Roundup Posts

// // February 26th 2015 // Marketing + Rant

I’m increasingly conflicted about roundup posts. You know, the kind where 23 experts answer one burning question and their answers are all put together in one long blog post. Instant content! I don’t produce roundup posts, rarely read them and infrequently contribute to them.

Roundup Dynamics

Silence of the Lambs Quid Pro Quo

The dynamics of a roundup post are pretty clear. The person aggregating the answers gets what is essentially free content for their site. Yes, I know you had to email people and potentially format the responses but the level of effort isn’t particularly high.

In exchange, the person providing the answers gets more exposure and gains some authority by being labeled an expert. Even better if your name is associated with other luminaries in the field. It’s an interesting and insidious form of social proof.

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

Leo DiCaprio You're Awesome

It feels good to be asked to participate in roundup posts. At least at first. You’ve been selected as an expert. Talk about an ego boost!

The beauty of it is that there will always be people who want that recognition. So even if some tire of participating there is a deep reservoir of ego out there ready to be tapped. No matter what I think or write I’m certain we’ll continue to see roundup posts.

I still prefer individual opinion and thought pieces. I like when people step out on the ledge and take a stand one way or the other. Even if I disagree with you, I recognize the effort invested and bravery displayed.

Saturation Marketing Works

Times Square Advertising

I’m a marketer with an advertising background. I know saturation marketing works. So participating in roundup posts seems like a smart strategy. People see your name frequently and you’re always being portrayed in a positive light.

No matter where people turn they’re running into your name and face and you’re being hailed as an expert. Whoo-hoo! What’s wrong with that?

What’s The Frequency Kenneth?

How good is the content in these roundup posts? How much effort are these experts expending? I’m sure some spend a good deal of time on their contribution, if for no other reason than the desire to have the most insightful, provocative or humorous entry. I can’t be alone in thinking this way.

But at some point, as the number of requests rises (and they will since success begets success), you may realize that it’s just about the contribution. Showing up is 90% of the game. It’s not that the responses are bad, but they’re more like off-the-cuff answers than well thought out responses.

Remember Sammy Jankis

Memento Tattoo

Of course, I’m always thinking about how these contributions are being remembered. In a large roundup post is my name and contribution going to be remembered? I somehow doubt it. At least not the specifics.

So the only thing I really gain is installing (yes I do think of the brain like software) the idea of expertise and authority in a larger group of people. Because if you see my name enough times you’ll make those connections.

That’s powerful. No doubt about it.

Why So Serious?

Heath Ledger Joker

I ask myself why I bristle at roundup posts. Why am I increasingly reticent to contribute given my understanding of the marketing value? Am I somehow sabotaging my own success?

All too often I feel like roundup posts don’t deliver enough value to users. The content is uneven and often repetitive from expert to expert, exacerbating scanning behavior. It’s content that makes me go ‘meh’.

I might be dead wrong and could be committing the cardinal sin of marketing by relying on myself as the target market. Yet I don’t think I’m alone. I’ve spoken to others who skip these posts or, worse, have a dim view of those contributing.

Bud Light or Ruination IPA

Beer vs Beer

The top selling beer in the US last year was Bud Light. For many, achieving Bud Light status is the pinnacle of success. The thing is … I don’t want to be Bud Light. Or more to the point, I don’t provide services that match the Bud Light audience.

Lets see if I can express this next part without sounding like a douchebag.

I don’t run a large agency. I’m not in the volume business. Many of my clients are dubious of the public discourse taking place on digital marketing. They rely on their professional networks to connect them to someone who can make sense of it all and sort fact from fiction. Because, and here’s the hard truth, they don’t really believe all those people are experts.

My clients are those who crave a deliciously bitter Ruination IPA. And the way to find and appeal to those people is different. Budweiser spent gobs on Super Bowl advertising. Stone Brewing? Not so much.

So, I’m left thinking about the true meaning of authority and expertise. It’s subjective. Obviously a lot of people dig Bud Light. That’s cool. But that’s not my audience. I’m seeking authority from a different audience.

Roundup Posts

Roundup Posts

I’ll still participate in roundup posts from time to time, though I may have just shot myself in the foot with this piece. I’m inclined to contribute to posts that cover a topic I might not normally write about or to site that has a different audience.

My goal is to ensure I maintain some visibility, without going overboard, while securing authority with new audiences that match my business goals. Your business goals might be different, so contributing to lots and lots of roundup posts might be right up your alley.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with roundup posts as a part of your content marketing strategy. But you should understand whether this tactic reaches your target market and aligns with your business goals.

