A Step-by-Step Guide to Content Curation
There are five primary activities required for developing and maintaining an efficient, effective and ethical curation practice:
- Define your Objectives
- Find your Sources
- Curate by organizing and editorializing
- Share via a variety of channels and mediums
- Analyze and optimize your content curation performance
1. DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES
Content curation can be used externally (for marketing purposes), or internally (for knowledge management and competitive intelligence). This guide is focused on the marketing side of things, but since the majority of the best practices covered are relevant for any use case,
let’s look at a few other possibilities:
Share content to inform, educate, and influence your prospects and customers, simultaneously strengthening your brand’s position as a go-to resource and industry thought leader.
Educate an internal audience, such as a team of researchers, on a particular topic
Build an online destination that can be monetized via advertisements or sponsorships.
Inform internal stakeholders on relevant news. For example, you might use curation to keep your sales team up-to-date on your competitors and industry.
Before you start curating content, ensure that you have one of these clear goals in mind.
Picking Your Topic
Picking your topic is a essential first step in developing a successful content curation program. Unlike other parts of the curation process, which are performed on a repetitive basis, picking your topic is typically something you should only need to do once.
Of course, a topic area could evolve down the road, but you can make sure that you’re starting on the right foot if you engage in proper due diligence.
The Three Elements of a Perfect Topic
There are three factors to consider when finding a the perfect curation topic:
1. Competitive Landscape: How much competition is there for this topic?
2. Audience Interest: Is my target audience interested in this topic?
3. Content Landscape: Is there sufficient content on this topic for me to curate?
Ideally, you’re looking for a topic that:
• Has relatively low competition (meaning it isn’t already widely covered)
• Is of specific interest to your audience
• Has generated sufficient content in the market for curation
This topic should fall in the middle of the venn diagram. Below, I will walk through three tests you should take in order to choose the perfect topic.
Test 1: Survey the Competitor Landscape:
To survey the competitor landscape, look at other sites that cover your chosen topic and ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I curate better than they can? Can you make your curation site more attractive to readers by offering greater depth of coverage, relevancy and/or consistency?
- Is there a better perspective or opposing point of view? Can you curate the same content from a different angle, highlighting a unique take on the topic?
- Can I broaden or narrow my topic? Can you use increased specificity or, conversely, greater scope of topic to increase your content’s “discoverability”?
Test 2: Survey the Content Landscape
In order to create a successful curation program, you must have enough content to curate. Here are a few quick and easy ways to assess the availability of content:
- Plug your desired topic into Google News and sort your results by date to see how many articles are being created per day or week.
- Do the same exercise in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
- Review blogs that cover your topic, either consistently or intermittently
Test 3: Determine Your Audience Interest
Even if your topic passes the competitor and content landscape, the most important hurdle still remains. You have to ensure the topic is of interest to the target audience of you business. Without this, your curated content will fail to capture or hold attention of your audience. To guage audience interest, use the following methods:
- Use Google Keyword Planner to measure the general level of online interest in a given topic
- Use either interviews or a simple survey to get a sample of your customers’ opinions about your topic — how important it is, whether they feel they have a information on it already, what specific questions they already have.
The perfect topic will pass all three tests: competitor, content, and audience. However, curators often need to work with a topic that is not quite perfect and only passes two of the three tests.
An example of a great topic can be found on IBM’s Smarter Planet. IBM uses the site to educate professionals about smarter systems. They first surveyed their competitors and the current technology landscape before deciding that their audience (mainly IT professionals) would be interested in news about smart systems.
Discovering Content Sources
Once you’ve selected a topic, you need to find content sources to curate from. There are two broad types of sources to find articles from:
- Known and Trusted Sources: These are sources that you, and likely your audience, are familiar with. If you’ve chosen your topic well, you should be able to find at least a dozen known and trusted sources by reviewing the content you consume via:
- Trade publications
- Twitter lists
- Specific Twitter USers
- Industry Blogs
- LinkedIn Pulse
- Scientific Journals
- Additional Sources: To supplement go-to sources, tap into these additional places for relevant content:
- Feed Reader
- Email Newsletters
- Public Relations Team
After you have selected a topic and gathered your sources, it is time to start curating. The first responsibility of a curator is to decide which of your sourced articles is worthy of your audience’s attention. Here are a few high-level criteria you can use to make an initial assessment of an article’s value:
Relevant. Is this content relevant to my audience? Though it may be related to my topic, does it offer any additional insights to my
audience that they may not already know?
