Wondering how to write a listicle in 2021?

If you are, it’s natural.

Because the truth is, listicles have had a bad rap in the past decade.

Go online, and your chances of landing on a clickbait, boring, disappointing, low-quality listicle are higher than your chances of getting wet when you dive into the ocean. 🤣

Still, that doesn’t mean you should never write a listicle. 

In fact, you should!

There are a ton of ways a surprising, entertaining, helpful, well-written listicle will be great for your affiliate marketing campaign

The secret is to write an awesome, not awful, listicle.

But how?

How do you write a good listicle?

In this blog, I’ll show you how. 

Step by step.

What Is a Listicle? (+Buzzfeed Listicle Examples) 

First things first.

If you’re wondering what a listicle even is, you should stop blogging right now. 

Just kidding.

But seriously, if you’ve been doing affiliate marketing for some time, you should probably already know what it is.

A listicle is one of the most standard blogging frameworks out there. 

Even if you’re new to the world of online writing, and you’ve never written a single post, you’ve probably read something like “The Top 10 Things to Do in Switzerland” sometime in the past. 

If you have, then you’re familiar with the omnipresent listicle. 

But here’s a dictionary definition, just in case. 

How to Write a Listicle That Won’t Make Readers Hate You (With Examples) Listicle

Source: merriam-webster

In plain English, a listicle is an article or blog arranged in a list framework. 

Let’s look at a few examples from the famous (or infamous) BuzzFeed.

Here’s one I could imagine getting a ton of clicks.  

Source: BuzzFeed

And this.

How to Write a Listicle That Won’t Make Readers Hate You (With Examples)

Source: BuzzFeed

And here’s one more.

How to Write a Listicle That Won’t Make Readers Hate You (With Examples) Buzzfeed

Source: BuzzFeed

2 Major Reasons to Write Listicles 

Important question: 

If listicles have gained a reputation for being low-quality and clickbait, why should you write one?

Answer:

You’re not going to write a low-quality, clickbait listicle.

You’re going to write an awesome one.

And when you do, you’ll be flooded with advantages.

Here are two you’ll love.

  1. Listicles Work Like Maps for Your Audience 

Ever go online, land on a blog, and do a quick scroll to the bottom to see how long it’ll take to finish it?

I bet you have.

Especially if you were hit with a huge wall of text like this:

How to Write a Listicle That Won’t Make Readers Hate You (With Examples)  Encyclopedia

Source: encyclopedia.com

The thing with listicles, though, is that you won’t have to do that quick secret scroll. 

Listicles are framed like maps, with clear milestones showing readers how far in they are…

…and how long it will take them to get to the end.

For instance, if  you’re reading a “Top 10” listicle and you’re in point #5, you know there’ll be 5 more points before you reach the end.

Plus, the format works as a guide, allowing you to skip over sections you find unnecessary. (E.g., if you’re reading a blog called “The Top 20 Vacation Destinations in Europe,” and you don’t plan to visit France, you can skip over the “Paris” subheader.) 

The truth is, in the fast-paced, there’s-never-enough-time online world of today, this format works.

Your audience will love you for it. 

  1. Listicles Help You Sell Like Crazy

The point above was a benefit for your audience, and this one is a benefit for you. 

You see, there’s only so much you can promote in a product review or info post.

But in a listicle, you can promote 5, 10, or even a hundred products!

Simply write a listicle like this…

How to Write a Listicle That Won’t Make Readers Hate You (With Examples)  keyword research tool

Source: BackLinko

…and you can add an affiliate link after each numbered section. 

How to Write a Listicle that Won’t Get You Hated Online: A Step-by-Step Guide

Want to write a listicle that won’t get your readers rolling their eyes and clicking the “back” button like it’ll save their lives?

Here are seven steps to follow.

  1. See Life from Your Audience’s Point of View

The sad thing about us humans is, we’re intrinsically selfish. 

When something is about us, we perk up our ears. 

When it’s not, we slump back in our seats and zone out.

As a blogger, you’ll have to remember that your readers are 100% like this.

