Let’s talk about list entries…

List entries are very popular. “Top 10 Ways to…” or “5 Reasons Why You Should…” type titles are recommended for submitting to different sites like Digg or Reddit because the title grabs the reader’s attention. That’s great, you have the reader’s attention and the person clicks on the link. Then what?

The Problem With Lists

Going through as many sites as I do, I see list entries quite often. What normally happens is the author will make the list of “resources” and leave out one very important piece of information. Why are these recommended things better than others? If an author is recommending cameras why are the five cameras listed better than other cameras? Because the author said so? For example, the writer/blogger will title the entry “5 Best Cameras under $250!”, then briefly lists the features of the cameras, but avoids saying what makes those cameras so special. I’m sure I could find three other cameras that are under $250, so why are those five cameras better than the others?

Often you will see these lists and the author will make the disclaimer that the list is in no particular order. The recommended cameras are all equally good. Well, how often does that happen? Companies make competing products to make it easier for the shopper to pick one product over another. Rarely are all the items equal. The disclaimer is a backdoor for the author to get around naming one product over the others because opinions are subjective. However, one of the attractions for a reader is valuing the opinion of the blogger/writer.

Let’s Turn an Entry Into a Clickfest…Not!

Another common trait are click entries: making the reader click through the list like a book. The problem? The entire list could be put on one page because the content for each list entry is minimal. An example: Top 5 WordPress Themes! type entry that has a screenshot and 50 words underneath each theme. That’s a 250 word entry. Put it all on one page. Readers aren’t stupid and they realize, if you do this, you’re trying to inflate your page views. Let’s face facts: if you have to resort to inflating your page views, you have a problem. Solve the problem instead of putting a bandaid on it.

A Picture Does Not Explain “Why”….

One of the common themes of list entries: including a picture or screenshot that “shows” the reader the product, design, etc. If I’m looking at the Top 5 Logos I expect to see an image of the logo but I’d also want to know WHY those five logos are on the list. The pictures alone do not legitimize the selected logos. This is why list entries can be traffic pullers but they have high bounce rates. It is relatively easy to pull people to a site. Unless the person finds substance in the site, they’ll quickly move on to the next site. If they go and view the Top 5 Logos, look at the pretty pictures for a minute and do not find a reason to stay (comment on your site, agree with your opinion and look for other articles, disagree with your opinion and tell a friend about it, etc.), they are on to the next site in less than a minute.

Back Up the Claims You Make

Anyone can make a list entry. The “good” writer/blogger backs up their list entries with facts, the logic behind the choices, etc. Know your audience. If you’re talking about the Top 10 Funniest Romantic Clips include video so your audience can see the funny parts your mentioned and come to their own conclusion. If you only include screenshots, what good is that, particularly if the reader never saw the movie? If you’re talking about cameras include pictures taken by the camera so the reader can see how great the cameras are. If you don’t have the camera (as in never had it)…why are you recommending it?

Prove your point.