The first major struggle for business owners who want to use a blog for content marketing is creating content. With the dearth of content being created daily, it's certainly a challenge to come up with anything helpful and interesting to say. The second major struggle for business owners is getting people to actually visit their site and read their blog posts. The most brilliant writing in the world won't do you much good if no one reads it. And the third major struggle for business owners is keeping that content fresh. Google rewards sites who have fresh content because that's what readers want.
We have talked about a lot of different tools and techniques to help with content creation, to drive traffic, and to keep your website up to date, but there's one tool that can help you do all three at the same time. List.ly.
List.ly, according to co-founder Nick Kellet, is "true social curation with lists as a metaphor." List.ly is all about creating and curating lists. You can create lists of tips or lists of websites or lists of anything you can think of that your potential clients would be interested in. And this isn't the first time I've suggested that include lists in your blog posts, as lists are some of the most popular blog posts around. Nick estimates that 30% of blog posts are lists of some kind, and that an even greater percentage of people read those lists.
Nick is out in Vancouver and is originally from the Business Intelligence industry. He's identified that people love lists. "From the time we're born and our name is chosen from a list of baby names, to the time we die and we're checking items off our bucket list, we're obsessed with lists," said Nick. When it comes to business, it's no different. We will read other people's lists regarding our business and industry, partly just to prove how smart we are. We'll scan their list and note that we already knew each item, and come away feeling great about ourselves. Or, we'll find a point or two that we didn't know and come away thinking that we're now even smarter for having educated ourselves on that point.
The challenge though for normal blog post lists is that you have to identify and write about each list item. And, sometimes as soon as you publish the list, it begins to become stale and outdated. I will be the first to admit that some of my old blog posts are no longer current.
List.ly addresses those issues head-on by allowing you to start a list on their site, embed it within your blog, and then let other people continue to add to and update your list.
You can choose whether or not you want people to be able to add to your list, but the most successful List.ly lists are those that have allowed others to participate. Participation can come in the form of voting individual list items up or down, to eventually reorder the list, and can also come by way of new list item suggestions.
A recent example from Nick is a list he created last week in response to Google's announcement that Google Reader was being shut down. He created a list of 5 alternatives, and then asked if readers had any other suggestions. Within a few days, the list had grown to over 40 viable Google Reader alternatives, and the traffic to the list was phenomenal.
By starting a list on List.ly and then embedding that list into a blog post within your own site, you will have blog content that is growing and dynamic and interactive. Let's take a moment to go over some of the mechanics of List.ly, and then get back to content marketing strategies and business uses for List.ly.
Go to http://list.ly and click on Sign Up. Connect using your Twitter account and fill in some basic information like name and email. Now you're ready to create your first list.
Like any creative process, it might not be obvious to you at first what your lists should be about. We will get into some business use-cases for List.ly in a moment, but for now, let's use a simple list so that we can walk through creating your first one. A kind of "Hello World" if you will. Let's start with "Top issues facing businesses in the _______ industry" where you will fill in the blank with whatever your industry is. So these are the issues that you face every day. Got 'em? Ok, let's get to the list building.
Click on Make A New List button and a dialogue box will come up prompting you for the name and description of your list. Type in the name we just decided on and a description of your list. There are advanced options that we'll come back to in a moment. Click on Make List.
Once you have your list started, you will see a pink button under your description for "Add to List." Use this to begin populating your list. You can add items with or without links. In this example you would create items without links, as you're simply going to list a few of the challenges you face in your business. Each is added one at a time, with an option to describe the item (challenge in this example) in more detail.
To the right of your list name, if you mouseover the header, an edit icon will come up that you can use to revisit those advanced settings. The advanced options permit you to specify a header image, insert a link to an original article, tag the list, and set how you want to sort the list items. You can also disable likes, set moderation, and allow labels for individual items.
At this point, technically, your list is saved and published and you can promote it or embed it.
When you're ready to embed your new list into a blog post, there are three different embed methods and three formats you can choose from. To the right of the Add to List button is a link icon that will open the embed options in a new tab.
You can then choose from three formats: Full, Gallery and Short. Full will display the entire list, just as it is displayed within List.ly, while short will list item titles only. Gallery will tile the list items on the page.
Regardless of which format you choose, the list is completely responsive. Whether your putting the list in a sidebar or in a blog post that's being viewed on a mobile device, List.ly's lists will automatically resize to fit the space they're given and drop elements as needed in order to be completely responsive.
One of the most important tips for a successful List.ly list is to Leave Space. make sure that you're just getting the list started for the readers. Talk about your topic, and then create a few list items, and let your readers fill in the rest for you. Not only will it same you some time, but it dramatically helps and increases your blog engagement levels (and time on site!). If you create an exhaustive list, you're missing out on many of the benefits List.ly has to offer.
Here some additional tips for using List.ly better, direct from Nick, in a List.ly curated list:
In talking with Nick, we discussed the three main uses for List.ly and how businesses can benefit.
1. Curated Content
The obvious use is to curate content likes blogs and articles and website resources. Not so obvious though is that List.ly is a universal player. You can curate YouTube videos and SlideShare presentations, and mix-and-match. Don't limit yourself to just text or even links. Get creative and visual!
2. Create Original Post Content
Most business blogs that have lists do provide a lot of value, as we've discussed, You can list tips and techniques and benefits and all kinds of things. Not only can businesses benefit from the crowdsourcing aspect of List.ly, but they also get a solution for copyright issues. A growing problem on the Internet today is theft of content. Because it's so easy to copy and paste, many businesses are finding their articles appearing elsewhere. But, because the embed option from List.ly is inherently better than a simply copy and paste, people who might otherwise have just copied are now embedding, which means you, the original author, still get full credit (and more views).
One of the more brilliant uses for List.ly that Nick pointed out was that of feedback. Businesses can start a new list and poll readers on whatever they want. What do your customers like or dislike about your products or services? What could you do better? What features are missing? Start a list and get great feedback from your customers and respond.
So, List.ly launched an new version this week. Some of the updates include "lazy loading" so that exceptionally long lists can still load quickly, and a fully responsive overall site design. Premium membership levels were introduced, and my favorite new feature: contextual sharing. If you want to draw attention to a specific list item, you can share that item specifically. Here is a great list from Nick outlining all of the new features:
In the future, we can expect List.ly to release a Teams feature. List.ly is already uniquely suited to support collaboration, and they've seen some great uses from SharePoint and others, but they're working on making it even easier. Teams will be able to work together even closer on specific lists.
List.ly will certainly continue to work on improvements to the engine, and will always be looking for other ways to enhance the system and user experience. They have a great feedback system where users can post suggestions and questions using, you guessed it, a List.ly list.
Give List.ly a try and let me know what you think. Did you like it? Was it easy to use? Did you get some good feedback from readers?
Image courtesy of Krissy.Venosdale, Flickr.