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101 Reasons Long List Posts Like This Are Crap

This is a
6 minute read.

Reason zero.

These long-format list posts I keep seeing all over the place take a huge investment of time and energy to write.

So any introduction never gives a deep sense of perspective, or motivation.

It’s just a rushed afterthought with the microscopic level of effort that is still available.

  1. Even at a sentence per point, they take ages to read.
  2. It’s impossible to develop a nuanced point within one short sentence…
  3. … making them a bit like the overripe, shouty hellhole that is social media.
  4. Most points are led by search terms like ‘freelance copywriter‘, not whether they have anything to actually say.
  5. Google loves long content – this is just the laziest way to deliver it without really saying much.
  6. They incentivise being shallow.
  7. They incentivise a lack of depth.
  8. They’re unavoidably repetitive and say the same things in different ways.
  9. Human beings aren’t built to actually take in numerous points – that’s why the most persuasive ads say just one thing well.
  10. The people who retweet them are impressed by your stamina, not your ideas (which they probably didn’t read).
  11. The trick is getting old. The novelty factor that made them fun is long gone. 
  12. Reading through them is a big activity in itself. Asking for people to take another action afterwards (like getting in touch) is a bit much.
  13. Calls to action are best when every sentence is geared to one outcome.
  14. Red call to action buttons test surprisingly well.
  15. You have to go on tangents over multiple points to edge close to your arbitrary number. 
  16. They’re unavoidably repetitive. 
  17. They make every point feel equal in value – it’s no longer about what you feel is important, so it becomes impossible to reflect any kind of consistent brand character or perspective.
  18. They offer the illusion of depth, not depth.
  19. In an effort to fill space, that search term you cared about so much falls by the wayside (freelance copywriter).
  20. They’re soul destroying to write. Believe me, I know. 
  21. Who has ever wanted to know 101 things about anything?
  22. The one unusual thing you believe with all your heart is infinitely more interesting.
  23. Even if you make great points about the way people think and take in ideas, they’re lost in the clutter of your never ending list.
  24. They’re unordered lists masquerading as ordered lists, which is a fucking joke.
  25. You start getting desperate for ways to make it interesting again – even swearing, which is a pretty cheap tactic.
  26. Even if they work for search engines, it’s bouncy traffic that doesn’t convert or come back.
  27. They require a commitment of time that is not proportionate to their impact – even when they work, they’re a poor investment.
  28. When they don’t, you’ve written 101 useless statements for no reason.
  29. Worse, you might have written 101 really great, well thought-out points for no reason.
  30. They’re rarely attractive to read – just an endless, meandering list that’s not broken up or bite-sized.
  31. They’re almost unreadable on mobile.
  32. Forcing people to scroll so much opens you up to potential personal injury claims.
  33. You may also get people just asking for a refund on their time.
  34. They’re repetitive.
  35. They exist purely for search engines – you might please the robots, but rarely please the people beyond your feat of longevity.
  36. Research shows that people hate the number 101 because of Cruella De Vil.
  37. Research shows that people love the number 101 because of Depeche Mode.
  38. It’s too easy to write points that directly contradict themselves for the sake of quantity.
  39. It’s too easy to make stuff up or guess at research when you get desperate.
  40. It’s too easy to fill space if you don’t care about the quality of what’s inside it.
  41. It’s too easy to latch onto one sentence structure because it makes it quicker to write.
  42. It’s hard to stop once you start.
  43. It’s almost impossible to write 101 points if you pick a very specific title like ‘101 Reasons Long List Posts Like This Are Crap’.
  44. So you go for really generic stuff like ‘The pros and cons of long blog posts’ or ‘Reasons you shouldn’t write your blog post for search engines’.
  45. Unless you’ve got balls of steel.
  46. Which you could be using to do something genuinely brave and interesting, not copying a stale format.
  47. You could go bungee jumping or something.
  48. What was I even talking about?
  49. Oh yeah. 
  50. Long list blog posts.
  51. They make the number the star of the show – not the actual information that’s there.
  52. They go against the notion of get in, say your stuff, boss people around, then get out.