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Comments About Roundup Posts

// 35 comments so far.

  1. Cory Collins // February 26th 2015

    Left a really long comment but WP ate it? Thought I’d check in to see it’s in there before writing it again.


  2. AJ Kohn // February 26th 2015

    Sorry Cory. I don’t see it. And I hate when that happens.

  3. Jesse Stoler // February 26th 2015

    So I’m reminded of a segment Jon Oliver did not too long ago about the marketing of pharmaceutical drugs. Pharma reps will persuade wavering docs into giving speeches for their drugs by labeling them as “thought leaders.” It’s egobait to the nth power. This is troubling because we want to be able to look at our doctors and trust that they are giving us unbiased medical advice. Hey, I don’t have med school training, but my doc sure does.

    There’s nothing wrong with egobait, imo. My team for the site I work for has indeed put together roundups. I think the most important thing to consider is who you are propping up to be a “thought leader.” In fact, if you have to throw “ “ around thought leader as I just did, that person should not be given such a status via roundups. A good, productive roundup is good both for your readers AND for future relationship building. If you’re just looking for anybody to be a thought leader, that’s not providing valuable content or bettering the online experience at large: that’s just using people to produce fashionable content.

    Just as with anything, think of your audience first. Are you REALLY giving them expert opinions, or are you just using your audience to rub elbows with your influencers? If it’s the latter, you risk alienating your audience once they realize your definition of thought leader is corruptible.

  4. AJ Kohn // February 26th 2015

    Thank you for the great comment Jesse. I think some of the roundups are good, particularly if the selection criteria is more … stringent. As you say, you don’t want to actively prop up people because of your own content needs.

    I also think there needs to be a balance of roundup posts to other posts. I’d also love for the site doing the roundup to have a ‘take’ on the topic and not simply sit as the panel moderator.

    This post is really me wrestling with this tactic. My reaction lately has been largely negative and I’m trying to determine why. Sometimes it’s the sheer number. Do I really want to read 37 different answers to the same two questions? They wind up reading a lot like listicles. Then again, those can be pretty popular. Sometimes it’s the same people popping up over and over. Where are the fresh voices?

    But there are a lot of different pathways to success. That’s sort of what I’m teasing out here. So while I may not rush to respond to every roundup request that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t.

  5. Dave Denis // February 26th 2015

    The key takeaway for me was that roundups should probably best be used to reach NEW audiences. And I do agree, often I read over roundups and wonder who some of those people are and whether they are “legit” but I can be persuaded to learn more about them based on their contribution.

  6. AJ Kohn // February 26th 2015

    Thanks for the comment Dave. I think appearing in roundups is still a good way to remain visible to your core audience. You just don’t want to be the guy who’s always guest starring on Hollywood Squares. #datingmyself

    But connecting to a new audience is a great goal and that new audience can then evaluate you based on your contribution and hopefully click to explore the content on your own site.

  7. Matt McGee // February 26th 2015

    Don’t you think “insidious” is a bit of an overstatement, AJ? I mean … we’re talking about marketing blog posts here.

  8. AJ Kohn // February 26th 2015

    It’s funny Matt, that was one of my last edits to this piece. While the topic isn’t exactly ‘save-the-world’ type of stuff, I think the psychological impact of being featured in this way is sometimes pretty profound. In the last month I’ve seen instances where ‘expert’ content was grossly wrong. I’m not here to out anyone. But the information inequality in this field (between practitioners and clients) is so wide that people rely more heavily on these third-party references.

    Not only does it impact the reader, but it does something to the contributors as well. I try very hard not to get caught up in the ego game. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Everyone likes that attention and a certain degree of fame can be a tempting lure. Insidious? Yeah, I think it can be.

  9. Kane Jamison // February 26th 2015

    3 comments as someone else who received 30 of these requests last year, and sent a serious response to 10-12…

    1 – Saturation is the best label I’ve heard for why I’m still willing to participate in these, and why you still see someone like Rand answering these.

    2 – The roundup is no different than the “guest blog”. The good roundups are still good, but they’re being surrounded by crap that A) has already been done 5 times, B) is barely written in English, or C) shows an obvious misunderstanding of the topic. I decided to ignore most of those last year, but still chip in on roundups where the question hasn’t been asked yet and the website doesn’t look like a joke.

    3 – Like everything else that suddenly gets templated, this is an SEO industry problem. They still work fine in most other industries as long as you maintain quality and avoid A/B/C from above.

