Oct 5, 2021 6 min read

How to write a listicle: a simple and actionable guide

How to write a listicle: a simple and actionable guide

Listicles are a great way to grab attention and convert readers into customers. But not all listicles are equal.

I’ll show you how to write a high quality listicle that gets people reading through to the end and wins fans for life.

Here is the complete process:

  • Define your why behind writing it
  • Outline your main bullets first
  • Expand bullets into full sections
  • Format sections into "What", "Who", "Pros", "Cons", and "Where"
  • Add imagery whenever possible
  • Write a compelling introduction
  • Write an opinion-based conclusion
  • Craft the perfect title based on actual search data

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Define your why behind writing it

This is where you narrow down the audience for your listicle. It's important to determine why people actually need this.

What value will it provide them?

Once you find that problem, you can start figuring out how to solve it.

From a naming brainstorm at a talk
Photo by Patrick Perkins / Unsplash

For example, if you're writing a list called "15 Things to Pack in Your Hospital Bag":

You can determine that people are going to the hospital and don't know what they need.

Here are some questions you should ask before deciding to write the full listicle:

  • Why should anyone care about the content
  • What will it solve for them?
  • Why is it worth the time it takes to read?
  • How will they use this information?
  • Is there something missing from other sources on the same topic?
  • Will this be a sharable asset?

Outline your main bullets first

Here's a little-known secret about listicles: they're not that hard to write. All you need is a little direction.

The first thing you should do is pick the core answers or topics you want to cover in your piece.

These are what I call "main bullets."

Once you have your topic picked out (and know it will be valuable), list out every point you need to cover.
For example, if your topic is "How to Create a New YouTube Channel", some bullet points you might have are:

  • Create an account at YouTube
  • Create a channel page
  • Add a profile picture
  • Upload a video
  • Add tags to your video
  • Add a description
  • Embed the video on your website or blog
  • Promote your video on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter

Now, you're ready to actually write with some direction and focus to provide value to the reader.

Expand bullets into full sections

This is the most straightforward part of the entire process. Once you have your bullet points, expand on them.

Answer all the questions a reader might have about the core bullet point. That's it.

If you want a more structured format for doing this...

Format sections into "What", "Who", "Pros", "Cons", and "Where"

This is a simple framework for listicle sections, but it works.

Here are the questions to answer for each main bullet point:

  • What is the product/idea/service?
  • Who exactly is it for?
  • What are the pros of this product?
  • What are the cons of this product?
  • Where can I find it?

Add imagery whenever possible

Whenever you're creating content, make it easy for your audience to consume.

It's pretty simple: if you can't get people to read what you write, you're not going to convert them into customers.

Adding images whenever possible is also recommended when writing a listicle.

Images help readers visualize what you're talking about and can grab their attention.

When adding photos to your article, make sure they are relevant to the subject matter.

Here are some images you may want to include in your listicle sections:

  • Images of the product
  • Images of people using the product
  • Images of specific pros for the product
  • Images of specific cons for the product
  • Images of how you use the product

Write a compelling introduction

At this point, you've written the bulk of your listicle.

Now, you need your bookends.

Bookshelf
Photo by Fallon Michael / Unsplash

Let's start with writing a great intro. You need to hook readers in, get them curious, and place them in a mindset to feast on your words.

The ideal length of the intro is between 35 to 55 words. Anything longer can seem like a cumbersome paragraph.

The intro text should also include keywords related to the article topic. Write an introduction that gives an overview of the topic—don't rehash the title.

Add value by using numbers, stats, or details to make your point more credible.

Be sure to keep your readers in mind when you write this part of your listicle. You want them to keep reading, so don't make it too boring or technical.

Most of all, state the value you are hoping to give the reader by the end of this listicle.

In other words:

  1. Capture the reader's curiosity
  2. Set expectations for the listicle
  3. Discuss the value for the reader
  4. Deliver on that value with the content

Write an opinion-based conclusion

The other bookend is the conclusion.

This captures attention much like the intro should, but in a different way.

The conclusion should be a compelling summary, with the author's opinions baked in.

Many people follow a listicle with a summary of its main points, and this is fine.

To take the listicle to the next level, you need to add your own emotion and thoughts.

Readers should feel rewarded with your opinions on the topic of the article.

For example, if your listicle is "The 23 Best Video Editing Tools on the Planet", you could express opinions on:

  • Which tool is the best value?
  • Which tool is the most affordable?
  • Which tool is the easiest to use?
  • Which tool is best for students?
  • Which tool is best for YouTubers?
  • Which tool do you use?

Give closure to the listicle by giving opinions on the main bullets from your article.
If you have a call-to-action, include it here at the end.

Craft the perfect title based on actual search data

The secret of listicles is to write a headline that will get people to click on it.

The best way to do that is to base the headline on real search data.

Remember: the goal is to reach the front page of Google.

If you are able to rank high enough, then your traffic will skyrocket.

This means your title needs to use a keyword with decent search volume.

If you want people to find your content, optimize your title.

Outside of SEO, there are other key elements that make up a great headline.

To write a great headline, make it:

  • Simple
  • As short as possible
  • Crystal clear
  • Intriguing, but not clickbaity
  • Number-based
  • Believable

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Conclusion

Now you're a complete pro at writing listicles. Let's recap the simple process to writing these:

  • Define your why behind writing it
  • Outline your main bullets first
  • Expand bullets into full sections
  • Format sections into "What", "Who", "Pros", "Cons", and "Where"
  • Add imagery whenever possible
  • Write a compelling introduction
  • Write an opinion-based conclusion
  • Craft the perfect title based on actual search data

If I were to tell you which point is most important (outside of knowing whether to write it or not)...

I'd tell you to focus on outlining all your bullet points before writing anything.

That's the tip that has made the most impact for me in writing, and I know it can for you, too!

If you've written listicles before and have any tips to add to this list, feel free to comment below.

Blake Emal
Blake Emal
CMO @ Copy.ai
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