Do You Have to Write “Listicles” to Get Clicks?

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What is a listicle? A listicle is simply an article written in the form of a numbered list.

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Seem familiar now?

The Psychology of Listicles

The psychology of a listicle makes a lot of sense. When we reduce something to an expected series of items that we can take in bitesize form, we’re more likely to click through and skim the content. We are in and out. The folks at BrainCraft broke down the psychology of listicles in the video below.

Video Highlights:

  1. We like quickly skimming and processing content. The ease of consumption is satisfying. This is called “cognitive fluency.”
  2. Listicles might activate your reward system, so you seek out listicles to get the reward.
  3. Typically, you will not remember the content of a listicle long-term. Due to the superficial nature of a listicle, no deep notions are presented that your brain can use in your “working memory.” Ideas that you do something with are more likely to be internalized.

To Listicle or Not to Listicle? That is the Question.

Deciding whether listicles will be a part of your content strategy comes down to prioritizing your goals.

The Case for Listicles

A listicle can be a good idea if you want your audience to make a positive association with your brand. Because listicles ignite the reward system of your brain, your brand could transitively represent that reward.

If part of your goal as a brand is to entertain your audience, an occasional listicle could accomplish this quite well.

Keep in mind that listicles might not bring in the most dedicated audience. They may not actually subscribe to your service or buy your products. These people are looking to jump in, skim information, and jump out. If you are going to invest a lot of time into creating listicles, try strategizing ways to keep the audience engaged. Find a way to make them interested in who you are and what you represent. This may require testing a lot of theories but could be worth it if you start seeing ROI.

Why I Don’t Write Listicles


I’ve consciously decided not to write listicles on this blog because I am interested in drawing in an audience that seeks to consume details within a broader thesis. My audience wants to confront an idea and sort through the details on their own to find how the content rings true — or false — to them.

This is important to me because I seek to work with clever business owners who are looking for serious and in-depth content about growing their small businesses. Developing something long-term requires drawing connections between separate ideas and finding the profound and impactful ways that these ideas function pragmatically.

In my opinion, listicles do not incite critical thinking. The backbone to growing a successful business is critical thought. I prefer to partner with small businesses to work through the real challenges of growing online. This requires an unending process of thinking critically, questioning our assumptions, and iterating on new theories.

Of course, it’s not all science and being serious. There is something to be said for throwing caution to the wind and trying unconventional methods. As such, listicles are everywhere; they are conventional. The challenge to you, my fellow listicle rejecters, is to figure out how to create engaging content that people will actually read, internalize, and use. That is the measure of content success in my book.

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