Google’s Matt Cutts: Create, Curate, Don’t Aggregate

In a recent video, Google’s SEO expert Matt Cutts answers the question “Is it useful to have a section of my site that re-posts articles from other sites?”  In the course of answering that question, Cutts describes, perhaps unknowingly, the distinction between content curation and content aggregation within the context of content marketing. In fact, his explanation does more to confuse than it does to clarify.

Matt mistakenly refers to content creation as content curation, and refers to aggregated content  as auto-generated content.  In the course of his explanation, he wholly ignores curated content. Below I have attempted to clarify his explanation along with clear distinctions between aggregated content, curated content and created content.

Three Types of Content

Basically Matt described a spectrum of content types ranging with aggregated content on one end (e.g., press section of an individual company’s web site using auto-generation to repost existing articles), and original created content all the way on the other (e.g., New York Times).  However his description was confusing because he referred to original content such as from the New Times as curation, when in fact such content is actually the output of creation.

Content Aggregation

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 widget does provide some informational value, in the grand scheme of things it does not really help the visitor much. All the content in the widget can easily be found on another site.  Also because the content is generated automatically, there’s a high likelihood that the content may be irrelevant. Cutts argues that aggregated content like this can even hurt the search engine ranking of your site as a whole.

Content Creation

At the right end of the spectrum is original created content, which is of high informational value to the end reader. Such content is typically exclusive and can’t be found on another site, and therefore serves as great bait for Inbound links. The downside of created content is that producing it is a lot of work and can be quite resource and time intensive. For organizations like the New York Times, its possible to continually create high quality, original created content day in and day out; however, for resource-constrained marketers, producing great created content every single day is simply out of the question. While Matt Cutts erroneously refers to this content as an act of “curation” on his video,  he is really talking about creation.

Content Curation

The third method of content publishing is “curation” which lies in the middle of the spectrum.  Similar to aggregated content, curated content can be published on a very regular basis without much effort. Yet similar to created content, curated content can be very relevant and informing for the end reader if its done properly. Each piece of created content can serve as link bait to increase your search engine ranking.  On the other hand for curated content, an individual piece of content may not attract a lot of inbound links, but a curated site as a whole may be viewed as a go-to resource and may attract links. (examples of content curation: Charmin, The Huffington Post)

Takeaways

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 any original value add. If you want to post aggregated content on your site, then you may want to consider using a “nofollow” link so search engines don’t really consider this as a real link.
  • Don’t repost full articles. If you want to aggregate content, don’t repost the entire third party in full.  Just take a small portion both for fair use consideration and so you don’t get flagged by Google as having duplicate content.
  • Create content as much as possible. Created content is highly lucrative from a search engine ranking perspective but it’s also very time and resource consuming to produce.
  • Consider content curation. Do leverage content curation as part of your content marketing strategy. It lets you get the best of both worlds, with high frequency and high relevance, yet relatively low effort. (e.g., 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 includes the new Authorship feature in Google+)
  • Add value to your curated content. Curation involves not only finding content to post, but also carefully selecting which content you want to share and adding editorial commentary and perspective as well. If you are not performing the latter two steps, then your curation efforts may closely resemble those of someone who has been aggregating content. You can easily avoid this by being selective about what you are posting to ensure that only relevant high quality content is being 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, retitle the content, and provide commentary (so you don’t get flagged as a duplicate article).

For a comprehensive look at best practices in combining content creation with curation, check out Curata’s eBook entitled How to Feed the Content Beast (without getting eaten alive).

Pawan Deshpande is the founder and CEO of Curata. Pawan is responsible for the company's vision, management and advanced development initiatives. His work at Curata has been recognized through the 2010 Boston Business Journal's 40 under 40 Award, and through the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's 2012 Sales & Marketing Technology of the Year Award. Pawan has held software engineering positions at Microsoft, Google and other startups where he was awarded patents in social networking and machine transliteration areas.

  • Lia Chaves Fernando

    Does Google always punish duplicate content? Here’s an example of a “curated” newsletter on environmental issues and carbon and energy management http://www.firstcarbonsolutions.com/resources/newsletters but it doesn’t look like its been flagged (or flagged but not penalized? is there such a thing?); in fact it’s a PR 4 webpage.

    • Pawan Deshpande

      Only under certain circumstances, you can see their guidelines here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66359?hl=en.

      Regarding the link in your comment, it looks like they are doing things right by only sharing a small portion of the sourced content, and adding links back to the original source which Google suggests: “It is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article.”

      For more guidelines on both SEO & ethical considerations for content curation, see our 30+ page ebook on this topic called Content Marketing Done Right: http://www.curata.com/resources/ebooks/content-marketing-done-right/

  • Guy Eros Olivera Guillermo

    Fuck google. To me, Google is like women, if you do everything to please them like they say, just for them not to be interested, that sucks.

    Be yourself, pr the hell out of your content. Build a solid brand so that if google does gripe (or your ex-girlfriend is sleeping with Matt Cutts) you’ll still be fine because you’re known in the brick and mortar world and REAL PEOPLE are linking to you because they genuinely like their content.

    Let’s face it: We’ve ALL built high-quality websites that we wish were mass distributed through the web enabling more traffic. http://kinkementary.com

  • Bloggers Nigeria

    I still don’t understand how aggregated content is bad. I just created http://www.brandsnigeria.com and I was thinking of using aggregated content.

  • http://www.meteorsite.com/ Jeff Chance

    Hi Pawan, Matt’s usage of Curation is correct. He didn’t mean Creation. Curation means you are curating the content like a museum curator curates the art work that they display. They curate it by only showing things that are relevant. His point is valid and insightful. Thanks for the vid post.

    • http://www.curata.com/ Pawan Deshpande

      Hi Jeff, in a very broad and loose definition of the word, he does refer to “curation” correctly. At around 1:38 he talks about the New York Times employing curation. Based on his language, it looks like he’s either referring to NYT either:

      (1) Curating facts that are then amalgamated into an original article — which in my opinion is an act of creation.

      (2) Curating content from wire services they license such as the Associated Press and only selectively reproducing that content on their site — which could be considered curation, but because they are reproducing the sourced content in full could also be considered syndication.

      Increasingly creation and curation are converging into a single process as I have described here in this post about the future of curation: http://www.contentcurationmarketing.com/future-of-curation-5-ways-curation-is-changing/

      Regardless of what you call it, Matt’s point is clear — that high volume automatically aggregated content production is detrimental to both the reader and your search engine ranking.