Lists can be Your Ticket to Viral Success

17 MAY 2011 1

I’ve already shown you how you can fail with link baiting, let’s get a bit on the positive side and discuss something that does work: LISTS. People love lists, they often get Dugg and tweeted and can sometimes become “authority resources”. How do you build a list that goes viral?

Give value

Don’t simply list the, let’s say, “Top 10 gadgets sold in 2010”. Your readers are likely to know about them. Instead,  put in some of your personal thoughts on each – what works, what doesn’t, why you put them in your top ten list and such. Don’t put up a “Top SEO tools” list with ridiculous links to tools no one (or everybody) uses just for the sake of building a top-x list, make sure your list brings value to your readers. Also, choose your topic carefully. It’s 2011, so no one cares about a “Top 10 free webmail providers” list – everybody uses Gmail these days, you won’t raise any interest with sites like Gawab or GMX.

Be original and interesting

Yes, you can write a list on top 10 cellular phones sold in 2004, but it won’t probably raise any interest, let alone go viral. Find something that no one or only a few people have written about. I know, it’s not easy, but I never said link baiting was. Take your time to research your field – and do it well – then come up with an original list that people would actually enjoy.

Size matters

The longer the list, the better. A “Top 100” list catches more eyeballs than a “Top 10”. However, make sure all 100 items are worth writing about and don’t just fill your list with fluff to get the total count. Don’t add All in One SEO Pack or Akismet to a list called “Top 50 Wordpress plugins you never heard about” just because you ran out of your unheard-of plugins after the twenty-first item. Size your list carefully and don’t expect to go viral with 10 or so items, unless it’s something extraordinary.

Don’t be afraid to shock

People love the absurd, twisted, out of the ordinary. With everyone praising the new iPad, “101 reasons why I won’t get iPad II” might raise an eyebrow or two. Similarly, “Top 10 people I’d like to injure” might trigger some reactions. Stay away from utterly conventional topics like “Top Firefox plugins” unless you can document more than 100 of them or have an authority site the size of Mashable. A dull list like “Top 3 email clients” might work for your audience, but it won’t go viral since a million or so other bloggers already wrote about it.

Some may argue that lists are overused and no longer work. I beg to differ. If you have a look at Smashing Magazine you’ll notice that five out of their top six posts in 2010 were lists.

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