September 23, 2021

Low on Listicle Ideas? Here's How to Generate Them With Ease

In this post you'll learn:

Listicles are one of the most popular and effective content types. Learn how you can generate next-level listicle ideas and write headlines and list posts!

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As you’ve probably noticed, listicles are one of the most popular types of blog content. Bloggers and marketers love them. But what about readers? An Semrush study showed that listicles drive an impressive 80% more traffic than other headline types. Not to mention that they’re also great for driving social media shares and earning backlinks. 

Clearly, they’re a content type worth investing in so we’ll discuss how to brainstorm interesting listicle ideas and how to create engaging, high-quality content. But first, let’s answer an important question: Why are listicles so popular? 

The irresistible appeal of listicles

When people type a query into Google or another search engine, they want well-rounded coverage of the topic they’re interested in without having to: 

  • Scour the internet to find what they need
  • Compare information from various sources to inform their opinions and decisions 

In short, listicles are so popular because they compile related information in one place, reducing the legwork readers have to do. This expectation of ease is a big part of what drives so much traffic from the SERPs (as mentioned at the outset). Take, for example, the search results for the term “content marketing statistics.”

Which of the results are you most likely to choose? While the domain, publishing date or other factors may sometimes influence your choice, in this case, you’d probably pick the article that promises the most information. Because, in theory, the more information that’s at your fingertips, the more likely it is that you’ll find what you’re looking for.

But that’s not all. Listicles are also great for readability and user experience because they break content up into numbered lists and help readers stay oriented as they read. Plus, the numbers make it easier to revisit certain points later on.

How can you come up with listicle ideas that will drive traffic and provide the kind of positive user experience we’ve talked about? 

How to come up with interesting listicle ideas for your niche

Generating listicle ideas is similar to brainstorming ideas for other aspects of your blogging strategy (or your wider content marketing strategy). At the core of idea generation is being in touch with and having a deep understanding of your audience and their interests. This is why customer feedback and keyword research, which we’ll talk about, are both goldmines. 

1. Listen to your audience

You can use surveys and polls to gather information, get prospects and customers on the phone for interviews or read online reviews. No matter how you do your research, talking to and, even better, listening to your target audience can give you some great ideas. 

For example, you could turn common questions about your industry into list posts. The same goes for solutions to common challenges they have or goals they want to reach. 

2. Do well-rounded keyword research

Your keyword research shouldn’t just be focused on how popular or competitive a topic is or isn’t. Search intent also matters and, if you keep this in mind, it can be a secret weapon for listicle idea generation. How so?

As you know, there are four kinds of search intent: 

  • Informational, which indicates that searchers want explanations
  • Navigational, which indicates that searchers want to be directed to a certain location (online or off)
  • Commercial, which indicates that searchers are preparing to make a purchase in the future
  • Transactional, which means that searchers are ready to make a purchase now

So, let’s say that your company offers an affiliate marketing tool and your target audience consists of people who want to start a side hustle and eventually go full-time. Topic ideas based on search intent might include:

  • Informational: 9 Side Hustles That You Can Start Today and Scale Tomorrow
  • Navigational: The Top 20 Resources For Learning About Affiliate Marketing
  • Commercial: 13 Must-Have Affiliate Marketing Tools
  • Transactional: 15 Places You Can Buy [Your Company’s Tool] to Make Affiliate Sales

3. Let Jarvis do the work 

Whether you’re at a loss as to what your next list post should be or you just want to save some time, artificial intelligence can save the day. Jarvis, in particular, has various helpful templates including one for blog post topic ideas. 

All you have to do is enter your company name, a brief description, your target audience, and your desired tone of voice. You can also enter example headings if you want to fine-tune the results. In no time, Jarvis will give you enough listicle ideas to keep your content marketing team churning out expert roundups, best-of lists, and other listicle formats for months! 

Formulas to generate click-worthy listicle ideas

In addition to the methods above for generating listicle ideas, there are also formulas you can use to create click-worthy headlines from your topic ideas and settle on a definitive angle for each list post.

Formula #1: Number + adjective + target keyword + rationale + promise

Optinmonster’s post, 10 Proven Tips to Create Blog Posts That Convert Like Crazy, is an excellent example of a well-done listicle idea and click-worthy headline. 

