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September 13, 2016

The Listicle: Does This Content Form Still Work in 2016?

Photo Credit: Adikos via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The listicle: popularized by sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed, is one nifty little content form that’s as good as gold in the online world.

While many have called the continued effectiveness of the listicle into question, there’s no doubt that it’s still plugging along in 2016 just as effectively as it did back in 2006.

Designed to be quick, brief, easy to scan, and ideal for delivering a significant amount of information in a small package, the listicle remains one of the most influential types of content out there today.

Read on to learn more.

Why the Listicle Still Works

The listicle has a few key things going for it. For one, listicles are amazingly easy to digest which, in a world where people skim more than they read, is ideal. In a listicle, there’s no digging through dense, long-form content to pull out a few useful tidbits.

Instead, all of the relevant information is displayed as such, and readers can quickly open a listicle, skim through it to find what they need, and leave with new information.

What’s more, listicles are easy to share, which makes them ideal for our social media-dominated world.

According to a Social Media Examiner post published last year, listicles were shared on social media between 21,000 and 24,5000 times each month, which makes them one of the most shared types of content out there, beating how-to articles and “what” posts (posts that focus on a single question) almost across the board.

While there are many ways to deliver value in online content, listicles remain one of the most unique, relevant, and digestible forms of online content available.

How to Create a Compelling Listicle for the Modern World

Now that you know why listicles are still so effective let’s talk about how to build them. Today, there are millions of listicles online, and writing one that stands out in the modern world requires skill, dedication, and a hefty amount of tact. With that in mind, here are five tips on how to write listicles that get shared in 2016:

1. Dig deeper into your listicle topics

In some ways, listicles are a double-edged sword: while they’re useful, relevant, and helpful for readers, they’re also ridiculously easy to create, which leads to the publication of thousands of poor listicles every day.

With a listicle more than virtually any other type of content, it’s easy to get lazy. Listicles like “The 10 Greatest Cheeses You Should Try” don’t truly provide that much value for readers, and thankfully you can break the mold by digging a bit deeper into your listicle topics.

Instead of scratching the surface and providing readers with a listicle of simple information, do some research and find a topic that’s not been covered broadly by listicles. Once you’ve found it, dig deeper and offer genuinely interesting and valuable information that’s unlike anything else online.

2. As ever, craft an incredible headline

Headlines are critical for all types of content, and listicles are no different.

Readers are less likely to click on a headline that says “The 5 Best Things About Bread” than they are one that reads “10 Shocking Facts About San Francisco Sourdough Bread.” With this in mind, spend some time making your headlines as good as possible.

In addition to increasing your click-through rates, better headlines also create more compelling listicles that provide value rather than simply clogging up the Internet.

3. Pepper your listicle with images

Images are critical for a high-quality listicle, and you can make yours more relevant and intriguing by filling it with useful, quality images.

As a general rule, each segment of a listicle should have its own image. Be sure that each image you include is relevant and attributed correctly. Bonus points if you can include original images, but finding beautiful stock images on one of the best stock image sites is fine for the times when original images are impossible.

4. Include relevant social sharing buttons

You can help listicles to go viral on social media by installing useful social sharing buttons at the end of every listicle you write.

Remember that too many social sharing buttons can decrease social shares, so it’s wiser to stick with only the buttons that correspond to your most lucrative channels and to ensure that they’re prominently placed and readily available for your readers.

5. Incorporate valuable statistics and facts

Valuable statistics and facts are ideal for grabbing a reader’s attention and keeping it. To make your listicle stand out from the crowd, include plenty of stats and facts related to your listicle’s topics.

In addition to making your listicle more authoritative and valuable, this also serves to enhance the listicle’s SEO and help it rank more prominently. This, in turn, makes it easier for your listicle to go viral and helps to ensure that it will be visible and widely shared online.

The Listicle: Alive and Well in 2016

Despite the apocalyptic cries from naysayers, listicles are anything but dead. From funny BuzzFeed listicles to serious, marketing-specific listicles like HubSpot publishes, listicles remain an attractive, highly viral, highly profitable form of online content.

Despite their widespread online success, though, listicles aren’t brainless, and marketers need to work at them to get them right. That’s where the five tips in this article come in.

By ensuring that every listicle you write features a strong headline, beautiful images, a truly unique topic, relevant social sharing buttons, and plenty of statistics and facts from reputable sources, it’s easy to write listicles that stand out online and provide value for your brand.

Regardless of your industry, specialty, or niche, listicles are a powerful form of content with an immense amount of value, and by mastering the art of the relevant, informative listicle, you can easily give your content strategy a huge boost and attain the levels of content viral-ness that used to be reserved for mega-brands like BuzzFeed.


Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.