As you work on a roundup piece for your blog or newsletter, you may be thinking something along these lines:
“This piece will generate more traffic and/or subscribers than my other posts or emails, since it circulates ideas and encourages conversation.”
Well, that's certainly true. No type of content can spark conversation, social shares and circulate ideas like a good roundup piece.
But here's the catch: your content will only work that way if you create a roundup that you know your readers will love, otherwise it will be a waste of time.
What makes a good and effective roundup?
Good question – it's why this guide is here!
The short answer is: a roundup that–
- Keeps blog traffic and subscribers coming
- Continually feeds loyal users with interesting content
- Triggers the interest of mentioned sources (and their social shares)
- Builds connections and creates community
- Nudges all sources, newly interviewed or cited and those from older posts
In this guide I'll cover:
- The two types of roundup content
- Blog and newsletter roundups
- How to boost traffic with roundups
- How to integrate roundup posts in your blog schedule
- How roundups feed readers with minimal investment (high ROI)
- How to bring curation and expert roundups together to produce content upgrades
- Pitfalls to avoid
Two Types Of Roundup
There are two types of roundup you can greet or entertain your readers with:
- From the blog archives – pick your best pieces from the archives and compile a list
- Expert roundups – bring readers authoritative content with interviews
I'm going to explain later in the guide how to put the two types of roundup together – that is, how you can use expert roundups to expand upon topics you previously wrote about and produce a ‘content upgrade'.
Type #1 – Curate Old Blog Content
What do you want to obtain with your roundup?
The answer to that question must be clear in your mind.
For instance, say you go on vacation and want to give readers a freebie guide on a specific topic covering evergreen material from the archives – you will choose the posts that give the most practical advice, not the ones where you barely mention the topic at all.
Our Best of WHSR: A-to-Z Blogging Guide is a good case to look at: the posts picked for this “best of” piece are all evergreen posts that will help new readers a decade from now like they do this year.
As another example, if you wanted to update a batch of old post with current informationand then use those posts to spark new conversations with your email subscribers, you can create an email roundup that covers both the updates and why you created those old posts in the first place.
It's vital to choose well among your old posts: don't rely only on your judgment of what may be more interesting for your readers, but also check your analytics to see which pieces get the more (or the less) traffic – sometimes you will want to re-circulate only posts that get little traffic to give them new life, other times you may want to try and boost your most popular posts to monetize them or to use them as the launching pad for new content.
In this email roundup I sent to my elite subscribers, I list 3 posts from different character blogs I run that add to the main storyline narrated as short story episodes on my main blog:
The roundup is meant to generate traffic to older character posts and encourage my subscribers to interact with the characters on the blogs.
Kelvin Jiang, CFA and founder of Buyside Focus, says:
Curat[ing] your old content on a certain topic serves two purposes:
1. Help your new readers discover your old content
2. Provide structure and links around an important topic
For example, I write extensively about finance interviews. I created a roundup post on the most common interview questions and linked to my old posts on each interview question. This gives my readers a way to discover my posts from years back and provides a definitive guide to tackling finance interviews.
Bottom Line: use roundup posts to promote your old posts and build links to them.
Type #2 – Expert Roundups
You'll want to bring readers real advice and expertise from authoritative and reliable sources in your posts, and there's no better way to do that than holding roundup interviews with experts.
There are two ways to do this:
- Collect expert articles and interviews from the Web and compile a post where you link to and comment each resource
- Have your blog act like a round table around which you sit with the experts and ask questions that address the main pain points in your niche
You can also do this live, record a video and share it in your post along with a transcript.
What's crucial is that your roundups are not generic, so don't have experts talking about any possible topic you may cover on your blog, but pick a narrow topic or angle and then ask experts advice on that – your readers need specific advice that helps them solve their problems and addresses their major pain points, not general chat on some marginal topic in your niche.
Ideally, you'll want roundups to be some of your most valuable content, link- and citation-worthy for the months and years to come, the go-to resource and a gem to bookmark.
The roundup focuses on the various stages of content marketing – planning, creation, optimization, distribution, performance and predictions – and links to prominent guides from authoritative sources (Copyblogger, Forbes, Inc, Advertising Age and others) with a commentary paragraphs of why this resource was picked and why it's the best.
Ideally, someone looking for an all-inclusive resource on content marketing and its stages will bookmark this roundup to come back to as needed.
Diane Ellis Scalisi, growth marketer and blogger for CanIRank, says: “Roundup posts act as a form of resource page, and they're valuable to readers because you've taken the leg work out of researching a topic of interest and curating a list of greatest hits on the subject. Because of this value, roundup posts can often perform well in terms of attracting links or social shares.”
