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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-goodImage 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-badImage 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-uglyImage 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.”

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I’m wondering if there are any good carnivals for the Home Improvement industry and if not one of these days I may start one.

  2. Do you think that blog carnivals are useful to your readers? I have always ignored post that simply have links to interesting articles.


  3. I’ve read a little about blog carnivals, but never participated in one, or even considered hosting one. After reading your article, I’ll have to take a serious look at this. It sounds like something I’d enjoy doing.

    Thanks for the idea……………………:)

  4. First, I have to say I’m probably going to have nightmares because of the clown photos you chose for “bad” and “ugly”. How about calling them “evil” and “decomposing”!

    Second, dang. I was going to start a blog carnival for short fiction but now people will think I got the idea from Problogger. Either that, or great minds think alike and a blog carnival would be really “relevant” right now. I’ll go with that one.

    Seriously, thank you for an informative post and for outlining the do-and-don’t of blog carnival-ing.

  5. When you write:

    “When you host a carnival, every single one of those articles should hypothetically be promoted by each blogger that’s featured”

    What do you mean, that for every submission you post, the original author will link to your carnival? In my experience as a submitter and carnival host, that rarely happens.

    Also in my experience, I think the golden days of blog carnivals are behind them. I never really read them. When I submit articles to them, I notice they hardly send any traffic. When I hosted one, I got very few quality submissions. It was like the best writers didn’t need to use them, so I got the leftovers.

    If you do write good content though, submitted to them is a pretty easy way to get some free links.

  6. My first time knowing this “Blog Carnival” stuff.hehe Looks like it is not a small thing that can be accomplished in a short time. But its worth trying. Thanks for sharing.hehe

  7. I just hosted one & can say that this post is on the money. Good guidelines. One thing I’d add is personalize it, i.e., make it unique & colorful, and value-added. I did pretty much what you’re suggesting. It was rewarding despite the work & samples of ugly writing.

    I also solicited content from my network & didn’t rely only on the automated submission most carnivals have.

    Mine was on Health & Personal Development. Take a look: Carnical of Healing #177

  8. Funny you should mention this. Last week we began taking submissions for our own “Post with the Most” competition on our fledgling Blog Tom Paine’s Ghost. for a description of the competition see the following link. http://www.tompainesghost.com/2009/02/post-with-most-on-tom-paines-ghost_23.html
    My friend and I began this blog a year and a half ago but really only began to take it seriously last fall. We are biochemistry grad students at Colorado State University. It has been such an invigorating experience learning how the blogosphere works. Thanks for your great input here on problogger. I like the positive reinforcement and the reality checks. Blogging is the new crackberry and we all need to keep life in balance.

  9. I agree hosting a blog carnival is A LOT OF WORK! But when DONE RIGHT, it can bring a lot of traffic as well :)

  10. I participate in a weekly carnival that’s focused on sharing “set lists” from a music coordinator’s perspective. We’ve got a bunch of music ministers, “worship” leaders, church folk, musicians in church bands, etc. posting away.

    The carnival is probably the most effective way of connecting people, not only to the host of the carnival itself, but also of the participants. I’ve met and made great new friends with similar interests (and jobs) by participating in this particular one.

    If I’m not mistaken, we’ve run for about 32 weeks straight now (weekly posts).

    Thanks for ths post today, very informative, and a confirmation that a blog carnival, if used properly in a solid niche, can drive traffic and create connection.

  11. A great post!!
    It would be a nice idea to host a carnival.

    It is also a great opportunity to send some good traffic to bloggers who have good content but relatively low traffic.

  12. Hello,

    somehow I miss a short introduction of what a “blog carnival” ist in the first place. I have no idea…

  13. Those clowns are down right creepy.

  14. I’ve never gotten into the blog carnival thing. I tried submitting to a couple and was published a few times, but I seem to get much better results if I write guest posts and just keep working on my own blog. I think a lot really depends on your niche.

    A+ on creepiness with those photos…those images will be stuck with me for a while! ;-)

  15. I’ve seen a lot of positive things with giveaway carnivals.

    You set up an automated tool (mr. linky) that user can submit their link and a 3 word title telling what they’re giving away.

    I participated in one of these last year and there were literally thousands of people who submitted a link. And as one of the giveaway blogs listed, I got upwards of 800-900 visitors in the first day.

  16. I agree with ‘Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy’ those photos are pretty scary.

    Good post though, an interesting idea but I can imagine that things could get out of hand pretty quickly if the carnival wasn’t carefully monitored.

