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Google’s SEO expert Matt Cutts answered the question “Is it useful to have a section of my site that reposts articles from other sites?” with a video. Over the course of answering that question, Cutts describes, perhaps unknowingly, the distinction between content curation and content aggregation within the context of content marketing. Unfortunately, his explanation does more to confuse than to clarify.
Matt mistakenly refers to content creation as content curation, and refers to aggregated content as auto-generated content. He also wholly ignores curated content. Below I have attempted to clarify his explanation along with providing clear distinctions between aggregated content, curated content, and created content.
Three Types of Content
Matt described a spectrum of content types. These range from aggregated content on one end, such as the press section of a company’s web site using auto-generation to repost existing articles, to curated content, all the way to the New York Times at the other end. His description was confusing however. He referred to original content such as from the New York Times as curation, when in fact such content is actually the output of creation.
At the left end of the spectrum is aggregation. An example of aggregated content would be Google News search results for a term rendered in a widget on a site via an RSS feed. While such a widget does provide some informational value, in the grand scheme of things it does not really help a visitor much. All the content in the widget can easily be found on another site. And because the content is automatically generated, there’s a high likelihood it may be irrelevant. Cutts argues that aggregated content like this can even hurt your site’s search engine ranking.
At the right end of the spectrum is original created content. This is of high informational value to a reader. Such content is typically exclusive, which makes it great bait for inbound links. The downside of created content is that producing it is a lot of work. It can be quite resource and time intensive. Organizations such as the New York Times can continually create high quality, original created content day in and day out. However, for resource-constrained marketers, producing great original content every single day is simply out of the question. Cutts erroneously refers to this content as an act of “curation” on this video, but he is really talking about creation.
The third method of content publishing is “curation,” which lies in the middle of the spectrum. Like aggregated content, you can publish curated content regularly without too much effort. And like created content, curated content can be very relevant and informative for the end reader when done properly. Each piece of created content can serve as link-bait to increase your search engine ranking. With curated content however, an individual piece of content may not attract a lot of inbound links. But a curated site as a whole can become a go-to resource and may attract links. To see how, check out 10 Great Examples of Content Curation in Action.
Here are my takeaways from Matt’s short video:
- Be cautious with aggregated content. As Matt says, aggregated content can hurt your search engine ranking because it may be irrelevant and is duplicative without adding any original value. If you want to post aggregated content on your site, consider using a “nofollow” link so search engines don’t consider this as a ‘real’ link.
- Don’t repost full articles. If you want to aggregate content, don’t repost the entire third party article in full. Just take a small portion, both for fair use consideration, and so you aren’t flagged by Google as duplicate content.
- Create as much content as possible. Original content is highly lucrative from a search engine ranking perspective. But producing it is also very time and resource-intensive.
- Consider content curation. Do leverage content curation as part of your content marketing strategy. It gives you the best of both worlds. You can publish with high frequency and high relevance, yet relatively low effort. LinkedIn is just one example of the growing trend of curation as it continues to invest in this market, as well as the broader content marketing movement. Another is the Authorship feature in Google+.
- Add value to your curated content. Curation involves not just finding content to post. You also have to carefully select which content you want to share, and add editorial commentary and perspective as well. Absent the latter two steps, your curation efforts may closely resemble those of someone aggregating content. Avoid this by being selective about what you post and ensuring only relevant, high quality content is curated. In addition, it is also a good idea to only take a small amount of content as an excerpt from the original third party source. Then retitle the content, and provide commentary so you aren’t flagged as a duplicate article.
For a comprehensive look at best practices in combining content creation with curation, check out Curata’s eBook, The Hands on Guide: How to Curate Content Like a Boss.