]When I started to blog, I must admit that I didn’t liked “List” posts at first. I though it was just a lazy way to get people visiting your blog, and I focused on writing original content instead. This was in early 2007, when I was blogging on lyxia.org, a French blog that I sold in February 2009.
But when I started Cats Who Code in June 2008, I wanted to have a popular, quality blog and make money blogging. I studied how many big blogs of my niche as such as Smashing Magazine and SixRevisions managed to be that popular. Of course, it was obvious that they had great content and that was the main reason of their online success. But it was also clear that those blogs were using the “List” post format very much.
So I decided to gave a try and started to write a list post called “Python : 50 modules for all needs“. It was a very basic list, containing 50 modules for the Python programming language, with a brief description and a link to the module website.
It was my first blogging success : less than one week after launching my blog, I had my post linked from many sources, and most notably, I got my first delicious.com frontpage. Damn, I was happy and proud.
Of course, I wrote many more “Lists” on my blogs. I made the Digg frontpage 3 times in my life and it was always with those list posts.
Good example of “List” posts popularity : Delicious.com frontpage is filled with 3 lists out of 5 posts.
Pros of List posts
Right now, list posts seems to be a must have for all blogs. First, let’s see what are the good points of lists. We’ll discuss cons later.
Easy to write : It is generally (though, not always) easier to list 10 posts from other blogs than writing a full original article.
They allow killer titles : I already talked about the importance of posts titles, and indeed that is a really important thing in blogging. List posts allow very good titles as such as “10 things to do to finally make money with Adsense” which are obviously more brandables than a simplier “Quick tip to improve your Adsense earnings”.
It allow young blogs to stands out of the crowd : The hardest time for a blog is the beginning, especially when it is your first blog. List posts are a good way for an unknown blogger to get his first readers, Twitter followers and RSS subscribers.
(Most) readers like them : Go see Digg or Delicious.com frontpage : Most of the time, at least half of the featured posts are lists, and this is in my opinion the main reason why bloggers are producing so many lists : to gain popularity.
It allow you to create “best of” compilations : Each singer, musician or band have released at least one best-of album, which is nothing else than a compilation of the band’s best songs. List post are quite the same thing but for blog posts. “Best of” albums sells pretty well, and list posts works pretty well.
Cons of list posts
After listing the good points of list posts, let’s have a look to the cons. Here’s what is comming to my mind :
Nothing original : A list post may be useful, it is nothing else than re-used content. There’s nothing wrong about listing useful content from other blogs, but you should also produce your own original posts.
It highlight other blogs, not yours : When selecting the X best blogs to learn about web design, you’ll obviously not showcase you’re own blog. But doing this, you’re highlighting content from other people, not yours.
Too many people are doing it : List are popular, list brings traffic and money, so most bloggers are writing lists posts, and it can be very boring for readers.
What people think?
Last sunday, I asked my Twitter followers “Do you like “lists” blog posts? Why?” and got many interesting answers that clearly show that blog readers likes list posts, but want quality :
- They are fast to read and mostly you’ll learn or read something interesting. But ‘normal’ articles let you think. (@jebl)
- I like lists with context and explanation. Not just “X ways to do x” where the content is just a bunch of screens with links. (@AlexDenning)
- Yes. “lists” are an original & entertaining way to organize post content. Reader’s dying to see best/worst N° 1 at the end. (@Nyenor)
- Don’t like lists unless there’s an explanatory blurb for each link or something similar. Else it’s just lazy posting. (@cflinnds)
- When they are original (=have original content) then yes, but the problem is they’re mostly copypasta from other blogs (@Gargron)
- yes, when they list useful things. No, usually. (@andrew_rickmann)
So, should you write list posts on your blog? In my opinion, yes, you should, but you shouldn’t do it the bad way. People asks for detailed list items, not just a bunch a links with no descriptions.
Originality is also very important : When a “list” idea comes to your mind, you should always start with a Google search to see what have been done on that subject before, and check if you can write something that will really add value.