In the last few years list based posts have become ubiquitous on business blogs, but do they actually offer any value to your readers or prospects, and do they offer much SEO benefit? Unfortunately, many list based posts tend to contain rehashed, generic content offering little value compared to other methods of driving traffic and adding value through blogging. This slightly controversial (and ironic) post will offer some insights.
1. Over generalisations
The vast majority of list based posts either make sweeping statements without much information to back it up, or stick to an over generalised, basic level, since it is hard to go into detail on five topics in just 500 to 1000 words. List based posts work well as filler content, giving blog owners content to post daily to keep the site ticking over. As many SEO practitioners will know, fresh content is is a way to get Google bots coming back on a regular basis, as Google wants to see sites that are regularly updated with current information, rather than provide users with results to their queries from the early 2000s.
The downfall of many list based posts is that they are designed to be done on a tight schedule, so the quality of the content suffers. The posts are short, they gloss over the details, and are mainly written to satisfy a controversial title written purely to generate click throughs. But driving new visitors to poor or basic content isn’t ideal to gain sticky growth - why would anyone revisit a site if the content disappoints by not offering helpful or interesting information?
2. A lack of real value
Since many list based posts are intended to drive traffic, much of the creativity is focussed on the title, such as:
“4 Ways To Supercharge Your Facebook Ads”
“5 Underutilised But Effective Link Building Tactics”
“3 SEO Tactics You Should Be Using”
Unfortunately it is all to easy to underdeliver on the content front when you have a title that promises the world. Taking the three examples above, you’re mostly likely to find: a) Information you could have got from Facebook’s support pages, b) link building tactics that are effective, but take too much time or money to do on a reasonable scale, and c) Three SEO tactics you are already using.
The problem with publishing blog posts that are shallow in their content is that they are less likely to be linked to or shared by your readers. If a post doesn’t contain valuable content, there is no reason for anyone to share it on Twitter or Facebook, or to mention it in their own blog with a backlink. This puts a limit on the post’s effectiveness as a marketing tool. With no social media shares or organic backlinks to the post, your list based post will most likely not receive much traffic.
3. Short post lifespan
Because many list based posts contain a lack of information or value, they don’t have a long lifespan. As the content of such posts tends to be limited, there is a slim chance that the post will receive many user created backlinks or social shares except in the first few days the post goes live, where you’ll at best end up with a slight spike in traffic. Granted, list based posts can be a good way to offer an insight into a newly launched product or service, when detailed information may not be available. However, when time is not an issue, it is much better to write a longer, more detailed piece that offers more value and information on the subject. Because these longer posts contain much more information, more people will want to create backlinks to your content or to share the posts via social media.
4. It’s hard to be unique
Another reason why this format of post is difficult to work with is down to widespread use of this type of post. Many mainstream blogs use these post types because they are incredibly easy to draw attention, both through the title and the easy to dip in and out article format. Unfortunately, because these posts are so ubiquitous, it’s hard to write a post that’s truly unique, as your list based post is less likely to stand out among the sea of other similarly written posts.
Because these posts are easy to dip in and out of, many of these posts are also targeted at the casual reader. Most posts therefore are easy to read and understand for beginners, however they tend to lack detail and information which many people want. For example, many businesses who blog about their own products or services will tend to have a few “5 reasons why X product can enhance Y…”, which can be a good way to get initial interest from new readers, but what about readers who are interested in your product or service and want more detailed information? What does a basic and generic post do to set you apart from the competition?
Similarly you could be a service provider writing about a service that many other companies offer (like this blog), but need to differentiate your self. List based posts may gain the interest of prospects that have a very limited knowledge of your industry, but chances are larger firms in the market for your services will have a much more detailed knowledge than what your articles are offering. Would these big spenders prefer to read a series of basic, generic list based posts, or read a detailed report or white paper with a new and unique take on an important industry issue?
5. Less useful as link bait than other ‘evergreen’ posts
Many quality bloggers such as Matthew Woodward and Charles Floate have ditched basic list based posts and instead focussed on detailed posts arguing one main topic with detailed coverage. This includes tutorials, case studies and reviews, which go into a great amount of detail. Posts like this can be considered ‘evergreen’, meaning they are always relevant, as well as being a ‘linkable asset’ . Evergreen linkable assets are always relevant and add unique value to your community or industry, meaning they will earn repeat visitors over time.
It is therefore possible to get one of your pieces of evergreen content to rank highly through user generated backlinks alone, rather than having to build your own backlinks. This is essentially what Matt Cutts has in mind when he recommends creating ‘great content’ - if content is good, his reasoning is you shouldn’t have to build backlinks.
What you can do however, is get your evergreen content to support your SEO campaign. In addition to your landing pages, create a helpful, informative piece of evergreen content with 1500+ words, optimised for a set of long tail keywords related to your landing page for that keyword set, and include a link within the article to that landing page. Promoting your evergreen article will eventually lead to links and shares being created to your article, with link juice flowing through the internal link to your landing page.
As the content is evergreen and always relevant, there is less likely to be a point when your readers stop creating backlinks to it. The post will continually deliver value to your users and give you an ROI on your SEO efforts, rather than having to constantly churn and burn list posts.
How to use your blog to generate leads