By Nate Riggs published June 20, 2011

Mastering 3 Styles of Blog Lists for More Effective Content Marketing

As a CMI reader, you probably don’t need to be sold on the benefits of blogging as a hub in your content marketing mix, but you’re probably looking for ways to be more effective.

As blogging has become more common, certain post styles have become popular because they get attention and interactions from readers:

  • “How to” posts
  • Narrative story posts
  • Sectioned posts that use a series sub headers
  • The monologue-style video posts often used for book reviews or Q&A

But one of the most popular types of post is a list. While this style may seem straightforward, there are a few forms it takes, and a number of ways to make it more effective in your content marketing.

3 types of list posts

Brief lists

In this style, lists are bullets that are typically brief statements with little description but plenty of emphasis. Each bullet point may contain a link to another online resource; a link to an individual’s profile blog or company; or even a step in a larger process. But don’t be confused by the name. Brief lists are typically longer in total length than posts with fewer items in the list.

If the post contains quality and relevant content, this style of list can entice  readers to bookmark the post to use the list as a resource down the road or share it across their own networks. Keep in mind that for longer lists  it’s best to use numbered bullets so your readers feel like the content is somewhat sequential and has a sum total.

Here are a few examples:

Detailed lists

As compared to brief lists, each bullet is a complete thought. Because of the emphasis on description, these lists typically carry a lower number of bullets, and the overall post is shorter. This style of post is excellent at communicating complex information. Detailed lists also can be used for creating lists of people for whom you would like to share brief stories, biographies or even testimonials.

Here are a few examples of detailed lists:

Hybrid lists

If you haven’t guessed it by now, you are reading a hybrid list post. Hybrid lists combine the elements of short and detailed lists, often with descriptive narratives or explanations as paragraphs in between the actual lists.  In some lists, videos are used to introduce the idea or need for the content and visually identify the author to the readers. In my upcoming book, humanization is one of the 13 essential elements of successful blogging. Video can also be used to communicate the actual list bullets, but remember to include any links to items you mention in your monologue.

Examples include:

Lists posts as a powerful content marketing tactic

The five bullet items you see below represent a few of the desired outcomes for any blogger or blog team. Given that the content is timely, relevant and well-written, using the list style will yield strong results in each of these five areas:

  • Social sharing: Create a resource your readers want to spread using social and email sharing buttons (Facebook Send, TweetMeme, ShareThis, etc.).
  • Bookmarks: Develop enough content value to entice your readers to bookmark your blog post so they come back to it as a reference (Del.ic.ious, Diigo, Digg, etc.).
  • Click-throughs: Generate greater internal or external click-throughs to other content you’ve published.
  • Link-bait: Provide your readers with enough information or perspective that they are moved to cite and link to your post in their own content.
  • Response: Generate increased comments and other forms of reader conversation about your content across social networks.

10 styling tips for your list post

  1. Use your list style buttons found in the tool bar in the content editor on your blog. This will ensure that your lists will consistently use the CSS styling.
  2. To style bullets with more space between each, hold down SHIFT when you hit RETURN once you have chosen a list style to drop the cursor down a line without creating another bullet.
  3. Your lists can be any number you want. Round numbers, such as five and ten, are not required.
  4. Longer lists seem to get more attention, but be careful not to add bullets only to make the list long.  Maintain the quality behind each bullet.
  5. If you use a numbered list, don’t forget to include that total number in your headline to draw maximum clicks from people who might see your post distributed on social networks.
  6. If you want to draw reader comments, leave your list 80%-90% complete and call your readers to action by asking them to add their own ideas to your list in the comments.
  7. If your readers leave list bullets or other relevant information in the comments, don’t be afraid to add it to the actual post and then attribute it to the commentator.
  8. When creating human lists, always opt first to link to a list member’s blog (if they have one). Doing this leverages pingbacks to alert that blogger that someone is talking about them, which can entice sharing and comments.
  9. Don’t be afraid to organize extremely long lists into categories that are broken up by sub headings and descriptions. Your readers will appreciate the organization.
  10. THIS one’s all you…

What experiences have you had with using list style posts in your content marketing efforts?

What styling tips would you add?

Author: Nate Riggs

Nate Riggs is the Founder and CEO of NR Media Group, a Columbus, Ohio-based marketing agency that works to change the way businesses use digital media to connect with customers, earn their trust and win their business for life. Nate will be releasing the Video Engineering Playbook early in 2015, and you can download sample chapters for free.

Other posts by Nate Riggs

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  • http://www.allurenewmedia.com Brody Dorland

    Good stuff Nate…I’d add one more desired outcome that I always love to hear: “Great list Brody…I’m going to print this out and put it on my cube wall for reference.” If they’re willing to kill a tree for you, you must be doing something right…;o)

    • http://nateriggs.com nateriggs

      That’s actually a GREAT point, Brody.  Tactically, you could do a few different things. You could insert a print button on each specific list post, or you could upload a copy of the list to SlideShare or even Scribbd and make it available for download. Either way is trackable…

  • http://twitter.com/brencournoyer Brendan Cournoyer

    I prefer the Detailed or Hybrid style lists you mention here as the best approach. I feel like lists have become so effective in grabbing page views that they are in danger of being overdone. All of sudden, every post you see is a “Top 5 Kinds of X” or a “50 Best Ways to Do Y”. Most of which are in the Brief List format (more points, less substance).

    It really has become a sort of crutch for some writers who overuse it. That’s why I prefer the 2nd two approaches. They require more thought and research to create, rather than mindless plays for visits.