For some time now, we’re thinking about the right number of items to include in a list post.
Should we include as many items as possible so that we satisfy those who want as many options as possible while evaluating solutions based on a given topic or problem they have? Maybe we should include as few items as possible to satisfy those who want as few options as possible? Should we even follow what Google’s top search results are doing?
The answer, as it turns out, is a bit more complicated and yet simple at the same time. To know how many items you should include in a list post, you should know the type of person you’re creating the post for.
Sounds interesting? Let’s get into it and, hopefully, by the end of this post you’ll know how many items you should include in your list post, based on whether you’re creating content for a maximizer or a satisficer.
Table of Contents
Maximizers vs Satisficers: Main Characteristics
To understand what it means to create a list post for a maximizer compared to creating a list post for a satisficer, we need to understand what each type is all about.
Knowing the characteristics of each type will allow us to both understand why the number of list items matters and what the underlying motives and needs are that need to be met when searching for information online.
Let’s start with the first type; the maximizers.
Type 1. Maximizers
“If you seek and accept only the best, you’re a maximizer,” says Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and author of “The Paradox of Choice”.
Maximizers are the people who are looking for the best in every decision they make, they’re afraid to regret their decision, and, as you can imagine, they search for options online in a very unique way.
Some characteristics of maximizers include:
- They want to make the best decision every single time
- To achieve that, they’ll conduct an in-depth review of all the alternative options
- They’re afraid to make the wrong decision
- They can feel regret right after they make a decision
- They tend to evaluate other alternatives even after making a decision
- They spend a lot of time on the selection/evaluation process
- They engage in several comparisons, e.g., for products
- They generally feel less positive about a decision they’ve made
Reading this list can help you realize if a) you identify a maximizer yourself or you know one or more people who are, and b) it’s difficult to meet someone who’s an absolute maximizer.
Maximizers exist and are looking for solutions online, like the second type we’re examining - the satisficers- are doing.
What changes is the way each type is searching for solutions, how many solutions they’re looking for, and what their deepest motivations for making a decision are.
Speaking of motivations, maximizers want to feel that they’ve made the absolute right choice — they’re not interested in a choice that’s “good enough”.
They want to feel that they’ve made the best decision they could possibly make.
As you can imagine, from an organic search perspective, this means finding a list post that covers every single aspect of the items included/reviewed - more on that later.
What about the second type, the satisficers? What are satisficers all about?
Let’s take a look.
Type 2. Satisficers
Satisficers are people who — according to Barry Schwartz who we looked at earlier— “settle for good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better”.
This sounds more “healthy”, I know, but we have to understand that the comparison here doesn’t have the intention of proving that satisficers are better than maximizers.
We’re making the comparison to understand how this affects the way we create list posts.
Some characteristics of satisficers include:
- They’re satisfied with a decision that’s good enough
- They’re not going to conduct an in-depth review of all the alternatives
- When they make a decision, they generally don’t look back
- They rarely feel regret right after they make a decision
- They rarely evaluate other alternatives after having made a decision
- They try to not spend too much time on the selection/evaluation process
- They usually don’t engage in comparisons
- They generally feel more positive about their decisions
You could argue that satisficing is the right way and — to a certain extent — they’d be right.
However, this isn’t what we’re examining here.
It’s important at this point to accept two things:
- Both types of people exist whether we like it or not
- It’s our job as content creators to satisfy the type that is drawn to our products and services.
To achieve that, we have to connect the characteristics of satisficers and maximizers to the way these people are searching for solutions online.
Let’s try to do that, first for maximizers.
Creating List Posts for Maximizers
As we noted above, maximizers are the people who want to make the best decision every time.
Of course, that’s unrealistic, but why bother saying that to a maximizer?
If what they want is to make the best decision ever, this is what we’re going to help them do.
The question is: how can we do that?
The following screenshot shows a search engine results page (SERP) overview for the term “social media monitoring tools”.
As you can see, there are several list posts with a different number of list items, or solutions, in each.
We have as low as eight solutions in the first search result and as high as 25 search results in the fourth search result.
Of course, we also have a result by software reviews website, G2 where we can compare across 210 solutions in that category.
Author’s Note: Not all these 210 results from G2 will qualify for our search, but it’s difficult to spot the ones who do qualify.
As you can imagine, a searcher who’s a maximizer in our example would most likely be tempted to take a look at the result with the 25 best social monitoring tools.
What's more, if this person knows what G2 is, they most likely would take a look at G2 as well in an effort to identify the single best solution among all the solutions that exist out there.
