Copywriting tip – 10 reasons your Top 10 blog posts suck

If you have used the Internet for more than five minutes, you’re bound to have encountered at least one Top 10 blog post or article. Incredibly popular with sites like Reddit and Buzzfeed, these top 10 lists promise all kinds of awesome entertainment and excitement.

But the truth is, top 10 lists suck. Here are my top 10 reasons for not using them.

10. These lists are invariably “click bait”

Top 10 lists are usually designed to get people to click onto your site and read a list of somewhat arbitrary information dressed up under an irresistible headline. The idea is that once people have hit your site, they just won’t be able to resist clicking through to read more of your wonderful content. They might even buy something!

But they won’t, because they quickly discover that you cheated them with a salacious blog title and head elsewhere for some proper information.

A picture of Justin Bieber demonstrating why Top 10 lists are poor examples of blog content

Your Top 10 list sucks so bad, you’ll probably resort to adding a picture of bad boy Justin Bieber just to earn a few more clicks.

9. You insinuate your reader is stupid

Top 10 lists are supposed to present the top 10 most important aspects of any subject to the reader. You are effectively saying, “Hey, you’re too dumb to figure out what is and isn’t important, so I’ve done it for you! Now buy my stuff!

No one likes to be called stupid. And no one spends money with a business that calls them stupid. Turns out you’re the one who’s stupid.

8. You always leave something out

When trying to sell using a Top 10 list, you invariably have to leave something out. This could be a competitor’s product, a service your business doesn’t offer, or an effective technique that you don’t use.

It makes good business sense not to advertise the products of your competitors, but it also makes your list look unbalanced. Your reader then assumes that you do not fully understand the topic, or that you are trying to pull a fast one. Either way, your Top 10 list sucks.

7. These lists offer the reader nothing

Ultimately, Top 10 blog posts have nothing to offer the reader. No practical advice, no tools, nothing to achieve an ROI. In fact, the time your reader spends looking at the list is time you are stealing from their day.

Don’t expect them to be hugely grateful for wasting their time.

6. Your list is already out of date

Top 10 lists are transient, passing into irrelevance within a few hours or days after being published. Even if you did manage to compose a genuinely balanced list (see point 8), half of your recommendations will need to be changed within a week.

Top 10 lists are a waste of your time too.

5. The middle of your list is generic nonsense

There, I said it. You add something harmless in to create another point and reach your target word count. Something like ‘ROI is directly related to revenue. Without collecting revenue data it is impossible to calculate the returns on your investment.’

Stop it. You’re just stating the bleeding obvious to fill your list.

4. Yadda yadda yadda

Yup, exactly that.

3. Justin Bieber is a dork

At about this point in the list, you (and I) have completely run out of ideas. You don’t actually have 10 points to discuss. And it shows.

Point 3 becomes a rambling derivation of the previous 7 entries, or is something completely unrelated to the topic in hand. You throw in something controversial in the hope of rekindling interest.

This will annoy and offend your readers – they may not even finish reading down to your ‘killer’ number one.

2. A bombshell

This is where you try and outsmart your reader by inserting what you think they expected to be number 1. Because you’re so clever like that.

If you do manage to get that prediction right, well done! You’ve just alienated/annoyed your reader. High 5!

Otherwise it’s just another mindless step on the road to…

1. You disagree with me

No matter how much I believe my choice for number one position is correct, you won’t. In most cases The top 10 list is actually about my personal preferences, not a statement of fact.

Worse still, when you disagree with my number one choice, you will be disappointed, upset, and therefore unlikely to buy anything from me. Which is a major copywriting failure.

 

Disagree? Leave me a comment below.

Written by Ben Lloyd


Ben Lloyd has worked in the IT industry since 1996, covering a number of roles from helpdesk support to network management and everything in between. Tech Write is built on this experience, offering outstanding technical copywriting services to agencies and clients across the world.

2 comments to Copywriting tip – 10 reasons your Top 10 blog posts suck

  • Russell Deasley  says:

    Yeah! Top 10 lists suck.

    …But then again they do pay my bills!

    • Ben Lloyd  says:

      Touché Russell.

      Still, I hope you’re ashamed of yourself.

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