Want to know a little secret? It’s something I’ve never shared with anyone before (not even my wife).
Siege Media wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for content curation. Sounds crazy, right? Let me explain.
While I was toiling away at my first few jobs, I realized there was great long-term value in building up my personal brand (even though I hated that term), as well as my own expertise.
So, almost every single night and weekend, I hunted down great marketing content and shared the best-of-the-best on Twitter.
I kept doing that. Day after day. Month after month. And guess what happened? Growth.
Sharing content helped me form relationships with influential people, also helped grow my following on Twitter, and ultimately got more people consuming the content I was creating myself.
Through that I received job offers, column opportunities, and speaking gigs… which led to referrals and freelance clients… and all of this eventually led me to start my own company. Today, we’re a ten-person marketing agency and we work with some of the biggest brands in the world.
That wouldn’t have happened without curation. By “giving” I was also able to “receive” and that simple concept succinctly explains why this strategy is so powerful.
Before we get too further, though, you might want to know how we define content curation.
What is Content Curation?
Content curation, defined, is the process of organizing and presenting outside content in a new, meaningful way. Done right, content curation adds additional value by presenting information or context the reader had not otherwise known – or additionally, presenting the information in a way that makes it easier or more enjoyable to consume.
Besides the benefits of building relationships through sharing, I originally saught out curation because I knew the difficulties of creating unique, amazing content. At scale, it’s almost impossible to do it repeatedly and at high volume without the “amazing” part suffering.
Content curation offers an alternative — a way to create content that’s not only effective, but also easier to do. For this reason, 74% of marketers say it’s an important part of their strategy.
And as you can see below, although marketers find it important, and generally easier to execute than content from scratch, it can also be difficult to execute properly, too. This guide will help solve that problem.
What Will You Get in This Guide?
The Definitive Guide to Content Curation is a detailed account of everything I’ve learned (and implemented) in the past seven years… exactly what you’ll need to build your own powerful curation strategy. You’ll get step-by-step tactics, tools, research and outreach templates to start replicating that success for yourself.
We also include an infographic detailing the “perfect” round-up post so you can start creating curated content that not only generates traffic, but builds long-term business value, too.
It’s the cumulative knowledge acquired from 5,000+ hours doing this myself – all in one guide.
Free Download: Click here to download a beautiful PDF version of this 65-page guide (plus word-for-word email outreach templates and more.)
- 1. What is Content Curation? Definitions From the Experts
- 2. How do I Know if we Need a Content Curation Strategy?
- 3. Content Curation Best Practices for Maximum Results
- 4. How to Create the Perfect Roundup Post [Infographic]
- 5. The Keys to Curation Success on Pinterest
- 6. How to Get the Most from Sharing Other People’s Content on Twitter
- 7. Leveraging Other People’s Audiences for Facebook Domination
- 8. The Power of Curated Newsletters (And How to do Them Right)
- 9. How to Create Content Hubs That Generate Massive Traffic
- 10. Advanced Content Distribution Strategies [With Email Templates]
- 11. The 12 Best Content Curation Tools
- 12. Putting it all Together [Additional Resources, Checklists, & Templates]
Beyond just my definition that was used above, content curation has many different applications and use cases. To get you a better diversity of opinions, I asked for a definition from a few of the people doing it best. This is what they had to say:
“Content curation is the act of finding and sharing great content that your audience loves to consume.” — Hiten Shah
“Content curation is organizing and presenting external, valuable content in a particular niche and presenting that to a defined user base in a compelling way, with the goal of building an audience over time.” — Joe Puluzzi
“Content curation is the practice of collecting and filtering information, adding value and then sharing it.” — Lee Odden
Is this strategy right for every business? No, but for most, it is.
Curation is especially powerful for new businesses trying to establish a foothold in the market by leveraging existing audiences.
By curating the best content in the industry and then notifying said blogs and influencers that you mentioned them, you can generate awareness and start the process of establishing an audience. Without this launch point, it’s difficult to get a burst of new readers — especially organically and without having to pay for additional distribution.
A. Examples of Curation in Action
Even with an established audience, this strategy is a consistently useful method of creating content given the aforementioned attractive qualities it has — ease of creation and built-in distribution due to mentioned outside sources. The following are a few best-in-class examples of companies doing curation right.
Brit + Co
By leaning on the great content of others and also applying their own expertise (headline writing, editing, and a high-end site), they have built an audience of almost 10 million monthly visitors, which they funnel into their online classes and do-it-yourself kits.
Proving that curation can monetize, Uncrate consistently locates trending, high-end products for men and formats them in a similarly pleasing gray aesthetic.
By spending hours obsessing over the best new products in order to decide which ones to surface, they’ve built an audience who trusts them and constantly returns, ready to uncork their credit card if the right product grabs them.
The grandfather (in internet terms) of online content curation, BuzzFeed has made a living (and an industry) out of their listacles known for consistently generating pageviews in the millions.
They do it through best-in-class marketing tactics that consistently leverage seasonal topics and Facebook “nodes” which we will discuss later in this post.
B. Who Shouldn’t Be Using Content Curation?
This strategy is a little less effective for businesses with a huge, passionate fanbase — as they’d be willing and apt to only receive their content every time. Similarly, luxury brands have less room to use curation because they have a higher standard to appeal to — which may make finding worthy content to surface a lot more difficult to do.
Content curation takes on many different forms depending on your strategy and where you’re sharing. However, some general philosophies and best practices remain.
Summarized, effective content curation highlights amazing content readers have never seen, in a way that also adds value and impresses the original source.
A. Sharing “Unseen” Articles
There are several important elements to that sentence that make or break effective curation. First, let’s look at the element of “highlighting amazing content readers have never seen”. Many marketers will auto-post from RSS feeds or otherwise, auto-schedule content in the future on their feeds.
This inherently loses some of the effectiveness of curation — if someone has already seen the content being shared, why would they care? Every second that passes makes it more likely someone will have seen the content you’re sharing. Therefore, you should almost always share it immediately.
