September 1, 2020

How to Write High-Quality List Posts That Actually Rank

Most list posts are content for the sake of content. There are thousands of blog posts out there all titled something like:

  • 10 Best 'X'
  • 55 Eye-Opening 'Y'
  • 101 Most Amazing 'Z'

If you look through them, you'll quickly see that most didn't take much effort to write.

If you write a low-quality list post, you'll get outranked by directory sites like G2 and Capterra and no one will ever see your content. The money you spent producing the list post will never generate a return.

No business should be wasting resources just to fill up a content calendar.

That's why we've written this post.

I'm going to show you our formula for writing list posts that:

  • Rank for competitive keywords
  • Drive visitors to your landing page
  • Provide a ton of value to your reader

You'll be able to replicate on your blog, or, get in touch and we'd be happy to write them for you.

Let's dive in.

Firstly, What Exactly Is a List Post?

A list post is simply a blog post or article that lists recommendations for products or services. They're sometimes called listicles.

For example:

  • 10 Best Cold Email Tools
  • 15 Best Greek Restaurants in London
  • Top 5 Best Espresso Machines

Look familiar?

In theory, these are the most straightforward blog posts you can create.

In my opinion, that's also why there's an abundance of low-quality list posts.

Are List Posts Worth Writing In the First Place?

The reason why list posts are worth creating is that they usually target a bottom-of-the-funnel keyword.

Think of it like this.

If you were looking for a recommendation (and let's assume you don't ask a friend or colleague who will know), where will you go first? 99% of the time, it'll be Google.

If you're looking for an email marketing tool, you might search for"email marketing tool for x", or "best budget email marketing tool".

You're already aware of your problem and you're actively looking to solve it.

If you find a good solution that solves your pain point, you might convert there and then.

That's why list posts are popular. They're a simple way to rank for keywords with high purchase intent, and you can follow a set formula to get results (the reason most people don't see results with list posts is they don't have a formula).

What's Wrong With Most List Posts

After working in-house and working on content for a variety of SaaS companies as a freelancer, I realized there was a problem with list posts. Part of the problem is that it's easy to do the minimum.

Part of the problem is that it's easy to do the minimum.

Add ten recommendations to a list, write a few lines for each, and you're done. The post is published. Your client is happy.

But, if that post doesn't generate any results, will they offer you more work in the future?

Probably not.

How to Write List Posts That Rank and Help People Find What They Are Looking For

List posts that go above and beyond the a reader's basic expectation outperform their low-effort competitors.

Here's what top ranking list posts have in common.

Give More Structure To Each Recommendation

A five-line paragraph describing an item on your list just doesn't cut it.

Your list post will be competing with the likes of G2, Capterra, Clutch, and other directory sites that all display a wide variety of details on products and services they list.

Approach your list post in the same way.

Add structure to it.

For example:

Heading: Name of the product/service

Pricing: Starts at $x per month per user

Who it's for: SaaS companies

ūüď∑ Relevant image/screenshot

Longer more descriptive paragraph

Here's an example of how OptinMonster does this in their blog posts:

As you can see, it doesn't take much effort to add a little extra structure.

If you're wondering why this matters (why not just write a longer paragraph?), consider the searcher intent.

When someone comes to a list post, they're usually actively searching for a solution to a problem.

They want to quickly scan through your blog post and find out if you can help them.

They don't want to immediately read long paragraphs. They want quick details on pricing, who it's for, and a brief summary (like they'd get on a directory site).

If they see some details they like, they'll keep reading.

Break Your Post Up Into Sub-Lists

Another way to differentiate your list post is to break it up into sub-lists.

Let's pretend you're actively searching for a live chat tool for your website.

If you run a SaaS business you'll have very different needs to someone running an ecommerce store, or an agency.

A list post on "Best Live Chat Tools" could be broken up into sub-sections, such as:

  • Best tools for SaaS Companies
  • Best tools for ecommerce Stores
  • Best tools for Whitelabel Resellers

and so on. Each of those would include a few relevant recommendations.

Each of those sections would include a few recommendations for live chat tools that best fit someone's needs.

Here's a perfect example of how Ruler Analytics, wrote a list post on marketing attribution tools:

It's good UX.

Readers can jump straight to the section they care about, and it's easy to scan.

Easy section contains several relevant recommendations. They also get to promote their own product.

Make Them Evergreen

If you're listing products, services, events, or anything else in a list, it has to be kept up to date.

Treat it like a landing page.

For example, Yieldify's have a blog post on the best ecommerce events. The title says that it's "Always Updated", and if you head to the post, you can see that it's up-to-date

If you worked in ecommerce, you might even bookmark this blog post to refer to every few months.

After you publish a list post, set a calendar reminder to review the article in three to four months.

See if all of your recommendations are still relevant and see if there is anything else you can add.

Take this post as an example. If I think of a new idea to add to it next week, I'll add it. If any of the points beome obselete, I'll delete them as they're not providing value anymore.

Let People Access More Content on Each Topic

A lot of lists posts look something like this:

  • Best marketing tactics for 2020
  • 7 ways to get more SaaS leads this summer
  • 8 ideas to increase trial to paid conversions for SaaS

You can only go into so much detail for each of your ideas in your list.

To keep people on your site and provide a good UX, link out to related resources.

For example, Sleeknote's article on popups includes a few hundred words for each popup type they mention, but they then link out to a related blog post that goes into more detail on each one.

If someone is interested in reading more, there's zero friction to doing so. You'll keep them on your site, provide value, and position yourself as an authority on the topic.

Answer Related Queries

As I mentioned above, your list post isn't just competing with other blog posts. It's competing with directory sites that are pouring money into ranking highly on Google.

To compete, you need to give yourself the best chances of ranking.

Answering related queries will help with this.

For example, when you go to Capterra's page on marketing automation tools, they include a definition. If someone types in "What is marketing automation software", their page might show up.

To figure out what else to write about, head to Google, or use Ahrefs (if you're not familiar with it, we talk more about it in our article on content marketing software).

Google will show you related questions in the "People Also Ask" box.

Ahrefs will show them in the Keyword Explorer.

Answering related questions that your reader cares about will help make your blog post more relevant and gives you a higher ranking for competitive terms.

Wrapping Up

List posts are deceivingly simple. If you don't go the extra mile your post will never leave the graveyard of low-effort list posts, which starts somewhere around Page 2-3 in the search results. No one will ever read it and the money you spend creating it will go to waste.

These tips will allow your list posts to stand out from the crowd, help your reader find what they're looking for, and importantly, get seen by the people you want to see it.

Need help writing search-friendly blog posts? Contentbulb can help - let's have a chat!

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