Content curation — sharing hand-selected, pre-existing content about a particular topic from around the web — is a tempting strategy for content marketers who need some breathing room on their editorial calendar.
But there is a definite problem with curated content as its commonly used. It’s a very useful deadline for writers who need to meet deadlines and maintain their flow of content through social channels, but it can fail epically when used in place of new, original content.
While tempting, this strategy should be limited almost exclusively to your social media marketing efforts; keep it off your primary content channel (i.e. your website) as much as possible.
Keep Curated Content Off Your Site and On Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are perfect places to satisfy your need for content curation. If you do use it on your website, limit the type and number of outbound links that you employ.
Restrict Curated Content to Social Media
There is simply no way to keep up the necessary pace of posting on social networks with your own original content. And it seems that even if it were possible it wouldn’t be advisable: users like to read non-branded content from the people/companies they follow, and are 33% more likely to click on it than on a link to the company’s site. 1
However, even on social networks you can’t get away with all curated content all the time. A Curata study showed that the sweet spot for mixing up content types is 25% curated, 65% original, 10% syndicated.2
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, even though it does mean many of us need to either dial back our tweeting schedule or increase our output of original content. The good news is that although people may be more likely to click on a link to someone else’s site, they are more likely to convert when they click on yours:
“Posts that link to your website have a 54% higher click-to-conversion rate than posts that link to third-party websites.”1
If you stop to think about it that makes sense…how are people going to convert for you if you sent them to someone else’s site? And that is the problem at the heart of curated content: you can’t get conversions on someone else’s site.
Content Sites Must Link Intelligently to Maintain Conversions
The internet is all about interconnectivity, so don’t feel like you can’t ever reference or link to someone else’s ideas in your content. What you need to keep in mind from an ROI standpoint is that each link represents a loss of conversions.
Of course for ethical reasons, you shouldn’t be using someone else’s work without citing them, and online that usually means a link.
Be Judicious About Where and How You Link
For citations/quotes, you want to associate yourself with only super useful, high quality writing. Consider carefully where you’re sending your readers, and how their experience on the next site may affect how they feel about the content that sent them there.
Conversely, keep in mind that people are going to remember only the last thing that they read. You’d probably rather that be your content, so keep your link count down.
What this means for your topic selection and writing style is that if you are planning to do a curation-style post, you need to limit the sources from which you’re pulling (3 should be the max).
Find something new to say by blending these sources with your own viewpoint; don’t just parrot or rephrase the original points. And be sure to tag the authors when you promote the content on social media, so you can try and get some extra mileage out of their network in exchange for your link.
For Round-Up Style Posts, Expand the Subject Matter
When doing the ever-popular “87 Tools to Do Something Better” post, don’t focus on a topic that will force you to link to direct competitors.
That means if you make software, you shouldn’t create listed content that links to other software companies. Hubspot makes marketing software, so you don’t see them making lists of tools that include Marketo and Eloqua and promoting those lists on their network.
Likewise, if the main “product” your site is selling is content or information, don’t send your hard-won traffic to a competitor.
Epic Content Curation Fails
We’ve established the basic ground rules of using curated content, but what are some major missteps content marketers are making?
- Fail #1: The OverLinker
In the name of providing useful resources to readers, they create a long list of links to articles about a particular topic on sites similar to theirs. They promote their site, working hard to drive traffic to the resource page. Users are happy with the page, and gleefully click one or more of the links, leaving the Overlinker’s site forever.
- Why It Doesn’t Work: Those users aren’t coming back. They can’t convert to subscribers, they can’t become a customer, they can’t download an ebook. They are gone. Remember, you can’t convert visitors while they’re on someone else’s site.
- Fail #2: The Plagiarizer
To avoid the problem from Fail #1, the Plagiarizer copies most of the good content from those other sites and posts it on his/her site, with a sentence or two of “original content.” The Plagiarizer throws a “citation” link at the bottom of the page, and feels ok about the day’s work.
- Why It Doesn’t Work: First, it’s unethical to copy other people’s work. Quoting is fine; copying is not. If you’re wondering if you’ve pulled too much content from someone else’s site, then you probably have. Second, Google hates duplicate content. Sites that get caught ripping off content can kiss their appearance in search results goodbye.
- Fail #3: The Goal Confuser
Content curation helps drive only particular content marketing goals, and although those goals are not at the top of their list, Goal Confusers fixate on curated content as a priority. They then wonder why they aren’t seeing movement in their high priority goals.
- Why It Doesn’t Work: Content curation can help with social media engagement, but it’s not going to help increase your email subscriptions or lead generation. If these kinds of results are what’s most vital to your content marketing, then choose another tactic. Curate content has a specific purpose; it’s not a panacea for all your content needs.
If your site is driven by original content, you need to approach content curation very carefully. Restrict its use to helping you meet your social audience’s expectations around frequency.
And if you do decide to include it on your own site link carefully and with an eye to keeping visitors where you can convert them.
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