If your writing is about them, they’ll sit up and listen.

If it isn’t, they’ll fall asleep. Or worse, they’ll click the “back” button and banish you forever from their “to read” list.

To prevent this from happening, you need to plan your listicle like a detective. 

You need to be sure it’s something that’ll interest them and help them. 

Do some research. See life from their point of view. Only go for topics that’ll help them.

For instance, if your audience is dog owners, they’ll probably love a blog called “The Top 10 Dog Friendly Malls in California.” 

And they’ll probably ignore a blog called, “The Top 10 Funniest Things My Dog Did.” 

(Unless your dog won the AGT, of course.) 🐕

  1. Ensure Your Audience Will See Your Post

Ever sit down for hours to write a post that got zero likes, comments, and shares?

If you have, you probably sighed and thought the post sucked. 

But that’s not always the reason your writing gets ignored.

Another HUGE possibility is that no one saw your post in the first place. 

You see, the web isn’t a desert. 

It’s an overly packed, highly saturated place where 70 million new posts appear online per day on WordPress alone.  

But don’t worry. 

There are also 4.8 billion people online today, meaning there’s enough of a crowd hanging out there for your post to be seen, read, and loved.

The secret is to make sure it appears on their Google search results. 

The great news is, you don’t need to be a tech nerd to make that happen.

All you need is a simple, user-friendly tool like KWFinder. (You can subscribe to this tool for as low as $29.90/month.)

To use the tool, simply plug your keyword idea into the search field on your dashboard.

Check out two pieces of data:

  • The keyword difficulty (KD) score
  • The search volume

If the KD is below 40 and the search volume above 300…

…your blog has a fighting chance of ranking and being seen by your audience. 

Here’s a quick demo.

Imagine you’re thinking of writing a listicle on the top 10 dog food brands.

To check if you can rank for it, hop into KWFinder and type “Top 10 Dog Food Brands” in the search field.

Here’s what you’ll get.

KWFinder

Source: KWFinder

This is what the data is saying:

  • KD: 52
  • Search volume: 560 

Now, should you try to rank for this keyword?

Maybe.

The search volume is good, but the KD score is a bit high.

If you’re a newbie and your blog hasn’t existed for long, you should probably leave it for now and go for an easier keyword.

But if you’re already a well-known authority in your field and you’ve been around forever…then you should give it a shot!

  1. Lay Down Your Post’s Foundations 

When writing a listicle, never skip this part. 

It’s where you build your post’s skeleton, a.k.a. write your outline.

(Nope! You should never “make things up” as you go along. Doing so is a sure recipe for missing out on great points you’ll regret you didn’t include.) 

So, how do you write an outline?

Simple.

Here are four easy steps.

  • Write your headline at the top of your document. Make sure it’s magnetizing and compels people to click.
  • Do extensive research, and decide what you’ll add to your list. For example, if you’re writing a listicle called “The Top 10 Foods to Eat on a Clean Diet,” you could add “free range eggs,” “grass fed beef,” and “organic vegetables,” as items on your list. Arrange each item as a subhead in your outline.
  • Decide on your format. Are you going in deep with your listicle, and setting aside 500 words to talk about each item on the list? Or are you doing a quick and simple description of each? Remember, be consistent. You don’t want to write a 1,000-word paragraph for one item on your list, then quickly jot down a 50-word one for the next item. 
  • Finalize your outline. Your final outline will have all your polished, SEO-optimized H1, H2s, and H3s in place. Don’t forget an H2 for your conclusion, as you won’t want to leave your readers hanging by ending too abruptly. 
  1. Flesh Out Your Points

Now, it’s time for the fun part!

It’s time to sit down and write each section of your listicle.

Of course, you’ll want your creativity to guide you as you type away and tell your readers how awesome (or awful) the items on your list are.

However, it’s important to stick with the format you chose in Step #3 of this process.

Like I mentioned, don’t spend 2,000 words on one item on your list, panic because you’re out of time and space, and speed-write 50 words each for your next nine items. 

