5 Reasons Why Not to Write List Style Posts

Mike Escott
Mike Escott has been involved in web design and Internet marketing since 1998. Over the years he has helped many businesses startups to grow and develop their on-line ventures. He enjoys combining his experience in multi-media and internet marketing to create innovative solutions for his clients and specialises in small business SEO. Get SEO tips for free on the small business SEO blog. Looking to list a business in the UK? Try Mikes new online business directory.
Mike Escott
Mike Escott
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Take look around, everyone is writing list style posts but is that really a good thing?

It’s Been Done…. To Death!

Everyone is writing lists.  In fact it’s been done so much that subconsciously people will start to ignore them!  Why should your “5 reasons why” post be any more deserving of anyones attention than the countless other posts written in the exact same format? Sooner or later people will become “list blind” just as they have already become “ad blind”!

It’s Just Lazy

It’s a lazy format, it takes no creativity or in depth research. Lets face it… anyone can read a bunch of other lists, pick their favourite reasons and then just rewrite them into their own list. In fact this format is so accessible that the general quality of these types of posts is pretty poor and offer little in terms of unique insight. The end result is that people will expect your post to be low quality, don’t be surprised if your list doesn’t turn out to be the link magnet you expected it to be!

It’s Duplicate Content!

Yep, it’s duplicate content. Or at least most of your title will be duplicate content.  If your page title is “5 reasons why your company should be writing lists” then the only unique content of that title would be the part that says “writing lists” which is less than 20% unique! Google “5 reasons why your company should be” and see how many other page titles start with that phrase. The irony of it all is the SEO “guru” posts that are telling you “X reasons why your should be writing unique content”! And, as I said earlier, this format generally just rehashes the same old opinions over and over again, the words may be unique but that doesn’t make it a unique piece of writing.

It’s Limiting

You write the sub-heading and then follow it up with a short paragraph that

briefly explains that item on the list. Each point on your list could be a blog post within itself if you put in the time to research and explore your reasonings. But instead the reader just gets a paragraph that just offers very little insight into anything before moving on to the next item on the list. You may think that a nice short blog post is what people want but I have news for you…

People Are Not Goldfish!

Yes I’ve read it, you’ve read it, we’ve all read it… People have very short attention spans on the net and don’t like to read anything over 500 words in length. Well that’s just not true. While the net may provide many distractions, people will stick around to read something that they actually find interesting and engaging. In fact Viperchill wrote a very interesting blog post about a study they did on post length and popularity. Have you ever picked up a book and read the first chapter only to put it down and never read it again? Have you also picked up a book and not been able to put it down until your body forced you to sleep? This has nothing to do with the length of the books, the only thing that matters is how well written the book is and how engaging you found it. In my opinion the reason why so many posts seem to be 400 to 500 word in length is because you can churn out a post of that length in very little time with very little research. It’s just more efficient for those writing their own content and cheaper for those outsourcing it!

A quality post will be well written, well researched and as long as it needs to be. You should weave your reasonings into your argument rather than use them as sub-headings to present the argument for you. Next time you’re tempted to write a list style post you should stop, look at the points on your list and ask yourself if this has already been done before? Hmmm, I’m at 650 words…. You probably stopped reading a while back and have already gone off to look at cute kitten pics! 


  1. Very good post, and I like your points. However I do think that lists still have some merit, but the poster should try to make the list original and explain every point on the list in detail.

  2. Justin Arndt says:

    Its difficult to just grab people’s attention if they don’t see your blog at all. I don’t think lists are obsolete, but yes there are better ways to get people to read your blog, as you mentioned. Developing a following, though, is one of the most difficult things to do now as everyone and their mother is a “blogger” nowadays. Great tips from a real blogger. Thanks!

  3. You know what Mike, this couldn’t be more right! I consider myself to have a pretty short attention span especially since I work so much and stay so busy. But, the truth is, I would much rather read a 1000 word article and walk away with some new knowledge. Fact is, one can waste more valuable time by reading little bits of information and not learn anything then they would by reading a longer informative article. This is a very good topic and a much needed opinion on the subject….Thanks!

  4. Personally, I’m a big fan of list-based posts, and for numerous reasons – they’re pretty easy for your visitors to read, are clear and precise, and put your point across in a much better manner than a big wall of text, among other benefits. However I’ve got to say that you do make some very interesting and valid points there, Mike.