Scalisi shares a few tips:
1. Focus on one subject area or keyword per roundup.
While gathering an eclectic list of links to interesting articles on random topics may interest you, it will have less value as a resource to your readers. Focusing in on a single subject or keyword will help your readers and the search engines get more out of the roundup post.
2. Let others know you've included them in your roundup.
Reaching out to the bloggers and writers you include in your roundup to thank them for their thoughtful piece and to let them know that you've featured their work in your latest post is a good way to build good will. And often, the people you include in the roundup are more than happy to share your roundup post on social media.
3. Keep your roundup post as evergreen as possible.
Sometimes bloggers will title their roundup posts something like roundup post for the week of October 10, 2009. To achieve a longer shelf life, avoid this practice and instead title the roundup with something that describes the type of content readers will find curated in the post.
That last tip is especially precious to ensure your roundup post stays as evergreen a resource as possible over time.
If you are looking for effective ways to reach out to experts to invite them to roundup, let them know you linked them in a roundup or to thank them for participating in a new one, Lori Soard has you covered with tips on where and how to find experts to interview, and I shared several examples of successful email outreach messages in this post.
Blog And Newsletter Roundups
Blogs and newsletters are two main platforms bloggers use to publish roundup content.
Choosing one or another will not affect the quality of your roundup piece, but a few differences exist between the two platforms, and they are about goals:
- A newsletter is shorter in length and better suited to generate personal response, so when you send out a roundup email, you add a relevant CTA and encourage subscribers to interact directly with you (one-to-one interaction)
- A blog post is better suited for long-form content that generates mentions, social shares, forum discussions and blog comments, but not necessarily one-to-one interaction
Roundups on newsletter
With a newsletter, you really want to generate an immediate response, so unless you have public newsletter archives, it's important that your emails are impactful.
For example, say you interviewed a number of experts in the software industry – then, creating a series of emails on topics brought up by the experts (that you interviewed or from web resources) is a good idea.
You would be wise to assign no more than 3-4 experts per email, however – that will keep feeding readers' curiosity instead of one lengthy email that may be overwhelming to read.
Moz's Top 10 is a good example of email roundup, as Abbey Brown, marketing manager at FM Outsource, tells: “[they] are great at that – you can signup to get their ‘top ten' every other week on marketing news. I use it all the time, I don't have to be subscribed to anything else and these guys filter out the boring [or] irrelevant stuff for me. Love it.”
Roundups on blogpost
On the other hand, a blog post can contain all of your interviews or all the web resources you want to round up, making it a go-to resource on the topic.
Also, you could use email and blog post together and invite subscribers to participate in the discussion on a follow-up post on your blog that touches upon the main topics discussed in the emails.
As long as you keep a clear idea of what your goals are (and your newsletter goals may hugely differ from your blog's), you can get creative.
How to Boost Traffic with Roundups?
In 2015, Lori Soard wrote a great post on greeting visitors with different types of roundup or sneeze pages and I explained here how scheduling roundup emails can be a good idea to keep traffic up while a blogger's on vacation.
So you see – keeping traffic steady with roundups is not that difficult, after all, but the traffic you build with roundups needs to be nurtured to continue feeding the machine.
Here is how you can do it
- Get in touch with influencers – if your roundup contains authoritative resource or expert insight, they may be more willing to share your content
- Link to the roundup from other posts of yours – new posts, of course, but any relevant posts from your archives that still get plenty of traffic are good candidates
- For emails, you can share the roundup again at regular intervals, especially as you see new subscribers joining in
- Invite other experts to follow up on the roundup – you can use social media to do this, or email outreach; basically, what you want them to do here is to chime in with their considerations (and – why not – lay the foundation for a follow-up post or email)
- Share the article on sites like Inbound.org or GrowthHackers and syndicate it on Kingged to generate relevant traffic and discussion
Michael Herman, founder of Red Drop Digital and a 20+ year veteran in digital marketing, shares his strategy:
I worked with a client last year and we consistently drew traffic from the sources/influencers mentioned in the roundups. We gained the traffic because we used this process:
1. Follow the source on Twitter a week before their roundup mention goes live (and if they don't have an avid, active Twitter audience, likely pass on them as a source). The influencer [might] follow you back.
2. Send the influencer a direct message on Twitter, a day before the roundup post goes live, alerting them to the upcoming post featuring them and mentioning that you'll tweet the link in the morning.