  10. AJ Kohn // February 26th 2015

    Thank you Kane! You just said a lot of what was in my head but didn’t make it on the page.

    Saturation can definitely be valuable and Rand is the ambassador for Moz and can lend instant credibility to a roundup post, of which – as you note – he does many. In short, his contributions absolutely align with his business goals.

    I agree that this is less of an issue in other industries (outside of marketing, SEO and social), where there isn’t such a rush to mine the latest tactic like some version of fracking. #oklahomaearthquakes

    Want to hear something funny. I feel bad saying yes to some and no to others. Sure, some are easy to say no to but other times I wonder if I’m just being a snob. Sometimes a big site might provide more exposure yet middling quality while an upcoming site might be delivering more value. It makes it hard for me to choose and then the deadline passes.

  11. Kane Jamison // February 26th 2015

    “Other times I wonder if I’m just being a snob.”

    My policy is that If they’re not clever enough to come up with a new angle and question, or their site is too ugly to associate myself with, screw ’em.

    But, the small publishers are also the next industry up-and-comers, so I won’t use “DA” or audience metrics in my personal decision, as long as the topic and their site design both look good. Naturally, some of these I just get too busy to respond to, but if they were good otherwise I usually follow up and say “Hey sorry I missed this but have been too busy – feel free to try me again on the next one.”

  12. AJ Kohn // February 26th 2015

    We’re on the same page Kane. I probably just vacillate more than you do and wind up sending a lot more of those ‘sorry’ responses.

  13. Cory Collins // February 26th 2015

    Brilliant post as ever AJ. I’ve seen quite a bit of this sentiment floating around the SEO industry lately. Let me play devil’s advocate for a second.

    If you were new to the industry, or simply looking to educate yourself more, would you rather read heaps and heaps of published material across personal and professional blogs, or would you rather read a handful of round ups/group interviews featuring a multitude of industry experts?

    I actually really enjoy round ups and interviews just for this reason – they’re a nice snapshot of industry consensus as well as discovering who is who.

    And if the content is “meh” – well, so much the better for the person looking to better understand an industry. Makes it easier to weed the bud lights from the craft beer, so to speak.

    I really like interviews because they tend to reveal more of the real person than typical writing. There’s a surrender of sorts when you have answer someone else’s questions, and don’t have the time and space to structure your own internal dialogue, answering each potential counterpoint. Just state what you believe, and why you believe it, along with a handful of other experts.

    I know people are becoming jaded when it comes to interviews and round ups. But my honest opinion is we should keep doing them as an industry. They’re a worthwhile format, regardless of everything. They create a sense of community, and have so much potential.

    I’m not blind to the downsides. But I think to completely avoid them altogether would be a mistake.

    That was more or less my first comment – although much less eloquent, particularly since the first one is unrecoverable, heh.

  14. AJ Kohn // February 27th 2015


    Thanks for your comment and rebuttal. I think my concern for people new to the industry is that when presented with a list of 23 experts they can’t assess whether the content provided is truly good or not. In addition, just because a majority of people agree doesn’t make them right.

    Depending on the cast of experts you might come to the conclusion that Google used Google Analytics data as a signal or that Google has a bias towards brands. So even if there were a few voices of reason on that list if you’re going by majority rules you could be led down the wrong path.

    No question that sometimes you can find a good collection of experts where the collective wisdom provides value. But I’m not seeing a lot of that lately. And the format overall troubles me in some ways because of the potential for repetition, which creates odd scanning behavior.

    I recall having to do this type of assessment when I first got into the industry. I’d read pieces by different folks and I began to figure out which ones I thought were worth listening to and engaging with versus others. I think the effort to find those people and understand the perspective and knowledge each conveyed helped my own growth.

  15. Boyan Sabev // February 27th 2015

    Hey AJ,

    Here is a reason to hate round-ups:

    It makes you a corrupt like link exchanges!

    Its really manipulative too, like you said people think they have been chosen. Then they share the shallow post or even link it. That’s what’s genius about this technique and also what is evil about it!

    Its guest blogging on steroids.

    The people who made this technique very popular (same people who got forced to figure out a replacement for guest blogging) are geniuses.

  16. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015


    Yes! I didn’t even get into the pressure exerted on contributors to share the roundup. For some I’m sure they’re jumping at the chance to promote that roundup because it’s a bit of self-promotion. For others, I think they sometimes look at the result and do it out of some form of responsibility or guilt.

