5 lessons from posting list stories

The author wraps up a monthlong experiment by sharing insights and results from publishing nothing but lists during May.

My experiment is done.

I decided to have a little fun last month and play around with posting nothing but list articles. Because it was May, they would all be lists of five. So here is my last list of five things—at least for now.

Some results of this blogging experiment won’t be known for a while, but I do have some immediate observations. To refresh your memory, you can go back and read my first post about why I decided to try using list posts for an entire month.

Here are some of my observations on how well the lists performed, most of which bore out my expectations.

1. List posts generate traffic.

For a variety of reasons, people like list posts. People look at the title, and they know they are going to get a few quick points about a particular topic, with no surprises. I think they expect getting easy-to-read, actionable advice. At least that’s what I tried to provide. Using yesterday’s post as an example, I’d bet that I got more traffic for “5 Reasons Business Don’t Blog,” than if I had just titled it, “Why Businesses Don’t Blog.”

2. List posts have legs.

They get shared more. I’ve noticed that the number of shares on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other platforms surpasses those of my other posts. One might assume that if you get more traffic, you’ll get more shares, but that isn’t always the case. People like to share lists.

3. List posts have a longer shelf life.

Not only are people sharing, but they are sharing over a longer period of time. Normally my posts get their largest amount of traffic on the day of publication, with a moderate amount the second day, and then it tapers off quickly. I’ve noticed that the shares and the traffic, though doing best on day one, they still do pretty well for quite a few days longer. Again, this is probably related to some of the other points here.

4. List posts are search engine friendly.

Google loves them. Normally, most of my traffic on posts, especially early on, comes from links and social sharing. That is still the case, but I’m already starting to see more of them showing up higher in search engine results. After the first few days, the search traffic to these posts starts to kick in, leading to that longer shelf life. In playing around with various keyword searches, I’ve noticed that list posts on topics generally place higher than non-list posts. I have no idea why; it’s just what I’m seeing. I won’t complain.

5. List posts get the attention of the big boys.

Well, at least from my experience they do. Over the past year or so, I’ve had the occasional post picked up by PR Daily. This time around, not only did a few of them get picked up by Ragan.com, but two caught the attention of The New York Times’ small-business bloggers, who decided to link to them. This, of course, takes us back to the first point—getting more traffic—and inbound links from high-authority sources also help with SEO.

Someone on Facebook accused me of publishing “link-bait,” scoffing at the post. In some ways, yes, this might be true, at least in the conventional definition of link bait by Google, which is not a negative thing. More interesting is that the post in question is one that got the notice of both Ragan.com and The New York Times. They liked it, and that makes me happy.

Those are my initial findings, all good, and all working together. This week I’ll go back to my normal blogging routine and will still throw in the occasional list post. Perhaps I’ll do a few more of those than normal, but I won’t go hog wild. I just know that they work well and the results are favorable. Over the next few months, I’ll be keeping an eye on these particular posts to see whether they continue to bring in higher than normal traffic.

Have you tried list posts? What has been your experience with them?

A version of this article first appeared on Inkling Media.

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