Let your listicle flow.

Try to make each section the same length and style. If you add an image in one section, add images to the others. If you begin your first subhead with a verb, begin the rest of the subheads with verbs. 

In the end, you want each part of your list to be like a perfectly shaped piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Fit the pieces in together, and you have a stunning picture. 

  1. Make Your Audience’s Mouth Water with Insider Sneak Peeks

As I mentioned, it’s up to you whether you add images to your listicle or not.

Still, there are always best practices, and I’d say images give any kind of online writing that zest and flair that’s kind of impossible to get with just text. 

Plus, images are great at holding your audience’s attention and driving your points home. 

I’m not saying you should sign up for Shutterstock and download beautifully generic stock photos.

I’m saying: get creative and use images to make your readers feel like they’re giving the products you’re talking about a test drive. 

For instance, if your post is called, “The Top 20 Keyword Tools to Use in 2021,” you can add screenshots of yourself using the tools. 

Like this: 

KWFinder tool

Source: BackLinko

Of course, insider screenshots won’t work for every type of listicle.

It’s harder to take screenshots for a blog like “Top 10 Foods for Clean Eating.”

In this case, it’s time to use your creativity and imagination. 

To help you, here are some great image ideas:

  • Screenshots of graphs and charts. (For instance, 50% of Americans eat apples. Hmm..probably not, but you get the point.)
  • Screenshots of text on books or other websites. 
  • Photos of the products you’re promoting. (If they’re your own photos, even better!)

The key is to picture yourself standing in your audience’s shoes, and ask yourself what type of images will best help them along as they read your blog.

Then, go get those images. 

  1. End with a Bang

The mistake with a ton of listicles is that they end too soon.

Readers barely finish nodding in agreement with the last number on the list…

…when they’re hit with a blank dead wall.

*Nothing follows.*

The blog ends right there.

Like this. 

faux fur duvet

Source: BuzzFeed

Now, if you want readers to comment and share your blog, it’s important not to leave them hanging.

Instead, you want to end with a bang (a.k.a. a memorable conclusion). 

Here are some great ways to conclude your listicle:

  • End with a bottomline. Tell readers what your personal favorite item on the list is.
  • Ask a question. For example, “How about you? Have you tried any of the beard trimmers above? If so, which one was your favorite?”
  • Show readers the way forward. Tell them what to do, and how. For instance, if they came to you for advice on the best keyword research tool, encourage them to grab the one that most resonated with them on your list.

Here’s an example of a great conclusion. 

Source: BackLinko

  1. Polish Till You Drop 

Ok, your listicle is almost done!

All that’s left is to cut and edit like crazy until it shines. 

Here are three awesome editing tips I always use:

  • Cut the fluff. Prune away unnecessary words and sentences. Say what you need to say, and then stop.
  • Read your listicle out loud. If any part of it makes you feel that your friends would laugh at you if you said it to them, rephrase it. 
  • Look out for drop-dead boring sections. You’re here to entertain your audience while helping them with their problems. Not put them to sleep. It helps to see things from their point of view and ask yourself, “If this is someone else’s listicle, which parts would I skip?” Then, go ahead and edit those parts.

Once your listicle shines like your grandma’s hardwood floors, you’re ready to share it with the world!

How to Write a Listicle: Fail-Proof Tips for Affiliate Marketers 

Have you been wondering how to write a listicle that won’t make your audience roll their eyes and click the dreaded “back” button?

Now you know.

With this guide, you’ll no longer feel confused and lost, wondering how to promote your affiliate products without being generic and boring. 

So, go ahead.

Open up that Word or Google Doc. Build that outline. Show your audience what it feels like to use the products you’re talking about. Solve their problems. Entertain them. Hold their attention with creative screenshots. 

In no time, you’ll go from ignored to adored listicle writer.

You’ll see those likes, comments, and engagements soar.

And best of all?

Your affiliate links will get clicked, and the well-deserved money will start rolling in.

Image credits:

All screenshots taken by the author, August 2021.