    I think it’s also why we see the number of people included in each roundup going up. What better way to get more eyeballs on your site by having 30+ people Tweeting and (self) promoting that piece of content.

    Perhaps that’s part of my distaste for it all. Here are all these people doing the marketing for some other site. Kudos to the site but … who’s really benefiting from the equation?

  17. Jason Quey // February 27th 2015

    Great insight AJ.

    Personally, I see these to be helpful for those with an audience that wants to learn about an industry, but doesn’t know who to follow.

    What would you want to see different from an expert list that would make you interested in participating?

    For myself, I’d want to see that the person has done some research to demonstrate knowledge of me, of why I should make the list, etc.

  18. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015


    Thanks for your comment. I think I’d want to see far fewer people in each round-up and probably more of a response from each of them. Too often it’s a few sentences from 20+ experts and I don’t particularly think that provides much insight into who someone new to the industry should follow or not follow.

  19. Tom // February 27th 2015

    Some nice points Cory. I tend toward AJ’s point of view, but that gave me some good food for thought on the value of those posts.

    “The thing is … I don’t want to be Bud Light.”

    That resonates. Reminds me of one day when my wife said “But everybody [does something]” and I said “Well, if I were everybody, I’d need a way bigger apartment.”

    Anyway, I find with most round table posts that I get sucked in by the title and lose interest very quickly. For many years when people were saying that 500-700 word articles were the Google sweet spot, I was always noticing that my most successful posts (in terms of comments, links, page views) were usually on the order of 2000-3000 words and the vast majority of posts I link to are over 1000 words.

    While it’s true that the roundup posts are often in that range or even longer, they are in essence a collection of 300-400 word posts assembled onto one page.

    I have found that solving hard problems takes time to assemble information and develop and argument or outline a process.

    I will say that the variance will be greater. Lots of long form essays will be crap and a few will be amazing, whereas the roundup posts will typically have a few worthwhile nuggets but never be amazing.

  20. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015


    Thank you very much for your comments and insight. They really dovetail with my own thoughts on the subject. I do suspect that there is a ‘more is better’ philosophy around many of these roundups. The thinking is that if they can get 150 words from 20 people then they’ve suddenly got over 2,000 words!

    But like you say, the sum of the parts does not equal the whole. And you hit the nail on the head with the idea that it takes time to tease out a problem or question. I think there are some worthwhile nuggets in roundup posts but I also fear that many miss them because they lose interest before getting to them.

  21. Miles Rossow // February 27th 2015

    In response to Cory Collins’ comment:

    You asked if one were new to the industry if they’d rather read individuals’ blogs or roundup posts. I would prefer reading the guides put out by *major* authorities. I believe it’s important to avoid getting lost in the fray too much from the get-go of one’s career.

    Anywho, there’s pretty much always something better you could easily find to spend your time reading instead of a roundup post.

    Nit-picky point: AJ never said he dislikes interviews (right?). He’s specifically talking about roundup posts.

  22. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015


    Correct. I think interviews are a different beast and can often be very powerful. You often learn about a person’s philosophy or approach to things through an interview and that can help you evaluate their content moving forward.

    In addition, you get to know that person better outside of the box of ‘industry’. This is something I believe most people miss or dismiss. Personality is a huge part of the equation.

  23. Andrew Broadbent // February 27th 2015

    Hi Aj ,

    Another thoughtful and entertaining post, it is funny you brought the bud light comparison and how much they spend on the Super Bowl advertising especially, I am now doing marketing for a experiential event planning agency and i wrote a post about Bud Light and the experiential Marketing activation’s they are doing at the past few Super Bowls. And I agree with you, but my personal favorite is the Stone IPA. Thanks again AJ.

  24. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015


    That’s the thing. Bud Light can spend that type of money and their market is … everyone. So it makes sense. They sell an ‘experience’ or ‘lifestyle’. The experience Stone Brewing sells is exactly what’s in the bottle.

  25. Charity Stebbins // February 27th 2015

    I really enjoyed this post! Wincing a bit because we just asked you to do one for Conductor 😉

    I think the reason I typically bristle at round up posts myself is that they are so formulaic. And it feels like the formula is Roundup post + Assortment of people with perceived clout = Marketing bump. It kind of feels like an ego boost — but it can feel so impersonal. You feel very much like a means to an end.

    Obviously I’m not against ALL round up posts myself. We should keep experimenting with different ways to coalesce many voices.

    Thanks AJ!

