It’s no secret that lists are a popular blog post format. Long lists of resources, in particular, can be a very successful type of post in terms of driving traffic and raising awareness of your site. Just check out Smashing Magazine for numerous examples.
I recently went through the (fairly lengthy) process of gathering and organizing articles for a list post of my own about working with web design clients.
However, it was only after I published it that I really thought about the many benefits (beyond the obvious) to this type of post.
Let’s take a look at why long list posts make a good blog post format.
1. Good Linkbait (the obvious)
There’s no denying that list posts can be extremely popular. My own post on CSS Rounded Corners has been driving a steady stream of traffic to my site ever since it went up.
You only have to glance through social bookmarking sites like Digg or Delicious to see the prevalence of these types of posts and their popularity.
Within the various flavors of linkbait, long list posts fall into the ‘resource hook’ category.
2. Improves Your Research Skills
The most time-consuming element of writing posts that gather together a large collection of resources is the research piece. This typically goes beyond typing a few phrases into Google and looking through the top three pages of results.
If you want to be thorough you’re going to need to refer to a variety of search engines, social bookmarking sites, industry forums, and online magazines in your research.
By broadening your research methodology you’ll not only catch the best resources on the web, but also hopefully some less well known nuggets that will set your list post apart.
3. Forces You to Read Widely on a Subject
In order to create a long list post you have to read and understand the source material you intend to reference.
This process of self-education means that there is as much to be gained from the activity of writing a long list post as there is from the publishing of the actual post itself.
Researching a post that requires you to read widely gives you a reason to catch up on all that reading that you wouldn’t otherwise get around to.
If you ever want that post to be published, it also forces you to focus — to avoid going off at a tangent when you come across interesting, but non-related, articles (which you naturally save as source fodder for future posts).
4. Discover New Sources of Information
If you ever get tired of reading the same old web design sites, it’s always a refreshing change to discover a new source of quality content.
Researching a long list post makes this typically infrequent process of discovery happen more quickly and more often.
For me it was Graphic Define Magazine, which focuses on the business side of running an interactive design agency.
5. Good Reference Tool for Yourself
One of the reasons I write certain posts is so that I can refer to them in the future.
Not only do I use my blog as a way to create these ‘quality’ bookmarks, but the process of writing helps me to better understand and remember the information I’m referencing than if I just bookmarked those sites and resources in Delicious.
It works — I often find myself searching for an old post on my site in regards to something I am involved with for work.
On the other hand, although I still save things to Delicious on a regular basis, I find that new bookmarks tend to get swallowed up among all the others.
This has happened to such an extent that I rarely remember what I have bookmarked and frequently find myself starting searches on Google rather than in my Delicious account.
6. Promote Your Site to Others in Your Field
One outcome of writing a popular long list post is that you will send a lot of traffic to the sites you reference.
If the owners of these sites — your respected peers — are checking their traffic stats regularly, they’ll see the traffic coming from your site and will most likely check out what you’ve written about them.
They’ll notice you and, who knows, maybe you’ll gain a new RSS subscriber (and a link back — see #1, above).
7. Easy to Write
Posts that pull together large amounts of resources certainly take a lot of researching and organizing — which may take place over a period of weeks — but they’re pretty straight forward to write.
They certainly won’t be challenging your grammatical abilities. If you’re like me and write your blog in the evening, after a long day’s work, collecting and organizing resources is often a lot easier than actually writing something from scratch.
8. Easy to Read
Long list posts are popular partly because they’re easy to read. By their very nature the content is broken up into easily digestible chunks and these posts tend to be easy to scan.
9. Makes You Think About Your Audience
If you’re going to go to the time and effort to pull together a large list of resources on a topic, you’d better make sure that the topic is of interest to your audience.
Planning and writing these types of post forces you to focus on what subjects your audience might find interesting and useful.
Furthermore, it makes you think about what constitutes quality content for this audience within the subject area you’ve chosen.
10. Drive Discussion
Long list posts are easy for people to comment on. More often than not comments will be of the “great post, thanks” variety, but these types of post often encourage readers to add their own favorite resources.
If reader interaction is one of the goals of your blog, long list posts can be a great way to get readers more involved in the conversation.
11. Source of New Articles
In researching a long list post you will inevitably come across interesting but unrelated information and insights that make good source material for other posts.
In addition, after you’ve published your post you can still save other relevant resources as you come across them.
Once you’ve gathered enough, you can publish an update to your post (maybe 6 months later) and hit a whole new group of readers.