Credible. Is this content from a publication that I trust? Is the content from a reputable site or blog? Or is it from a low-quality site with no credible authority in my subject area?
Diverse. Does this content offer an alternative viewpoint (maybe not one that my organization or I agree with, but one that makes the discussion more interesting?)
Validating. Does the content offer additional insight that validates my point of view?
Unique. Is this fresh content that will provide my audience with new information or insight that they haven’t found elsewhere? If the content is available elsewhere, is my site doing a better job of highlighting and contextualizing the content?
How Often Should I Curate Content?
Picking quality articles to share with your audience is the first step. Then, you must decide how often to curate. While the answer varies depending on your audience size and the cadence of your other communications, the Curata Content Marketing Tactics Planner says 48% of marketers are curating at least once a week.
All the work you’ve done so far – identifying, finding, and organizing your content – has been behind-the-scenes preparation for sharing your curated collection with your target audience. This is the moment of truth. As a content curator, it is your job to find which sharing channels are best suited to your audience. However, if you are new to curating, I suggest you explore your outreach options. In the following sections, I will detail the pros and cons of these five sharing vehicles:
- A dedicated site
- A newsletter
- Social media posts
- An on-site news widget
A Dedicated Site
A dedicated site is sometimes called a microsite, and is a site populated primarily with curated content.
If you choose to create curated posts on a dedicated site, follow these structural and formatting best practices:
New Title- Don’t be afraid to edit the title so it’s as relevant as possible to your audience. And consider adding an image (if there isn’t one), or replacing the image with something that’s more likely to catch your audience’s attention. Use design tools such as Canva or photo libraries like Shutterstock or Death To Stock Photo.
Summary/Added Commentary- Whether you’re agreeing or disagreeing with the original content’s author, you should include:
-A brief summary of the article (including some context around why you curated it)
-A relevant quote from the original article (this is optional, but adds credibility)
Additional insight, opinion, and/or context
Link Back – Always include proper attribution.
A Question – Questions help contextualize the content and increase reader engagement.
Call-to-Action– Give your readers the option to learn more about the article’s topic and/or your company.
An email newsletter is a recurring communication sent on a regular basis that contains a digest of all recently curated items or a mix of curated and created items.
A good newsletter template should include the following:
Introduction – Let your audience know what you’re delivering.
Recent, original pieces – This can include blog posts, infographics, webinars, or any other content that your audience will find useful and/or interesting.
Relevant, timely, third-party sources –You may include articles you’ve curated via your blog and social media profiles.
Call-to-actionInvite your readers to click through to learn more, download an eBook, request a demo, etc.
Contact information and share buttons – Make it easy for readers to reach you and to share your content with their colleagues.
Social Media Channels
Social media promotion includes status updates with links to curated content, shared via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Since it can be difficult to squeeze an entire message into 140 characters, we recommend starting a conversation with your readers by asking a question or voicing a strong opinion.
Facebook & LinkedIn
-New Title –Edit the title so it’s as relevant as possible to your audience.
-Summary/Added Commentary – Include additional insight, opinion, and/or context.
-Ask a Question – Encourage readers to get involved in the conversation.
-Link Back – Always include proper attribution.
Feeds are real-time, standardized, automatic content syndication.
An embedded widget is a small pane integrated via a code on your existing web properties used to display content delivered via a feed.
IBM has an “Around the Web” widget on the IBM Big Data Hub microsite, as seen below.
You can also embed a Twitter widget on your site to syndicate content exclusively from your Twitter Account.
For an even more in-depth comparison of sharing
channels, download the full eBook here —–>
After you have found, curated and shared content, it is important to measure its success. Use this analysis to adjust your future curation strategy. But, keep in mind that content curation is different than many other content marketing strategies because it relies on third-party off-site content.
Let’s take a look at metrics to pay attention to specifically for content curation initiatives, and just as importantly, misleading metrics that you should ignore. . .
Metrics to Watch
Page Views and Visitor Growth. Similar to other content marketing campaigns, you can simply track traffic growth month over month in Google Analytics for page views and visitors. As your site grows both in terms of authority within your target audience by reputation, and in terms of search engine optimization (SEO), you should hopefully see a steady and healthy growth in traffic numbers.