    • Twitter:
      Writing is humankind’s greatest ever technological achievement, don’t be afraid of a wall of text… If you don’t like it then you can stop reading it whenever you like!
      Mike Escott recently posted..Never Build Your Brand On Hope [Guest Post]My Profile

      • Twitter:
        Hi Mike,

        I’m not afraid of a wall of text – but an awful lot of people surfing the web will be put off by content presented in such a way. Why make it difficult for your readers?

        Breaking an article down into shorter paragraphs and using sub-headings and lists can just make it easier and more enjoyable for people to read – what’s so wrong with that? You’ve done it yourself in this post, to great effect.

        You make some good points, but I do think list posts still have a place – primarily because people LIKE them! And just because a post is written in a list format doesn’t necessarily mean it’s superficial. I’ve read some extremely detailed and lengthy list posts running to well over 1000 words.

        I’ve also read every one of your 650+ words – no time for kitten pics tonight!

        Thanks for a thought-provoking article,

        Sue Neal recently posted..Writing Tips: How I Motivated Myself to Write Every DayMy Profile

  5. Rajkumar Jonnala says:

    Well blogging in now a days is very competitive and whenever i write so posts and check the results for it, it is always getting some search results on it. So i decided to write on my own life style means on my own nature.

    And i too agree with you about not writing on list style posts as its been duplicated.

  6. Twitter:
    This is definitely a great post! I agree and disagree with you. I think it mostly depends on the subject that you are covering. For example, one of the post on this blog called “Looking for a Costume this Halloween” is written in that list style format. But when someone writes about Halloween costumes you can go in depth about the topic only this much. It’s still a fun article that gets a lot of attention.
    Elena recently posted..Incredibly Funny Church JokesMy Profile

  7. Twitter:
    YES! I agree with you completely Mike. Lists do have their purposes, and they can be extremely useful in many cases, but EVERYONE is writing everything in a list format, and it’s just a means to rephrase the same content over and over again, as you say. I think this Heading, subheading style is much clearer, and still forces writers to produce real content. Lists are easy to lean on. It’s much more difficult to compose a full length article.

  8. Twitter:
    As someone who is very new to this blogging business, everything you say makes sense, but then, so do the compelling arguments from the list-proponent gurus. Ultimately, I guess the proof is the traffic, but so often the gurus cover that one off. The biggest issue seems to be that advice dates quickly – so that by the time you’ve become aware of a piece of advice (“Lists are the way to go”), then it’s out of date, everyone’s doing it, and some other big technique is moving up the rankings. Hard for newcomers, but once you get some experience, maybe it’s easier to spot what works today and what doesn’t. So thank you Mike for pointing out the “list” idea is past its expiration date!
    Steve Rob recently posted..Headlight Restorer: it’s all here!My Profile

  9. Twitter:
    I like all articles, I am not biased. I think they all have their place, and they can be successful depending on what site they are on.

    I am a ghostwriter, and I find that about 95% of the people requesting articles want them in a list format. I don’t agree that is a lazy format. I’m not sure how it wouldn’t offer unique insight…unless it is written like:

    #1 – Because I say so!
    #2 – Because you are not right!
    #3 – Because you suck!

    ….then maybe, but if there is relevant information to back up the points, then it takes just as much formatting and writing as a headline, sub-headline format (or any other format) does.

    But, that is just my opinion! Oh-oh….look at my latest post…the ‘lazy’ format!
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  10. I don’t really agree, I enjoy reading lists that people put together. Not only is it entertaining, but easy and quick to digest if I’m reading the list over lunch or during a quick break from work.

  11. Is there any other way to be Short & Sweet & Full of Meat? At least a list keeps a blogger from wandering off topic. If you start out as a bad writer nothing you do will get peoples attention! Twenty minutes or 200.

