Western culture relies heavily on lists. Grocery lists, playlists, bucket lists, to-do lists. These lists are functional as they dictate how and when we’ll do something, and we often rely on them to map out our lives. (This stems from our desire for order and comprehensibility, says Italian philosopher Umberto Eco.)
What does this have to do with content distribution, you ask?
Well, there’s another type of list that has gained popularity over the last five years: the roundup article, widely referred to as a listicle. Listicles are lists of resources—commonly in blog post form and usually featuring added context—that share where and how to find or do something. Common examples include “9 ways to do this” or “12 places to find that.”
Most publications and blogs these days publish a lot of roundup articles or listicles and it’s clear why. They’re easy to digest, they offer a new perspective to your readership, and ideally, they drive traffic and help build relationships for your brand.
Imagine if only five influencers shared your roundup on their blog or social media site, driving 300 visitors each. And let’s say through past experience you know each traffic spike converts approximately 3-10% of visits to email signups. That’s 1,500 new visitors and up to 150 new email subscribers! Maybe more if you’ve delivered extraordinary content.
How do you get the right influencers to share or link to your content?
Simply linking to their site or dropping their name isn’t going to cut it. So let’s talk about how to drive traffic to your site and earn an optimal search ranking by effectively creating and distributing your roundup posts.
Distribution strategy starts before you type a word
Before you type one word for your roundup or listicle, you need to be aware that, like anything that gains rapid adoption and popularity, a stigma has developed around these types of articles. Thanks to sites like ClickHole and Upworthy, any post with a number in the title (think: “10 ways to…”) is written off as spammy more often than not.
However, there are exceptions.
Look at BuzzFeed. That site saw 189.3 million visits from January 2 – 31, 2016 alone. Even though the majority of their content is listicles, people read them because they’re funny, entertaining, interesting or relatable. Not every article is enlightening, but they’re enjoyable, which adds value for most people—the one factor necessary for content distribution effectiveness.
Graph from quantcast.com
After all, there are many different templates and strategies for effective distribution. However, these are all a moot point if you don’t add value to the reader. But you also need to add value to the people you source. Otherwise, the authors or experts you mention will assume you’re leveraging their name for your own brand awareness and they won’t want to help you. At that point, you’re wasting their time and yours.
To create an effective and valuable roundup for readers and sources alike then, it must contain these elements:
- Sourced articles with social proof (i.e. highly ranked, linked-to, and shared)
- Plural focus keyword (i.e. “Christmas decorating ideas)
- An odd-numbered headline (they’re 36% more likely to generate clicks)
- A short, keyword-only URL (they’re 2.5x more likely to generate clicks)
- High quality images in one format
- Easy readability (i.e. 16px font, bright images, 50-60 character lines, etc.)
Best practices for sourcing other authors
The people you sourced will be more likely to share your post if you add value to their original content and encourage your readers to visit their site. Think of it like karma.
Here are a few best practices to maximize your chances to pique interest:
- Include only one player in their niche (don’t include competitors)
- Add your own context to encourage readers to visit the original link (their site)
- Summarize the value of the sourced content
- Create your own visuals explaining the sourced content
Your optimal content distribution flow (with email templates)
There’s an optimal “flow” to content distribution which makes it more effective and prevents your from burning bridges. To create that flow, follow the steps below.
1. Pre-outreach Permission
Your first act of distribution is pre-outreach if you plan on curating content which utilizes photos. In other words, if you’re including someone’s photos, you need to ask permission.
If you don’t, you run the risk of receiving an angry takedown request once you do reach out. (If the content you plan on curating does not utilize photos, asking permission is not necessary, and you can skip to the next step.)
Here’s the template I use to ask for permission (and to gain their attention):
SUBJECT: NAME, want to highlight POSTNAME
Wanted to reach out to ask permission to highlight your POSTNAME on YOURWEBSITENAME by using your photo in addition to posting a link back to you. We really liked it! We won’t be stealing traffic or anything like that and will give you full attribution.
