They’ve been described as lazy. Cliche. An insult to good writing.
Like ’em or not, top 10 lists aren’t going anywhere. And the “list” format as a favored blog post and white paper format is becoming more popular than ever. Detractors blame the writers, but list-related content is just as popular (if not more so) with readers. Here are 10 reasons why top ten lists make great content for writer and reader alike.
1. They’re easy to read
Like it or not, low-attention-span readers like to read in chunks. We like our USA Today-style content, and top 10 lists fit into that format nicely.
2. They’re easy to skim
In most cases, you can pretty much read the headlines (skipping the other text) and get the gist. In and out quickly.
3. Smart people use them regularly
Guy Kawasaki formats all of his speeches in top 10 list format. David Letterman has made millions with them. It’s a proven format, which only adds to its acceptance and popularity.
4. They’re easier to tweet
People like to retweet and share content that their followers will also read and enjoy. The shareability of top-ten lists is just higher, because the content is more consumable.
5. They’re faster to write
Not always the case, and this is where detractors have a point that some writers can get lazy with top ten lists. Good content is still good content, even if it’s formatted with bullets or shared in fewer words. But in general, busy bloggers often feel they can knock out list-based content more quickly (while enjoying the other benefits listed here).
6. Numbers in headlines always drive higher response
It’s a proven fact in the direct-response world that numbers, specifics, drive greater response. Promising “10 reasons why…” will always drive better performance and clickthrough than “Top reasons why…”. Many reasons for this, including the fact that a specific number (even if it’s a round number like 10) implies comprehensiveness and expertise.
7. Long-term traffic impact is higher
Beyond the initial traffic bump of new content, top ten lists tend to drive higher long-tail traffic over time. The reasons they’re attractive today make them attractive to readers next week, next month, and so on.
8. They drive higher email response rates
Many writers repurpose their content into newsletters, nurture marketing campaigns and more. Used in these and other formats, list-based content increases performance of the rest of your marketing. The list format, for example, plays just as well with webinars and white papers.
9. They imply breadth of insight and knowledge
I referenced this in #6 above, but it was worth calling out separately. Non-numbered lists can be seen as nebulous, or incomplete. A round number like 10 still might be seen occasionally as arbitrary, but at least it’s specific and complete. Make it a top-9 or top-11 list and you’ll imply even more precision and comprehensiveness.
10. They can easily be broken into multiple posts
Depending on the depth of content, a top ten list could be broken into ten posts. Or two sets of five. Or expanded into an e-book (with examples, visuals, etc. for each point). Lists are easy to repurpose and extend for greater value.