  12. You know, its funny, I never thought of lists as dup-content. But your exactly right! Lists are good for making easily read compiled thoughts or “bullets”, but they ARE extremely overdone. The format may be easy on the eyes and brain, but I am sure that Google is getting wise to them and they are quickly on their way out. An important peice to mention however is that content DOES need to be properly organized, but just not cheapened by a quick list.
    Gabriel Killian recently posted..Coupon Codes for V2 Cigs E Cigarette Starter KitsMy Profile

  13. Twitter:
    Here is 50-50 from me because I like list style posts but not a bunch.Its always good to manage lists in some of your blog posts .Anyway your pointed out some nice information .
    Narender recently posted..Apple iPad Mini Specifications And PriceMy Profile

  14. Hi Mike,
    Well you have illustrated your point of view about list posts. However i am of the opinion that list posts do still serve the purpose and present the readers with useful information.
    Having said that, i found your post to be informative.
    Ramit recently posted..How to Research a Stock?My Profile

  15. Twitter:
    Hi Mike,
    It was fabulous reading your 650 words. I did not think of quitting while reading. It really did bound me. The post surely had to say something so different from the trend. It was a deeper insight into what people really want. They want a good subject, written with thorough research and good writing skills to keep them bounded. Readers are not length specific if they really get good content. And surely to say about “list method”, it seems time saving and repetitive. I loved your approach towards this phase of blog writing. And see my comment exceeds any word limit too. Thanks for the share. :)
    Sanjib Kumar Saha recently posted..The Latest Hair Trends for the Last Quarter of 2012My Profile

  16. I see this on shows and videos too. Top 5, top 10 usually. I think that if well done it has its merits. It breaks things down into step-by-step which is appealing to many.

    I like to veer away from anything that’s been done to death though, because it ceases to stand out from the crowd and becomes tired and annoying.

    As for attention spans, a good piece will hold people’s attention for a long time. Maybe the concept of “people have short attention spans” comes from too much poor quality stuff being shoved at them that simply fails to hold their attention for more than it takes them to find something else.
    Judy recently posted..Tears of Phos: Mission to Rescue LaurelMy Profile

  17. Twitter:
    same here..!! i also think list post are more eye catching other than those long posts.

  18. that a great reasons.. i hate reading long post!

  19. Twitter:
    Wait a minute. This post is about why not to write posts in “list-style” yet it’s called “5 Reasons Why Not to…” Did no one pick up on that irony? I thought it was pretty clever, whether it was intended or not.

    Or do you mean only if the points are bulleted are they list posts?

    I agree with you to an extent. I think it’s being overdone because bloggers hear all the hullabaloo about how readers are drawn like magnets to list posts. Unfortunately, that means everything under the sun is being turned into lists and many are unoriginal, uninteresting, and poorly written. On the other hand, list posts do have their value…if they provide something fresh, funny, interesting, unique, etc.

    I don’t do lists terribly often, but I like to think that when I do, I do it fairly well.
    Kristin recently posted..Top 10 Presidential Debate QuotesMy Profile

  20. Cute Kitten photos? Where?

    Oh, that wasn’t the point was it? I did get your point though & you definitely have some valid reasoning behind it. Love the irony that you wrote the post in a list style format though.

  21. Twitter:
    I’m guilty of writing in list format. Usually its to get the reader in the door. It isn’t just the typical bullet points of death. I actually put in a lot of time and effort into my posts.

    True list posts? I consider them fluff for when I’m out of ideas and try not to do them too often now.

    For the new blogger though? It might be a good way to work on their writing chops.
    Jason Mathes recently posted..5 Ways to Prevent Your Guest Blog Post From Getting RejectedMy Profile

  22. Good to hear from the other side on this issue. I tend not to do lists, but have done a couple recently because I keep reading from others how effective they can be. It gets to the point and saves the reader some time.

  23. I have to agree. I don’t mind lists within an article and there is the occasional full-on list style post that is very nicely done and fun to read. I think that if someone is coming from a humorous angle or some other unusual way of presenting a list, then it can be pulled off without seeming boring.
    Raina recently posted..Why Aggressive Anchor Text Is Bad For SEOMy Profile

  24. Twitter:
    I love list posts and they are not duplicate content at all! People still have their own ideas regardless of what type of post it is. Everyone writes different points on their lists and hopefully the reader will at least get one AH HA moment.

    I think you can write any way you like, as long as it is interesting like you said.

    Not really clear on if you are for or against list posts?

  25. I still prefer reading (and writing) articles in list format since the flow of the content is more absolute. I also find it easier to scan for the information you’re looking for.