3. Make sure to include the influencer's handle at the end of the tweet (example: Blog Post Title + shortened URL + 1-2 relevant hashtags + @InfluencersHandle
Tweet regularly about this post, targeting a variety of hashtags, but don't include the influencer's handle in every tweet about that post (mention their handle 2-3x/month to have the best chance at being retweeted each time.
Do this regularly for your other past roundups, and posts moving forward, for maximum effect, [and] do this for each of the sources mentioned in the post and you'll see your traffic numbers soar.
Bernard Meyer also agrees that notifying bloggers that you included in the roundup is a necessary step to take.
“I do not recommend doing it on Twitter, but instead send a simple email with a subject [like] ‘You’ve been included!' or some variation thereof. That way, they’ll likely send that out to their social media followers and you’ll get lots of great traffic from that.”
Integrate Roundups in Your Schedule
Whether it's a blog post or a newsletter, it's a good idea to schedule your roundup content on the month or week you know you will be busiest, since this type of content is less time consuming than a guide or a tutorial.
However, you don't want to make it look like lazy posting, so there are a few scheduling hacks you can use. Alina Vashurina, e-commerce marketer and blogger at Ecwid, shares her own:
We publish four posts per week, and of course, like to roundup. To do so we create at least 25 headlines as soon as the post is ready. From that 25 we pick 10-15 and schedule posts under different headlines in 7-8 months ahead.
Bernard Meyer, head of marketing at InvoiceBerry, says they “have lots of experience with roundups and have used them extensively as they drive lots of traffic” and shares his strategy:
We incorporate it in two ways: we have one weekly Friday roundup in which we list the best of the week’s news for small businesses and freelancers. The second is a twice-a-month roundup targeting various markets. Because we’re an invoicing software, we try to create related content.
Sarah Hayes, project manager at 21 Handshakes, uses Paper.li to create a roundup to send to newsletter subscribers:
We love how easy this curation tool makes it for a ‘newsletter'. It curates your own blog as well as any other sources you want to include in a newsletter format. When you become a pro member, you can have a dedicated URL. The format can be auto-shared to Twitter and it automatically includes thank-you's to contributors thus increasing reach. It can also be auto-shared to LinkedIn and Facebook – another way to save time and spread the news. Also, it provides codes if you would like cross-promote it on your blog as a ‘post', thus sending that to your subscriber base upon publish.
We love this tool. For a dedicated URL it does take some setup time, but once it is set up it is very easy to use and you can approve the ‘draft' before published, so you still have control over the content.
Take a good look at your blogging schedule and find the best spots for roundup content. Or you could do it like Lori Soard at WHSR: new month, roundup post with all the work we published the previous month.
Roundups Add Value with Minimal Investment
Unlike brand new content, roundups don't require as much time and energy and can result in a very high ROI with minimal investment – especially if you play your cards well.
Video and expert roundups are two of those ‘cards'.
Video roundups are a good idea if video content is what you do better.
We've been doing video roundups for a little while now, on and off, and they each have gone down really well with our audience. Readers/viewers have so little time to absorb all of the content that they're served, and if you're doing something helpful like providing summaries of their area of interest then they're going to love it. Even if you're rounding up content from other sources, you're building your own reputation and visibility because they'll come back to you the next time they just want to see the headlines.
The Experts You Choose
For roundups to be truly effective, you have to know what you're doing and who you are bringing in as the expert. Bernard Meyer explains that
roundups don’t take too much time, but it’s important who you’re rounding up. You probably won’t see much benefit from including really small bloggers with relatively few followers, nor would you gain much from including really big names that won’t care that they’ve been included. Go for the sweet middle, and you’ll see great returns in your traffic.
If you still want to give small and beginning bloggers a chance in your roundup, highlight their expertise from their past backgrounds, their stories, and the unique vision behind their blogs – that will give readers a reason for giving what they say a chance and read the roundup to the end.
Cornelia Klimek, inbound marketing manager at Voices.com, gives a detailed account how her company benefited from roundups:
When creating thoughtful content for our audience we will often seek to do a roundup of opinions and advice from third parties, especially when it's a topic we ourselves are not experts in. Doing this is a great way to get multiple vantage points on a subject, most notably if it's something that we didn't think of before. These posts are a great way to bubble up old content, quickly update it for the current year, and to open doors for trusted partners and customers to be heard and featured. We've done roundups for customer newsletters and our blog – which, down the road, impacts and influences more newsletters and the company's social media accounts – usually around industry best practices in order to better serve our clients.
From Roundups to Content Upgrades – A Strategy
The beauty of content marketing is that you can get creative, so here is an idea to experiment with: merging roundups and blog content curation to produce something new and effective.
