The Wrong Way to Create List Articles

Melissa Fach


January 8, 2014 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

I personally love really great articles that have helpful lists, but too many people create list articles that irritate readers and I am going to review how they do that.

1. Making Lists Based on Other Peoples’ Lists

The best way to irritate someone in your industry is to create a list that is essentially the list that someone else created and simply change the order around. It is quite irritating to click on a list article and be excited to get some great information, which the title promises, and then realize that you have already seen the list before.

If you are going to create a list you have to make it uniquely your own. Obviously, there will be overlap in list articles on the same subject, but there cannot be too much overlap.

I suggest writers really do some deep searching and research to create a more unique list for their readers. Use social networks, Topsy, and book marking sites to find great ideas and useful information.

2. Forcing Readers to Click on “Next” to See Each List Item Individually!

I understand that by doing this a website gets to count more page views that they can present to advertisers, but you lose more people than you retain doing this. You also risk pushing a reader away forever, and that really isn’t recommended by “content” professionals.

There are some sites that have an option to see the entire list and this is a very user-friendly option. I personally appreciate and use this option on a daily basis. I think forcing people to click “next” or click an arrow is really an awful thing to do. This strategy might work for some users, but I doubt it is useful for the web savvy audience.

PLUS, this often technique doesn’t work well on mobile devices so by using this “technique” you have just cut out a large audience you need and want.

3. Offering Actionable Tips People Have Already Heard

This is kind of similar to the first issue I discussed. People take tips they have seen in other articles, or other tip/list articles, and they use them as their own (they may reword a bit).  The reason that this strategy fails is the person “borrowing” the idea often does not elaborate enough on the tip to make the writer sound truly educated on the subject. They often just have 2-3 sentences explaining something, but not really diving in and educating the reader.

If you like a tip someone else has used in an article you can discuss it, but you must give the creator of the tip credit for it in your article. THEN, you should create a twist, add an additional idea, enhance the tip in someway, provide resources to help the reader or give a different perspective on the tip – essentially, make the tip unique in some way.

4. Forgetting about Mobile

I don’t care what kind of list you create, whether it is images, links, tips, videos or something else you have to make sure your list is accessible and works on mobile devices.

People use their mobile devices when they are stuck on buses, waiting for appointments and even when they are in the restroom. They are looking for something interesting and often they find really great suggestions on social media. So, they click on the link and “whoops” the page doesn’t work for them. That site just lost a reader and a possible long-term fan. Don’t let your website make this mistake.

Come on 2014, Create Lists that Attract and Impress!

If your company decides to create a list for an article in 2014 I hope that you will avoid the 4 mistakes I mentioned above. Hit the social networks and bookmarking sites and check out the lists that have done really well.  Look at what they did right and use this information to help you create a solid and helpful list.

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Melissa Fach

Melissa Fach has been in the SEO industry since 2007. She created her own agency, was the Managing Editor at SEJ, worked as an editor for Moz with their community team, she worked at Pubcon as the Community Manager for 5 years, and is an editor for SEMrush US Blog.

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