Revamping Your Content Strategy: Advanced Techniques for Generating Listicle Ideas
We live in an era of information overload and screen fatigue. On the one hand, businesses feel pressured into throwing information at their audiences from every possible direction. On the other, leads and customers are drowning in a deluge of marketing material — emails, tweets, LinkedIn posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, you name it.
The only way to cut through the noise is good old-fashioned (but up-to-date), quality content. Content for people, not trawler bots and AI and search engines.
And you know what people are drawn to, time and again? Lists.
Listicles – articles comprising lists – are value-endowing (i.e., shareable), to-the-point (snackable), and activate FOMO in readers (unmissable).
How often have you wanted to or ended up reading a clickbait-y article about the "15 best-kept secrets of the most successful people ever to have lived"? Or the "top ten road trip destinations in the world" even though you hate traveling and the last time you took a road trip was when your neighborhood McDonald’s was closed, so you had to drive to the next one over?
But valuable as they are, listicles are prone to decay, like any other content. They lose their allure when you outgrow them, or we’d all still be whiling away our lives reading Buzzfeed articles about "Top 10 Signs Your high-school crush likes you back."
For content strategies to remain engaging and effective, they need to be continually revamped. In this article, we discuss content strategy makeovers, the power of listicles, and how to create content that actually gets read. Let’s jump in.
Understanding the Need for Advanced Techniques in Content Strategy
98% of marketers use content marketing, specifically written content. With so much content being produced every day, it’s no wonder that most of it is lazy, insipid, and a regurgitation of what’s already been said.
And that is having an impact on readership. In a survey, 73% of readers admitted to skimming through blog content.
For content to be considered successful, it has to:
reach bigger audiences and
exceed the information expectations of that audience.
Listicles are uniquely positioned to let you demonstrate expertise while catering to the ever-shortening attention spans of online readers. But not if they don’t have anything original and interesting to offer.
Setting Up the Foundation: Identifying Your Audience
Your target audience is the group of people you want to reach with your content marketing. If it’s not hyper-niche, classify audiences according to their level of understanding and create reader personas.
Reader personas are much like buyer personas, and consist of:
- Who they are? (CTO at fintech start-up)
- Their level of understanding (Degree in computer science/IT)
- Why they’re reading that listicle (Because they want to know the "Best-reviewed Hybrid Cloud Solutions" so they can pick one for their company)
You can segment your target audience better by using a tool that gives you insights into user preferences and behavior. There’s Google Analytics to obtain demographic data like age, gender, location, etc.
For psychographics such as interests, fears, and motivators, you’ll have to delve deeper.
Use a free marketing automation tool such as Hunter Campaigns to track content that has the most opens and clicks, and use that as a guide for your next topics.
Hunter also lets you find email addresses for free and then verify them.
Reverse look up these verified addresses to find social media profiles linked to them.
Analyze website traffic data to identify the best-performing content and the most valuable sources of traffic. Study your audience's needs, interests, preferences, and online behavior and accordingly tailor your listicles to align with their expectations.
Generating Listicle Ideas: The Advanced Techniques
You could sit around waiting for a good idea, and hope that it coincides with the date your next blog is due. Or you could create a system that ensures a steady flow of listicle topics that are relevant, interesting, and well-timed. Here’s how:
Tapping Into Social Media Trends
An ear-to-the-ground strategy works beautifully for creating viral social media content. One way to do this is to follow leading experts in your field and see what they are talking about. If they are starting to create content about a certain topic, this topic is likely becoming popular and you can hop on the trend before it is everywhere.
Another way is to monitor and listen to your audience. What are they talking about? What are they interested in? Learn what your audience has on top of their mind by keeping track of popular hashtags, comments, polls, etc. You may also look at the latest social media statistics to understand trends that are coming up.
If you can create content that answers their questions or addresses their interests, you will be more likely to create content that is shareable and viral. Some tools that can help you with social listening include Google Trends, Exploding Topics, and Sprout Social.
You can also conduct surveys and polls on your own social media accounts. Analyze the responses and identify recurring themes or interesting insights that can be transformed into listicle topics. For example, if you receive multiple responses about favorite project management apps, that could be your next listicle topic.
Harnessing the Power of Keyword Research
No matter how good your content is, you're not going to beat big players at ranking for generic keywords. However, you can find long-tail keywords with decent search volume on a keyword research tool.
Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, or LowFruits can help you identify these. These tools allow you to search for keywords based on a variety of factors, including search volume, competition, and relevance. You can then use your shortlisted keywords to create listicles that are more likely to rank highly in SERPs and attract organic traffic to your website.
For example, if you sell healthcare management services, try as you might, ranking on the first page for the keyword "hospital software" is not likely.
But if you know that the searches for "remote patient monitoring" have gone up recently,
you can check the Keyword Difficulty score, as well as traffic, and then capitalize on the trend by writing a listicle about the "7 Benefits of Remote Patient Monitoring".
