Lists are a popular article format that can engage readers and benefit SEO. But does writing a list article even differ from a regular blog post? In this article, we’ll help you uncover what listicle pages are, how to choose a topic, and write a high quality listicle for SEO.
What you will learn
- Listicle is an article in the form of a list. Most often, every item is a heading with an explanation in the body text.
- Readers love listicles because they always know what to expect and how much is left. Lists are easy to scan and find important information.
- To find the best topic for a listicle conduct a keyword search around your subject of interest. Consider if the topic of choice fits into a listicle format.
- Go to the SERP and analyze top competitors. Consider how hard it is to rank for the chosen keyword by analyzing keyword difficulty, search volume, and user intent.
- When creating a listicle, include related keywords and conduct in-page optimization,
- After the list post is ready, format the text for readability and add a table of contents.
What is a listicle page?
Listicle is a blog post written in the form of a list. Usually, every point is a heading with a few sentences of an in-depth information. Listicles are an excellent article format to attract readers because they are comprehensive and easy to skim.
You can write a listicle on any topic. Some list posts are more fun and informal, like “The Best Super Bowl Commercials of 2023,” and others are more informational, like “10 Content Marketing KPIs To Measure Your Blog’s Performance.”
Why is the listicle format popular?
Listicles are popular because they quickly grab the reader’s attention. People know what to expect from the listicle title and can easily find what they want.
Most listicles include very descriptive headings that make the article easy to skim. And if readers are interested in the entire article, they can gauge their progress as they read through the list.
Lists are also concise; they describe the point in a couple of sentences that are highly relevant to the specific item. List posts can also break up and explain a complicated topic step-by-step.
Types of listicles
The way you frame your list points will depend on the type of listicle you choose. Selecting one type of list and sticking to it will help you create relevant content.
Here are 7 types of listicles with a few examples:
- Simple lists include listing items with little or no description, such as 55 Best Gifts for Your Mother-in-Law Who Has Everything.
- Extended lists have multiple paragraphs of description under the heading, for example, one of our own listicles, 10 Content Marketing KPIs To Measure Your Blog’s Performance.
- The “best of” lists consist of the best items in a category, without putting them in a specific order, for example, The 12 Best Websites for Booking Flights at the Cheapest Prices.
- Ranking lists sort the items in order from best to worst or the other way around.
- “X ways to” lists consist of tips or hacks for achieving a specific goal, for example, 8 Ways to Read More Books—And Why You Should
- A list of trends includes trends or predictions in specific categories such as tech or fashion, for example, 6 Trends Shaping The Future Of E-Commerce.
- Step-by-step guides take you through every step of the process, for example, A step-by-step guide to designing from scratch.
- Reasons why list arguments for or against a specific topic 9 Reasons Why Everyone Should Play Golf
How to choose a topic for your listicle
If you want to know how to write a listicle that attracts search traffic, you need to start by selecting the topic.
As opposed to a regular blog post, you won’t have much room to digress, so you must be sure that every list item corresponds to the topic and other items. As all the points have to be highly relevant, lists are very content-packed and descriptive.
Here are two main steps to choose a great topic for your listicle:
- Conduct keyword research
First, you need to determine if the topic you have in mind fits into a list format. Research the subject you chose and see what angle other authors lead with. For example, if you choose the topic “social media marketing,” go to the SERP and see what the top articles have in common.
Most sites use titles like “ultimate guide” or “what is social media marketing,” which suggests long-form content that doesn’t fit into a list. However, if you search for “social media tips,” you can see that most results are list posts.
While finding a topic that suits a list format is important, you must select a subject with a ranking potential. To do this, you will need to conduct keyword research.
First, you should start with a list of seed keywords that are most relevant to your niche. Seed keywords are terms that describe a topic broadly. They can help you create an extensive list of more specific keywords. To create a list of seed keywords, find the most broadly relevant phrases associated with your service or product.
When you select the seed keywords, you can go to Google search to find more keyword ideas. Start with Google autosuggest; it’s a great way to find phrases that interest users. You can also look at related searches at the bottom of the SERP. And if you look for long-tail keyword suggestions, you can see people also ask.
You can also use Surfer’s Keyword Research to uncover thousands of keywords grouped into topic clusters.