If you wait, that engagement and value created from sharing may go to someone else. However, if you auto-post, such as the how the above accounts (probably) did, you also lose – due to no value being added when doing so.
There are several content scheduling tools that exist. I think scheduling has its place, but only in rare instances due to the previously mentioned weaknesses.
Curation scheduling makes sense when you’ve just shared something else, and don’t want to overwhelm your audience. People are self-aware. If they see you’ve just shared something and they engaged with that, they may not want to look “attached” to your content and therefore are less likely to share or engage with the second share if quickly after the first.
Similarly, one of the main reasons people unfollow is due to tweet storms, or otherwise, content overload — the realization that they see you sharing a lot and don’t find interest in any of said content. By grouping, you lose that value and increase the probability of annoyance.
In example, you can see that GrowthHackers, above, has tweeted three times in quick succession. As of today, they post every twelve minutes. They have a hugely followed account, and I’m a fan of the site, but I’m not a fan of their strategy here.
When I see their content in my feed, I almost always tune it out. No account with 150,000 followers should ever have a two-engagement tweet.
B. When Scheduling Makes Sense
If you’ve recently found a wave of good content, though, you also don’t want to lose that recency by waiting too long. I recommend scheduling if you find lots of content in a burst, but only scheduling a bit out in those instances.
Normally, two hours after your last share is around the right tempo and will make it so you don’t overwhelm your audience. If you’re curating on your blog, the next available spot on your calendar is appropriate in order to best leverage the “newness” of the content.
The only time it would be fine to break this rule is if the content you’ve found is highly unlikely to have been seen by the majority of your audience. If that’s the case, sharing during the highest performing times on your account makes sense.
One way of testing that the content you’ve found is unlikely to have been seen is by comparing the followers of your account with their account using a tool like Followerwonk.
For example, if I compare my Twitter account with the much bigger account of DesignTAXI, I see that only 4% of our audience is shared. If I found something I thought my followers might find interesting on DesignTaxi, I probably wouldn’t have to worry about them discovering it before I could share it. Therefore, I could schedule at a more optimal time.
To discover the optimal time to tweet, Followerwonk also has a great analysis feature that shows when your followers are most active. As you can see on the snapshot below, 9AM PST is the most active time for the people who follow me. Therefore, I probably want to schedule that content to be shared at 9AM if I want to see the max number of impressions.
C. How Do We Find Unseen Content?
The second piece of the timing element is finding the newest, best content that your audience hasn’t seen. It’s easy to write that in a blog post, but it’s much harder to actually find the content.
Here are a few tips that can help you find the best, unseen content in your vertical.
Go Back to Using RSS
For a time, I stopped using RSS. Like many, I had started relying on Twitter to surface the content I needed to see. However, after enough time passed, I realized I was both missing quality content and also not seeing the content when it was at its freshest. By using RSS again, I was able to find unique content — and find it close to first in our space.
By using RSS you get articles as they go live, and often before the businesses even promote the content themselves. You also get the benefit of being able to promote the “big boys” first.
For example, companies like HubSpot, Moz and etc will see heavy sharing of their content, but if you can find the most relevant content from them before others do (and not auto-share it just because it’s from them), you’ll see improved distribution.
There are several new RSS options out there, many covered in this great post on RSS readers by Dr. Pete. I was using Digg Reader for a time and enjoyed it, but recently moved on to Feedly due to its built-in share counts, which offer a nice hint that content might be good based on existing fnumbers.
Frequent Locations With 10-20% Relevancy
Without fail, the best, highest engagement content on my feed tends to be the content *not* found in the most obvious places in the industry. In the internet marketing/SEO space, those obvious locations are places like Inbound.org, the Moz blog, Search Engine Land, or otherwise, just observing what other people in my feed are sharing.
But that’s not where excellent curation occurs — anybody can take articles from those locations and share them. And for that reason, sharing of that type doesn’t stand out.
The true value comes from frequenting locations that are only abstractly relevant — that is, that share content that may only be strongly relevant to your audience 10-20% of the time. But when it is relevant, it resonates because it’s fresh, new, and otherwise unseen by those in your space — because they aren’t as willing to dig to find the content in the less-obvious 10-20% locations.
Although it might not be the most direct application of Pareto Principle concept, it is true that these 20% locations will drive nearly 80% of your results – sometimes more.
Examples of “10-20%” content locations for me, and why:
- Hacker News — Mostly targeted at startup founders, employees and engineers, Hacker News will still surface relevant content or SEO driven news from time to time.
- Product Hunt – A great place to find new and interesting tools, some of which may apply to our industry.
- Reddit/r/dataisbeautiful/ and /r/internetisbeautiful/ — Great places to find content inspiration.
- My own 10-20% List — By including tangentially related feeds that are still amazing — such as thought leaders in different areas, I can discover content I might have otherwise not. These people for me include but are not limited to Peep Laja (CRO), Chris Dixon (Startups), Hiten Shah (Startups), and Michael Aagaard (CRO).
Your own industry probably has its own similar locations. There are some places that succeed in the 2-5% range every time you browse them. However, I think the gold is in the 10-20% range – because content in the 10-20% range keeps you interested and reading.
Work Harder Than Everyone Else
The critical third element of finding new, great content with consistency is simply hard work. It takes time. You can’t just grab the same links as everyone else. You have to sift around the edges and spend more time to find the best of the best. The people that spend 20 minutes per day on this will fail.
Combine The Effort With Enjoyment
If you’re not actually learning and/or being entertained by the content you’re curating, it will come off in the results. Also, if education is a piece of it (such as it is here, with content marketing) — there’s double benefit: you find interesting content, and you also advance your own skills, which makes the activity much more of a no-brainer.
D. Add Value to the Sourced Content
Simply tweeting an article using the tweet button is not adding value. Simply reposting an infographic is not adding value. Great curation makes the content better — either by highlighting it in a new way, or adding a new element to make it more interesting or sharable.
How can you add unique value?
Increase Visibility With Marketing
For example, one way of adding value I see HubSpot doing with their infographics is applying their content marketing expertise to create a more sharable piece of content.
