How to Write Rockstar Content

Rockstar Finance is known for picking the very best and most unique content available in the money blogosphere. Have you ever wondered what it takes to write a Rockstar-quality post that's perfect for a feature? We thought you might. One of Rockstar's former curators, Cait Flanders, gave an awesome presentation on this very topic at FinCon17. This post is a summary of that presentation with some additions and more specifics. There's also a video version of this material available! We'll link to it at the very bottom of this article.

Where Do We Look?

Before we get to what makes a post Rockstar quality, let's cover where we look for potential candidates. Here are our top sources: 1. Feeds in our Directory The primary source for reviewing great posts is the Rockstar Finance feeds. Admittedly this is a lot to review since the community posts 1,600+ blog posts each week! So we cut through the list a bit by paying particular attention to the posts from our VIP partners (posts highlighted in blue). 2. Blog Share Monday In the Rockstar Forums there's a password protected blogger lounge. Every first and third Monday of each month the lounge offers a "Blog Share Monday" post where bloggers submit their best posts and then share the posts of all others through social media. It's a great place to see new content and share some good stuff. Going forward it will also be a place the Rockstar team looks to find feature content. 3. RSS Feeds Yes, RSS is still alive, at least when we're looking for great content. We have hand-curated a list of a few hundred blogs that are known for writing great content on a regular basis. These are generally well-established blogs, but there's always an up-and-comer being added to the list. 4. Social Media Rockstar is active on Facebook, but Twitter is our main social media source for finding great content. In addition to the Rockstar Finance twitter account, we look at what pops up for the entire Rockstar team including Budgets are Sexy, Think Save Retire, and ESI Money. 5. Roundup Posts Many bloggers do roundup posts and as we find them, we check them out. It's always great to see what other bloggers recommend as there are usually some gems there. 6. Submission Form Finally, we have a Rockstar Finance submission form where anyone can submit content from any site they think deserves to be featured. A key component of standing out from the crowd here is the final box: tell us why it’s awesome! If the submitter can't explain why the post is great, it's likely we won't see it either.

What Makes Great Rockstar Content?

Now that you know where we look for great content, here are the main criteria we use to select content: 1. Starts with an Interesting Title Can you catch our attention from the get-go? To do so, you need an intriguing title that stands out from the pack. Here are some examples of titles from articles we like:

  • Keeping Up with the Mustachians
  • The Case Against Frugality
  • Are You Saving Like the Titanic?
  • The Rule of 300
  • I’m 38 Years Old and I’ve Never Had a Job
  • When Did We Decide Being “Good at Money” Meant Not Spending It?

Each of these is interesting, intriguing, unique, or compelling in its own right and makes us want to know more. 2. Includes Unique Content Obviously content needs to be "unique" in that it needs to originate with the blogger. But in addition the content needs to be unique from among all the other more common posts written by personal finance bloggers. Here are some examples of unique content we look for:

  • An idea we’ve never heard of before -- Or even an old idea explained in a new way
  • A personal story that is real / raw / honest -- The more personal, the better!
  • A story that includes a lot of data / calculations -- But the numbers have to make sense!
  • A helpful guide that is extremely detailed
  • Something purely entertaining and enjoyable to read

Here are some words that describe the sort of posts we favor:

  • Edgy
  • Feisty
  • Funny
  • Failure
  • Super helpful

In the end, we want to be surprised by something new, compelling, and unique. It's this sort of content that Rockstar Finance readers love! 3. Must Be Easy to Read Let's face it, we've all seen "great" posts with a unique spin on a topic only to get into the weeds and find it was like reading mush. That's why we prefer content that's easy-to-read. In our opinion, here's content that qualifies:

  • Easy to get to (pop-ups can be an issue)
  • Content broken up into short paragraphs
  • Callouts: quotes, stats, etc.
  • And it needs to make sense

And let's not forget the basics like proper grammar and spelling. It should go without saying, but we're saying it just to be clear. 4. Positive/Uplifting (vs. Negative) We like content that builds others up, offers hope, or at least has a positive take/solution on an issue. Sure, we all have written our own rants, but generally they aren't the sort of thing we look for. Even "epic" rants, while entertaining, just aren't our cup of tea.