  26. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015

    Thanks Charity and don’t wince too hard. I referenced one of Conductor’s roundup posts (that I contributed to) as a positive example. But you hit the nail on the head with the formulaic comment and that they feel like a means to an end.

    One of the things that I think might be interesting is a roundup that focuses on asking questions or follow-ups on an expert’s post. So instead of the site asking a serious of questions and asking the experts to response it’s the site referencing an expert post and getting clarification on it or asking a follow-up question.

    This is infinitely more work for the site, but it shows that they’ve read the content and have meaningful thoughts and questions about it. Of course you’d have to select a theme to unify it but I think that format might be intriguing.

  27. Dennis Seymour // February 27th 2015

    Hi AJ!

    Since I am still building my name/brand in the space, it’s hard to say no to these roundup emails. But it go to a point where there are now 100++ experts in one post. It’s ridiculous so I just say no to those.

    I’d love to be part of those that do unique angles though and those that are not always the same question for each expert. :)

    BTW, if you have time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my latest blog post. I’d love to keep improving.

    Hope you are doing well!

  28. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015


    I totally get how being a part of these as you’re building your personal brand can be tempting and, at times, effective. What I’d say is to continue to earn authority through your content until the requests start coming from the types of outlets that can better benefit your brand.

    My one piece of advice for your content is to increase the font size. You’re using a very wide content area (850px) that, according to the Golden Ratio of Typography, would benefit from a 18px font size. I think the content will become a lot more readable as a result.

    Thanks for your comment and well wishes.

  29. Neil Ferree // February 28th 2015

    I feel the same way about SME roundups as well as 55 TOOL roundups, albeit there have been those roundups that proved to be useful, but for the most part, they are few and far between. In most cases, its the “usual suspects” ergo; the Top 20 SMM people to follow on Pinterest or FB and who has time to test drive 55 SEO tools these days?

  30. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015

    Couldn’t agree more Neil. There’s absolutely a ‘who has time for this?’ reaction when I see these huge roundups. No doubt they get shared but I often think it’s the perception of value (more = better) than real value.

    One of the more interesting types of roundups I’ve seen are the ‘new voices’ type of roundups where a current authority identifies the new content and people they’re discovering.

  31. Alan Bleiweiss // March 01st 2015

    Ha! You’ve made great points all around AJ…

    I participate in a couple / maybe three a year. I don’t like to go overboard because it really is a “pick and choose carefully” process when I do participate. Mostly when I have a strong opinion on a topic I feel needs to be repeated to a new audience, though sometimes I even avoid those simply because my senses are heightened that the post request implied it’s got more “ego-drive” intent than “serve real readers” intent.

    Here’s one for you – how about the one where you’re asked to answer a complex series of in-depth questions – to be used in a college course curriculum? From the “teacher” of the course – someone who you’ve heard speak and you were like “holy crap this is crap content”, and you think “OMG this guy is looking to get experts to create his course for him? I vomited at that email request.

    And he even sent out two follow-ups when I never responded to the 1st. Now THAT is epic.

  32. AJ Kohn // March 01st 2015

    Thanks Alan. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s ‘spidey-sense’ goes off on some of these requests. Your point about motivation rings true to me. I am more apt to respond if I believe there’s a real sense that the site wants to explore that topic to serve their readers versus a simple ‘ego-bait post will drive traffic’ perspective.

    As you mention, sometimes you get the sense that some of the requests are really just a ploy to get others to do their work. #notcool

  33. Boyan Sabev // March 02nd 2015


    It is not only the pressure. Sharing, Linking and Plus-ing your followers is considered a best practice. Smart marketers often ping the autors of the posts they share on google+ for instance, which often will result in a share or plus from the author.

    Not sure I like this, since it contributes to the “circle jerk” mentality we often find in online marketing. You can literally notice when a brand or noteworthy person moves you from the “fan” column to the “undesirebles” column in his excel file and stops engaging or sharing your content, once you start criticizing too openly 😉

    What I always liked about the internet is the perceived anonymity, which encourages blunt and direct feedback. We can never learn as fast from people who are afraid to critisize us IRL.

  34. Scott Nickels // March 11th 2015

    AJ –

    Excellent post! I avoid reading all the ’roundups’ as well.

    I can’t wait to buy you a Ruination IPA! Or, perhaps an Arrogant Bastard! 😉

  35. AJ Kohn // March 12th 2015

    Thanks Scott and a Ruination or Arrogant Bastard sounds delicious!

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