Your Guide to Content Curation for SEO

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Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers
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

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Jayson DeMers

CEO at AudienceBloom

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact ... [Read full bio]