What makes it so good? It: 

  • Tells searchers how many tips they’ll get, which influences their perception of how valuable the content will be
  • Instills confidence by mentioning that these tips are proven
  • Likely targets the keyword “tips to create blog posts” 
  • Alludes to the idea that, if you use the 10 proven tips covered in the post, your blog posts will convert like crazy, which is a rational goal for searchers

No matter your niche, you too can use this formula to spark interest in your content topic and earn traffic, social media shares, and backlinks.

Formula #2: Number + adjective + example description

Similar to the last formula, this one can be effective as well. Ahrefs provides proof with its 7 Successful Amazon Affiliate Websites (That You Can Learn From) post, which gets more than 3,000 monthly visits.

The number + adjective + example description formula works so well because it:

  • Sets an expectation for how much information and value readers can expect to gain
  • Gives a vivid description of the topic and alludes to an outcome that can be expected from reading the content
  • Plays on the human instinct to observe, emulate, and draw conclusions from what others are doing

So, keep in mind that you don’t just have to cover general topics in your content. You can also find and break down real-life examples that your audience can benefit from. 

Formula #3: Number + target keyword + benefit

Databox used this listicle headline type wisely for its post 24 Twitter Marketing Tips For Driving Engagement, Leads, & Sales.

It goes to show that you don’t need clickbait to be effective; you need clarity first and foremost. This straightforward headline tells readers: 

  • Exactly what they can expect from the content
  • The purpose of the tips, which is aligned with the results readers want and would expect from trying them 

Often, being direct, as seen here, is the smartest route. It leaves no room for confusion and can drive more interested traffic and qualified leads. 

Formula #4: Number + noun + suggested action

Litmus used this simple but powerful formula for its post 4 Strategies for Upselling Emails You Should Steal

It works because it:

  • Identifies the topic to be discussed and the number of strategies offered
  • Hints at the quality of the information by suggesting that it’s worth stealing (and encourages readers to take action) 

Including calls-to-action in your listicle headlines can be an effective way to grab a reader’s attention and draw them in, especially if you also mention a benefit of taking the suggested next step.

Bonus: Other effective headline types for listicles

Other formulas that work well for listicles include: 

  • How-tos: For example, 5 Steps to Identifying the Most Important KPIs For Your Business
  • Lessons: For example, 16 Hard Lessons Every Marketer Must Learn
  • Comprehensive Lists/Ultimate Guides: For example, The Big List of Customer Survey Questions: 30 Questions You Should Be Asking
  • Questions: For example, Content Not Ranking? 5 Issues That Are Ruining Your SEO
  • Research: For example, 12 Research-Backed Stats That’ll Transform Your View of PPC

5 steps to creating an engaging listicle

Once you have an interesting idea, headline, and angle for your list post, what next? 

  1. Outline your listicle points. Write down all relevant info (based on your audience’s interests and needs, your expertise, and what’s ranking well on the SERP). 
  2. Revise and organize your outline. Put points in the most logical order and combine similar subtopics for the best flow and an enjoyable, frictionless reading experience.
  3. Source examples or research. Get the information you need to back up the points you’ll make in your list post, and place it where it fits best in your outline. 
  4. Flesh out the content. Once all the necessary details are in your document and in order, you can get to work on a first draft. 
  5. Edit first, then proofread. Read through your draft, remove "fluff," and make any other necessary edits. Once done, proofread at least once to catch errors. 
  6. Add images and numbers. Once the content is finalized, add images, GIFs or other media (ideally, every 200 to 300 words). Also, number your list items at this stage to help readers navigate the content easily. 

But, of course, it all starts with the first step—idea generation. Why not take Jarvis’ Blog Post Topic Ideas template for a test drive and see for yourself how it simplifies and speeds up the brainstorming process? Sign up today for a free trial!

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Meet the author

Austin Distel
CMO at Jarvis.ai

Austin Distel is the CMO at Jarvis.ai, your AI content writing assistant. He's also an Airbnb superhost in Austin, Texas and fun fact: Forbes recently wrote an article about his stock photography being the most popular on the internet with over 700 million views. You can follow Austin's adventures around the internet and the world at distel.com.

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