For example, HubSpot covered an infographic on modern meetings. The original title was: “State of the Modern Meeting”. Lindsay Kolowich and the team there changed it to the following:
Much improved. The “7 Revealing Trends You Should Know [Infographic]” creates a sense of urgency/need — do I know these trends? I should check. And the [Infographic] bracket has been shown to have a higher CTR based on some of their recent research.
Overall, it’s an improvement over the original, which will help the original creator increase website traffic — something they’ll appreciate.
In addition to titles, there are several other ways you can apply your marketing expertise. Many content creators may have great content, but miss some fundamentals that curating and editing appropriately can uncover.
Here are just a few:
- Sharing content at the optimal times.
- Using SEO best practices to uncover keywords and drive traffic.
- Distributing the content beyond just hitting publish.
- Distributing the content through a bigger platform than the original publisher offered.
- Structuring the post to make it more readable/sharable overall.
Add Value With Unique Commentary
One thing Rand Fishkin does consistently when curating is add intelligent commentary, in a way that’s clearly him/different, from any of the other shares for that content. For example, how many people do you think shared this post in even close to the same way?
On the other side of the spectrum, Larry Kim has built a massive audience through curation and his own humorous, emoticon-rich spin on the concept.
Simply hitting the share button is highly unlikely to help you build an established brand in your space. When curating, you should always apply your own voice — a pretty-much-required element of this process in order to get any value out of it.
As a general rule, delete any of the default text share buttons give you, and then rewrite it with your own brand voice.
If you do that every time, you’ll be close to accomplishing this by default.
Improve the Content With Design/Development
The surest-fire way to add value is by adding or improving design elements when you curate content. The barrier of moving from one content creator to two is often the differentiator that separates winners from losers. If you have the resources to leverage multiple skillsets with your content, that gets you an advantage smaller players simply don’t have.
Instead of just saying “make the content better”, I’ll suggest some actionable ways you can easily upgrade existing content without spending a ton of time and energy. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of that in an upcoming section on creating the perfect roundup post.
E. How to Impress Original Creators
The last element of creating optimal curated content is impressing the original content creator. This serves a few benefits, one, if the content creator is impressed, that improves the likelihood they will share your content with their audience.
Two, if they’re impressed, that also means they may also follow you and/or your brand, improving the distribution of your content long-term.
If they’re not impressed, and your roundup post follows a formulaic approach that they’re used to seeing over and over again, you’ll likely gain little to no benefit from the effort. An optimal piece of curative content not only adds value on its own, but also builds a deeper relationship with the source creator.
So, how do we impress influencers with curated content?
Make Sure They Are Notified
On many networks, adding their handle to the post, such as how I do here, makes sure they will become aware you shared their original post. It should be a no brainer, but is often forgotten — you will receive no benefit of a deepened relationship if the creator never finds your content. You can do this either through email or on the network where the content is being shared — but it definitely needs to be done.
Show the Creator Significant Traffic
If the content creator sees you are capable of generating significant traffic to their source content, they’ll definitely take notice. If you create a roundup post that ranks and sends traffic in perpetuity, or your Twitter post gets 20 retweets, there’s a more than solid chance you’ll have an ally for life. This becomes more likely if everything else about the perfect curative piece is properly executed.
Add a Unique, Impressive Take on Their Content
If you share their content with the exact same text the share buttons offer, or put it in “links of the week” Friday post with nothing else of interest, they probably won’t register your business. But if you put their content in an interactive piece that ranks, like Brian Dean’s list of SEO tools, they’re likely to take notice.
F. Content Curation Ethical Best Practices
A very important best-practice for curating is making sure you are ethically sharing said content. It’s unfortunate, but not everyone will want their content curated.
For example, when rounding up content around recipes, many bloggers do not see the value of another link. They don’t want their photographs used without compensation — and therefore, will be extremely upset if you use their content on a business site that may profit from them.
For that reason, if you are using someone’s photography, or anything else that took a significant amount of time to create or possibly could be sold for profit, you should email to ask permission before posting unless there is an explicit statement permissing it on their website.
Having done dozens of roundups, and occasionally having slip ups of not emailing for permission, I can speak from experience that not doing this is a very, very bad idea. In the past, we’ve had angry bloggers aggressively come after us for money. Not fun. Don’t make the same mistake.
In addition, the following rules should always be followed:
- Link to the source content. A no brainer, but some people will post others content without linking to the source.
- You should not steal traffic, you should push traffic. For example, if posting a recipe, you should post a photo and a link to it — not the recipe in full. If you posted the recipe in full, you’d basically be stealing the traffic. In example, check out this screenshot from Greatist as an illustration of how to do it right.
The roundup post is the prototype blog content type for content curation. Bring together several resources from others in one post, based around a given theme or idea, and then present it to the world.
But what separates a bad roundup post from an optimal one? What makes a roundup post perfect? In the following infographic, we’ll break it down from start to finish.
Want more step-by-step detail and supporting data on the above infographic? Check out the breakdown below.
A. It Has a Plural Focus Keyword
By tying in a keyword, you leverage the ability to build massive long-term traffic with these roundups. Generally, there’s a big difference between the intent of a singular versus plural term with roundups that makes plurally focused keywords a better, more natural fit.
For example, the following keywords would be great roundup targets:
B. It Uses an Odd-Numbered Headline
Headlines with numbers are 36% more likely to generate clicks. Given that, if you’re creating a roundup post, it almost always makes sense to use a numbered list. And when you do, make it odd numbered. Outbrain found lists with odd numbers performed 20% better than lists with even numbers.
An added benefit of using a number at the front of your title is that it slightly deoptimizes it, without doing much to hurt the focus of your content in the eyes of Google. A good rule for your roundup headlines is to use one of the following templates:
- # — ADJECTIVE — KEYWORD
- # — KEYWORD — ATTRACTIVE DESCRIPTOR
- # — ADJECTIVE — KEYWORD — ATTRACTIVE DESCRIPTOR
Which one you choose should depend on the length of your keyword/the appropriate descriptor. The shorter the title, the better.
