What Do You Do When Round-Up Posts Don’t Work?

Note from Caleb: This is a guest post from Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing. Danny is a star student from Traffic School, and he has been a regular contributor to Think Traffic over the past few months. 

Have you ever written a round-up post?

I’ll bet you have – round-up posts have become a staple traffic generation strategy that everyone runs from time to time.

If you do it right, a round-up post can be part of a strategy that can give a new blog unstoppable momentum.

But these days, as more and more people are doing round-up posts, less and less people are doing them right.

Which means no traffic, and no results.

So how do you put together a round-up post that will actually get you results?

Why Do Round-Up Posts Work?

First, a quick explanation.

Round-up posts are blog posts in which you round up the experts and stars in your industry, and showcase them on your blog. This can be done in a variety of different ways:

In all cases, though, the strategy behind this sort of post is the same, and it works for the same two reasons:

  1. The experts are flattered that you chose to feature them, which makes them like you, and want to help you out (for example, by spreading the word about the round-up post).
  2. The round-up post leverages the celebrity appeal of the experts, as well as their insight and experience, to create content that is compelling to your audience.

So… what’s the problem?

You Can’t Copy-and-Paste Success!

Actually, there are two problems.

The first problem is the problem of ubiquity; when everyone is doing something, it isn’t nearly as special, and while the celebrities in your industry will probably still contribute to your round-up post, they won’t be nearly as flattered to be featured in yet another of them.

The bigger problem, though, is that success can’t be copy-and-pasted – it just can’t be done. The people who first ran these strategies did it because they understood why it would work, and what they would have to do in order to make it work.

These days, a lot of people run round-up posts just because “I’ve heard it’s a good strategy – it got XYZ Blogger a ton of traffic, and I want some too!”

The result? Round-up posts that fall flat, because…

  • They are clearly about currying favor with the bloggers, rather than showcasing work that you appreciate.
  • The contributors aren’t asked good questions, leading to several dozen variations on the same answer that the audience has already heard many times before.

Will the expert still pass by the site, and leave a comment saying “thank you”? Yes, probably – that’s just being polite.

But will they tell their audience about the post? Will it help to build a relationship with the expert?

No, probably not.

How Can You Make It Special?

You can still be successful with a round-up post, but for that to happen, you can’t just copy what somebody else has already done.

You have to make it special. You have to innovate.

And not just by making it different (imagine “100 blogging experts share their favorite ice cream flavor” – it’s different, but nobody would care), but by making it valuable.

Here’s how some people have done that:

These are all interesting and innovative ideas, and that’s just the start. The key, though, is that you can’t just copy any one idea, paste it onto your own blog, and expect significant results.

Think about what will be valuable to your audience.

Think about what will be compelling to your contributors.

Think about what worked in the examples that I’ve described, and that you’ve seen online, that you can adapt to your own situation.

Think about what didn’t work for you and others, and how you can edit those elements out of your own plans, to make them even better.

Think about what you haven’t thought of before.

Be original. Be creative. Innovate.

Over to you – what round-up concepts have you seen that broke the mold and worked really well? What have you seen too often, that shouldn’t be repeated?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.

35 thoughts on “What Do You Do When Round-Up Posts Don’t Work?”

  1. Great post Danny!
    I love that you point out the need to differentiate our round up posts. I recently attended #pbevent, a brilliant event by Problogger, but when I read the round up posts for ideas I missed they started to become repetitive. The two posts I did love were a video diary and a video interview series made on the day.
    I’ll be sure to think outside the box before starting the next round up post.
    Cheers, Caylie

    1. Hey Caylie, I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed the post, and thank you so much for your wonderful illustrations – yes, when people start copying the same old thing with the same old content, it gets repetitive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for people to do interesting new things – they just need to get a bit creative. :)

  2. Danny, every great marketing idea is short lived. If it is copied it cannot get much attention (and hence) success as it happened for the first time! So if people tend to implement an idea just because a blogger found it successful, it won’t work the same way, or for worse it can go on a total fail. Innovative and new ideas only get attention.

    Thanks for the awesome share!

    1. Hey Jane, I don’t know if that has to be true; it depends on whether the idea is merely copied, or properly reverse-engineered to understand why it worked in the first place, and how it needs to be modified to work effectively in the new situation…

  3. Thanks for the mentions Danny. And thank you (and Corbett) for participating in the interview series. The site has grown in its first month more than I could have hoped and that round-up series was a huge part in that.

    I think that asking good questions can be easier than most people make it out to be. Many people over-think it. Then again, many people don’t put enough thought into it (I DID spent quite a bit of time picking out the questions I wanted to send over).

    Really it just comes down to asking the “interviewees” questions that YOU want to know the answers to. If you hired a consultant to help your business what would you ask them? Now send that question to the experts you are interviewing.

    At least that’s the approach I took, and it worked for me.

    Thanks again!

    1. Eugene, your site is growing so fast because you’re doing everything right – the relationships are there, and you’re investing the time and effort to make the content as good as it needs to be to get real lift.

      It is easier in the sense of not being a monumental undertaking, but it does require that you actually sit down and think about it – you can’t just fire off a half-baked strategy, which is what too many people think they can do (maybe because of too many “gurus” on webinars trying to illustrate how it can be done on the spur of the moment?)…

    2. Ha! I wish that was a spur of the moment thing :).

      Thinking of the questions is probably the easiest part! Creating a list of people that meet a certain criteria for the interview series takes time. Sending out the emails takes time. Actually formatting the series to post takes a whoooole lot of time.

