Now Rank This: Blog Posts That Drive Traffic

Why do so many bloggers write rankings or list posts? Everywhere you look you see top 10 this or 15 ways to do that, the best new this or top tips for that. Why are rankings and list posts such a popular format? For starters, readers gobble this type of post up.

Let’s be honest, most of us have short attention spans (half of you probably won’t make it beyond this sentence). We like to scan lists of stuff. We like rankings even better – we’re all competitive in one way or another. We rank everything, from football and songs, to restaurants and best products of the year.

If you want to write a blog post that will outperform your other blog posts, write rankings or list post. Don’t do it all the time (you’ll just annoy people), but rather use this type of post to mix things up once in a while. The hypothesis certainly holds true on Journalistics. Of the top 10 posts on Journalistics this year, five were ranking posts (and one was a list).

There’s one more reason I think this type of post is more popular – controversy. Anytime I rank something, I get above average comments about my flawed methodology or all the people, places and things I left off the list (usually it’s egos getting the best of people – sometimes I really do screw up). Either way, controversy is great for drawing attention to your posts, right or wrong.

Sidenote: If people do get upset about your posts, just be sure not to give into the negativity. Regardless of the tone people take in the comments, they’re your readers. Be thankful they’re there – and be professional. If you make a mistake, fix it and acknowledge things publicly.

On a more positive note, you’ll get more ‘thank yous’ for a ranking or list posts than any other type of post you write. People love being recognized for their achievements or being included on a list.

There is one final reason I think rankings or list posts perform so well – links. Rankings or list posts are among the most popular posts shared across social media, and other bloggers are quick to cite list posts in their posts. All these links add up to more authority for your post. The type of authority that can last for months or years beyond the original post date.

To this date, a post I wrote more than a year ago continues to pull in traffic from search engines – because I ranked something with flawed methodology and had to apologize to a lot of people. Ranking and list posts work, but do your best to get your facts straight.

Next time you’re stuck on what to blog about, ask yourself what you can list or rank and stir things up a bit. Come to think of it, I should have made this post a top 5 reasons to write rankings and list posts.

What do you think, are rankings and list posts a good format or are they overplayed? What’s format has been most successful on your blog?

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

13 Comments

  1. Interesting what you say about an inaccurate post continuing to pull in the readers. It chimes with the “any publicity is good publicity” school of PR and the “never let the facts get in the way of a good story” theory of popular journalism.

    Personally, blogs that overdo lists and ranking posts irritate me – but, dammit, they do draw me in.

  2. Just to clarify, I go to great lengths to produce the most accurate posts possible. I have made mistakes, and it’s surprised me that some of my biggest screw ups have been the most popular posts. I don’t recommend doing this intentionally, but figured it was good (honest) insight to share.

  3. Jeremy,
    I wasn’t impugning your own standards of accuracy – my sincere apologies if that’s what came across. I’ve followed Journalistics.com for some time and regard it very highly.

    Rather, I was alluding to the habits of an increasing number of (mainly corporate) blogs which seem to emphasise presentation over content. Many of these offer little that’s new or truly focused on the interests of their readers; it’s more to do with reeling them in, come what may. So, if lists and rankings work, they’ll simply re-hash any old content they can lay their hands on, without bothering to check or evaluate it, and turn it into a list/ranking.

    It smacks of a laziness and cynicism which I sometimes encountered in my earlier days in journalism and PR, which I’d hate to see become commonplace online.

    • I didn’t take it personally, no worries. I knew what you meant – was just clarifying for anybody else that might read these comments. Thanks!

  4. I am constantly torn between wanting to write for the sake of writing and needing to boost my ranking to monetize my blog.

    I experiment and see what people like and what they think I should leave up to the pros. As a blogger, I think it important to test your readers and challenge yourself by going outside the box.

    You are so right though, what people like the most are the real, the raw and the humble posts and they are passionate about protecting me from the few who attack me for my “overly privileged life,” as revealed in this post, http://www.isdisnormal.com/2009/11/16/critiquing-writing/. Can’t blame the attackers really and even though I in no way have a tough skin, other people’s discern for me is a great source of amusement for my readers….and months later, for me.

    Most importantly, there is no reason to not check your facts with such easy access to information these days and I feel it is a blogger’s responsibility to their readers to provide accurate information.

    Thank you for your post. I’ll be checking in more frequently.

  5. If you look at books it’s the same thing: books that use a number in their title (like _The Book of Top Ten Lists_ or _The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People_ also sell better than books that don’t. I’ve thought about this and, in addition to the reasons you’ve cited, I think there’s another: if you are giving a list of the “Best of” or “Top” it’s suggestive that you’ve thoroughly analyzed every item in the category and are reporting back on the very best. This suggests a lot more work was involved.

    In this way, I think most lists are bunk. I am planning an albums of the year list and, though I’ve been working on it all year, I’m going to preface it with the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to have given fair and equal consideration to every album released in a year. But I’m aware that a list of “Best albums of 2010” will rank higher than “Some stuff in 2010 that I thought was better than the rest of the stuff I listened to.”

  6. Lists are simply an intuitive way of structuring abundant data for the read. As chapters in a book, for instance . In much shorter blog posts, we have to admit they’re a bit of an illusion. We (readers) go to blogs to learn something, often hoping for predigested satori, and list titles and posts simply reinforce that attraction. We (bloggers) use that illusion to draw in the crowds. It’s OK if we deliver, but as John writes many don’t even try to.

    Interestingly, I believe the actual cardinality of the list has an impact on how the list is perceived. Without digging too deeply into esoteric sciences, I’m sure someone has analyse the impact of a Top 3, Top 4, Top 7, Top 10. What I can’t get my mind around are titles such as “the 47 reasons you will never …”. 47, really!? Who is ever going to read that? Any ideas on the impact of these numbers?

  7. I enjoy lists on blogs because, as you said, I have a short attention span. Lists DO catch my attention and keep my attention. While using lists or rankings for every post would get very redundant, one every now and then gives a blog some “flair”, if you will. I agree that it is important to see what works best not only for you, but what your readers enjoy best (if you are trying to cater to them). Checking/Including the facts is always a great way to basically add a backbone to your post. The facts add credibility and make a story much more convincing.

  8. The ideas presented for generating press releases are really helpful and actually I have never thought some of them. My only concern is that ok its good a business to have an updated website, but time is money for everyone, so even the most loyal client wants to spend time in reading something interesting or at least enjoyable. We should our followers, by providing worthy news otherwise they will just “click” another site.

  9. The ideas presented for generating press releases in the post are really helpful and actually I have never thought some of them. My only concern is that ok its good a business to have an updated website, but time is money for everyone, so even the most loyal client wants to spend time in reading something interesting or at least enjoyable. We should our followers, by providing worthy news otherwise they will just “click” another site.

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