What’s in a number?

I was reading Chris Brogan’s ’27 Blogging Secrets to Power Your Community’ and was intrigued by Chris’ first point about using a number in blog titles.

“An intriguing title goes a long way towards getting people to the blog. Failing that, posts with numbers seem to work. Especially weird or odd numbers. 27 is odd.”

This made me wonder why weird numbers in blog titles work to attract readers. The web is full of top ten, top five, top 100 lists which can be anything from blogging tips, movie special effects or comedians. Indeed, Seth Godin wrote a short blog post called The Power of Lists, which is of course, listless. It is however the second highest ranked page on google when searching ‘the power of lists’ in Google.

But why do numbers play such an important part in this, and why weird numbers more so?

Everyone likes a list. Be it a shopping list or a to-do list, they’re everywhere. To put a number in front of that list gives it a quantitative meaning, otherwise it’s just a list. ‘Shopping Items’, or ’34 Shopping Items’ – which seems more relevant to you?

Weird, or unexpected numbers are a measure that the list is not a certain number for the sake of it – if you don’t have a top 20, but you do have a top 17, it means you have to find three other things to fill that list which may not be as high a quality or relevant as the other things in that list. It shows a certain level of honesty that you don’t have a top 20, but you’ve got a great top 17 and don’t want to make it seem less great by putting three not so great things in there.

And it’s that honest, humanistic way of approaching things that we can all relate to that makes these blogs so appealing. They’re not a contrived list of hundreds of links, included purely to boost that all important Google ranking, but a genuine effort to add value to somebody’s surfing experience.

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