Your Guide to Content Curation for SEO

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Your Guide to Content Curation for SEO

One of the effects of the rise of popularity in content marketing has been a surge in content curation; the practice of aggregating similar content into one place in an attempt to create new value. Content curation has been prevalent for years in other industries; SportsCenter’s most popular segment is the daily top-10 countdown. Moz’s “Top 10” newsletter is simply content curation. But lately, content curation has become a popular way for publishers to generate more content for their websites. Curated content tends to be popular with readers, and is usually cheaper than hiring expert writers to write original content.

The benefits of content curation are clear, but does it also have a dark side?

In the video below, Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team at Google, talks about the “content continuum” with a high quality site using an editorial process being on one side, and a site with automatically generated content on the other.  Cutts points out that sites which simply publish duplicate content (ie, content already existing on other websites) provide little or no value to readers.

So, where does content curation fit into this picture? Does Google view content curation positively or negatively? Should you be doing it, or could it get you in trouble?

According to Rohit Barghava of the Content Curation Manifesto, content curators “will bring more utility and order to the social web. In doing so, they will help to add a voice and point of view to organizations and companies that can connect them with customers – creating an entirely new dialogue based on valued content rather than just brand created marketing messages.”

The 5 Types of Content Curation

There are five different types of content curation: elevation, aggregation, distillation, chronology, and mash ups.

  • Elevation: When a curator creates general insight based off a group of articles.
  • Aggregation: The active collecting of the most relevant content regarding a topic into a single post. This is the most common type of content curation.
  • Distillation: Allows the writer to distill all of the chatter about a given topic down to a single relevant post. This method requires more original content.
  • Chronology: Applies directly to laying out a particular topic based upon a historical timeline.
  • Mashups: When a writer merges different content about a single topic into an original point of view.

The Case for Content Curation: A Case Study

Bruce Clay is a well-known SEO professional (and friend of SEJ) who’s also on the advisory board of PublishThis, a content curation site. This is what he had to say about using content curation in his organization:

“We’re coming out of a recession where people don’t have the time to put hours a day into doing the research to publish, unless they’re fortunate. And while we may be fortunate, it doesn’t necessarily make us efficient,” said Bruce Clay. “And with all the other publications out there that are efficiently publishing summaries, curated content seems to be a big part of the way people eat content. So I thought that if we can do a balance of original content and curated content that was news worthy, then it’d give us variety in our published arsenal, our tools, and that would be a great thing for us.”

Bruce and his team performed tests over what he had to saythe course of several weeks in late 2012 to see if curated blog content would have the same SEO benefit as a standard, original blog post. To establish a baseline, they took a blog post with original content and measured its search engine rankings for a long-tail keyword phrase. At the time of the test, it was on the first page of Google.

Next, they removed the post and replaced it with three different posts, each representing a different type of curated content over the course of several weeks. The first post had curated links with automatically-generated summaries, resulting in very little original content. The second post was editorialized curation with 200+ words of annotation written by the author. The third post was an actual excerpt taken from the original post, and then links with editorialized curation were added.

What They Found

In the first example with auto-generated summaries, there was definitely duplicate content. As expected, the post dropped in the rankings.

The second example, the 200+ words of original content, jumped up to the second position in the search rankings.

In the third example, there was an excerpt of the original post plus 200+ words of original content in an editorial format. This post performed the best in the rankings, achieving the number one position.

Their conclusion was that content curation works as long as it’s accompanied by enough original content.

The Golden Rules of Content Curation

I agree with their conclusion. With that said, here are some guidelines to follow if you plan to implement content curation into your content strategy:

Unique content must be included as part of the curation

Google doesn’t like duplicate content. Duplicate content is bad. This is why you must include original insight or analysis that augments the content you’re aggregating. As a general rule, the more unique content you add, the better the content will perform in search engines, and the safer you’ll be with regard to future algorithm changes.

