Listicles and How They Attract Traffic

29 June 2022
Reading: 6 min

Today we are looking into such a topic as listicles or list-shaped articles, a popular form of content that combines value for users (at least users want to believe it) and offer promotion on one page. Why listicles work so well and how marketers can leverage this tool for their ad campaigns? Follow us as we break this subject down.

A snack for brain

Cognitive fluency

Cognitive fluency is a psychological term that determines the ease of processing a piece of information or completing a mental task on a scale. Things can be more or less cognitively fluent. Simply put, the human brain is lazy and likes the things that are easy to think about. And listicles are like super-simplified one-bite cookies that you can eat without even noticing it and still feel happy about it.

Instant satisfaction

Remember that time we talked about clickbait headlines? They are largely based on the so-called curiosity gap. It’s when you see only part of the information and your brain starts suffering from not knowing the rest if you don’t make that click and find it out? It’s a reverse story with listicles: they are plain to see from beginning to end, the headline provides all the facts, the sub-headers need no further explanation — your brain is happy as hell. And your brain loves to be happy, so let’s go get more listicles to chew on.

Listicles and How They Attract Traffic

Seeming credibility 

Listicles are light and inviting, but what it more — seeing a few items listed as 10 Best Something makes us think that these items are worthy of the inclusion. Even if consciously we know that it’s not always true, this format creates an unconscious bias in favor of said items and prompts us to see them as worthy of our attention. Besides, lists are not a modern invention or a specially-designed format like an advertorial — they have always been there for the ease of consuming information. This makes list articles seem even more familiar (and trustworthy) even when we see the obvious cheesiness of “17 Popular Raccoons of 2021”. 

Listicle 101

So, what makes a listicle, or better — a well-performing listicle?

  1. Before compiling a list and filling the page with content, make sure that the topic is fit for a list format and still makes sense when divided into chunks. The content should sound more valuable than sales-y. For example, if you promote auto insurance — “5 Driving Dangers We Forget About”, for a food supplement — “10 Unknown Benefits of Vitamins”. And so on.
  2. Write down your points and try to come up with catchy sub-headers. Make them short and snappy, no fooling around. They need to be clear, so that users can grasp the idea of the passage without reading it, remember, listicles are loved because they are easy to comprehend. And don’t make the list too long, if you have more than 5 points — opt for shorter passages for each of them. A bored visitor is a lost lead. And don’t forget to NUMBER the list, simple bullet points are not enough.
  3. To really make sense, your article must have an introduction that will smoothly introduce the following points and a conclusion that will outline the benefits of reading this article and of taking the offer you promote. If we pretend that the article is useful to the readers, it should make sense to the very end, so that the visitors would feel satisfied and willing to make the target action.Listicles and How They Attract Traffic
  4. Try filling the page with valuable or at least entertaining content. Useful takeaways, statistics backed with external links, pictures, charts, testimonials, etc. Make your listicle look more respectable and trustworthy — thus users would feel more productive (I’m reading science-backed articles) as opposed to an easy mindless scrolling of cat videos.
  5. Include pictures. When relevant — photos of the product. Also, happy customers, screenshots of testimonials, reference to social proof, and such. Visualization also facilitates the comprehension and make the article more fun (who doesn’t like pictures?).Listicles and How They Attract Traffic
  6. Now to the technical side of the matter. It’s great if you have skills and experience with website development. But if you don’t, there are multiple solutions (some are even free) on the Internet, for instance WordPress, Wix, or GoDaddy. Also, such website builders often have a template library where you can orrow a listicle page and fill it with your content.
  7. Make sure to A/B test all variable elements to find the right option. Headlines, color palette, the number and placement of the CTA buttons, the size and placement of pictures and screenshots. Sometimes tests reveal that our audience likes things we would have never thought of.


  • If you are promoting a product, state the benefit in the headline and make sure that it stands before the name of the product, because the result it more important than the medium.
  • Use up to 3 strategically placed CTA buttons and don’t place them too close to the beginning of the list, as it will look like a hard-sell.
  • Make your CTAs engaging and fun (if it’s consistent with the tone of the article), they must not sound sales-y. Opt for “Grab a piece” instead of “Claim the offer”.
  • Apply social proof, especially from authority figures (or at least authority-like). Don’t forget about the testimonials to convince the readers.
  • Make use of the urgency techniques like ticking timer and limited offer banners.
  • Reduce the number of choice options (package sizes, tariff plans, flavor options) as too many mean that users have to think harder and spend more time pondering. It’s easy for them to get distracted and abandon your offer for good.
  • Add a FAQ section for product and service offers, but don’t make it too long.
  • Opt for shorter and punchier headlines. They grab the users’ attention much better.
  • Never make lists that have a “See next” kind of navigation with every next item loading upon a click. Users get irritated when they can’t get all the info points in one place.
  • Use listicles for event-related promotions of e-commerce offers. Lists like “10 Christmas Gifts for Your Mother” and “5 Best-Selling Valentine Cards” are always a good idea.
  • Build a listicle website with each page dedicated to a different topic. Thus, you will place a multitude of offers on a site that ranks well with search engines. Lists are seen as valuable content by the likes of Google and Facebook, so the algorithms help you promote listicles.

All in all, listicle is a great format that can be adapted to a slew of verticals as marketers supplement the product links with related content. The main idea of a listicle is to make the information easy and fun to digest while still thinking that you are getting valuable knowledge. Experiment with topics, test the layout options, and take your affiliate game to a new level with these bite-sized articles.

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