Why Are Listicles so Effective? 17 Reasons That Will Surprise You!

We all love listicles and are somewhat addicted to them. It’s hard to resist a dose of useful information that is presented in such an easy-to-consume manner. Listicles are criticized for being low-brow and a degraded form of writing. Sometimes they are really uninformative and are just made to get people clicking. But they are still insanely popular and are the most widely used format on the internet. Why? Because they can give you information in a digestible way.

Although I have to admit that its critics have a point. They say that life can’t be dumbed down to a listicle. You can’t understand complex matters and multi-faced problems in 10 bullet points. A listicle definitely isn’t suited for numerous topics, but there is no need to hate on it.  It’s a good place to start and get people interested in certain topics. It’s an easy and quick way to see if a particular website or a reader has anything good to say.

Of course, the way a lot of spammy websites use it isn’t suitable for anyone. Being sprayed with an endless stream of poorly written, useless information isn’t something anybody likes. It’s true that you have to dig yourself through a lot of dirt to get to those sweet nuggets of wisdom. But the effectiveness and success of listicles isn’t so simple.

Reasons Behind Listicles’ Success

There are a lot of reasons for it. The more profound reality behind them is the fact that we always need an optimal way to filter and process information. Especially online. We can still like long form, but these short nuggets of information are like snacks to our brains. Mind munchies!

Deciding How To Read Information

Once we jump into our daily browsing habits, we are constantly bombarded with and endless stream of information. It’s only natural that our brains are looking for a sorting mechanism to make sense of it all. So, we gravitate towards listicles that tell us what we want to know as quickly and as efficiently as possible. But that isn’t enough. It has to be well-written. So a good listicle is one that is written from an actually organized set of thoughts. Once we notice this organization, our brain gets hooked on it.

We Scan Articles

read scan article

Nobody’s got time to read every article they open. So we scan and we do it well. It’s a kind of reading that lets us scout out the information in front of us and decide whether it’s worth reading or not. It’s the fastest type of reading we can perform and listicles allow us to do it.

Scanning, aka inspectional reading is one of our most advantageous and important skills. It allows us to outline complex ideas and understand them a lot faster. We can get to the facts right away without having to invest too much of our valuable time. You won’t get this from a book. I stop half way because I ask myself “was it worth to invest this much time into reading this?”. Well, not always. Because sometimes the author just beats the point to death and makes you snooze half way. We shouldn’t let that amount of time go into nothing, because some books are thick but only 20% of that is valuable information.

1. A Listicle is Psychologically Irresistible

We humans have various needs and the input of new information is among them. Our brains cannot resist valuable information, especially if it is provided in such a concentrated way.  Without even reading into the listicle, you already know how much or how many bits of valuable information you’re going to consume. You’ll know that you will be given a specific number of facts within a short and condense manner.

It’s way easier to read a listicle than an article. With an article, you start at the beginning and you’re really not sure how much value you can expect down the road. While with listicles you know exactly how much, which makes them irresistible.

2. Lists Are An Integrated Part of Our Culture

Have you ever heard someone talking about an awesome list they read just recently? We millennials grew up in the past 10 years when the internet saw its massive growth and we grew along with it. Listicles were one of the primary forms of content we consumed.

But it isn’t just about the internet. Listicles have been around for a very long time. In history, listicles were always used to simplify complex concepts so that everyone can understand them. The Ten Commandments and David Lutterman’s List were both communicating a complex code of ethics, but they were simplified in an easy to read listicle.

3. Listicles Weren’t Invented By Content Marketers

It’s easy to think about listicles as cheap click bait that media agencies and other spammy sites use. But that’s far from the truth. There were plenty of books written in the listicle format. Also, take poems for example. Aren’t they the most classical form of a listicle? The writer can get their point through in a few short sentences and delight the reader without having him read through long pages. Even God wrote the Ten Commandments in a listicle form. Though that wouldn’t fly well on the internet today.

4. It’s Easier To Read a Listicle Than an Article

That is, if it’s well-written of course. But either way, since it is spread into individual points, it’s easy to read some of it and stop along the way. You don’t feel forced to read the next sentence and the next to get a clear view of what you’re reading. You also don’t miss anything if you don’t read it from the beginning or fail to read the entire listicle through. Listicles are awesome to run through as you wait in line or at the bus stop.

5. Feels Like a More Well-Structured Argument

Listicles make it easy to speak for or against something in a well-structured manner. It allows us to pile our points on top of each other in a way that can get through to people very easily.