You must link out to only high-quality sites

It’s important to include links to your sources when curating content. However, the quality of the websites that you link to can also make a big difference. Linking out to websites that lack trustworthiness or are part of any known spam network can be detrimental to the performance of your content in the search rankings.

Add value for the reader

As part of creating fresh content with high quality source links, it’s extremely important to add value to the reader. If the readers don’t like the article, they won’t share it. And the quantity and frequency of shares (across social networks) is a major indication to Google of the quality of any piece of content. Without these shares, your content will never gain the visibility it needs to do yield any ROI.

Build relationships with your curation sources to maximize reach and value

If you decide to include a publisher or author’s article in your content curation piece, make an effort to reach out to them, ask them for permission to include their content in your curation piece, thank them, and notify them when it has been published. In many cases, your sources will share the article across their social networks, boosting its reach and traffic. It doesn’t hurt to ask them nicely to share it, either!


Content curation, if done properly, can be an excellent piece of your content marketing campaign. As long as you abide by the golden rules of content curation, using it along with other types of posts can provide a healthy, interesting, shareable mix for your website’s readers.

image via ShutterStock

Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or... Read Full Bio
Jayson DeMers
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  • Richard Brokenshire

    Hi Jayson,

    I’ve been thinking of using content curation to lighten the blogging load. It can get grueling. I had several questions that your post has answered for me. Thanks!

    I was wondering if any of the Google algo changes would have affected the case study results, since it was done in late 2012?

    I checked out your site. Very nice. Will be visiting it in the future!

  • Sujay Maheshwari

    Thanks Jayson. Loved your list of – “The 5 Types of Content Curation”. It would be great if you could given some examples of platforms which can help you with these types. For example, my company, Netcurate, falls in the Distillation. There are several other platforms like Storify, Curata playing an important role in binding the content+curation+engagement together like us.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Amber Waddy

    I’ve found lately that curation has become much more demanding and I completely agree that when it’s done right it can really boost the posts you have. Very good article if I may say so!

  • sharma

    he main takeaway is simple: Duplicate content is bad. This is why you must include original insight or analysis that augments the content you’re aggregating. As a general rule, the more unique content you add, the better the content will perform in search engines, and the safer you’ll be with regard to future algorithm changes.


  • Masood

    I admit I have not been on this blog in a long time however it was joy to find it again. It is such an important topic and ignored by so many even professionals! I thank you for helping to make people more aware of ………. Just great stuff as per usual

  • Spook SEO

    Google changes its SEO algorithms very quickly. In August 2013 Google introduced a new algorithm named it Humming Bird, October it introduced penguin and so on, after the change in the algorithm every time the ranking of every website changes. Please explain that how can we quickly change adopt these new algorithm to maintain our website ranking.

  • Spook SEO

    “Hi Jayson!

    I believe that it is vital to create a quality content that is worth sharing and reading. If our readers don’t like the article we have written, then they will never share it. We need to understand that the quantity and frequency of shares is a big indication to Google of the quality of any piece of content. Without these shares, our content will never gain the visibility it needs to do yield any ROI.

  • Garry Rogers

    Hi Jayson,
    Interesting post, but I’m a little confused about definitions. I’ve been using Scoop.It for a while, and it doesn’t appear that my product fits within any of the five types of content curation you discuss. My newspaper seems more like a combination of your aggregation and chronology types, just like a traditional newspaper. Like a traditional paper, I have a few original stories combined with lots of secondary stories (i.e. stories first told by someone else). Would it be appropriate to add traditional news as a sixth type?
    Thank you.

  • Guillaume Decugis

    @Garry – Guillaume here from I’ve commented further on this great story and experiment here: What typically is designed for and empowers you to do is the type #2 of content curation: the one where you not only publish a link but also add your own content as – what we call – an insight. It was great to see that this type of curation had the best SEO results which is very consistent to a metric we track on our end: on average, pages get about 40% of their traffic from search engines. (another 40% being from social networks as it’s really the combination of social and search that drives traffic and visibility these days).