Blogging Basics for Aspiring Authors: Lesson 6
List posts provide a staple for almost every blogger. In your efforts to produce core content, or even content on a regular basis, these posts are easy to write and to read, and they tend to get shared and commented on more often than some other types of posts. That means they heighten reader engagement on your blog.
List posts might be trickier to use for those blogging books, but they can come in handy as a tool at the beginning of a complicated chapter or even when breaking down points in arguments, resources, topics, or any number of other things. A list post is one in which you create a list of numbered items, each one describing something about the topic at hand. For example, I wrote 10 Ways to Become an Author of Change From the Moment of Inspiration and 15 Gifts Book Bloggers Can Give Themselves. Here’s one from my colleague, Joel Friedlander, called 8 Milestones to Self-Publishing Success.
To help you understand why list posts are so popular and so effective, I thought I’d demonstrate by providing you with a list of reasons:
- Lists are easy and fast to read. Often you need to read only a few words to get the point of the listed item, and more often than not the list will contain 20 items or less.
- Lists are easy to understand. Most lists begin with a line highlighted in some fashion. (Notice how this list has the first sentence in bold type.) You can discern what each line is about without even reading the accompanying text, if the blogger has even included any. Some bloggers provide just the first line with no explanation.
- Lists are scannable. Online readers tend to scan blog content rather than read it word for word, because there is so much content bombarding them daily. A list communicates a number of points in a way that allows readers to know if a post is one they want to spend more time delving into.
- Lists posts spur reader engagement. Because these posts are often short on explanation, readers tend to ask more questions so you elaborate on the points. Also, you can ask readers to add to the list in the comment section of your blog.
- List posts are quick and simple to write. When you are pressed for time, a list post can be the fastest type of blog post to compose. Think of 10 points you want to make about a particular topic. List them without any explanation.
- List posts help you write about more complicated subjects. Breaking hard-to-understand or large topics into smaller pieces makes writing about them feel less overwhelming. Some argue that we must write at or below a high school level if we want to ensure everyone understands our content. Lists simplify content. However, they provide a wonderful way to approach complex topics without dumbing down the material.
- Lists keep your posts short. With so much content to read, online readers tend to want to read short rather than long (300-500 words per post). A list post lends itself to writing short. Those short items don’t leave much room for you to be verbose (unless you choose to have a short list and expand upon those few items).
- Lists break up content and make your posts visually appealing. If you publish large blocks of content on your blog, a list provides “eye candy.” You want to format posts with subheads, lists, art, etc., to entice readers in and make your posts enticing. Lists help accomplish this.
- Lists present persuasive arguments. You can present your point of view with a list quite convincingly. Here’s one I wrote recently: 10 Reasons to Evaluate Yourself and Your Idea Before You Write a Book Also, check out how I responded with a list post to Jane Friedman when she published this list post. (These two are examples of short lists with lengthy discussions.)
- Lists have a viral affect. For all the reasons mentioned above, people love to share lists.
How Book Bloggers Can Use Lists Effectively
If you are blogging your book, which I hope you are, you may be wondering how to use lists effectively in your book. Nonfiction writers can easily use a list post at the beginning of the chapter to give readers a clear indication of the material that will follow. This post might begin with an introduction—a paragraph or two explaining the list that follows. The rest of the post might be just a list of items or a list with one or two sentences of explanation. You might later decide to edit this post out of the final manuscript (or not). In subsequent blog posts you will then address each listed item individually.
With this model you end with a blog post that is just a list—one type of list post. The title of the post will likely introduce the list (for example, “10 Reasons to Blog a Book”). True, I did not ever have a post by that name, but I should have! Instead I had one post on each or the 10 reasons. I could have begun that series with a list post, and I would if I were to do it again. Your post doesn’t have to have much content besides the list.
You can also think of your list almost like subheadings in a book, where you will flesh out the material beneath each item. Many nonfiction books employ this methodology. This post, The Top 10 Things You Can Do in 2013 to Sell More Books, by John Kremer, is a good example.You could, of course, write the same blog post without numbers and instead use subheadings—or no headings at all, making it a general essay-type post.
If you are a novelist blogging a book, you will likely not find many ways to use lists in your book. However, they can be employed when blogging about your book.
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