How (and why) to Curate Content

There is a mass of content crap online now. One million posts on WordPress alone are published DAILY, and 72-hours of video per MINUTE are uploaded to You Tube. Content marketing is exploding and every brand is being advised to churn out the content to engage their readers. Cutting through the noise to find the value is like trying to find a needle in a haystack unless you can find good sources. A well curated reading list via email or social media that sifts through the dross and just delivers the industry news gems is a godsend.

(I recommend this article by Carson Ward about the Content marketing crap deluge which highlights the issue well.)

Curating content done well, is a content marketing alternative to just delivering your own content. Having an audience that respects and trusts the information you deliver can raise your authority within your niche. I run a curated stream on shellshockuk with strong engagement. I might not have massive follower numbers (at this time) but I have a lot of re-tweets, favourites and replies. And we all know that it’s engagement and not followers that counts – right?

I also ran an essential Link Building reading list newsletter but put this on hold when I had to focus on client work (gotta pay the bills). I’m planning to bring back my newsletter very soon with a focus on the crossover of design, content and SEO.

Another reason content curation can help a brand is through the networking it opens up. As a newsletter gains popularity then requests for inclusions begin to roll in and this helps you to connect with industry peeps and gives you leverage in asking for ‘favours’ in return – such as shares and a little link love. It’s a great way to link build.

how to curate content

Content curation 101 goes a little something like this:

  • Know what your audience likes (know who they are first, obviously)
  • Find good sources of news/content
  • Manage the content you have delivered
  • Read copious amounts (or learn to speed read)
  • Inject personality to stand out
  • Offer an entertaining diverse mash-up
  • Always credit your sources (and make sure they are credible)

Examples of curators
Realistically to make this work you have to want to consume copious amounts of content on a topic that you find genuinely interesting or it becomes a soul-sapping chore. Being a skilled curator takes effort and creativity, for example:

  • Galleries and museums – assembling exhibitions and collections
  • DJs – creating a playlist of music
  • Magazine editors – selecting a variety of content
  • Newsletter publishers – provide compact information


Sources of content
Finding good sources of content is where you have to put in your investment of time – your content stream is only as good as the sources you share. A few sites that can help find new stuff are: – search for keywords to find curators within your niche
Pinterest – not just for images, articles and reading lists are now being curated
Delicious – search for bookmark tags and follow the accounts to find good curators.
Twitter – tap into lists but it is noisy
Google reader (couldn’t live without this)
Feedly – which I now use as a curation tool
Google Alerts – set up keyword alerts but again you have to fight through the noise
Alltop feed aggregator (create your own saved collection of feeds)
Hubsite Newsletters (e.g. Search Engine News, Search Engine Land)

My favourite way to manage the hundreds of sources I scan regularly, is with Google Reader. I recently discovered Feedly, which I love for when I’m mobile e.g. catch-up reading at night or at lunch on the iPad but I stick to the Big G reader on desktop which has a clear interface and neatly plugs into Buffer app for sharing.

When you’re dealing with so many sources, process and tight organisation are essential to stop everything descending into a chaotic mess. I regularly spend time cleaning and filing my list into labelled niche folders so that I can skim quickly through hundreds of blogs at once. Having clearly named folders also helps a great deal when plugging into Feedly as it pulls the labels through.

read lots

Be prepared to read lots
Every morning I skim through my Reader list and schedule tweets to run through Buffer app – another revelation and time saver (you can plug this into Tweriod to get the best times of day to tweet at your list of followers). I have a small selection of newsletter sources (word of advice keep these to a minimum or your email gets overrun and you just delete them without reading) of which I skim through and pull out the titles I want to read.

I try to read as much as I can in the morning but mostly save to Instapaper to read later – I do most of my reading at night. Anything that stands out as I go along I set aside to be used in a weekly round-up of best articles to read.

I don’t recommend sharing content you haven’t read. I sometimes skim and save to read later and will tweet out if it is a trusted source, but adding a personal summary (in a newsletter) or pulling out a small quote (twitter) and adding a comment sets you apart from a scraped auto feed. You have to inject personality if you are building a brand.

I do read a massive amount, so inevitably, now and then, I hit a blog article overload where I’m reading the same crap content re-churned over and over again and then I have to take a break. I usually switch to new sources at this point.


Add your own opinions and personality
The most important skill of all, is to add well written summaries with personality (if you’re publishing a newsletter, otherwise snippets and comments for Tweets). If you want to build a brand or your own authority (which is a brand), you have to create an audience and just like people will tune into a radio show based on the DJ, followers will follow for the personality behind the brand. Approach this in a conversational manner and experiment to gauge and find your tone which most engages your audience.


Offer a diverse and entertaining mix
Good curators will theme their content with a diverse mix of relevant and complementary content links. Think like a magazine editor and offer your audience a variety of articles, from in-depth technical and intellectually stimulating, through to niche gossip and quirky, light-hearted bites of interest. I like to throw in a few random articles to lighten things up now and then, but be careful to avoid becoming a confused content channel by being too diverse and random – always stick to your core theme. Don’t try to offer everything to everyone – be very focused to who you’re targeting and what you offer them.


Is curation plagiarism?
Finally, curation is not theft or plagiarism – I don’t know why anyone would think that. You’re sharing and endorsing content with no claims of it being your own – but you should always be generous with source citation. If you tweet tag the @author, or if you write a newsletter or an article add a link and the author’s name in your round-up as you would in literary citations.

I wrote a guide to plagiarism and content theft (and how to deal with it) last year, which you can read here.


Summary – How to curate content:

  • Be focused on your niche
  • Be resourceful to find fresh content
  • Be consistent with your schedule
  • Inject personality and opinions
  • Throw in random but complementary themes
  • Only include quality to build trust


Let me know below in the comments if you curate any SEO, social or content themed newsletters and I will add them here:

Search Engine Watch
Fetching Friday
Link Moses Private
Search Engine Land
Nick’s Links

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