  26. Marc Helman says:

    Good post. I’d say you are correct about lists but…

    It’s good to create short lists – then use that list for headers. Each header gets a paragraph. Some get photos as well. You can create a logical, fun read in no time.

  27. I agree with the author’s points. But, neglecting the demerits of the list type posts there are also some merits with it. It makes user easy to navigate, read and understand rather than paragraph posts.
    Anyways, thanks for sharing.
    AjayUdayagiri recently posted..How To Install Samsung Galaxy S3 with Android 4.1 Nightly jelly beanMy Profile

  28. Dominique Goh says:

    I don’t really agree with no lists but not having list all the time. A mixture of list and non list posts is what I do for my blog.

  29. Shandi Tan says:

    I think it’s less about the format of the post than the quality of the content. Sure, the Internet is literally full of 102 Easy Ways to Make Money Online, Lost 10 Pounds or what-have-you but these things are for new readers.

    I still think we should all come back to the reason why we start blogging. At the end of the day, it’s still about building a community and adding value to the Internet.

    If you feel a well-written list-type post answers a question, fills a need or makes someone’s day better – then put it up. Otherwise – what’s the point?

  30. Jackson Tan says:

    interesting argument.. list style post seems to be easier to write so me as I as expand the sub titles.. and also keep myself focus on what to write.. but again.. if it is quality content.. it should not lose that much readers. my 2 cents~

  31. Twitter:
    amazing post from beggining to emd, and specially the second thing-”every post title is copied”….lol, i think this is a true fact. thanks for this article
    prabhat recently posted..Micromax A110 Superphone Canvas vs WickedLeak Wammy NoteMy Profile

  32. Good one. Lists reek of “linkbait” which I greatly despise. Blogger should stick to writing for the sake of INFORMING readers instead of trying to get top search engine ranks.


  33. Twitter:
    Hi Mike,

    First of all, I have to say it is a good post and you made your point clear. :)

    Yes, the title could be duplicate but the content can often be different and insightful. Depend on how the author WANTS to put it. They can reuse the same info and word it differently or they can give the real secret to how do something successfully.

    Sometime, I think it is not the author don’t want to reveal the secret. Often this kind of info is not always available. I mean how often can you get the secret to get triplets in one go (even there are many people who are interested to know how to in some topics)?

    Talking about a short paragraph that briefly explain that item on the list. Again, it depends on the author. There are serious authors out there who again gave very insightful idea in those short paragraphs.

    Michael recently posted..Earn Money With Blog 2.0My Profile

  34. Don’t know if it was intended or not, but it’s kinda funny that your post is titled “5 reasons why…” and then you say these titles are for lazy people. :) Nevertheless, you have a point in your post. Most lists are duplicates and boring.

  35. Ivailo Peshev says:

    I am really tired of titles – How to and some lists as well. I don’t believe this already works for readers.

  36. The reasons for not having a list are valid. But the fact is is overused means that it has been proven to work. People are too busy to read a full article so the best way is to put the key points in the list format. Combined it with a good story and you have the best of both world.

  37. You did a good write up and i agree with your points. The emergence of many blogs on the internet has affected the time that one could spend reading a particular article except if it concerns the person.

  38. I really think if you’re bloggiing, you need some list type posts because the format is incredibly legible.

    People don’t always read every word of what is on screen, they like to scan articles for what they need. I think the list type posts that offer maybe 7 list items or so, with solid descriptions of those items are much better than articles with just 50 list items, because it shows a certain level of refinement to the list and they can either opt to into the detail if they want of just scan the article.

  39. I have been writing list style posts from a long time, but seems like I’ve to stop doing it :) Blogging is something really great where we get to learn a lot.
    Vikas Bhatt recently posted..How To Upgrade Your Windows 7 PC To Windows 8 With Upgrade AssistantMy Profile

  40. You got your point Mike but there are times that list style is way better to use. Specifically, when your post is about procedures on doing something.

  41. Bilal Akbar says:

    Agree with you. I think no one pays attention to list posts they just look at the headings and gone. Personally I love to write well researched and 1000+ words articles.