For example, the following are great roundup headlines with an SEO focus:
- 47 Paleo Desserts to Satisfy Any Sweet Tooth
- 77 Healthy Crock-Pot Recipes
- 9 Protein Pancake Recipes That Prove You’re Doing Breakfast All Wrong
C. It Uses the Keyword as the Only URL Element
According to Marketing Sherpa, short URLs are 2.5x more likely to generate clicks. Brian Dean also pointed out that shorter URLs also make for easier sharing on Twitter because they are easier to keep within the 140 character limit.
In addition, these short URLs also show strong relevancy to Google. And when played against the deoptimized roundup headline with the # in the front, you won’t get into trouble.
As a final benefit, these short URLs are also good for user experience. If you follow Brian Dean and you know he had a post about SEO techniques, you can, with certainty, type in those exact two words and come out with the post you’re looking for.
Your perfect URL for both optimization and user-experience should look like the below. If you can’t achieve it due to existing folder structure or something like that, your next-best-bet is to make the only custom area of the URL your exact keyword.
D. It Uses a Tall Image with Text for Pinterest
If your audience is heavily on Pinterest, not utilizing a mashup-image with a text descriptor is a mistake. Tall images on Pinterest perform better given the space they take up on the Pinterest timeline, and the added text adds context about what a person might see if they click through — not just a solo image. In example, Buffer saw 300% better engagement using photos with a text overlay.
The team at Greatist does a nice job of this, and they also understand that sometimes, creating the optimal Pinterest image also means creating a less-pleasing blog post. To account for this, they don’t include an especially tall Pinterest image on the post itself — they custom code it into the Pinterest sharing button.
In addition, they use a consistent aesthetic for these text overlays — no doubt making it extremely easy for members of their team to create a new one. But the template isn’t weak — it looks good across their many posts. If you’re doing a lot of roundup posts like this, it’s suggested you attack it from a similar angle and utilize an easily customizable template.
E. It Uses High-Quality Images in One Format
The difference between bad roundup posts and great ones is often the dedication to maintaining a consistent aesthetic. You can share other people’s content and still keep your brand identity. Because you’re curating from other sources, naturally the way they are displayed will vary dramatically.
Things like, height, width, and quality can be all over the map, if displayed in their default format. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep them in that format, or even include them if they don’t match your quality standards.
For example, check out this post from Brit.Co on repurposing t-shirts. By nature, crafting as a vertical has worse than normal photos because the people there aren’t as focused on high-end photography. But that doesn’t stop Brit.Co from putting out a consistent high-end aesthetic from the photos they source.
How do they do it? How can you do the same?
Select photos with a consistent height, and/or crop taller photos. Sometimes bloggers will create extremely tall photos, but you won’t want really big images for roundups. You should crop the photos to a consistent height/width that stays consistent throughout the post. If you don’t have Photoshop, online tools like PicResize make it easy.
Consistently aim for full-width photos. Full-width photos on blogs simply look better. If you’re doing a roundup, this will almost always make sense to aim for as it ramps up the “visual porn” aesthetic you should always try to achieve if the roundup has a visual element.
Photoshop images together to create a full-width image. In the above shot, Brit.co photoshops together two OK photos to paint a better picture of the necklace pendants than the blogger originally offered. If you have a big post or don’t have photoshop, I recommend outsourcing this task on Upwork to save time and money.
Exclude content that doesn’t fit the bill, even if highly shared. If we are posting something with 50 high quality photos and happen across one that is highly shared but just doesn’t have the photos to maintain our aesthetic, we skip it. For example, a post like this doesn’t have the images a “food porn” post on brownie recipes would require.
If high authority, don’t use photos for every post curated. Greatist does this occasionally by only showcasing an image every five or so recipes. However, I do not recommend this strategy if you’re hoping to generate links to this content — to me this is not “10x” content. It’s good, but a luxury only high domain authority sites can leverage.
Most importantly, as mentioned in the ethical best practices section, make sure you have permission to use these photos. Reach out beforehand to start the conversation — you should be reaching out to notify these people that they were included, so this shouldn’t take you much more time to do. You want to help people get more visibility — not steal their traffic and piss them off.
F. It Sources Articles With Social Proof
It is difficult to generate links with roundup posts. By nature, they are not a format that people link to because most people would instead link to the original content you funnel them to, which is the most natural procedure. For that reason, we must take extreme measures to find a path to generating links in order to help these pages rank.
The highest probability way of doing this is by sourcing the most linked-to content for your given keyword, not the most shared content. This is because a high volume of people who have linked to the content you’re sourcing makes it more probable they may link to an overarching post on the same subject.
If most of the sourced content has 20+ LRDs, and you’re sourcing 40+ resources, that’s a pretty big linking audience. Linking to your post will still be hard for most of those people, but at worst all will be interested, and a good percentage will link if you execute appropriately.
Protip: How to Find Highly Linked Content
There is no straightforward method of finding the most linked content. If you’re using a big topic, such as “cookie recipes”, you could curate the 25-50 highest authority baking blogs, and then go to a tool like Majestic or OpenSiteExplorer and find their top pages. CTRL+F cookies, and you should see a highly-linked cookie recipe amongst the list.
Once you’ve found a good number that way, search “cookie recipes” and associated terms, use OpenSiteExplorer’s SERP overlay tool, and look for highly linked content.
Inevitably, you’ll find a few posts that you had not previously seen by sourcing your list of blogs. Add the best of these to your content, and at this point you should be well on your way to a highly-linkable piece.
Protip: How to Find Highly Shared Content
If links aren’t your thing or otherwise, you’re looking for additional content to flesh out your list, the next-best bet — or really, the 1B bet, is to find the most shared content of that same type. BuzzSumo makes it easy to find the most shared content of whatever content type you’re looking for.
Simply search your keyword, find good, highly shared content that fits your topic requirements, and add it to the list. The fact that it’s already been shared a ton will make it more probable your post will do great as well, and you’ll also have a built-in distribution list to reach out to later on.
