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:
- Ask each contributor for their best tip about your subject area, as Corbett did with his 17 Traffic Building Tips from Some of the World’s Most Popular Bloggers or 23 Incredibly Useful Insights on Shortcuts to Becoming an Expert
- Ask each contributor to answer a question, as Eugene did with 29 Brilliant Minds Share Uncommon Content Strategy Advice
- Feature your favorite work from each contributor, as Benny did with 40 Rising Bloggers Who are Heating Up This Summer (Hint: if you go this route, make sure to link to a post of theirs, rather than to their blog homepage, so that they get a pingback and actually know about what you’re doing!)
In all cases, though, the strategy behind this sort of post is the same, and it works for the same two reasons:
- 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).
- 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:
- Ask great questions. It took me half an hour to answer Eugene’s questions for his 29 Brilliant Minds Share Uncommon Content Strategy Advice post, because the questions weren’t straight-forward… which mean that the answers were original and interesting.
- Instead of just doing a post, invite the contributors to co-host a community survey with you, like Corbett teaches inside his Traffic Toolbox, and like we implemented with our Semi-Local Business Survey.
- Instead of rounding up other people’s work, do a round-up of your own favorite posts, and challenge other bloggers to do the same. Stuart Mills did this in his On The 7 Links Challenge post, and I took up his challenge in The Seven Links Challenge and the Best of the Web.
- Round-up people that you aren’t trying to curry favor with, but who will still be valuable to your audience, like Benny did in 7 People Who Found Success Starting In Their 30’s (like Sylvester Stallone, Julia Child, and Harrison Ford), and like Vic did in Life Lessons from 3 Fighting Legends (featuring Bruce Lee, Mohammed Ali and Morihei Ueshiba).
- Think really big. Instead of doing a post, turn it into a whole book. Instead of asking contributors for short answers, ask them to write a chapter. Turn it into a huge project, with a trailer, pre-launch bonuses, the works. Like I did with Engagement from Scratch! How Super-Community Builders Create a Loyal Audience and How You Can Do the Same!
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?