    Kind of worrying the kind of stuff that could get posted if the lease wasn’t tight enough

  17. I’ve participate several carnivals and didnot get much traffic. It seems to me that this field is not as active as before and most participaters are new bloggers who are as eager as you on growing their own traffic …

    well, it does build some permanent inlinks for you.

  18. I used blog carnivals a few times but they did not bring in many visitors. I have noticed that mostly visitors stick when they are sent from the search engines.

  19. I haven’t heard much positive from carnivals.. other than the fact that they build links to your blog.. Maybe that helps..

  20. I’ve hosted a few, included the Carnival of Personal Finance which is huuuge! It’s a lot of work and dedication. I usually don’t expect to get much sleep the night I’m putting it together.

    But you get a lot of links back to you! If you are hosting the right carnival. And a lot of those links back will link to not only link to the carnival article you wrote but also to your home page. And a % of the participants will most likely subscribe to your RSS as well (potential to have your article linked to in the future).

    It’s a great way to get exposure to sites who wouldn’t otherwise know you existed.

  21. Totally agree: it’s a lot of work and the payoff isn’t glorious. But I disagree about not providing readers with something useful/entertaining. Most carnivals have turned into long lists of posts. Basically just people looking for links and others giving them those links.

    But that makes it easier for those of us actually trying to run useful carnivals—it’s easier to stand out.

    As for the creepy pics, make sure to check out the photographers’ sites, they’re the ones doing all the work.

  22. I have tried to host one a few times, but I kept getting submissions that has no relevance to the subject at hand. I think I will try again!

  23. This post has started a frenzy of activity in my brain, but the pictures of the clowns have me terrified – ha! I have never hosted a carnival, but am bookmarking this page for when I do, to avoid any headaches. Thanks!

  24. I agree, hosting blog carnivals is a lot of work, and there’s a lot of junk out there. You don’t want any junk on your blog, but then again, you don’t want to offend too many people in your niche by rejecting their posts. It does get you some permanent links, but I reckon writing/updating quality posts will be the safer bet in the long run than hosting blog carnivals.

    Though I guess it won’t hurt to submit a few posts to some blog carnivals. When I was still hosting them, I had some bloggers submit to the carnival regularly.
    Thanks for the nice post, Darren.



  25. I wish to hold a blog carnival but as you said it is a lot hard work. I got my lesson (for the first time) before doing the thing and I will do carnivals on my blogs but not now. First of all I need some stable traffic and then I need by carnival to be the greatest of all so that’s what holding me. I will first try to become a better writer and know more about carnivals and then I will post carnivals on my blog.
    Mohammad Afaq
    Free Website Traffic

  26. Honestly speaking I never read so much detailed article. This is the only place from where we will be able to get such quality articles.

    I am just waiting to see more and more people came to my blog than I would love to start this kind of carnival with some twist which will announce my name all over .. :)

  27. Yeah blog carnivals are a great work, but hosting them is a very tiring task as you have to go through all the posts. But these tips sound good.

  28. I never thought about a blogging carnival. Now that i know i still cant think anything much about it. Its something which wont work with ease and you need a very successful blog to spread the word about the carnival.

  29. It’s certainly a small world when the author of one of the few feeds I follow (The Writer’s Coin) guest posts on a seemingly unrelated one that I also follow (problogger.net). The Writer’s Coin is certainly worth checking out, not only for the quality personal finance advice, but also for the way the author uses creative writing to make his blog a more enjoyable reading experience. I suspect many blogs would benefit from following a similar approach.

  30. I’ve never heard of the word “carnival” in terms of a blog round-up, but it creates a more festive feel than what you’re describing! I’ve never considered hosting one because they do seem like an extraordinary amount of work, but I suppose the pay-out can be worth it. Thanks for the food for thought!

  31. Nice article, funny I was going to get back in to Blog carnivals next week when I had the time. I love adding my posts to other peoples carnivals and I frequently create lists of articles for my readers however I add the articles myself.

  32. I’ve never hosted a carnival but I participate in several each week. Mommy Bloggers LOVE carnivals.

    Almost all of them are held via a Mr. Linky. You just leave your name and url of the post you want to link to – similar to leaving a comment without the comment. The host doesn’t have to read each post unless she wants to.

    I can see how approving each post would be a lot of work. I’m not sure I’m up for that yet.

  33. People still do blog carnivals? I haven’t seen one in forever… well, years at least :)

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