Rhoda IsraelovMy guest blogger today is Rhoda Israelov.  A long time friend, Rhoda has done many things in her life, and many of them are connected to writing.

As a professional ghost blogger, she writes under many names but today she is writing for Roundpeg as Rhoda Israelov of Say It For You

Enough Already with the Lists in Blogs by Rhoda Israelov

When too many people jump on the same bandwagon and do it once too often, the music tends to go off key and the wagon wheels give out. Anyhow, that’s the conclusion I came to the other day, standing in line at Borders Books scanning the magazine rack offerings.

It was only last month (see Blog Post Titles: Let Me Count The Ways) that I’d been recommending that business bloggers  freshen up their content by starting with an idea about their product or service, then putting numbers to it.

For an interior designer’s blog:  2 Best Ways To Use Bright Colors….

For a child psychologist’s blog:  3 Discipline Problem Fixes To Try First…

For a dry cleaner’s blog:  10 Things to Look For When Choosing A Dry Cleaner…

As a powerful example of the attention-grabbing power of lists, I’d mentioned the cover of last month’s  “O Magazine”, emblazoned with the “100 Things That Are Actually Getting Better”“.

So, why did standing in line at Borders change my mind about lists? (Don’t get me wrong – I still believe lists can serve two very valid purposes in blogs:

1. To demonstrate ways in which what you sell, what you do, and what you know about are better, deeper, more useful than what your competition has

2. To provide valuable information to readers, helping them see you as the “go-to” guy/gal in your field.)

But, after seeing no fewer than a dozen of these lists on magazine covers at Borders, I began wondering if this list thing hasn’t been a bit overdone…

Here are the titles I saw (in ascending order by the number of items on each list):

  • 6 Bad Habits That Are Actually Good For You (O Magazine)
  • 10 Ideas For The Next 10 Years (Time)
  • 10 Ways To Get More Energy (Instyle)
  • 15 Great Ideas For Celebrating Easter (Living)
  • 20 Grab-N-Go Power Foods (Men’s Health)
  • 20 Amazing Heels You Can Walk In (Instyle)
  • Eggs – 50 Fun Ideas (Food Network Magazine)
  • 50 Things To Do Butt Naked (Cosmopolitan)
  • 90+ Recipes & Tips (Cooking)
  • 124 New Recipes (Food Network Magazine)

(Now a giant step up for the next two lists):

  • 429 new Spring Looks (People)
  • 1,078 Best Health, Fitness, and Sex Tips – Ever (Men’s Health)

Feeling nothing if not “listed out” after working through that array of titles, I put on my professional ghost blogger hat and began to do some serious thinking about lists.  What, I asked myself, makes for an effective list? On the other hand, what types of lists are nothing more than series of things with numbers next to them?

Starting with the Men’s Health cover, I judged it to fall in the “blah” category. (I mean, who’s going to read through, much less put into practice, 1,078 tips, even if some of them have to do with sex?) Basically, the same thing is true about the 429 spring looks and the 90+ recipes – they’re just series of items, hardly engaging reading, I mused.

On the good side, the two titles that illustrate “grab”, in my view, are the Cosmopolitan and the O Magazine:

“6 Bad Habits That Are Actually Good For You” has some mystery to it – there’s an intriguing contradiction in terms that made me want an explanation (can bad habits actually be good for you?).

The same intrigue is true for “50 Things To Do Butt Naked” – (I probably couldn’t think of quite that many without prodding!).

Whether a list you use in your blog is long or short, the long and short of the matter, I’ve concluded, is that you have to put items together in a new way. The online searchers who find your blog must feel compelled to know how you came up with that particular combination of items for your list. If you can do that, then, and only then, you’ll be given a chance to showcase your knowledge and how much you care about your business and your customers.

It can all start with a list, a list of things that can actually be better (with your expert help, needless to say!)