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73 Reasons Lists Earn Traffic and Money


I’ll bet you came here looking for a list of 73 things, didn’t you? Maybe you thought I’d link to 73 sites or write a nice numbered list that went up to 73.

Pardon the misdirection, but you’ve stumbled upon my little social experiment. Please bear with me while I explain.

Like most of you, I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds. Every day I see more and more posts entitled “7 ways to make money” or “11 easy tips for losing weight.” You know what I’m talking about.

Sure, these posts have proven effective in the past. I’ve done them, and you have too. And some people have made some great lists, like Brandon’s mega list on link-building. You’ve got to love Brett’s 180 personal finance tips. Of course there have also been hugely successful group writing projects based on numbers like Darren’s Top 5 and Daniel’s Three.

But aren’t you getting tired of lists?

Heck, I know that I am. Aren’t many bloggers falling into a cookie-cutter routine? Think up something remotely on topic, hammer out 7 or 10 things about it, and hit “Publish.” Rinse. Repeat.

Open your eyes, look around the blogosphere, and see what I mean. As I’m writing this, the lifehack.org home page is displaying 9 posts. Of those, 4 are lists. Of their 9 “monthly popular” posts, 3 are lists. What about Daily Blog Tips? Of their 15 popular articles, TWELVE are lists. I think you’ll see similar things on most popular blogs. (To prevent confusion, I love both these blogs.)

Are the posts popular because of the content, or are they popular because of the headlines? Perhaps people just enjoy reading happily-numbered lists. Or maybe authors write better in this format, producing better content. It almost becomes a chicken-or-the-egg question.

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused myself, I’m going to stop writing. But I do look forward to your comments.

Do you think my not-list is worth a StumbleUpon thumbs up? Or a sphinn?

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10 Responses to “73 Reasons Lists Earn Traffic and Money”

  1. Jake
    September 4th, 2007

    I’m a sucker for lists. On my del.icio.us account, my third most popular tag is top-lists, which I throw on any type of list.

  2. Stephanie West Allen
    September 4th, 2007

    This is such a coincidence, Andrew. Just yesterday I was talking with another blogger about how tired we are of lists. I wonder about their popularity. Nice post. Now let me list the reasons why I like it . . .

  3. Andrew Flusche
    September 4th, 2007

    Jake – Lists definitely have some value, but I do find it a bit funny that you have a separate tag for them. I guess that illustrates their dominance.

    Stephanie – Great minds… :)

  4. Juggling Frogs
    September 5th, 2007

    I know it’s a gimmick to use lists, but I enjoy them anyway. I tend to think in lists. When reading something not in list form (other than fiction), I tend to summarize in list form.

    I think the appeal of lists involves the expectation that there will be obvious structure and the promise that the information will be straightforward and concise.

    I also enjoy well-written prose. In general, I don’t expect to find it in a list post.

    I click on list posts when I’m scanning quickly, looking for a fast tidbit to fit between other tasks. I save what looks like “a good read” for when there’s more time.

    Maybe lists are so popular because we are all doing our blog reading between bursts of ‘real work’, and thus looking for something that won’t require an easy chair and a cup of tea. (When I have that kind of time, I tend to look to printed material, not blog posts.)

  5. FacingTheSharks
    September 5th, 2007

    Okay, now I feel bad. I’m going to confess. I haven’t been reading your blog in awhile because my own blog is taking off and I’ve been so busy with it.

    I just got the email alert about your new post, and I almost skipped it because I’m working on my blog, but I thought… hey, what’s Andrew doing these days?

    Then I saw the 73 and thought I didn’t have time for this. LOL. You fooled me. Good post.

    I get sick of lists, but I think the reason I read them is because I can’t help but wonder if I do the same tasks as everyone else in the world. So I look to see how others get things done, and what they get done.

  6. Stephanie West Allen
    September 5th, 2007

    I tried to do a live link here but it did not work (I must have done something wrong) so I am starting this post over.

    Hi, again, Andrew. I think that sometimes the lists are annoying because they are in Mother Blogger posts. Lists can make obvious, common sense thoughts look more weighty or substantial. What do you think?

    Mother Blogger defined at the end of this post:

    I hope the original message disappeared.

  7. Andrew Flusche
    September 5th, 2007

    Juggling – You make a really good point about looking for a fast tidbit of info between deeper work. I really like the way you phrased that!

    Facing – There’s definitely no need to feel bad, but I am glad you stopped by. It’s great that your blog is doing well. I noticed that you’ve been writing a lot lately. Awesome!

    Stephanie – “Mother Blogger” is a great way to put it. I think it’s always hard for us bloggers to come up with something original to say. At least it is for me. :)

    Thanks for all your great comments!

  8. GTD Wannabe
    September 6th, 2007

    Man, I am so tired of lists. I’ve gotten to the point now where when I see a rss entry in Google Reader that has a number in it, I just just skipping it. Your post caught me because I saw “73″ but then there obviously was not 73 things in the post itself. Well-done!

    Actually, it’s not so much the concept of lists, but rather the size of them. I can read 5-10 things on an interesting topic (especially if bold font is used to highlight the points), but these lists are getting excessively long. The one that’s killing me right now is that mondo massive list of productivity sites. I’m in it, somewhere near the bottom, but I, for the life of me, cannot summon up enough enthusiasm to even scroll through the rest of the list. Sigh.

  9. Andrew Flusche
    September 6th, 2007

    GTD – It’s fascinating that the long lists are what get to you. The conventional wisdom is that massive lists bring lots of traffic and become “pillar posts.” From what you’re saying, a short list gets your traffic more often than a long one.

    Thanks for the comment! Andrew

  10. GTD Wannabe
    September 6th, 2007

    I just find the long lists, like long posts (especially with no images or headings) just too daunting to actually read. I seem to be more of a sipper than a gulper, especially when it comes to “hobby” reading. A short and sweet post, with a snappy title, perhaps a suitable image, will catch my eye every time. Show me a long, unbroken passage of text and I just seem to tune out. I find I’m starting to skim more and more, the more time I spend online.

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