While doing keyword research, don’t forget to scour the competition. Look at how they frame their lists and what kind of angle they use to cover the topic. Pay attention to the most repeated words and phrases.
- Pick a realistic keyword.
After conducting keyword research, you should have an extensive list of phrases perfect for a listicle. Now, you should narrow down your list to keywords with the biggest business and ranking potential.
The first thing you should do to determine the ranking potential of a keyword is to check its difficulty. Keyword difficulty is a metric that says how hard it would be to rank for a particular search query. It’s the quickest way to evaluate whether you should start writing a listicle post in the beginning.
You can estimate it by browsing through SERPs and analyzing the top competitors. If the first page in Google consists of websites with high authority and the rankings rarely change, it’s most likely the keyword will be difficult to rank for. You can also check keyword difficulty in Surfer’s Keyword Research and see the exact grade of difficulty.
Search volume is another metric that can tell if the keyword has a ranking potential. It’s the number of times that people look for a specific keyword. Generally, keywords with low search volume are less competitive and have low keyword difficulty.
But low search volume also means that a small number of users search for that keyword. While picking a keyword with decent search volume is important to drive traffic, don’t ignore low-volume keywords because they may possess greater conversion potential.
Another important aspect of ranking potential to evaluate is search intent. It’s the reason why a user searches for a certain query. There are four types of search intent: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Your listicle should reflect the keyword’s search intent properly.
For example, the post “10 Content Marketing KPIs To Measure Your Blog’s Performance” has informational intent and provides information on the most vital content marketing KPIs. But if you want to target “best content marketing tools,” it has commercial intent as the user decides on the product they want to purchase.
Lastly, consider the business potential of the chosen keyword. If the phrase you want to target doesn’t bring you closer to achieving your business goals, it’s not worth creating a list post about.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create informative content in the form of listicles, but consider a purpose for it. For business goals, it’s better to target a low-volume keyword but one that is highly relevant to your products or services.
How to create a listicle for SEO
Now that you picked your target keyword, you can begin writing a listicle. It’s best to start by ideating how your list post will look. Think about if the points will be in the form of nouns or verbs and roughly how many will be in your blog post. It’s important to keep your list consistent and parallel.
Select a listicle type
First, consider which type of list fits your topic the best. To do that, consider how much description you want to attach to each point. If you know your topic requires an in-depth explanation, the best listicle type would be an extended list. Extended lists also work well for “how to” blog posts or step-by-step guides.
You should also consider if you want to put the items in any particular order. It’s especially important if you want to create an overview of the best of the worst in a category. To create a ranking, consider the order you want to put the items cautiously. On the other hand, if you want to create a “best of” post, you don’t need to worry about the order of your points.
To determine what kind of listicle will be the best for your blog post, you can browse the SERPs. If most websites cover the topic with step-by-step guides, it’s probably the safest format to choose. Looking at SERPs can also help you to find the angles you should include in your listicle.
Add important points in headers
Make each of your listicles points a separate header. Lists are great because you can easily see what the items convey and skim to the ones that interest you the most. So, format your main points as header tags to be distinguishable and descriptive of the explanatory text.
Using header tags also helps SEO because Google uses them to understand better how the article is structured and if it contains relevant content.
If you’re making a list of best actors, make each name a header. Similarly with travel destinations, movie names, steps in an instruction manual, etc.
To help illustrate this point, let’s take our post on content marketing KPIs as an example. You can see that every point is a separate KPI such as impressions or traffic, and it’s formatted as H3. Under each header, you can see a couple of paragraphs describing each KPI. This way, you can easily skip to the most interesting points without reading the description.
Use category buckets if you think the number of points is too high, or you can clearly divide them topically. The KPIs in the mentioned example are divided into three categories based on what you can measure using them.
For instance, Impressions, Traffic, Keyword SERP Positions, and Click Through Rate were grouped together because they measure search visibility. Categorizing list items helps users to find what interests them the most and skip through what they don’t care about.
Include related keywords in your article.
Search engines understand your content better if you put it in the right context.
To help them understand your content, you should include relevant keywords in your article. However, it’s not always clear how to identify related phrases that fit in the same context.
