13 steps to, 7 top tips for, 9 ways to get more….

Why do we gravitate to lists in business blog posts? There are a lot of scientific reasons.

But the clearest reason is this: While googling “how to make a bow and arrow, ”  a woman and her seven-year old child  selected the one titled “How to make a bow and arrow in 13 steps.” When asked why she selected that out of the top ten results, she said it was that

“thirteen steps didn’t seem that hard.” 

When writing a blog post, dividing a larger task into into numbered steps creates actionable items that seem much more reasonable to approach. But you have to break it down simply.

A complex task in a numbered or ordered post just won’t cut it.Compare these examples:

To optimize your web site, you should come up with a content strategy and write blog posts. 


To help people find your web site, write a short article for each of the top five questions your customers typically ask.

In the first example, you’re asking your reader to optimize their web site, create a content strategy, and write blog posts. But you haven’t really told them what optimization is (what does it do), what a content strategy is, or how many blog posts to write.  In the second example, you’ve told them the benefit of the task (helping people find their web site), and given them parameters to follow (answer five questions, each in a short article). The second example, done as a list, works much better as an educational tool.

In the example selected by the woman and the seven-year-old , there were 13 pictures accompanied by small amounts of text. The child wanted to learn to put together a bow and arrow, a la Merida in the Disney movie “Brave.”  She saw the 13 steps, in photographs, and immediately understood what parts she would need, which included a piece of PVC pipe, some rope and duct tape.  (If a photo or a graphic can better convey your steps, by all means, include these. A picture is worth a thousand words, as we all know.)

In your examples, give your clients photographs or graphics to help them understand the steps needed to do something. Whether you’re helping a client understand how to set up an e-mail account or install ceramic tile, there’s a process, and pictures (screenshots, videos, graphics) all help your reader get through all the steps easily.

If your tips are more informational, such as 5 keys to marketing a healthcare organization, break them down into an overview (5 tips) and then dive into detail on each one, to help your reader understand each step clearly.

And if your topic is complex, don’t be afraid to explore ONE step per article, and create five articles around it. It will benefit your business’s search results ranking to have content more focused on one thought or topic, than five in an article.

There are a lot of terrific resources about blogging with lists, here’s one we like: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32105/The-Top-10-Qualities-of-High-Quality-List-Posts.aspx

So when writing blog posts, even if you ignore the scientific research why we like lists, just go with the seven-year-old’s answer: It didn’t seem that hard!

The sister content to your blog is your web site content. Web site content is there to inform and persuade. Your blog is there to educate! 

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