  42. Duplicate Content: no matter what you write you can’t expect it to unique, specially when you are writing list posts, your post and others post won’t have much different things to list on their list, that’s the only reason that also makes me think that way :)

  43. i don’t think list post are preferred as per the guidance by the above post.there should not be list post it shall contains points+list briefly explained. this really good experience thanks for the suggestion

  44. I never thought that doing this list format layout would somehow be discouraged. I do love this kind of format. It’s easier to directly locate information you want to find. It’s like you can easily save them and use them for later. Also, I would somehow agree to that duplicate part. I think that makes sense.

  45. Hi Mike,

    I agree with list style posts being overused (especially when the content is obviously copied), but I personally think that doing a post in list form does not necessarily mean that the writer was lazy. It still depends I guess, and this topic really for me is something that a lot of people, readers and writers alike, still debate on up until this time.

    Then again, you have made strong points about why not to write posts in list form.
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  46. Twitter:
    You are right that there comes too much duplicate words when you write a list post but still is good trend my list style post often get more traffic than a paragraph style post Top 10 is good keyword if you see in keywords tool it has a good competition and you get a good traffic on writing list post its my experience. but you are also right.
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  47. My style in writing usually depend on the topic and the keyword. Length of the content can also influence my style and the format.
    julidarmaputra recently posted..The Easy Way To Enlarge Your Breasts NaturallyMy Profile

  48. Twitter:
    Good post and I’m going to have to disagree with it. Lists help to make chunks of text more digestible. I like to have take-away from my posts and so I use bullets and numbered lists. I write how I feel the subject dictates and more often than not, it’s got a list. So, it’s not dead…but it can be mishandled. Thanks
    D. Dixon recently posted..How To (Really) Use Twitter Beyond Counting FollowersMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      There are plenty of ways to make text more digestible. What’s important is the quality of the content and personality of the writer. Lists are dull and the chances are that your list style post will just fade away into the noise of all the other list posts out there. A great post with a unique point of view attracts readers who will remember your post and want to share it, a list is just another list!
      Mike Escott recently posted..Never Build Your Brand On Hope [Guest Post]My Profile

  49. Interesting, I think I agree and disagree. There has got to be a place for them, I tend to read blog posts on the go, or quickly I between things, so they work well for me. Interesting though!
    Amanda recently posted..Silent Sunday 28th October 2012My Profile

  50. Twitter:
    Well, I don’t write a lot of list posts myself, but I don’t think they are that bad, I actually like reading them, they are very helpful when you are looking for info and you need it fast, you just scan through it. Tough I don’t think that bloggers want their posts just being scanned and not read through. So, probably you got a point there.
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  51. List style posts do obviously have a place, but I agree that they can be overdone and sometimes very boring and not even worth reading. Having said that I have seen plenty of reasonably good posts with the list style of writing. So I think that there is a place for them but they should not be used only when really necessary.

  52. Twitter:
    While I love list style posts, if it’s quality writing, I do think bloggers use it as a copout. Instead of writing, they are writing a grocery list, often times just rewriting the snip its directly from another website.
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  53. Dave Steinberg says:

    I love list posts, but most bloggers do a crappy job creating them. They use it as an excuse not to write and still get in their 500 word article. List posts are usually just rehashed content from other sites and blogs.

  54. Twitter:
    Wow, I am new to blogging. I learn something new everyday. I knew search engines do not like duplicate content but I hadn’t actually given my title a second thought. HMM maybe I will start searching my titles before I post from now on. Thank you for your insight.
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  55. I like your points, but I still love the list-style posts… I like to read them and I enjoy writing them :)
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  56. Twitter:
    I believe its better if we can use couple of short list at important places of article, this can enhance readability and can reduce the risk of copy content issue.
    BTW thanks for the post
    Chaitanya recently posted..How to Write SEO Articles with KeywordsMy Profile

  57. Well,it is better to search information about the topic about which you are going to write,but collect information only don’t try to copy the exact line.write it in your own words and make it live and meaningful.
    Thanks you lot.

  58. Twitter:
    Yes now this is new. Because just some years ago people were blogging all about making Top 10 lists of this and that. Now I guess that too is saturated. If you try to find a good wordpress theme… you are presented with loads and loads of lists full of same stuff. Nice pointers there from the Author.
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  59. Twitter:
    Hello Mike..
    As being true I write lists type post commonly in my blog. The main reason is It is easy to write in list format. But I never think about these other aspects . Thanks for sharing these with me.
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