By Steven Peters
02 Nov 2015

Are You A Lazy Content Curator? 5 Methods To Empower Curated Content

Content Creation     SEO Strategy

Practically every content marketer will readily tout the mantra that "content is king." They'll sink thousands of dollars into the perfect infographic or the most informative ebook to prove it... and then, inexplicably, they'll cap a week off with a round-up post or a top 10 list that's little more than a list of websites.

Practically every content marketer will readily tout the mantra that "content is king." They'll sink thousands of dollars into the perfect infographic or the most informative ebook to prove it... and then, inexplicably, they'll cap a week off with a round-up post or a top 10 list that's little more than a list of websites.

They don't seem to realize that their sloppy approach to curated content means they're missing out on one of the biggest link building opportunities within the blogging medium.

Maybe this accounts for the disparity recently revealed by Curata—while 82% of marketers curate content, only half of those believe it has improved their SEO and brand visibility, and only 41% expressed confidence that it has increased the quality and/or number of their leads.

The problem is obvious: while everyone's hopped on the blogging bandwagon, not everyone's up to speed on the difference between content curation and content regurgitation.

True, curated posts are usually more cost-effective, and, true, they're usually more time-efficient—whipping up a winning blog posts from scratch is a lot of work—but that doesn't mean there's no effort involved.

So, to help you take a good hard look in the mirror and evaluate your own curation practices, I've compiled a list of five crucial ingredients necessary to curate content like a champ.

Methods to empower curated content card

1. Account For Your Audience

When you create content, you understand that you're not writing in a vacuum. You're writing for some purpose, and you're addressing your content to your audience. Curated content should be no different.

Your curated posts should stay on target, properly represent your brand, and address your audience's pain points. You're doing yourself a disservice if your posts appeal only to your interests, or if they appeal only to a search engines (especially when updates like Penguin come knocking to punish people abusing the system).

So how do you find topics that appeal to your audience?

  1. Begin with any questions you're frequently asked. For example, if you're in the SEO business, maybe your customers want to know which data tracking tools you use. This is a great topic for a curated post! Don't just lay down your personal experience—gather as much information on the popular data tracking tools as you can, and present it to your audience in a curated list.
  2. Try using a tool that keeps tabs on your industry. When I've exhausted my FAQs, my go to resource is Topsy—a website that lets you comb Twitter for a specific keyword and see what people are saying about it. Note that this is also a good site for finding resources for your curated posts!

2. Select The Best Content

Here's where some marketers start to get lazy: they punch a keyword into Google, cram the top 5 results into a list, and publish.

Slow your roll there, cowboy. There's more to it than that.

Creating a curated post is about more than slapping together a list of topics vaguely related to your industry. Truly great (and shareable!) curated content is useful—it addresses a hole in your niche. Additionally, the best curated content enters a dialogue with other great content.

Which is a fancy way of saying that links beget links.

If you've never used it before, it's time to consider Open Site Explorer. This site allows you to enter a web address, explore their top pages, and find out which content has the most linking root domains. The more a piece is linked to, the more likely it is to be a relevant, high-quality piece of content.

Curata's synopsis for an article on the value of quality content sums it up nicely:

"Providing quality content, not just quantity, resonates better with readers, provides more value and establishes a higher quality of brand awareness. Giving potential buyers valuable content can help develop trust in your brand. Optimize content for consumer experience to increase the quality of your leads."

Your audience is smart enough to pick up on lazy curation, especially if you're missing glaringly obvious examples. A list of the "Top 10 Best Search Engines" that's conspicuously missing Google isn't going to fare very well—so make sure your curated posts are comprised of only the BEST sources.

Oh, and this should go without saying, but credit your sources. Passing off someone else's content as your own is the laziest sort of black hat SEO, and you're not going to sneak it by Google.

3. Improve Already Great Content

In the early years of my undergrad, I experienced a conundrum every time I sat down to write a research paper: I'd find fantastic, extremely quotable sources that reinforced my position on a topic, but always expressed a point of view way more eloquently than I possibly could.