What’s important to understand is the underlying motives of the maximizer in a search like this.
We’re talking about a person who doesn’t want to make the wrong decision and for them, the only way to avoid doing so is by reviewing every solution there is available.
Taking this a step further and connecting it with the characteristics of maximizers that we saw earlier, during their search and solution evaluation journey, they'll most likely compare solutions as well.
In a case like this, they may start from something broad like “social media monitoring tools”, but when they identify some of the most promising solutions, they’ll compare further to come up with the ultimate solution.
Given that two of the most popular tools in this category are Mentionlytics and Brand24, a maximizer will also compare those two before reaching a decision.
Thus, we can start to see that we have to deal with a person who’s really digging into things, trying to find the best solution, at least according to them and at least according to their regret for picking that solution a bit further down the road.
In general, we can say that when creating list posts for maximizers it’s always recommended to do the following:
- Include words like best, top, and ultimate in your title tag and meta description
- Include as many list items/solutions as possible
- Include detailed descriptions with technical characteristics and anything else that makes sense contextually
- Include detailed comparison tables at the beginning of the post
- Include internal outgoing links to even more detailed comparisons between the list items from your list post. e.g. Mentionlytics vs Brand24
- Include internal outgoing links to alternatives from your list post, e.g. Brand24 alternatives
- Include your choice towards the end of the post - in cases when there’s no conflict of interest and you’re not biased about recommending a certain list item/solution
- Include a CTA for a gated piece of content with even more information on the list items/solutions featured in the post
- If you’re one of the items/solutions being featured on the post, make sure that you have good reviews on reviews sites because maximizers are going to look there as well
Creating list posts for maximizers is a challenging task.
It can be a rewarding one, though.
Above all, you want to show your maximizer readers that this is the ultimate online resource about the topic and they have no need to look elsewhere.
Achieve that and you'll have the maximizers on your side.
Now let’s take a look at satisficers.
Creating List Posts for Satisficers
We’ve covered everything there is to know about creating list posts for maximizers.
What about satisficers?
Supposedly, they must be easier to satisfy, right?
Well, not exactly.
They, too, have unique characteristics that need to be met.
Let’s take a look at an example.
The following screenshot shows a SERP overview for the term “healthy snacks”.
As we can see in the above screenshot, many of the list posts that rank for this term include a high number of list items, with 20 being the lowest and 121 being the highest.
As you can imagine, the satisficer would rarely choose the result with the 121 options when it comes to healthy snacks.
That’s not to say the post isn’t good; as a matter of fact, it’s a great post for the right audience.
That’s because the satisficer wants simplicity and isn’t willing to put as much effort into the selection process.
Let’s take a look at another example.
The following screenshot shows a SERP overview for the term “team building activities”.
Here, too, there are several results with lots of list items - we call them list items since we can’t really talk about solutions here.
However, we also have one result with “10 quick and easy team building activities” that stands out.
If it was a satisficer conducting the search, that would most likely be the result they'd choose.
In general, we can say that when creating list posts for satisficers it’s always recommended to do the following:
- Keep things easy and simple — there's no need to over-complicate
- Include words like the only, easy, simple, and quick in your title tag and meta description
- Include as few list items/solutions as absolutely necessary
- Use quick and direct descriptions
- Include a TL:DR section at the beginning of the post
- Share your personal opinion, assuming that you’re biased and there’s no conflict of interest
Some might argue that it’s easier to create a list post for a satisficer, when in fact, it’s not.
The question isn’t as much which of the two types is the easiest to satisfy, rather than which one you should be trying to satisfy.
This is an answer that we believe is connected to having a deep knowledge of your target customers.
It’s not a black and white situation, of course.
It’s not that your customers are either maximizers or satisficers.
They're probably a mix of the two types.
Where you should focus is what will appeal to most of them.
When you have the answer to that question, you can try to create list posts that appeal to either one type or the other.
Let’s wrap this up and close with some final thoughts.
Maximizing and satisficing is more than a theoretical approach to creating list posts.
It’s also very practical, since the two types we saw throughout this post exist and evaluate solutions.
As we saw explained just now, the question isn’t which type is easier to satisfy, rather than which type you should satisfy.
At the same time, we have to understand that the answer to that question could be case- and query-specific.
In some cases and for some queries, you can design your list post in a way that'll maximize while in other cases you’ll have to design it to satisfice.
No matter which one you choose, don’t forget to continuously gather feedback and iterate based on what your audience needs and expects from you.