Reddit is also a great place to find content with established social proof. By searching “Reddit KEYWORD” on Google, you’ll quickly surface relevant subreddits for your content. Go there, sort by top all-time, and you’ll likely find additional great content to add to your list.
G. It Uses Readability Best Practices
As an additional no-brainer, your content should be easy to read and scan through. In an optimal world, people could enjoy your roundup post without reading a word of plainly formatted text. This can be accomplished through high quality photos and great placement of subheaders, bullets, and usage of bold to highlight standout takeaways.
Beyond “make it readable”, what are the best practices behind optimal readability?
- Smashing Magazine recommends 16px font for body copy. This doesn’t make sense for every brand, but if your font is under 12px, you are making a big mistake.
- Xerox says a colorful image makes it 80% more likely someone will read your content.
- The Baymard Institute reports the optimal line length to be 50-60 characters per line, with up to 75 characters being acceptable. Column width too wide makes it difficult to track back to the next line — too short and it’s difficult for a reader to establish a rhythm.
- Write your copy for seventh-grade readers. Use smaller sentences, and use less jargon.
- Smashing Magazine also released a great post on 10 principles for readable web typography, which gets into more detail than I can within the scope of this article.
Free Reference Checklist: To get all of the above tips and templates in an easy to reference package, click here. We’ll send you a step-by-step checklist, a full PDF of this post, and four other integral outreach templates.
If you aren’t thinking about curating on Pinterest, you should. Unlike other networks, the number of people who see your pins is almost always greater than your number of followers, giving the platform amplification potential not possible elsewhere.
If looking to curate content to build a following and establish your brand on Pinterest, there’s no better place to start than Buzzsumo. By searching for keywords relevant to your space and then sorting by Pinterest shares, you’ll immediately find highly shared content likely to do well for you also.
Although you’ll probably want to share anything highly performing, I prefer content from non-brands as they are less likely to have used their platform to “nudge” the content to better success. Similarly, non-brands are more likely to share your roundup as well.
For example, in the above screenshot, I’d much prefer to share The Recipe Critic’s post — even though All Recipes has highly shared content, they have a much bigger marketing platform — if you actually compare the two, I’d much rather get fat on the Cheesecake Brownies.
Pinterest also has a great search engine that auto-sorts by the most popular, relevant content pertinent to your search — an easy place to find content your audience is likely to engage with.
A. Creating Content Targeted at Pinterest
When creating roundups targeted at Pinterest, my strongest recommendation is creating a tall image with text overlay that properly describes the post, as described in the perfect roundup post section above.
If your blog aesthetic doesn’t support this, custom code your share button to default to the taller Pinterest image, a la Greatist, as I mentioned in the “perfect roundup post” section. This can be the perfect balance between sharability and maintaining a beautiful blog setup.
In addition, readers are likely to also pin their favorite parts of your post. To “nudge” them to do this, I recommend adding a Pinterest mouseover button that displays automatically.
This is especially powerful if your audience is primarily on the network. Many power users will have an extension that does this already, but for the middle tier, the small incentive can make a big difference.
B. Curating Content on Pinterest Boards
If trying to grow your audience on Pinterest, optimizing your boards for search is a good idea. Pinterest is an incredibly authoritative domain, and for that reason, many of their pages based around boards rank for highly competitive keywords. Similarly, a lot of the same search terms popular on Google are popular on Pinterest as well, so working towards capturing both is a good idea.
If you input Pinterest in SEMRush, you can see their most popular pages. While many of these are large brands or bigger search categories, some are simple boards run by non-professionals, such as this board on prom hair. If you export SEMRush’s list of URLs, and search for keywords relevant to you, you can find highly-trafficked boards to try and get placed on.
In addition, Pinterest’s domain authority can also be utilized to rank for keywords that you might not have the authority for, or otherwise, you might not have the time or brand fit (on-site) to create that content.
For example, it may be difficult for Party City to create unique, branded content for 5th birthday party ideas – but if they created a board around it, they could capture some long-tail following or direct users to other snippets of content located on their site, either through Pinterest or on Google.
In this great Pinterest marketing guide from SEER Interactive, they also offer the following helpful tips which may be helpful for better curating:
- Keep board titles under 26 characters so your followers can see it in its entirety.
- To improve readability, use pin descriptions around 150-160 characters that also use your major keywords.
- Don’t go on pinning sprees — spread them out to maintain brand awareness/not annoy.
Is Twitter just for B2B audiences? Not necessarily. Social media scientist Dan Zarella found that engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends, and other data suggests that it has increasing support from the 18-29 and 65+ age demographics. No matter the audience, Twitter is a place you should probably be.
On Twitter, my number one suggestion for effective curation is to completely delete the prescribed text the share buttons give you. Using that text will make you come off as a robot/not show your unique voice/give you the ability to add value.
By sticking to the process of deleting the text, you’ll be halfway towards doing curation effectively. In addition, I recommend the following things to create more value:
- Post images only when they offer a preview of the post, not just to add an image. Smart Twitter users will pick up on your aggressive marketing tactics if you post a photo just to post a photo. The image should offer a preview of the post — if it does that, you can see increased distribution/engagement (images get 2x normal engagement) without pissing off followers.
- @ mention the content authors. It’s a no-brainer move, but by doing this you improve the chance you can impress the content creator. If your tweet results in solid distribution and you offer a unique take, you could gain a follower and nice long term value.
- Try and place the tweet between copy. A long time ago I read a personal analysis by Rand Fishkin that found links between copy performed better. Ever since then I’ve been doing it and seeing solid results. I think something about this setup makes it more obvious you aren’t a bot/makes your tweet stand out in the timeline.
So, given the above, what does the perfect tweet look like? Let’s look at a few examples:
Cyrus uses his own description, mentions @liversidge, and shows a preview that incites curiosity and offers a value-adding preview of the post. Well done, and not surprisingly, he saw massive engagement.
Smashing Magazine does similar, offering a positive voice and mentioning the creator between text. Again, through repeating this process ad nauseam (and creating other useful content), Smashing has grown their following to almost one million people (and a few bots).