So, I'd quote them. I'd give them proper citation. Then I'd move on to the next paragraph. What I failed to do was add anything authoritative to the discussion. I didn't add my voice.

The result was a Frankensteinian mash-up of other people's content.

This is probably the most common failing of curated content online. Your list might be targeted, your list might be comprised of the best resources, but if your list isn't adding any unique value for your user, you're doing content curation WRONG.

As Ann Handley so eloquently states in her book Everybody Writes, "If you are merely regurgitating content from elsewhere without adding your take, that's not curation—that's aggregation. A robot can aggregate content, but only a human can tell me why it matters."

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to add a valuable experience to content. The very best curated content will:

  • Plumb content. Way too many lists are bullet point hierarchies linking you to other websites. That's not good enough. When you curate content from other sites, be more thorough—add a paragraph that expounds exactly why that resource is so important. Impress upon your readers the chief merits of that piece, and what valuable insights it brings to the table.
  • Refresh content. There's plenty of resources out there that are excellent, but a little outdated. If a list of "Best SEO techniques" was published in 2012, you can certainly expand on that list... or even correct it, given the advent of new Google algorithms. Try to keep your lists relevant.
  • Redesign content. I hate to say it, but we internet-goers are a little spoiled. When we stumble across a website that offends our eyes on every aesthetic level, it doesn't matter how rich its content is—we won't linger very long. Re-forging a list that suffers from a hideous page layout is a great accompaniment for some original insights of your own.
  • Expand content. Maybe you've found an absolutely amazing list of the top 5 greatest cake flours, but you happen to know of 3 more that didn't make the list. Expand the list—give your customers a better baking experience. Be warned, though, that expansion alone does not make for good curated content. When lists get too long, it's easy to overwhelm your reader—short, pithy, and highly relevant trumps exhaustive lists any day.

There's also a winning formula for presenting your content, as SEO specialist Bruce Clay discovered.

Across several weeks, he compared and contrasted three types of curated content: posts with auto-generated summaries vs. posts of editorialized curation (200+ words of original annotation) vs. posts that paired an excerpt from the linked resources with some original editorialization.

His study revealed that, while pure, original content performed well, including an excerpt of the original post AND some original content outstripped both of the other two posts—actually achieving the number one position in search rankings. Meanwhile, the auto-generated summaries, as expected, dropped in rankings over time.

There's no finer example of the value of content curation over content regurgitation.

4. Outreach

This step is a lot easier than the last, but it's just as important: once you've cobbled together some fantastic resources, it's time to herald your post's arrival. The success of your curated content is directly dependent on your outreaching abilities... and, of course, outreach is vital for any link building campaign.

Don't undervalue this step! Submit your RSS feeds to Google Blog Search to make sure that it's indexed, and get in touch with quality prospects, such as your audience (via social media), leading experts in your niche, and anyone you've linked to in your curated content.

Fortunately, I don't need to harp on about outreach, because Linkarati already has a great list of Outreach Tools compiled, along with a Complete Guide to Outreach.

Best part? That curated guide of 52 resources practices exactly what I've been extolling: a nice, complete piece of curated content that delivers an original experience on top of the value inherent in the websites it links to.

5. Keep Tabs On What's Working

Times, and concerns, change.

Maybe your industry is rocked by the introduction of new technology or revolutionary new approach. Maybe Google writes a new algorithm, and your advice is suddenly less relevant than you would like. Maybe your audience simply stumbles onto a new pain point, now that you've solved the old one.

Whatever the development, you should be on top of it—keep a finger to the pulse of your industry, and, if necessary, update your curated content to address rising trends.

And, while I hope you're doing this already, keep an eye on your website and social media metrics as you continue to share your new piece of curated content with others. If you've properly assessed your audience's pain points prior to publishing, you should see it reflected in follower growth, consumer engagement, and the number of shares you receive.

Steven Peters

Steven Peters is a novelist, feminist, and conversion copywriter who spends most of his time and talent representing Business Casual Copywriting. His love of the written word is surpassed only by his love of strong coffee, and he's unreasonably enthusiastic about sweater vests.