I’ve had fun digging into the data behind the articles I’ve published on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. I try to identify trends that can help me — and hopefully you — write more engaging content.
The last article analyzed my two best-performing articles and what they had in common. This week, I wanted to discuss the power of numbers.
If you’ve done any of your homework on blogging or content marketing, you’ve probably heard it before: Readers love lists.
In a quick Google search for “headline-writing tips,” the first result provides a list of tips that cites using numbers as the best trick. Many editors believe readers have gotten lazy. They believe promising readers that an article will be easy to skim and take less than a minute of their time is the only way to entice readers to click.
The listicle format is praised by some and ridiculed by others. But what I discovered while researching my own data is that a headline can include numbers and not necessarily be a simple, thoughtless bulleted list.
Of my top five posts, three of them had numbers in the headline:
Although these articles include numbers, none are true lists; each devotes paragraphs of commentary to every point it makes. This poses the question: Do people enjoy lists or a transparent title?
For example, in the article “4 Simple Lessons From Conversations With Smart People,” I communicate that readers will learn four lessons, which lets them know exactly what to expect. By including the descriptor “simple,” it makes the article less intimidating and indicates that it’s brief and not a huge time commitment. I compared this headline to less popular posts, such as “Take Control of Your Content,” and realized that it seems much less daunting and more educational.
When you’re tempted to write a listicle just to fit a number into the headline, consider which format makes the most sense. If you’re trying to list the many reasons cats are awesome, then a listicle is great. And maybe BuzzFeed would love to publish it. But if you’re writing an article to help readers prepare for a sales call titled, “3 Things You Should Know About A Prospect Before A Sales Call,” delving into more detailed explanations will be more valuable and educational.
What is your opinion on listicles? Are you more likely to click on headlines with numbers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.