Do you always have to follow these rules? Of course not. Don’t force a URL between text if it doesn’t make sense. Don’t @ the author if they’re unlikely to notice (Justin Bieber) or if the characters would be better spent adding more context. Do what makes sense for that specific content.
A. Tips for Content Discovery on Twitter
Twitter sends a daily email with content popular in your network you should be reading. This can be a good source of content that fell between the cracks/you might have missed.
Make sure the email you signed up with is also the one you frequent — I signed up for Twitter long ago and this forwards to my personal email, so I’ve had to setup a filter that forwards to my work email which I check most frequently.
Nuzzel is also a great new tool that sends you content your friends have shared, and actually does a much better job than Twitter’s newsletter, as it not only finds popular tweets, it also finds popular content, which are often very different things. And for our purposes, content is most often more important.
In addition, the no-brainer add-on to this is to use Twitter lists to house the people you follow that are most likely to share content you might want to read or curate yourself. I follow around four hundred people, but really only “heavily follow” 58, as those are the ones I know share content I need to read most often.
The average American spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook, which is almost 2x more than its popular counterparts, Pinterest and Twitter. Even if you’re a B2B brand, that statistic means that there’s marketing opportunity on the platform.
The Facebook platform, unlike other networks, gives you unique gain from sharing content others have shared as well — as long as have an audience in common. This is because the newsfeed, in its current state, locks together multiple posts that share the same piece of content, giving the posts more visibility/likelihood they get surfaced.
For example, since I like The Verge and have friends in common with Manish Dudharejia, I see this post in my feed.
I cropped it out, but I also see how the people shared, which in total takes up a huge percentage of my timeline. And The Verge isn’t sponsoring this post — it’s organic.
Therefore, if I have a large percentage of followers in common with a given brand and also share a post they share themselves, or some of my followers have already shared that post, there’s a higher probability my post will get impressions.
Because of this, there’s larger than normal benefit in sharing content with shared edges in a node – that is, sharing content that others are sharing as well, which is a bit counter to what’s happening on Twitter.
On the reverse end of it, just like Twitter, there’s extra benefit to @ mentioning other pages in your updates. In fact, the benefit of doing so is even larger, because it also ups the probability of showing up in the timeline of people who follow that content and share more edges of that node.
In example, I like both the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers (unfortunately). So when the NFL @ mentions the 49ers, it ups the probability I will see it in my timeline. And sure enough, when big breaking news comes out about our quarterback going on IR, I see it my timeline.
The kind of people who like Chase are very often the same people who like Gary, and for that reason, this inclusion almost certainly got him more visibility when posting.
If you’re curating content, using the same strategy is a no-brainer. By utilizing a strategy there that always @ mentions the involved brands and also shares popular content as well as unique content, you may see improved success on the network.
Email marketing is a different beast as it comes to external content sharing, but it’s no less powerful. After all, for every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on an investment in email marketing. 4425% ROI … what other channels can claim that?
On top of that amazing statistic, curating content in some kind of weekly industry roundup is one of the most effective methods of using email. Moz’s Top 10 Newsletter is one great example of a popular, well-done list.
Moz highlights the best in marketing — including their own content. This gives them a transparent way of holding their audience’s attention while also driving traffic to their own posts.
Moz’s newsletter does it all right — they offer a high-end, unique design, use their own voice, and also notify the people mentioned in the newsletter. Unlike other networks, you have to get more creative in order to notify people. Moz takes a multi-tiered approach.
First, they highlight those mentioned in tweets and add the #MozTop10 hashtag — a clear signal to those mentioned they were recently highlighted.
A second piece, and a very important one, is proper tagging of the external links on the email. By building URLs that properly cite Moz as the source and campaign, the traffic they send Buffer will get picked up in Analytics.
This creates a clearer path to impressing the original curator by showing the potential traffic you can send them, that otherwise would have gotten lost due to obfuscation.
As you can see above, we’ve been lucky enough to get mentioned in a few Moz Top 10s. The campaign that says “top10” was Moz’s original campaign tagging, which they evolved to the more recent “moztop10” — a clear sign they picked up on the strategy themselves.
Buffer’s social scheduling tool also auto-adds their campaign tag, again impressing/growing awareness of their brand through proper attribution.
If you’re a massive publisher, it makes sense not just to curate other content for email, but also curate your own. People will get sick of 95 individual emails in their inbox about every single post you write. Depending on your tempo and how rabid your fanbase is, it may make sense to curate weekly, or even daily.
A. Example Lists Using Content Curation
Want more examples of businesses doing this strategy right? Check out the following lists – they can be good not just for inspiration, but also for finding content to share as well.
Baremetrics Dispatch is roundup of content for founders, entrepreneurs and startups, this newsletter is an intelligent way to grab the attention of founders who might use Baremetrics Stripe analytics software. Great curation in a way that generates sales — perfect.
Sugarrae Sound Bites
Rae Hoffman is a whip smart marketer that shares content, ideas and tools every Saturday in her Sound Bites that especially appeal to the SEO industry. In particular, I love the call to action she includes at the end of every email. It caused me to do this, and I’m sure caused many others to share her newsletter as well.
Every day Dave Pell visits 75 news sites and chooses the best ten stories from the pack for his NextDaft newsletter. Does curation get better than that? Well, yes — Dave also adds insightful commentary to the ten stories that makes his newsletter a must-subscribe.
Curated by CopyBlogger founder Brian Clark, Further does an elegant job of not only bringing together great resources, but also presenting them in a minimalistic, beautiful fashion as well. The Further website is pretty much a guidebook to doing email marketing with curated lists effectively.
I don’t run a software as a service (SaaS) company and currently don’t count any among Siege Media clients. However, I still subscribe to SaaS Weekly – because it’s that good, and Hiten’s reputation as a content curator is well-established. Includes insights for founders, marketing, and more – all in addition to SaaS.
B. How Can You Achieve That Standard?
If you check out the above newsletters, you might find yourself intimidated. How can you create something that looks that good? Or execute at that level? Thankfully, it’s possible without much work thanks to many new tools that make it easier.
