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Do blog lists still have value in 2012?

This is an open question to the community: do blog lists still have value? What do I mean by blog lists? I’m talking about the “50 best …” type blog posts that you see in abundance across the web.

This sort of post is particularly popular in the tech world and it sees a lot of action among WordPress bloggers too. I even posted a list of 15 trustworthy free WordPress themes on this blog some time ago.

The recipe for making a list goes something like this:

  • Find a niche that’s not overexploited.
  • Pool together some sort of collection.
  • Make sure you have at least 20 items. Though 50 is probably better.
  • Add some nice eye-candy images and some short text snippets.
  • Embed your affiliate links.
  • Promote it like crazy across your social networks.
  • Sit back and watch the traffic flow in.

The general psychology of the list (on the maker side) is minimum effort for maximum gain. Probloggers will readily tell you that the list is a staple ingredient in a successful money-making blog. But does it really work? Isn’t it all a little bit too easy? And haven’t lists been done to death?

More importantly, does anyone actually look at lists anymore?

Personally, I find myself less and less interested in them as a user, but there was a time when I had a whole bookmark folder full of my favourite lists.

What about you? I’d love to hear what you think. Whether you’re a list maker, a list consumer or you avoid lists whenever possible, do let me know what you think and hopefully together we can take stock of the value of lists today.

Written by Will Ellington

Originally from the UK, I currently live in Osaka, Japan, where I work in higher education. I’ve been a WordPress user since 2004 and have developed numerous projects with it over the years. Wpliving is a place to share things i've learnt along the way, and to explore innovations in WordPress too.

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  1. First off I love what your doing at wpliving. Very cool stuff.

    As for lists, there must be value in making theme otherwise there wouldn’t be so many of the them. On the other hand, I know from personal experience that they don’t pack the same sort of punch they used to a couple of years back.

    I think people have become pretty much immune to them. For a list to catch your attention I think it either has to be really niche specifc or it has to do something special that others arent doing.

    I guess it’s time for someone to come up with a different way of doing lists. Don’t know if that’s even possible or what it would be, but that’s my gut feeling.

    • Hi Tom, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the support. Thanks also for responding to the question. I think you’re absolutely right about the saturation of list posts. I think a lot of people see it as an easy way of driving traffic to their sites, when actually there’s no guarantee that a list post will do well at all.

  2. I Honestly still find my self looking at list, but I’ve gotten so pissed at bloggers using hidden affiliate links I actually end up google’ing items I link in lists but yeah lists help you find new stuff or stuff you haven’t seen in a while and wanted to try at some point.

    • Thanks Omar, some good no bs insight there. I agree with the affiliate links thing. I’ve placed affiliate links in posts in this site, but I’ve been rethinking the whole practice lately. I don’t think there’s a problem with affiliate sales per se, but rather it’s the old disclosure problem. I thought about offering affiliate and non-affiliate links side by side – giving users the benefit of choice: support this blog by giving the author a commission or screw the author and go straight to the source.

      • Having affiliate links around the site is in no way a problem people need to understand something has to pay the bills but I’ve seen how big blog make list of just items from themeforest or some other market place to get the extra hits I’ve thought about the idea of offering the the two links (affiliate and non-affiliate) my self but does the internet really need another list… and honestly only way to make it valuable content is to make a list of 192 items like WPin did, do you really want new bloggers to go around and making a list called “top 5 marketplaces to buy themes” LOL.

        A good option would be to disclose at some point in the post that they are not affiliate links hidden and give a list of your affiliate links so if the user wishes to contribute you with a click they can! And not getting clicks my deceiving the users.

        • I’ve heeded your advice Omar and set up a disclosure system for affiliate links. It consists of asterisks with explanation notes next to the links and a site-wide disclosure policy. I very much appreciate your input.

  3. Nice work here at WP Living. You make informative and entertaining videos!

    I agree with Tom that list posts must be valuable if so many people keep creating them. I know I look at them a lot myself, like recently when I was researching “responsive wordpress themes.” I chose the sans. theme by the way too.

    Anyways, most list posts for that search were almost identical, except for this one: http://wpin.me/192-responsive-wordpress-themes-for-your-viewing-pleasure/#

    I looked at all 192. In this case I appreciated the unusually long list.

    I wouldn’t worry about the 2 affiliate and non affiliate links; just be clear when you endorse something or are simply providing a list which contains affiliate links. At the end of the day it’s all about integrity and transparency.

    In the future, perhaps less list posts and more “video series” based around a topic will dominate ??

    • Awesome comment Chris. Nice to meet a fellow Sans user too! What’s the url of your Sans site? Intrigued to see what you did with it.

      The list you reference there is indeed a good one. I know wpin through Twitter and he runs a top notch WordPress site. For anyone reading this and yet to have visited http://wpin.me the link is there, just click and see…

      Thanks for the feedback on affiliate links. I’m in the process of devising a way of flagging them on this site which is unobtrusive and yet informative. Perhaps I’ll do a quick write up on it…

  4. Yes, From a user perspective: Lists are helpful. And from a blogger perspective, it does get visitors and build audience.

    Thing is that it needs to be done properly. It is often done without any research. Most of the lists we see are created to get in the search results. Lists takes much time to create and not easy to create unless you know about that niche.

    This is just a beginning of the lists. Bloggers found out about this 3 – 4 years ago and now everyone is making them and they are coming in frontpage search even though the article is not relevant to search query. When this bubble bursts or i would say when people will understand the real power of lists, they will work hard to make them. We are still in very early period of this new age.

  5. Hey Will,

    Excellent work here at WPLiving. The blog looks really neat and professional. I’ve been reading your blog from last few weeks, since I first discovered it through our conversation on Twitter.

    List posts still holds much value and can definitely help a blog to get more exposure. But bloggers needs to be more creative, you can’t do a post on 5 themes from themeforest and expect to get hundreds of visitors.

    And as Tom said, it’s time for someone to come up with a different way of doing lists.

    Keep up the good work, Will. Enjoy your rest of the weekend.

    • Thanks for the kind remarks Devesh. I have Blogpreneurs.com in my feed reader.

      Time for a different way of doing lists…this seems to be a point that people agree on. It’s an interesting challenge and one that I’ve decided to take on.

      I’m going to see if I can come up with something a little different…famous last words!

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