      Plus I emailed everyone one-by-one because I think that the extra personal touch makes a huge difference.

      I haven’t seen that in too many “guru” lesson plans.

  4. Wow, great advice. I just launched a round-up post today and as much work as it was, I will do an even better one and put even more work into it next time soon, taking your advice to heart. Would like to do an interview kind – still working on THE one question that will make a difference in the sea of interview round-up posts 😉

    1. Hmmm… it depends. Sometimes people do it as just a filler of content, sometimes it’s because they’re functioning as real content aggregators, and sometimes it’s more about the relationships with the bloggers that are linked to… the best frequency will depend on the real goal that is behind it, right? :)

    2. I just put it up as my launch post today actually:


      You’d probably call it the ‘lame’ round-up post 😉 (Also just stumbled upon your post over at PP) But it was a way to start out for me and get the feel for it.
      I have to admit, as a starting blogger, I’m still a bit hesitant to contact other (bigger) colleagues out there (what if they don’t reply…what if my questions are dumb…what if…you know how it goes, the usual) I guess I’m in the process of building my digital confidence 😉

    3. Cool, Conni, I’ll head over and take a look. And don’t be too hard on yourself – it’s okay if everything we write isn’t a home run, as long as we learn our lessons and make the next one better. :)

      And yeah, just take a chance – dive in, and ask the big names – the worst that they can do is say no…

  5. Round up posts are always fun, I somehow found myself reading several round up posts that all had Matt Cutts chiming in so I started to follow him directly. You can really expand your interests with round ups so enjoy them, do them and see what happens.

  6. Don’t be so fast to rule out ice cream, I mean if you ask 100 blogging celebs about it, and like 80% say strawberry-mango, then there might be something there. LOL

    Seriously though, thanks for rounding up this post about round ups Danny, I haven’t really done any yet, other than bringing up weekly links type things, but I think this could be something I take the time to do down the line.

  7. Thanks so much for mentioning me in this post!

    When I did my first round up post, I thought about how it could be different. I found a timely title, since summer was just starting. I also featured up and comers. People who may or may not have been featured yet.

    Some do the same roundup posts and if I saw a few of the people, I bet I could name a bunch of the rest. It’s been done so many times!

    So by featuring up and comers, it really helped make it my first viral post.

    Great advice for those looking to do their first!

    1. Of course, Benny! You really did a great job of being different, but I think the most important thing was realizing that it was something that you needed to do, and that you couldn’t just copy-paste someone else’s success. :)

  8. Hey Danny!

    Thanks for mentioning me here, I do appreciate it. And a great post all-round! When I decided to take part in the 7 Links Challenge, I did so out of curiosity – I don’t normally publish round-up posts, but I was intrigued as to the popularity of these particular posts. And because Ken Wert challenged me to 😉

    Take care my friend :-)

  9. Hey Danny,

    I took great interest in this article as I produced a round-up post on my blog a few weeks ago. Relative to the size of my blog (tiny!), it was a great success, and is probably my post popular post to date.

    I use the word “relative” very deliberately, as I discovered something rather important (I believe) when I published my round-up post. You can produce an awesome roundup post, but if your existing readership is pretty small, it probably won’t achieve the kind of viral exposure you hope for. Sure, it *might* happen, but the odds are against you.

    I think you alluded to that fact in this article (which is awesome by the way): http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2011/03/27/why-guru-strategies-for-blog-growth-don%E2%80%99t-work%E2%80%A6-and-what-does/. You recommend getting up to a certain level of readership before you try to do anything ‘viral’.

    So, in conclusion, I believe that roundup posts do still work (if you do them well), but you need to have an established level of traffic in order to get the most out of them.



    1. Hey Tom, yeah, that’s the thing – round-up posts can be a great way of jump-starting traffic, but it isn’t nearly as easy anymore.

      The hope is that you can piggy-back off of someone else’s established base of traffic, but that just isn’t practical unless the round-up post is truly extraordinary in some way.

  10. I love that you wrote about this — I was starting to brainstorm some roundup ideas myself. I fully agree: doing what everyone else is doing won’t stir a lot of interest in your roundup.

    Doing something different might take more brain cells – but the extra effort always pays off.

    Great post Danny!

  11. These are some fantastic ideas on how to do a roundup right. I learned the hard way. Just posting your favorite blogs to fill up space NEVER works! And, as always the blog content counts. Even on the roundups!

  12. Hey Danny, I’ve done a couple round-up posts and found they worked really well, but took A TON of effort to pull together. Have you ever tried Blog Stampede to do the work for you? I’m toying with the idea myself, but have stopped short because the invitation process doesn’t seem quite as personal as sending out individual emails (although I suppose I could email and include a link).

    Anyway, I’ve particiapated in a few of these as a contributor (not an organizer) on the ToiletPaper Entrepreneur and Carol Roth.com, and they seem to gather a lot of contributors. Just checkin’ to see if you had any thoughts on it.


    1. Hey Geoff, I’ve actually never heard of Blog Stampede before. It looks interesting, but I wonder how much you can really automate or crowdsource this sort of process, since so much of it is about the relationships.

      That being said, I haven’t tried it, or even heard about it until now. If you do use it, please send me an email and let me know how it goes. :)

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