6. They Aren’t Necessarily Dumbed Down

Yes, listicles don’t follow the complex structure of literally formats, but they aren’t necessarily anti-literary. They don’t have a complex structure like more sophisticated literature does and that’s precisely the point. It definitely makes reading about history a whole lot easier as one damn thing just comes after another. Have you ever read one of Carl Jung’s books? That’s a hard bite to chew.

7. They Are Short And Focused

Readers read texts for one simple reason, to find information that helps them attend to something they need, are interested in or a problem they want to solve.

8. Lists Won’t Give You ADHD

You can easily argue that the reason why we prefer to read lists is because of our low attention spans. Maybe you’re making it worse by reading articles in a bullet-point format? No. This has nothing to do with ADHD, I’m just joking around.

9. Why Listicles Are Used So Widely In Content Marketing

Listicles are equally attractive and beneficial to their creators, as they are to their readers. There are numerous reasons to start writing listicles if you’re a content marketer or a blogger. Especially if you’re just starting out with it.

10. Listicles are The Easiest To Write

listicles easy write

It’s not a surprise that people criticize listicles for their low-quality. Just about anyone can write a listicle but not everyone can write it well. If you have even the slightest idea about how to write well, a listicle can be a perfect start for a beginning content marketer.

Even if you don’t think that you know about anything worth sharing, don’t worry about it. That’s what the internet is for! Do your research within your chosen niche and come up with a top list or a list of tools that help the reader accomplish a certain task. Better yet, ask a few people to contribute to your article. You’ll be amazed by what comes up. Everyone knows something you don’t, so take advantage of that. You’ll have yourself a high-quality listicle before you know it.

11. You can Write a Top 10 List on Just About Anything

With spending an hour or two with research and taking notes, you can come up with an awesome top 10 list in numerous topics. As a “writer” or a “journalist” you’re an objective observer who often doesn’t know a thing about what he/she is looking at and that’s fine. You’re there to share your opinion, you don’t necessarily have to be an authority in the given field, topic or niche. But if you’re writing about brain chemistry or the mating habits of dolphins, than better ask a neuroscientist or a marine biologist.

12. The More Items There Are In Your List, The Better

If you have some decent writing skills, all you have to do with a listicle is to make it as long as possible. People are much more likely to share long lists. Longer lists are perceived as greater base of knowledge. If you write a list like “Top 100 Facts About Kratom”, it’s much likely to gain more traction on social media.

13. It Allows You To Share a Lot Of Not Obvious Information

People are always looking to learn more about the world around them. Providing them with information that might already be in front of their eyes without them knowing about it is a surefire way to get them curious. If they are curious, then they will start clicking which is what you want as a content marketer.

14. Headlines With Numbers Get More Attention

We use numbers to communicate facts and cold-hard facts are what we want when we’re looking for information. Numbers help our brain organize information, set expectations and reward us when we fulfill those expectations with reading the listicle. Which is why a Top 10 list is so damn attractive.

15. Short Attention Spans Want Short Copies

short attention span read content

Internet users have a very short attention span, which is a problem for anyone who’s running a website. You can’t expect a user to care or to read through the entire text you’ve written. But listicles solve that problem. They provide users with information that is organized, short and sweet all the way. Listicles stick to the point, which appeals to modern-day readers.

16. Lists Can Provide Validation

A lot of times, lists are attractive because it provides an opportunity for them to confirm their beliefs. It can provide validation about their favorite band, why their favorite movie was great or anything else they like. Writing a good list about the qualities of a top contender within a certain category is a great way to approach listicles.

17. They are Very Sharable

If you didn’t have to strain yourself a bit to read through a listicle, than you can whole heartedly share it with a friend who might share the same interest. If you provide good information that is useful to the reader, others will share it across their social media followers as well. So, at their core, listicles are a great way to build engagement.


Listicles have been around all over history and now they exist as one of the most popular ways of providing information in an easy to consume manner.

Even though listicles are considered to be one of the best tools for content marketing, they are still more about the readers. It’s easy to treat it just as a marketing tool, but the most important thing about them is to provide value. Giving value to your readers is what will engage them and make them want to do business with you. So, if you’re just starting out and have some good ideas on your mind, by all means create a top 10 list about something that you love and watch the results.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading through this article and that we’ll see you again soon in the upcoming ones. We have a lot more to discuss about online marketing!

Featured Image Designed by Freepik


David Cross

David is the chief editor at WebHostingMedia right from the beginning. He has a great passion for building and managing websites and creating helpful content. He is also interested in programming - currently learning python.