7 Ways To Write List Post Headlines That Get Clicked

by Dean Evans

The list post headline is Mr Reliable; a safe bet; the go-to content format when you can’t think of anything better to write.

You might hate it. Think it’s lazy and overused. Yet while the web is clogged with list posts, they continue to work.

There’s a good reason why.

List headlines ooze curiosity. What are the 10 Things To Ban From Your Refrigerator‎? Do I know the 7 Ways To Save Money By Spending More‎? The only way for your reader to find out is to click through to the content.

10 things I love about the list post

It’s no wonder the list post headline is by far the most popular, and potentially the most effective type of headline/content combo that you can deploy. There are many approaches, some of which you can see below. The simplest format is the ’10 [things]’ approach:

10 Things That Make You Happiest
10 Things I Hate About TV News
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sesame Street

The most popular variant is arguably the ‘top 10′ list of ‘things’, which can be used in a short, straightforward headline or a longer, more expressive one.

Top 10 Most Congested Cities
Top 10 Gifts For Peyton Manning Fans
Top 10 Thanksgiving Foods To Eat While Watching Football

Note how the last of the three previous headline examples (Top 10 Thanksgiving Foods…) bolts on a specific and narrow qualifier – “while watching Football”. You can use linking words like ‘while’, ‘and’, ‘that’ and ‘you’ to add extra detail to your headlines.

The benefit? A specific qualifier can make your headline stand out and instantly makes it more relevant, albeit to a smaller set of readers.

When ‘List’ Meets ‘How To’

The list post headline works equally well for tutorial articles. Note the construction here: the 10 steps or ways are followed by a specific outcome (and even an extra benefit):

10 Steps To A Healthier You
10 Ways To Naturally Relieve Allergies
10 Tips On Maximizing Laptop Battery Performance

The list approach can also be used to give perspective on a topic. I.e. 10 ways [something] did/does/will do [something else]:

Top 10 Ways The PlayStation Phone Can Save Sony Ericsson
10 Ways Xbox 360 Changed Gaming
Tiger Woods: 10 Ways In Which The Game Of Golf Has Changed Since The Car Crash

The list post headline is incredibly versatile, embracing: ‘things’, ‘reasons’, ‘steps’, ‘mistakes’, ‘ways’, ‘tips’, ‘sure-fire methods’, ‘predictions’, ‘facts’, ‘rumours’ and anything else you can think of.

Is The List Headline Getting Boring?

Only if you let it be boring. You can also experiment with the positioning of your ’10 things’ list within the headline structure. It doesn’t always need to lead from the front.

There are other options, such as leading with a kicker or a question that sets up a problem/solution structure. Try these examples on for size:

Memo To Guys: 7 Things Never To Say In A Fight If You Don’t Want Us To Blow A Gasket. K, Thanks.
Unhealthy Hair? 5 Easy Fixes

Finally, don’t feel as though you need to stretch your ‘ways’ or ‘things’ to make an even number. Top 10s and Top 20s are certainly neat (and we have an interminable fondness for them). But they are also overused.

You might find it hard to make your headline stand out in the gush of content that hits people’s RSS readers and social media feeds every day.

Research on clickthrough rates by Outbrain recommends using odd numbers in your list post headline to catch the roving eye of web readers. You can see how it works for these examples:

23 Reasons Your Blog Isn’t Making Any Money (And What To Do About It!)
The 3-Step Formula To Launching Anything
6 Filmmaking Tips From The Coen Brothers

Why Have A ‘Top 10′ When You Can Have A ‘Top 1’?

By concentrating on a single piece of advice, you can provide a curious list post headline that’s an effective antithesis to the traditional list post headline. Here are some examples of what I mean:

One Simple Step That Increased My Sales By More Than 4X
The #1 Reason Why You Should Create A Video Today
The Must-Have Social Media Tool Every Content Marketer Needs

There you have it. Seven ways to write great list post headlines. This post is from Write Great Headlines Every Time, which is part of our FREE content tools.

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