Just wanted to make sure that was OK – let me know!
2. Mentioned Outreach
One of the most obvious and yet overlooked distribution strategies is to reach out to the people mentioned in your posts. Some people may pick up your mentions through alerts, analytics, or elsewhere, but it’s not a certainty. With a personal touch email, on the other hand, this is a near-guarantee.
Email everyone you mention positively, including a sharing call-to-action, and you’ll receive lots of shares by default. Coupled with including influential people, curation has the power to greatly grow your audience!
In terms of workflow, I like doing this right after hitting publish. If your blog posts have share counts, it’s a great way to get moving on establishing social proof that your content is good and has value. Of course, it’s also an effective way of getting your content in front of the people sure to like it as well.
Here’s a template to use for your email outreach:
SUBJECT: NAME, we featured you in our latest post!
Wanted to reach out to let you know we included your POSTNAME on our recent post on SUBJECT. CUSTOMSENTENCE ABOUT CONTENT
You can see it here: http://www.website.com
If you like it, we would greatly appreciate if you considered sharing in some way. Thanks for reading and thanks again for the great content!
There are many tools out there that can assist with this process. If content curation and mentioned outreach are something you plan on doing at scale, ContentMarketer.io and BuzzStream are great add-ons to this process.
3. Reach out to previous distributors
Once you’ve reached out to the people you’ve sourced, it’s time to reach out to the people who’ve previously loved the content you’ve curated. Use BuzzStream to find the top sharers for that content and use Majestic and/or OpenSiteExplorer to see who linked to it. If you’ve done your job, this process is quick and easy because you can customize the email with what they shared previously and it scales up to everyone else who did the same.
Here’s an outreach template for this situation:
SUBJECT: ASSET for WEBSITE/NAME
I noticed you had previously shared NAME OF INCLUDED CONTENT, so I thought you might be interested in our recent post that not only includes that, but many other great resources like it as well!
You can see it here: http://www.website.com
If you like it, we’d greatly appreciate if you’d consider sharing it. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!
This should lead to several shares and links, potentially powering your site to first-page rankings if you’ve executed everything else correctly along the way.
Additional niche-specific distribution options
The above options aren’t the only options for distributing your content. They are, however, the only universal methods that usually make sense for anyone who does content curation (besides the obvious posting on social networks).
Other powerful tools that can help you get more distribution include:
- Submitting on relevant subreddits. Reddit is a great place to submit curated content as many roundup posts get thousands of visits if submitted in the right place. Try reverse engineering a topic that fits a high traffic subreddit for even greater impact.
- Paid advertising on StumbleUpon. With a well-written, widely targeted piece, you can easily see 10,000+ views from StumbleUpon for as little as $20. However, it’s recommended you only submit to this site with highly visual content.
- Reach out to highly-followed Pinterest board owners. Reach out to people curating highly followed boards on Pinterest to get your content included and see the benefit of that distribution.
- Cold outreach to relevant link roundups. Using tools like Link Prospector, you can uncover people sharing similar content in weekly or daily roundups. These are the targets most likely to link to your curated content.
- Try cold outreach to industry targets. Cold outreach generally doesn’t work as well with curated content, but if you’ve truly created something amazing, it’s possible to see success using this method. Use it sparingly, though, in case you have other, more relevant content to reach out to these prospects with.
One final tip and an infographic
Including links and making your content shareable will help increase your own social proof and generate more traffic. That said, the most valuable thing that distribution will bring you is relationships.
Be casual. Get to know the people you’re contacting. As you do, ask them how you can help them. Keep the conversation going.
Think of your content as merely a conversation starter. The real value is having another friend, a partner in the industry who maybe one day will become an advocate for you and your brand.
About the Author: Ross Hudgens is the Founder of Siege Media, a content marketing agency that specializes in SEO. He is a frequent speaker on the marketing circuit, including talks at MozCon, SMX Advanced, and Seattle Interactive.