Nowadays, listicles often get a bad rap because a lot of people consider them as clickbait content that fails to deliver meaningful intellectual information. Then you have the people who see listicles as an attempt to gratify readers with instant answers. Others think listicles lack the substance to reach conclusions about any given topic.
Sure, the internet has many low-quality listicles, but not all are inherently silly. Well-written listicles deliver tactical value to help problem-aware buyers find solutions quickly. They make product evaluation easier for buyers who need more than informative top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content to make purchase decisions. Listicles lend a hand by comparing solutions and offering actionable steps.
Listicles with best qualifiers supplement content marketing, educate buyers about ways to choose an appropriate solution, and detail the best selection criteria. A clear picture of what product to use and when is more important than convincing readers to buy a certain product.
What is a listicle?
A listicle is a portmanteau of the words list and article. It explains a topic with a series of list items. Each item includes information and images to educate or entertain the reader. A listicle title generally consists of a cardinal number, for example, 11 Best Email Management Software Platforms in 2022.
Listicles are themed, information-packed articles that break down a complex topic into skimmable and bitesize chunks to inform readers. But how do you figure out how to use them in your content strategy?
Why are listicles so popular?
Easy to understand because each subheading dives deep into a single topic.
Easy to approach because readers know how many items there are from the title.
Easy to skim because listicles break down important information into a scannable format.
Popularity shouldn’t guarantee list format articles a place in your editorial calendar. What should is the content marketing value they bring with them. Any content either offers tactical value to readers by solving particular problems or strategic value by assisting decision-makers with frameworks and actionable advice.
Listicles fall in the first category as they don’t share novel ideas or innovative concepts. They aim to offer a 360° view of potential solutions, serve informational search intent, and compound traffic with unique visits.
When to use long-form listicles in content marketing
As content marketers, we create original content that speaks to a target audience, increases web traffic, and converts prospects into customers. The traditional way of achieving all these is to publish and distribute different content types that naturally fit into different buyer journey stages.
To place products on the buyer's solutions map
The buyer journey is no longer linear, especially from the inbound marketing angle. B2B buyers today take a chaotic adventure as they look for solutions to accomplish jobs to be done. They want to gather and validate decision-enabling information before involving stakeholders. However, they barely follow a series of logical steps to get the necessary information.
Modern buyers see buying as a task rather than a journey. They’ll exhaust all options to find possible solutions, such as web searches, supplier website visits, LinkedIn discussions, virtual demos, whitepapers, and trend reports. This exploration helps them determine requirements but often happens without a consensus about what the preferred solution should do.
Listicle format content places your product or service on buyers' solution exploration map. They present your product with other alternatives. Yes, readers might choose a competitor’s product instead. Still, you can use a listicle as a persuasive tool to highlight the unique advantages of your product and promote it as the optimal choice.
When search engines don’t surface product pages
Search engines show different types of results based on their understanding of what will benefit users. They’ll display product pages for some queries, long-form editorial content for others, or a mix of both.
A product page lists out different product specifications like features, reviews, and prices to help you decide its utility. A product category page showcases different products that offer similar functionality.
When the SERP shows your product page for software, tools, or platform-related keywords above editorial content, it’s safe to assume that users are actively seeking specific solutions to get closer to making purchases. Writing an informative and lengthier piece of content for these highly transactional keywords may not be a good use of your time.
Sometimes search engines surface long-form content above product pages, even for the best product-related keywords. These are the keywords you should be targeting while writing and perfecting listicles because they increase the relevance of your product in the broader category.
Evan Sherbert Evan Sherbert, Sr. SEO Specialist, G2
Writing listicles requires data-driven research about user intent, search engine preference, and relevant keyword availability. Once you do the research, you’ll be able to extend content marketing value by letting users seamlessly move between educational TOFU content, long-form listicles, and conversion-oriented product pages.
How to write a “best of” product listicle
Writing listicles can be fun, but the devil is in the details. Long-form listicles offering the best solutions in a niche do well when you add a substantial number of products, featured snippets, statistics, product screenshots, video reviews, and informed expert opinions.
Compile the product list
The first step is to gather products based on SERP analysis of the topic at hand. Don’t be afraid to research every product, try them out, and figure out if they’ll be helpful to the readers. Also, develop a trustworthy method for finding the best products and tell your audience about your selection criteria.
At G2, we rank software solutions based on the G2 Research Scoring Methodology, which uses an algorithm to calculate customer satisfaction and market presence based on reviews from our user community.
Delve into each product
Any software or product buyer is aware of multiple solutions available in the market. As content marketers, we aim to expose them to the most suitable ones and help them narrow down their choices. A high-level product overview of each product makes solution exploration easier for readers.
G2 listicles use at-a-glance callouts to inform readers about different aspects of the products. This knowledge helps readers decide whether a product should be a part of their potential solutions.
Our other sections are features, pros and cons, user reviews, and pricing. Learning about each component gets readers closer to finding the right product. They can also easily link out to more in-depth information.
Familiarize readers with the category
Your listicles won’t always have seasoned readers who are ready to compare solutions. Some readers want to discover products because they trust you. Make sure you give them the necessary information without visiting another site.
G2 listicles include in-depth learn more sections that cover category basics such as benefits, instructions, tips, best practices, and more.