I particularly recommend Curated.co, which makes it easy to host a beautiful and effective web experience for your curated email newsletter. As an example of the tool in action, check out Baremetrics Dispatch and SaaS Weekly, both of which I mentioned above.
Curation doesn’t mean curating external resources exclusively. If you’re lucky enough to be a big publisher, it makes sense to curate internal resources as well, and how effectively you do that will inform your success.
One of the best ways of doing this is with a content hub. Content hubs, in essence, organize other content you’ve created or found in a way that adds value for the reader.
In example, check out the below hub of paleo recipes by PaleoLeap. The page curates the best content on their site, allowing you to jump to sections listing their top recipes in each category.
Each section displays high quality images, as well as snippets that describe each post. Some of the content is done by them, and others are roundup posts of external resources.
Similarly, if we look at the below healthy smoothies example from Greatist, we see it in action again. Greatist links to 50+ posts of theirs on healthy smoothie ideas, some of which are their own, others of which are done by external bloggers.
If Greatist and PaleoLeap had instead created a singular post on these topics, there’s no way they could have competed for the keywords they’re trying to rank for, as both are highly competitive. This is because their pages wouldn’t be nearly valuable enough relative to the competition.
By creating a hub that is well done and also highlights many, many other amazing pieces of content, they have the ability to rank. If you’re trying to compete for similar, pluralized keywords that are high competition, the hub content creation approach probably makes sense in order to create skyscraper content around the topic. It may take you years in order to do that, but it’s simply what’s required to stand out.
It’s somewhat ironic due to the high competition keywords they commonly go after, but content hubs, at a page level, should be some of the easiest pages to make. The real time commitment will be the subpages beneath them, which should be incredibly time consuming in total — or you’re probably taking the wrong approach in creating them.
Content Hub Best Practices
Here are some general best practices for creating effective hubs:
- Content hubs should be created for highly competitive, broad focus keywords. The broader the idea, such as “wedding ideas”, the better fit a content hub would be because so many other pieces of content hypothetically fit under that same umbrella.
- Think of hubs as “upgrades” to a category on a blog. In many ways, a hub could otherwise be described as a blog category. But to lock in ranking for the keywords you want to show up for, the user experience and information architecture should be improved – such as in the above examples. At a minimum, this can be done with a custom header plus unique copy for the page.
- Use anchor text links AND image links for maximum SEO benefit. Your subpages should still be ranking for long-tail keywords – help them along with anchor-text rich links that help users and search engines. It’s also recommended you use a thumbnail or custom image as well, as that can improve the page aesthetic overall.
- Keep the page fresh and easy to maintain by auto-updating content. You can either hand-craft these pages or auto-craft them by actually having them function like a category on a blog. Using tags and a blog-like backend, you can automatically update hubs and make them more sustainable for the longterm.
Content distribution for roundups is easy – as long as you think about it at the beginning of the process. As mentioned earlier in this post, if you curate your content based on previous social proof, you’ll have a laundry list of people who might be interested in your content.
However, there’s a definite optimal “flow” to content distribution when curating to be most effective, and also, to prevent yourself from burning bridges.
A. Pre-Outreach Permission
First, if you’re including someone’s photos, you need to ask permission – so your outreach starts before even creating the post. If you don’t ask permission, you run the risk of receiving an angry takedown request once you reach out.
For that reason, your first act of distribution is pre-outreach, if you plan on curating content that utilizes photos. If not, asking permission is not really necessary, and you can skip to the next step.
Here’s a template we use for asking permission/getting attention:
SUBJECT: NAME, want to highlight POSTNAME
Wanted to reach out to ask permission to highlight your POSTNAME on YOURWEBSITENAME by using a photo in addition to posting a link back to you. We really liked it. We won’t be stealing traffic or anything like that and will give you full attribution.
Just wanted to make sure that was OK – let me know!
B. Mentioned Outreach
One of the most obvious and yet most overlooked distribution strategies is to reach out to the people mentioned on your posts. Some people may pick up your mentions through alerts, analytics or elsewhere, but it’s not a certainty.
E-mail, on the other hand, is a near-guarantee – with a more personal touch. If you email everyone you mention positively, and include a sharing call-to-action, you’ll receive lots of shares by default. This is why, if coupled with including influential people, curation has the power to greatly grow your audience.
Here’s a template to use for email outreach. In terms of workflow, I like doing this right after hitting publish – if your blog posts have share counts, it’s a great way to get moving on establishing social proof that your content is good, and of course, getting your content in front of the people sure to like it is a great idea as well.
SUBJECT: NAME, we featured you in our latest post!
Wanted to reach out to let you know we included your POSTNAME on our recent post on SUBJECT. CUSTOMSENTENCE ABOUT CONTENT
You can see it here: http://www.website.com
If you like it, would greatly appreciate if you considered sharing in some way. Thanks for reading and thanks again for the great content!
There are also many tools out there that can assist with this process. If content curation and mentioned outreach are something you plan on doing at scale, ContentMarketer.io and BuzzStream are great add-ons to this process. You can get more detail on their benefits in the next section on tools.
C. Reaching Out to Previous Distributors
Once you’ve reached out to the people included, it’s time to reach out to the people who previously loved the content you’ve curated. Use BuzzStream to find the top sharers for that content. Use Majestic and/or OpenSiteExplorer to see who linked to it.
If you’ve done your job, this process is also fast because you can customize the email with what they shared previously, and it scales up to everyone else who did the same. Here’s an outreach template for these kinds of people:
SUBJECT: ASSET for WEBSITE/NAME
I noticed you had previously shared NAME OF INCLUDED CONTENT, so you thought you might be interested in our recent post that not only includes that, but many other great resources like it as well!
You can see it here: http://www.website.com
If you like it, we’d greatly appreciate if you’d consider sharing it. Thanks for reading and look forward to your feedback!
That should lead to several shares and links, which should help power your site to first-page rankings, if you’ve executed everything else correctly.