Some keywords may seem related but have very different page rankings. In such cases, it’s better to create separate pages for these phrases, as using them as synonyms or in similar contexts can hurt your rankings.
You can use the information from the search results you’ve gathered earlier while doing keyword research. Analyze the keyword list to determine the right phrases for your content by researching each query and finding which have the same search results.
If you want to find semantically related keywords for an article you’re currently writing, you can use Surfer’s Content Editor. Enter the seed keyword and select the country and device preferences. Then click Create Content Editor, and you can instantly see the list of related keywords.
Create a table of contents for easy navigation.
To improve the user experience of your listicle, add a table of contents. It makes your list additionally visually appealing if there’s a lot of content in the points’ descriptions.
A table of contents lets users see exactly what you covered in the post content. They can quickly decide if the list post will answer their question or pique their interest.
When creating a table of contents, don’t forget to add jump links, so users can easily go to the most interesting part of the article quickly. It also helps navigate the page and go back to the previous points.
Perform on-page optimization
On-page search engine optimization is crucial for any blog post, but it’s worth mentioning some key areas where you should put keywords in a listicle.
The first one is the page title. In this place, you should put your target keyword, for example, “best movies of 2022,” if you’re listing the best movies. Also, don’t hesitate to put the exact number of items in the title as it catches the reader’s attention. Remember to avoid clickbait titles because they can mislead readers and convince them that it’s not high-quality content.
The next key area is header tags. Add core keywords in your list headings, as they are the most prominent places. Ensure your list items align with the keywords relevant to the topic.
You should also include keywords in the URL of your list post. To do that, you first need to create an SEO-friendly URL structure. If your URLs are customizable, put the target keyword after the domain name, separated by hyphens.
The last place you should include keywords is metadata, such as meta description. You can use variations of the target keyword, but remember to avoid keyword stuffing.
Format your content for readability.
Another important aspect of creating a list post is appearance. Format your listicle to make it easy to scan and find relevant information.
User experience is extremely important for increasing dwell time, so if you want quality website traffic, make your blog posts visually attractive. Divide your article so it’s not just a wall of text. Break it up into shorter paragraphs and use headers appropriately.
Using bold or italics, you can also format the quotes so they stand out from the text. You can even use bullet points, but be careful not to confuse the readers.
Use relevant images, infographics, and videos for a better visual appearance of the list. Remember to compress images and use responsive design so the website elements don’t sift around.
Analyze your SERP competition.
The last helpful tip is to look at the competition’s list post to see what search engines find relevant for the topic of your listicle. Take different bits of top competitors’ list posts to synthesize the best possible list.
Most importantly, look at the headers they used when creating an outline of your article. Headers are the best way to determine the most important issues in the given subject quickly. If they repeat between competitors’ websites, you know that Google finds this information valuable.
A keyword audit can identify successful content and uncover keyword gaps you can fill to improve your content performance. Go to Surfer Audit and enter the page URL and target keywords. After selecting the country, and device preferences and checking the Sentiment box, click Create Audit to see what you can improve. Learn from your competitors’ mistakes and what they forgot to include in their listicles.
Lastly, don’t forget about the added value. Put your own unique spin on it or add relevant information competitors didn’t think about.
When you want to write an effective SEO-friendly listicle, you need to take a lot of effort into preparation. First, consider if your topic fits the list format and what angles competitors use to cover the subject. Second, do extensive keyword research to know what phrases to include in vital areas like the title, headings, or meta description.
After keyword research, plan out your listicle. Consider the number of points and if you can group them into categories. It will help you later create a table of contents, an essential part of a list post.
When your list post is ready, make it easier to skim through by including the most important points in headers, adding vital keywords, and formatting content for readability. To ensure great SEO performance, do on-page optimization and scour the competition for any content gaps along the way.
Listicles are a great way to gain readers’ interest and give them the necessary information. They are a very successful content format because people know what to expect of them and always know how much content is left. Lists are easy to preview, find relevant information, and return to if needed.
That’s why writing listicles can be easier than you think. Once you come up with the points and do keyword research, the content writes itself. Because lists follow a strict structure, it’s hard to go off-topic.
Remember to check the SERPs for the need for an update. Listicles are a very popular format, and the rankings can easily change. But if you do content audits frequently, you have nothing to worry about.