HOW TO WRITE A KILLER LIST ARTICLE IN 10 EASY STEPS
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How To Write A Killer List Article in 10 Easy Steps
by Steve Amundsen
From a reader's perspective, list articles are very attractive-there is something about a good list that just draws readers in.
A list is basically like providing a built in road map for your readers to navigate your article (and it's true that we usually skim content that we read on the web, isn't it?).
A list makes it easier for a reader to grab the basic facts and to take away a few points of value, so if you haven't tried this article writing technique, I encourage you to give it a go!
But how do you write a great list article?
It's actually not that hard, but it may have more elements to keep in mind than you imagined.
When you're writing a list to use in article marketing, here are some key steps to follow:
1) Choose your topic.
As always, the topic of your article should be related to the topic of your website, but what should the specific topic of your list article be?
Since you're providing a list of items you can choose a broader topic.
Think in the realm of related tips you can offer on a certain subject, or a How To article that offers an instructional guide for how to do something.
You can also offer a list of interesting facts about a certain aspect of your niche that people always ask you about. Or you can think in terms of a list of common misconceptions people might have about a certain aspect of your niche.
The idea is to choose an over-arching topic under which you can have a list of several elements that expound on your overall topic. (I'll give you some examples of good list articles below, so that may also help you brainstorm some ideas.)
Will this be a How To list article?
Will this be an article that lists a series of Top Tips?
Will this be an article that lists facts about your topic?
2) Start your brainstorming session.
After you've decided what your article topic will be, brainstorm some possible list items that could fall under that topic.
If you're doing a HowTo article, then list out all your steps. If it's a Top Tips article, then list out all your tips. If it's a list of facts, then list out your best facts about the topic you're writing about.
Come up with more items that you need-you will weed things down later on.
Don't bother trying to write eloquent paragraphs now-this is your brainstorming session and you're just trying to decide what items will be in your list.
Oh, and remember-All items must be on the same topic (duh, right?)
3) Choose how many items will be in your list (5, 7, 10, 20, 25, etc)
Remember, there are word count restrictions on article submissions-most publishers will accept a maximum of 1500 words in an article, and you know I recommend trying to stick in the word count sweet spot of 700-800 words.
So, odds are you won't be able to have a really extensive number of items in your list. If you feel like the items in your list need to a lot of explanation, that will mean that you need to choose a fewer number of list items. Obviously the more items you have in your list, the less explanation you can give for each item.
I've picked out a few examples for you from our article directory-
20 Amazing Honey Bee Facts! Here's a great list article that contains 20 items (notice that each item is short and does not need elaboration.
15 Reasons why Small Businesses Need a Brand Identity System
Barbie Dolls-10 Facts About Barbie Doll Collecting
7 Tips to Prepare You For Your Job Interview This list is of a moderate size, which allows the author to give 2 or 3 sentences of elaboration for each item in the list
5 Dramatically Different Reasons Why You Should Submit Your Articles to Ezine Editors This is an article of mine that contains a shorter list with 5 items in it. Notice that a list of this size allows me room to elaborate a bit on each item.
You can make your list as low as 3 items, but if you do that I would be really certain that you have some meat in the elaboration of those items. If you only have 3 items, and you don't provide the in-depth explanation to back it up, then it can convey a lack of knowledge on the subject, which is not what we're going for! :-)
I think that 3 is as low as you can go and still call it a list :-) , but when you're choosing how many items to include in your list, keep in mind that 5, 7, 9, 10, 15, 20, and 25 are more eye-catching than say 4, 6, 8, 14, etc. Don't ask me why-this is just the way it is! If you want to go with odd numbers, such as 13, 17, 21-those can be attractive too.
I just know I've never seen a "Top 4" list that really got me excited. If you've got 4 items, stretch it to 5. If you have 6 items, then come up with an extra one to make it 7 or scale it down to 5.
4) Pick your strongest brainstorming items to be included in the list.
If you have "over-brainstormed" and have too many items to include in your article, that is not a bad thing-you can use those items in another article.
5) Arrange your list items.
If it's a HowTo article, arrange your list in a logical order (you knew that already, didn't you? ;-) ).
If you're doing a list that does not have a logical sequence of events, then arrange your list items so that your first 2 items and your final item are your strongest.
There is a bit of strategy here-Remember, you must rope a reader's attention and then keep their attention until the end of your article.
Start strong: If your first two tips are really strong, then it will lead the reader further into your article, and they'll be more likely to read all of your tips.
Close strong: You also want to close strong-the last item in your list will be the last thing the reader sees before deciding to read your resource box. A first impression counts, but so does a last impression, especially when there is a specific action you'd like a reader to take after reading your article.
So, remember-if your tips don't have to be in any certain order to make sense, then strategically choose your strongest tips to appear in spots 1 & 2, and then also as your final list item.
6) Flesh your chosen items out, and remember your word count restrictions.
If it turns out that you're going beyond your word count restrictions, then consider either pairing down your list, or keeping all of your list items and pairing down your explanations of each item.
If you take the latter route and have a longer list with brief explanations of each item, you could pull this trick I told you about before, where you start with a list post and then bounce an entire article series off of your list.
7) Write your introductory paragraph and a conclusion.
I would definitely advise using an intro and conclusion rather than just launching straight into your list and having an abrupt cut-off when your list is complete.
I've even heard of some publishers who will decline list articles that don't have at least a brief intro and conclusion. For an example of a good (and brief) intro and conclusion, check out this article.
8) Craft your Title.
To get the optimum benefits of having a list article, you would craft a title that tells the reader how many items are in the list and what the list is about.
See the examples of list articles mentioned above for some inspiration, and please also check out these references for crafting great titles at Steve Amundsen's blog:
The #1 Very Simple Tweak You Can Make To Your Articles To Produce Maximum Results!
How To Give Your Article Curb Appeal
Slap On A Lackluster Title: How To Sabotage Your Article Marketing #7
9) Be sure your list items are numbered.
This may seem obvious, but when you're writing a list article, it does help to number each item in your list.
While there's nothing terrible about saying "Firstly, you would do this" and "Secondly, you would do this", or "Number one", "Number two" and not having an actual number beside each item (such as 1, 2, etc) , I think it just makes it easier for a reader to navigate a list if each item in the list is clearly marked by a real number (such as the list items in this article, 7 Brainstorming Ideas For Creating Attention Grabbing Articles!)
Or, if you don't want to put numbers next to each list item, at least make each item be clearly delineated in the article, as in this article: 5 Deadly Sleeping Sins
10) Consider your line spacing to make your list easier to read.
This is true of any article, but especially if you are doing a list article.
Be sure that each item in your list is clearly delineated-you do have a word count, but there is nothing that says you can't space things out to be more readable!
Look at this article for an example of what I'm talking about. Notice how everything isn't scrunched together-each item in the list is clearly visible at a glance.
So, as a wrap up-your list article can follow a template like this:
1) [first list item here]
2) [second list item here]
3) [third list item here]
4) [fourth list item here]
5) [fifth list item here]
(you get the idea-go through each item on your list)
I think it's actually easier to write a list article than any other kind of article-in the same way it's easier for a reader to read, it's also easier to write (at least it is for me :-) )!
More great tips from the internet's best marketers are available with the Lighthouse Marketing system. Also more from Steve Amundsen and the Lighthouse Marketing ebook here:
http://www.lighthousemarketingbook.com/ohsx2oAnd several links for the system and article marketing aspect at my web page at Adlandpro
and Xooma Direct
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