Utilizing Online Forums and Q&A Websites
No matter how much research you put in, there will always be a difference between writing content you think readers will love vs. what they are already talking about.
Online forums and Q&A websites such as Quora, Reddit, Stack Exchange, and Discord have massive user bases. These platforms provide a glimpse into the questions, problems, and discussions within an industry.
Let’s say you’re using Reddit for content inspiration.
1 - Find a subreddit in your niche.
2 - Sort the posts to see the Top posts in a month.
3 - Within each post, see upvoted comments to understand the audience’s leanings.
4 - Head over to a keyword research tool to check difficulty, traffic, etc. to filter results.
5 - Feed the final selections into a blog idea generator to get more ideas.
Repeat with the other websites to come up with a well-rounded roster.
By actively participating and engaging with the community, you can identify common pain points and create listicles that offer valuable solutions, insights, or unique perspectives.
Checking Competitors' Successful Listicles
Your content strategy can’t solely consist of spying on your competitor’s strategy. At the same time, if you’re not keeping tabs on your competitors, it can backfire on your content efforts. SEO aside, you need to know what your competitors are publishing so that you can create superior-quality content and prove to your audience that:
- You have more expertise
- You care more about their problems
The manual way to go about this is simply by visiting their blog and subscribing to their newsletter. If you want more information, like how well their content is performing (because you obviously don’t want to be copying or outperforming something that doesn’t work), you can use SEO tools like SEMRush, BuzzSumo, or Ahrefs.
All three of them have a competitor analysis feature to monitor the content and keywords your competitors rank for.
Find out how much content and on what topics your competitor is creating, and then surpass that. For example, if they’ve published a listicle on "8 Productivity Tools For Entrepreneurs", you should write a listicle containing 15 and throw in a free downloadable planner.
Understanding the Art of Creating Engaging Listicles
Now that we’ve covered the strategy part, let’s take a look at how you can execute those ideas and convert them into engaging listicles.
Tip 1: Write compelling headlines.
Your race to grab your readers’ attention begins from the time they see your headline. To make it compelling, tackle their biggest concerns in the title itself. Instead of a headline like "10 Tips For Writing Great Listicles", use one like "10 Ways to Write a Listicle That Will Get Noticed."
Tip 2: Make content skimmable.
Use clear headings and subheadings to guide readers through the content. Each point in your listicle should be concise, focused, and easily scannable. Short paragraphs, bullet points, and numbered lists are all your friends, so use them.
Tip 3: Use visuals as text breaks.
Unless your aim is to bore people to death by greeting them with walls of text. In that case, carry on ignoring the power of images, infographics, or videos in keeping readers scrolling down.
Tip 4: Be memorable.
Depending on the content matter of your listicle, you can do this by incorporating storytelling elements to give readers pause and form connections with them. You can also provide actionable tips and guidance.
Tip 5: Offer content upgrades.
People love freebies. Raise the bar for what good content means by offering a downloadable pdf, checklist, newsletter subscription, free ebook, templates, etc. For example, if your listicle is about finance tools, offer an expense sheet template.
Measuring Your Listicle's Performance
Regularly measure your listicle’s performance to optimize existing and future content. Track metrics that tell you if it’s meeting the initial purpose of content creation — be it awareness, trust, engagement, SEO, or conversions.
- Views: This is the most basic measure of your listicle’s popularity. Ideally, you want to create more content on similar topics.
- Click-through rate (CTR): This is the percentage of people who clicked on your listicle after seeing it. It has a direct relationship with how eye-catching the headline is or if there are enough visual elements to generate interest.
- Conversion rate: It measures the percentage of people who took the desired action after reading your listicle (e.g., signing up for your email list, making a purchase, etc.). If your conversion rate is low, you may need to make your call to action more prominent.
- Social shares: If your listicle isn’t getting much traction on social media, it could be because of the lack of promotion on your social media handles. You can also try repurposing it by breaking it into smaller posts.
- Time on page: The average amount of time people spent reading your listicle ties in directly with how absorbing and useful they found the content.
- Bounce rate: This is the percentage of people who left your website after viewing only one page (in this case, your listicle) is high, you’ll have to rethink your link placements to make them more effective.
Continue to measure and optimize your content, so that you’re aware of what resonates with your audience and can make necessary adjustments to improve your content strategy.
Before you start implementing any new techniques, do your research to understand what works in your industry. By identifying trending topics, conducting keyword research, leveraging user-generated content, exploring how-to guides, and analyzing competitors' content, you can create content that stands out and wins you the interest and loyalty of your user base.
Don't be afraid to experiment with different techniques and see what your audience responds to. Monitor the performance of your listicles, and iterate based on audience feedback. This will help you fine-tune your strategy over time.
With a few tries, you’ll be able to revamp your strategy and use listicles to drive traffic, increase engagement, and establish your brand as a trusted source of information.
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