Examples of listicles that do well on Google
Search engines love what’s useful or valuable to readers, so there’s no reason to think listicles don’t do well on Google. Plus, we have proof.
At the time of writing, this best 3D modeling software listicle ranks fifth for the primary keyword, gets 4,000+ organic visitors from Google, and shows up for more than a thousand keywords.
Another listicle on best photo editing software brings close to a thousand visitors to the G2 website. It also ranks for more than 3,500 primary and secondary keywords. The time on the page is also close to five minutes, which indicates that people still spend time reading helpful information.
The showstopper on this list is the best graphic design software platforms article. Currently, it ranks on page one for high-intent keywords like “best app for graphic design 2022” and more than one thousand secondary keywords.
These listicle examples prove that listicles work when you take the time to research keywords, offer in-depth information, and follow the best practices.
Listicle outreach: What works and what doesn’t
You’ve written a list of the best products, and now you want to build backlinks to them. Let me tell you, link-building for listicles is not easy. Sites may contact you hoping to get featured in your listicle, but that's another story.
At G2, our listicles feature products as per G2 Market Reports. So if you’re not ready to compromise your product list, try some of these methods for listicle outreach.
Start by researching how-to and tips articles. Listicles with eye-catching link profiles often get the most number of backlinks from articles that share trends, tips, and top lists. Consider finding how-to articles as well, especially if you’re sharing how to do something in your listicle.
Set acceptance criteria. When you reach out to bloggers, make sure you exclude news publications, as they don’t give backlinks. Consider creating a list of articles with more than 10 referring domains belonging to 50+ domain rating (DR) websites. Another criterion can be how frequently they publish new content. Ideally, you want websites that have published the target article within the last 12 months. Use your outreach templates to pitch to these websites.
Avoid link swaps. Instead, consider offering value-adds like guest post opportunities, social media shares from your brand account, or inclusion in the company newsletter.
Best practices for writing listicles
At G2, we wrote 12 listicles between May and October 2022. Some of them perform well; others don’t. Here, we’ll tell you what we’ve learned while analyzing the performance of these listicles.
Decide the keyword based on what’s ranking on SERP. Some topics are naturally more suitable for listicles than others. But don’t choose the keyword based on that intuition. Instead, focus on keywords for which long-form content ranks above product pages. For example, if you get guide-type content for a keyword, a listicle won’t help you much there. Also, look for less-competitive, long-tail keywords like 'best app for graphic design 2022' during keyword research. Analyzing top-ranking content and its structure is an excellent place to start.
Fix the type of listicle you want to write. Besides “best of” product listicles, you can also brainstorm around roundup list posts that gather helpful advice from experts or expanded list posts that offer step-by-step guides.
Forget fluff and add value. Use bullet points to explore the main points and include everything that can inform readers. If you’re talking about a product, tell people what they can do with it or when they should use it. Other examples include statistics, images, user reviews, or personal experience – anything readers can take to the buying committee, thus making decisions easier.
Link to in-depth articles when you can. Not all listicles give you the necessary real estate to cover the A to Z of a topic. Consider giving some detail in these cases and then pointing readers to existing in-depth articles or case studies. This type of interlinking can be beneficial for how-to listicles.
Stay logical. Listicles should reflect evidence-based opinions instead of personal preferences or assumptions. If you say a product is unsuitable for some industries, can you find relevant user reviews or data to back it up? Listicles also benefit from logical structures. That’s why we arrange the best products as per G2 Research Reports. Depending on the listicle type, you can also choose alphabetical or chronological order.
SEO best practices for listicles
Our SEO team shares these best practices you can follow while planning listicles.
Add the target keyword to the article title and slug.
Include the primary target keyword in the meta description.
Add related keywords throughout your post and within your headings.
Internally link the new page from other high-traffic pages on your website.
Ensure the target keyword is present in the first 100 words of your article.
Make the new pages easily crawlable and accessible for search engine crawlers.
Add FAQ or how-to schema markup to your page for better visibility on the SERP.
Include the year in the title for best product listicles because users and search engines prefer fresh content. You can keep updating the dates every year.
Look at the premise before giving it a bad rap
The promise of list format being effective or ineffective depends on the premise of how you place them in your content strategy. We created listicles as middle-funnel content that puts potential solutions on the buyers’ minds and tells them when to choose what. We also picked keywords that ranked long-form content or lists above product pages.
Not all listicles perform well or are effective in delivering tactical value. But high-quality lists help consumers solve problems as they go through the maze-like buyer journey to find the perfect solution. You can always help them reach conclusions with actionable insights. With the proper hierarchical structure, you can showcase why your product is better than others.
If you’re uncertain about the promise of listicles, consider reassessing their premise in your B2B content marketing strategy and see if they’ll deliver what you need.
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Sudipto Paul is a Sr. Content Marketing Specialist at G2. He writes on IT infrastructure to help enterprises make informed technology decisions. He has written extensively on various topics, including application server, data center networking, data exchange, hyperconverged infrastructure, load balancing, and server virtualization. Sudipto has a Master's in Mass Communication and is studying to earn an MBA from Liverpool John Moores University. When not writing, he's busy taking photos, reading non-fiction, or trying new recipes.
Is coming up with ideas an uphill battle?
Unlock data-driven listicle ideas with top content analytics tools.