Anytime you look on the front page of Digg, you will often see headlines that start like “Ten ways to…” or “Top Ten Worst…”. And let’s face it, chances are pretty good that you often read these kinds of posts yourself, because they are just so appealing. The title quickly tells you what you are going to expect (such as “ten ways to do something”) and usually, they deliver. So how can you write your own top ten type of post that gets significant traffic or even a front page of Digg? Here is what you need to do to make the best top ten post ever.
If the ideas are flowing, just write the top points, then add your commentary for each later. You don’t want to have eight great points off the top of your head, and then lose seven of them because you were overanalyzing just how worthy the first one was and on writing the perfect description about it. So jot down snippets, keywords or quick points underneath what you are currently working on while you have them fresh in your mind, and you will be much less likely to forget one of them as you write.
Sometimes your top ten post will end up being a top twenty. My 52 easy ways to optimize your blog while on your coffee break blog post initially started as a top 25 list, then 50, then ended with 52 because I couldn’t decide what two tips to delete to make it 50. And my 10 ways to turn new blog visitors into subscribers article didn’t start out being written as a top anything list, but when I was doing my final edits, I realized working the title as a “ten ways” post would work well for readers. So if the ideas are flowing, don’t feel you have to stop because you have ten. And if you stop with nine and can’t think of anything for the tenth, give it a break then come back and reread the article from the beginning. Chances are good that you will be able to come up with one more idea to hit the magic number you are looking for.
Offer a bonus tip
Sometimes you end up with an odd sounding number of tips. If you have eleven must-have tips and you can’t bear to lose one, nor can you dream up a twelfth tip to get it up from ten tips to twelve, keep your list as a top ten and include a bonus tip instead. And as an added bonus for you, readers will like the fact they got something extra from investing in the time to read your article, in the form of that bonus tip.
Are you being social?
Many top ten types of posts end up getting Stumbled, Sphunn and Dugg regularly. So make sure you add a social submitting plugin like Sociable so that people can quickly submit your blog entries without having to jump through hoops to do it.
Make sure you are linking out to things people can find useful. I read a blog post recently where someone suggested doing specific steps on a project, yet didn’t provide links to what he was talking about. That meant I left his blog instead of spending more time on it, all because I left his blog peeved and had to search for it myself. The more links you include in your post so that your tips can be put into action, the more useful your readers will find it. And yes, that also means the more likely he or she will submit it or recommend it to others. And when you link to other sites, those people you have linked to within those blog posts then have an incentive to submit your posts to social media sites too, because they will end up getting traffic from it too.
Don’t just do the same old, same old. Be creative or do a new spin on something that is tried and true. Instead of doing Top ten tips for ranking in Google, which has been done to death, spin it as Top Ten Ways to Get Google-Friendly Backlinks or Top Ten Tips for Getting Your Blog Into Google News.
Don’t be afraid to make your list amusing, rather than all straightforward and business-y. Humor helps keep the attention of your readers, and keeps it from being a dry read.
Short & Snappy
Make sure each of your tip titles is, you guessed it, short and snappy. They can even be a bit cryptic, but if a reader is quickly scanning each of your tips without reading the commentary that goes along with each, shorter is best.
Don’t be afraid to include tips you consider common sense, because even I am surprised that people learn something from a tip I included that I considered to be extremely basic. Unless your blog targets only the experts, including a mixture of basic and advanced tips means that there is something for everyone.
Do It Again
Just because someone has already done a top list on the topic doesn’t mean you can’t do it again. As long as you aren’t just copying the tips with new commentary, definitely write your own improved version. If you want social traffic, however, wait a couple of weeks before publishing your own version. If the identical top ten subject hit the Sphinn or Digg front page yesterday, today would not be the best day to publish it because you have just greatly diminished the chances that your own version will go hot as well. So save it a couple of weeks when you have a better chance of yours going hot too.
And you guessed it, this entry didn’t start of being a “ten ways” post either, but when I finished writing and realized it was ten points, it instantly became more easily marketable as a “ten was to do something” blog post. So next time you are writing a blog post with tips, see if you can easily turn it into a “ten ways to” or “top ten ideas for” type of blog post and see how well it does socially.