04 March 2009

Blogging Tips : Blog Carnivals Are Great, Hosting Them is Better

The Writer blogs about money and writing at The Writer’s Coin. His goal is to become the Michael Lewis of the personal-finance world—always writing something interesting and entertaining. That’s his goal, anyway.

top-image Image by meagen

You can’t read a post or a blog about “being a better blogger” without some mention of carnivals. They’re a great way of getting your stuff out into the world and creating links that point back to your site.

It’s a win-win and it takes virtually no time or energy to submit to them.

But what about hosting a carnival? Can it also deliver a lot of bang for very little buck?

Not quite.

Hosting a carnival is a LOT of work. You have to read ALL of the submissions that are sent in by hopeful writers looking to expand their footprint on the web. You’ll also have to sift through some junk in order to weed out the good from the bad. And the ugly…

The Good

the-good Image by x-eyedblone

We’ve all seen carnival posts before, it’s usually a long list of articles that all rally around one central premise or theme. From “Saving Money” to “Blogging About Monkeys,” it seems like there’s a topic out there for everyone.

Notice I said “long list of articles.” When you host a carnival, every single one of those articles should hypothetically be promoted by each blogger that’s featured. So instead of getting one link back to your site (which is what happens when you submit a post to a carnival if it gets picked), you can get as many as you like.

That’s not entirely true—you get as many as you’re willing to weed through and publish on your page. And that can turn out to be a very big number. But that means you’ll have a ton of sites pointing back to yours…which is great.

It’s lots of bang for lots of buck.

The Bad

the-bad Image by daveiam

Let’s not kid ourselves—it’s a lot of work. Making a carnival unique and interesting for your readers takes a lot of time and energy. No one said it would be easy, right?

When I hosted the Money Hacks Carnival (which was my first carnival), I had no idea what I was getting into. I checked to see how many posts there were a couple days before it was to go live and my stomach dropped. Wow. I wasn’t sure I had time to read all of them, let alone choose my favorites.

You’ll have to get yourself organized and prepared in order to do it right. That means gradually making your way through the submitted posts instead of leaving it all for the last minute.

And coming up with a theme or concept that ties all the posts together to make the whole thing an enjoyable read can get pretty complex when you have a lot of articles to post. But the more time you have, the better off you’ll be.

The Ugly

the-ugly Image by Spider.Dog

There’s a lot of bad writing out there. There are a lot of spammers out there. Some people will submit anything, regardless of what your carnival is about. The carnival I started on The Writer’s Coin is called Comics and Cents, and the idea is to write something funny and entertaining about personal finance, but I’ve gotten submissions for really detailed posts about refinancing your home and tips to cut your budget.

Useful? Sure. Funny? Not in the way I was intending. Expect a good amount of the submissions to have absolutely nothing to do with what you asked for.

This is the frustrating part, but hosting a carnival can still pay off big time by driving new readers to your site and getting tons of links back to you. It can also turn into a really useful compilation of info/entertainment for your reader.

Some Tips

  • Be picky: Don’t publish every single thing that’s submitted. It will lessen the quality of the carnival, and no one wants to read a post that has links to 70 different articles (unless you can keep my attention).
  • Promote: Don’t just post it and forget about it because you’re getting your linkbacks and you’ve done a ton of work. Spread the word and drive some traffic. It’s good PR for your site and your carnival.
  • Be creative: Say something about each post you’re accepting. It can just be a line or two, but give your readers an intro and make it clear you’ve read through every one you accepted.
  • Keep your readers in mind: Would they find this informational/entertaining? When picking articles for Comics and Cents, I’m terrified of picking something that will be greeted with “Eh, not funny.” Keep your readers in mind.
  • Be prepared: Give yourself time. Go through the articles bit by bit before the deadline hits. It’ll give you time to do all of the above and make it a great carnival.
  • Start your own: It takes even more time and promotion that just hosting an existing carnival. But if you create something unique that people are into, it’ll be even more valuable for your readers. My Comics and Cents Carnival doesn’t get a lot of traffic right now, but people appreciate that I’m publishing personal finance stories that are funny right now. Blog Carnival is a great place to create your own carnivals.

Hosting a carnival is just another tool at our disposal when it comes to broadening our blog’s audience and giving them some valuable content that they’ll keep coming back for. It also helps with backlinks, traffic, and SEO.

So, yes, it’s a ton of work and there’s a lot you need to keep in mind. But as they say, “Hostin’ ain’t easy.”


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