D. Additional Niche-Specific Options
The above options aren’t the only way to distribute your content, but they’re the only universal methods that should make sense for everybody who does curation, besides the obvious posting on social networks.
There are several other powerful tools that help for getting more distribution:
- Submitting on Relevant Subreddits. Reddit is a great place to submit curated content and many roundup posts see thousands of visits, if submitted in a relevant place. Try reverse engineering a topic that fits a high traffic subreddit for even more impact.
- Paid Advertising on StumbleUpon. With a great, widely targeted piece, you can easily see 10,000+ views from StumbleUpon for as little as $20. However, it is recommended you only submit there with highly visual content.
- Reach Out to Highly-Followed Pinterest Board Owners. Reach out to the people curating highly followed boards on Pinterest to get your content included and see the benefit of that distribution.
- Cold Outreach to Relevant Link Roundups. Using tools like Link Prospector, you can uncover people sharing similar content in weekly or daily roundups. These are the targets most likely to link to curated content.
- Try Cold Outreach to Industry Targets. Cold outreach just doesn’t work as well with curated content — but if you’ve truly made something amazing, it’s possible to see success. Use so sparingly, though, in case you have other, more relevant content to reach out to these prospects with.
You can probably find many tool lists out there that include 100+ options. The problem with these lists, ironically, is that they do a poor job of curating — most of them haven’t actually been used by the writer, and there’s no great way to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The below list is a list of tools I recommend and have actually used. Not all of them are being used actively, but I’ve at least tested them out and know they have a great use-case for the right business.
A. Open Site Explorer / Majestic
If you curate resources because they’ve generated links previously, you build in a network of people who are capable of doing it for you as well.
The bigger that network, the more likely it is to happen — and therefore, the more likely it is you can rank well with your keyword-driven pieces. Leave that part out, and you may end up wondering what value you got from this type of content.
BuzzSumo is the next-best option in terms of generating long-term value with your curated posts. By finding content with established social success, you improve the likelihood it’ll have success for you.
And by nature, if others have shared the content you’re sharing in a roundup, there’s a greater than average chance they may be interested in your content as well. BuzzSumo’s toolset enables you to view sharers, which allows you to pinpoint influencers for distribution.
PicResize is a simple but powerful tool. For the introductory content marketer without a breadth of skills or access to Photoshop, it enables you to easily create a consistent content aesthetic by cropping and resizing images to your optimal size — without losing the quality. Add in the free part and it becomes a must-bookmark in the content curators toolset.
Upwork’s main value from a curation perspective is allowing you to find affordable graphic design resources to quickly photoshop photos together. If you value your time at all, you shouldn’t be doing this yourself — or having your team do it, because it’s mostly a redundant task, and if you’re doing 50+ images, it can get time consuming.
Use the tool to find a few resources who can do it for you at a low hourly, and enjoy much better ROI from your efforts.
The difference-maker is the built-in share counts – when you’re sifting through dozens of articles, these numbers offer a solid nudge towards the best, most recent content in your list.
In my opinion, SEMRush is the best keyword research tool on the market. If you’re trying to get value from roundups, you should be using it to map a keyword against your topic idea. Other than just giving you keyword research data, it’s also a valuable competitive research tool that makes it easier to uncover high value search terms.
ContentMarketer.io scans your blog post and then spits out the contact information of the people you need to reach out to to notify that you included them on your post. It also allows you to include an email template and send for said outreach, which dramatically increases the speed if you’re executing this process at scale.
If you’re executing this process at scale, BuzzStream makes sure you don’t burn bridges. If you play in a space that isn’t gigantic, there’s a good chance you might include the same people more than once. If that’s the case, it would turn spammy quickly if you reached out to them every time.
Therefore, a tool like BuzzStream is perfect to pick and choose your opportunities and not saturate people with mention emails in case you’ve forgotten or have multiple team members working on outreach. Once you’ve done mention outreach a few times, the people you notify should become followers. If not, you’ve done something wrong and most likely, failed to impress the audience you’re reaching out to.
Nuzzel auto-curates the most-shared content from your network, giving you a seamless path to finding popular content you had not previously seen. Twitter has a similar email roundup, but it isn’t nearly as accurate, and it only curates popular tweets, not popular content — a big difference. If you’re curating on Twitter, you need to be using Nuzzel.
For any Twitter power user, Followerwonk is a valuable tool. It has many applications that allow you to slice and dice audiences, but for curation purposes, Followerwonk adds value by allowing you to compare follower overlaps in order to determine the likelihood your audience has seen something recently shared.
It also allows you to see when your audience is most active, giving you a framework for optimal sharing times if you happen to be discovering content during low-activity periods.
If you’re thinking about creating an email newsletter that curates links, Curated.co is a great shortcut. It makes it easy to quickly build a beautiful email newsletter that also has a home on the web — reducing friction and giving you an optimal setup to build a massive newsletter audience online.
Although I’m not a huge fan of scheduling curated content for most situations in order to retain freshness, scheduling definitely has its place. When doing so, Buffer is a great addition to round out your toolset.
Have I said at all? You’d think in almost 10,000 words, I would have. But I haven’t. I could go further, but I do think what I’ve included here is complete from the perspective of what is needed – the content you haven’t already read or used ad nauseam.
I didn’t include LinkedIn because I think, as a channel, it’s still somewhat behind the times and there isn’t much unique to add there. Similarly, Google+ is on the downtrend, so focusing on a dying star doesn’t seem valuable, either.
No matter what network you’re on, the general best practice remains. Highlight amazing content readers have never seen, in a way that also adds value and also impresses the original creators. If you do that, and do it consistently, success will find you and your business.
Now It’s Your Turn
Want to start using content curation as part of your marketing strategy? Or maybe you just want to take it to the next level — but don’t know where to start, and are feeling overwhelmed by this post.
Well, you’re in luck, because we put together everything that you need.
Click the image below to download a free step-by-step checklist that will walk you through the exact process I outline in this post.
In addition, we’ll also include a PDF download of the post, and four word-for word email templates that you can use as part of your promotion and outreach strategy.