Frequency & Recency. If you are providing valuable content, then your visitors will keep coming back to you as a trusted resource for a topic. If not, your visitors will click off to a third-party article, and will likely never return again. Either way, the metrics will reveal this.
Count of Visits measures how many times are your visitors coming back to your site. If the content you are curating is useful, your site will be good at retaining repeat visitors.
Days since Last Visit measures how often your repeat visitors are coming back to your site. If you are curating valuable content, this metric should reflect the frequency of your curation and publishing habits.
Metrics to Ignore
Total Site Visits. The most successful curators focus on a single specific topic for a select audience. If you are doing a good job curating, you are likely doing this too. As a result, you should set your expectation appropriately when it comes to the total addressable site visitors. If you have a highly specific topic for a particular industry niche, even if you have a few hundred visitors a day, you may be doing a great job.
Comments. While commenting on your curated content should not be ignored entirely, it should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s naturally for your readers to comment directly on the original article where content is written. If your comment count is low, that may be in fact be alright.
Engagement, Bounce Rate & Visit Time. These metrics tend to be high on sites with large amount of original content, where users can spend a lot of time on the site in a single uninterrupted session. However, with curated sites, the content consumption dynamics are very different. Visitors often leave the curated site to view interesting third-party content, and return again to read more content. As a curator, you should not be overly concerned about engagement, bounce rate and time on site numbers.
Email Newsletter Metrics
Metrics to Watch
Subscriber Growth. Assuming you have a sign-up form for your newsletter on your site, list growth is one of the most important metrics to watch. A steady growth in subscribers demonstrates that people visiting your site find your curated content valuable enough that they want the content pushed to them via email.
Opt-outs & Unsubscribes. On the flip side, you should keep an eye on opt-out and unsubscribe rates. If you find that many of your subscribers are leaving, there are a couple of things you can do: email them less often (perhaps change from a daily to weekly list), segment your list by topic (so the content is more relevant to them), pay more attention to the content you are curating (perhaps you are being too self-promotional), or be more consistent (you may be curating sporadically which makes you less trusted).
Click Through Rate. Monitoring your click through rate is important to see how valuable your content is in isolation. If you find that you your audience is clicking through on your curated content, then its relevant, timely and valuable. However, on the flip-side, a low click-through rate can be deceiving. Many readers may simply get value by skimming the headlines, even without clicking through.
Metrics to Ignore
Open Rate. While curated newsletters typically enjoy the highest open-rates, more than lead nurture, or promotional emails, open rates are often misleading. Open rates for any email newsletter can only be computed for readers who click through on links or disable images in newsletters. So if you see a 25% open rate, the actual open rate is likely much higher
Social Media Metrics
Metrics to Watch
Followership/Fan Growth. If you are sharing your content over social channels such as Twitter or Facebook, a good metric to track is your followership or fan page growth. While a larger number of people may be viewing your content as they browse Twitter, the ones who value your content and want to continuously receive it will follow you, (or they may simply be hoping for a follow back).
Retweets. Another social media metrics to track is retweets. While this is a metric for any content marketer, curators can employ this little trick to better track the spread of their curation efforts: when you share a third party articles on Twitter, retitle the headline of the article. This allows you to share your perspective, make it more appealing but also more cleanly track retweets.
Metrics to Watch
Views, Click-throughs, Subscriptions. To measure the success of a feed, you will want to see if it’s being viewed and if people are subscribing to it. To track the consumption (views, click-throughs) and retention (subscriptions) of your feed, use feed analytic tools, such as FeedBurner and FeedBlitz.
While many of the metrics above are in common with the usual content marketing metrics, curation does change things quite a bit by providing a different content consumption experience. New curators are often thrown off by strange and often disturbing looking metrics such as bounce rates which they should be ignoring. Hopefully this provides you with a quick overview of the metrics that work best for curation.
The most effective marketing is no longer just about your product or even your customer’s needs. Today’s most evolved marketers understand that their strategy needs to include a larger ecosystem that considers their entire market and industry. We hope, having read this guide, that you now have a better understanding of exactly how content curation helps you do just that.
For more content curation resources and a bonus 12-step content curation checklist, download the full eBook on the topic, The Ultimate Guide to Content Curation.