It works like this:
- Select one or more posts from your archives that you want to upgrade
- Use expert roundups to expand upon the topics you wrote about in those posts
- Produce a ‘content upgrade'
Let's use a practical example.
Say you run a blog on software development practices and you have covered extreme programming tips and cases several times the past year (note: extreme programming is an agile methodology for software development that involves frequent releases).
Now you want to bring back those posts with new cases and tips as your experience in the field grew, but you also want to add more insight from the experience of other software developers and you already have a few names to reach out to for an interview.
You have two choices by this point:
- Write a follow-up post with the new cases and interviews, link to your old posts in it and update your old posts with a link back to this follow up to read the updates
- Create a free guide including the new cases and the roundup of expert interviews to make available for download on the old posts, with an appropriate CTA (e.g. “click here to find out what Expert X and Y have done to boost their extreme programming methods, plus a couple of new case studies from me”)
The second option sounds definitely more interesting for your blog, doesn't it?
We also have a guide at WHSR on how to increase your subscriber count with content upgrades, so you may want to use the CTA to encourage readers to subscribe. Bill Acholla, business blogger and an entrepreneur, also come up with an article to drive traffic, engagement and conversion with content writing strategy. You can use different types of writing strategies from Acholla to win your game.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Roundups are definitely easier to research and write than other types of content, but that doesn't translate into 5-minute work you do before going to bed.
Amanda Murray, content marketing specialist at seoplus+, warns against some ‘easy roads' you may take as you plan and build your roundup content:
“Roundups are a great source of content and expert input, but I’d caution against seeing them as easy roads to success.”
1. Getting Without Giving
“You have to provide something of value to the expert, whether it’s a backlink, exposure, a query that sparks their interest, or just a pleasant interview experience. Be respectful of the contributors and the assistance they are providing.”
2. Slapping Quotes and Links in the Post and Calling It a Day
“The contributors are providing the content, but you’ll still have to do lots of editing and pruning. Don’t just slap the responses into a blog post and call it a day. You’ll have better results if the post has some flow, the responses build off each other in some way, and all extraneous content is removed. Long-form content rocks, but it still has to be tight. Plus, a little effort in formatting goes a long way.”
3. Making Your Source Never Hear from You Again
“The real value in roundups is building outreach around them. Make sure you track the contact information for your contributors and reach out when the post is live, thanking them for the contributions and politely asking them to share with their network if so inclined. Depending on the number of contributors and the customizations you put into the outreach, this could take several hours. It’s worth every second, especially if you’re keen to build a network and reach out to these contacts again in the future.”
Michael Herman, founder of Red Drop Digital and a 20+ year veteran in digital marketing, says that “too many organizations create the roundup but fail to effectively alert the sources of their mention in the roundup,” which can be very damaging to relationships – you risk to never have them agree to be contacted again.
Last but not least,
4. Making Your Roundup Lazy and Irrelevant
Because roundups are so easy to write (especially if you don't know what to blog about), you may be tempted to put in less legwork to find relevant sources to interview or link to, and just pick a bunch of posts from your archives to recirculate without a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your roundup, or without a main theme.
This is not only a waste of time but a risky process that might drive readers away instead of encouraging them to engage and subscribe, and that will devalue your blog in the long run, as it becomes clear that there isn't always a plan behind the content you share.
You don't want to risk it.
You can publish a roundup as a blog post or an email, and it can be videos, blog posts, articles or expert quotes – all that matters is that you make sure is that readers won't just read it passively, but engage with it.
We saw that…
- The resources and experts you choose for your roundup make for the success or failure of your piece – choose wisely
- Your roundup piece must make sense to your readers and fall into the main theme of your blog or newsletter – help readers walk away with new knowledge and they'll love you more
- You have to mind your platform – your goals for your blog may differ from those for your newsletter, and the roundup content you publish must fit into that scheme
- Integrating roundup content in your platform is easy – pick your busiest week! Roundups are so easy to create that you won't have to spend a lot of time researching and writing
- Curating old content as a base to produce a case- and expertise-based content upgrade can benefit your blog and subscriber numbers
- Overall, roundup content contributes to the wholeness of your blog, potentially makes for a high ROI and saves you precious time
And we also saw how lazy way outs (from neglecting to thank sources for their time to producing ‘filler' content without value) are damaging to your blog's health and your reputation, and how there is no substitute for careful planning and love for your readers when it comes to roundup posts (and really any posts).
So – what's an effective roundup piece? It's one that helps you grow blog traffic, email subscribers and relationships with experts (interviewed or mentioned).
Was your last roundup post or email a success? Share your case with us on the WHSR social channels. We'd love to hear your story!