  53. You start breaking things that should be paragraphs into numbered points.
  54. It’s completely random when you decide to move to the next number. 
  55. They’re crap for the same reason a good freelance copywriter doesn’t charge per word – because the words are just the execution. It’s the ideas that count.
  56. Posts that consist of 101 distinct, developed, interesting and specific points are incredible – but incredibly rare.
  57. Content is king, but not if it’s crap.
  58. You start using catchphrases and mantras just to bulk it out.
  59. They’re no longer unique and distinctive. I see them all the time. 
  60. They’re repetitive. 
  61. They don’t make sense for most industries. They were once interesting in some service industries, but ‘101 uses for chicken stock’ is clutching at straws.
  62. There’s no meritocracy – every idea makes it in.
  63. Longer posts take longer to read than short ones.
  64. You even include points are utterly meaningless and obvious.
  65. Like longer posts take longer to read than short ones.
  66. They’re relentlessly repetitive.
  67. Removing stuff is a vital part of good writing – but removing even a single point in a list post feels like a terrifying prospect.
  68. They usually lack a cohesive structure – the points become arbitrary, not a clear ‘beginning, middle and end’ like you were taught in primary school.
  69. They’re seen as the holy grail of SEO – the fabled list post meets a big word count – but ten 50 word posts that people actually like is worth way more if people engage with it, link to it and so on.
  70. Eventually, you accept that your well has run dry and just start plugging stuff into Google and including whatever you find.
  71. It’s easy to read a long list post for a bit then stop without feeling bad (The Guardian, 2013)
  72. You’ll even use sources that are way out of date
  73. They lack any logical glue – the cause and effect stuff and internal narratives that actually make us follow an idea and remember it (The Guardian, 2013).
  74. You’ll even use the same outdated source twice.
  75. The list format is a crutch for people who can’t write (Neil Patel).
  76. To fill space, you distill nuanced discussions from experts into a glib, probably inaccurate statement.
  77. You don’t care as long as the number goes up.
  78. If you pick a popular ‘reasons’ type of format, you only give one side of an argument.
  79. They can’t account for the full grey area of anything.
  80. A great long list post can stand out, but the odds of writing one are slim.
  81. Any data-driven promise that long list posts work omits the fact that the data is out of your hands – it works for an algorithm one day that can (and will) change tomorrow. 
  82. A good blog (website, letter, email, whatever) is timely not because of its quirky format but because of what’s inside it.
  83. The ideas you throw out are as important as the ones you keep in.
  84. If a blog is supposed to be informative, people want answers. This format makes it hard to find them. 
  85. As a freelance copywriter (I know, search terms right?), I’ve never introduced myself to a client with ‘I can write really long stuff’.
  86. Nor have many clients read my blog. But that’s another post. 
  87. If you renamed it ‘101 sentences…’ rather than points (which is more accurate), would anyone care? 
  88. To anyone with even a cursory knowledge of marketing, they feel spammy.
  89. To everyone else, they feel long.
  90. To the writer, even longer.
  91. They usually lack subheads – your hottest real estate for delivering interesting points, teases or benefits…
  92. … and if they do, they become even more like a blog post with arbitrary numbers inserted.
  93. They can make people feel tricked for reading 90+ points and learning nothing.
  94. They feel like a war of attrition, where just reaching the end is the goal.
  95. They lend themselves to facts, not opinions or perspectives – so you miss the real opportunity to be share your point of view.
  96. They present you or your brand as being good at writing long stuff. Not good at knowing what to say, or making people care. 
  97. There aren’t 101 interesting facts about my kids, let alone your product or service.
  98. There aren’t 25 truly interesting, memorable and impactful facts about most the stuff we’re peddling on the internet.
  99. They’re endlessly, relentlessly repetitive.
  100. And even when that repetitive format is used to make a point, it’s barely worth the wait. 
  101. is an impressive number, one that says ‘I could make it past 100’. So, if you make it that far as a writer or a reader, good job. At least you didn’t waste your time reading something valuable, learning a new thing, or talking to a friend. 

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