What We Probably Won't Share

Now let's look at the sort of content we likely won't share:

  • Too timely -- While we might select one post on tax reform or Bitcoin performance, we can't feature 20 of them as our readers want variety.
  • Too negative -- As noted above, we like positive stuff.
  • Too niche/specific -- If it's a topic a small audience is interested in, then it won't work for Rockstar.
  • Too many ads/links -- One small pop-up and a reasonable amount of ads is fine, but if you have multiple pop-ups, an opt-in form that covers your entire homepage first screen, or an ad assortment that would put the Vegas strip to shame, the posts probably won't be featured.
  • Too many curse words -- The more curse words a post has, the less likely it is to be featured. We know that many people don't mind curse words, but they are a no-no for us. So say it in words your grandmother would approve of or forget the Rockstar feature.
  • Too many grammatical/spelling errors -- Here's how many is too many: one. Ok, so we're not that much of the Grammar Police, but if there are a handful of spelling and grammatical mistakes, a post is not for us.
  • Too political -- I think we all know that half the country thinks one thing and the other half thinks another. Those two sides can duke it out on some other forum since Rockstar is a no-politics zone. It helps things be a bit friendlier around here. ;)
  • Too blog-focused -- Remember, Rockstar Finance is a list of the best personal finance articles for readers around the world. One topic that's not a personal finance subject: blogging. Sure, it may be your side hustle, but we're not going to feature that post on how to start a blog, how to grow blog traffic, how to monetize a blog, or anything related. If you are interested in the subject, we will have posts about blogging in our bloggers category.

The “Rockstar Effect”

For those who have never had a Rockstar feature, let's just say it can be a beautiful thing. Depending on the various factors (including the popularity of the post) a Rockstar Finance feature can send 2,000 to 6,000 visitors to a site over the couple days after the feature. That does not include the additional traffic from other shares all over the web. Here are some quotes from those who have had this experience: “Oh heavens. This is the moment. The moment you fall off your chair b/c something you wrote is on @rockstarfinance.” - Kate, @kateesmalley "Every time I wake up to a @rockstarfinance feature, I want to eat cake for breakfast to celebrate! Thanks, friends!" - Maggie, @northernexpense “It's like Christmas morning when @rockstarfinance shares your articles! @BudgetsAreSexy is like the Santa of PF Blogging.” - Andy, @AndyHillMKM “Holy smokes, J! The response has been amazing this morning. (I actually thought I was getting spammed! haha).” - Ryland, @thehiddengreen “Rockstar featured the calculator and my site views jumped to 1,875. [But then it was picked up by] Business Insider, Lifehacker, Travel & Leisure...” - Frugal Fringe “How did I increase my #personalfinanceblog pageview traffic by 5,200% overnight? Make friends with a rockstar @rockstarfinance.” - @TheLITB “The Rockstar [effect] nearly matched my YTD traffic, doubled my email list, & got me a warning from my host. I call that a successful day!” - Ty, @GetRichQuickish “Had to upgrade my tier of service after being featured on @rockstarfinance yesterday! :)” - Gwen, @FieryMillennial

Why We Do What We Do

It's not only the traffic we can send to featured posts, but it's the community that's built around Rockstar Finance that keeps us doing what we do. Some more quotes: “Thanks so much for the Rockstar feature. It always feels like I am hosting a great housewarming party. They are my favorite days.” - Ms. Montana “It's been a year since the first time I experienced the Rockstar treatment. Thanks for being there to grow this community. I don't think I would have kept this little project going for a whole year without the support.” - Tony “Love the site, it's introduced me to tons of great info and small blogs I never would have found otherwise!” - Rockstar Reader Thank you for being part of the Rockstar Community. Rock on!!! P.S. If you'd like to see a video version of this material, check it out here to watch Steve, Rockstar's Ops guy, give all the specifics. P.P.S. Here's a post from a guest curator that reinforces much of what's above and also adds a unique and interesting perspective.