Mar 30, 2015 / by Jim Dougherty

“Content curation is sorting through a large amount of web content to find the best, most meaningful bits and presenting these in an organized, valuable way.” – Kevan Lee, Buffer

Content curation is defined as bringing meaningful organization to some subset of all of the content in the world. For practical purposes, it’s the way that we share relevant information with our audiences through social and owned media.

It is also an inexpensive way to augment the original content that you’re producing. If done right, it enhances your branding and message. If done wrong, it does the opposite. What I want to do in this piece is to share eight best practices to enhance your branding and messaging by curating content.

If there’s one overarching theme of this post, it is that you must focus on your reader’s experience. There are a few instances where conventional wisdom can cause you to stray from this, and I’ll highlight these in some of the bullets.

1. Define a set of topics and sources

The Internet is rich with interesting content. So much so that trying to curate without a clear purpose can lead you down some unexpected rabbit holes.

Content strategist Tiffany Monhollon suggests that you start with your intended audience and determine what topics and content would be most relevant for them:

“It’s important to start with your audience in mind. What topics and content formats that relate to your business will they find meaningful? You can find content related to your business, such as industry trends and statistics, tips and how-tos, informational or entertaining videos, or community-related sources to curate.”

It’s also important to determine the sources that you’ll use, too. For example a New York Times article will probably generate more interest than a blog post, all things being equal. Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing writes that it is helpful to determine your “go-to” sources at the outset of your content curation planning:

“Identify a core set of sources you can count on for both consistently good content as well as a variety of sources of similarly-themed content. This includes a handful of great blogs and newsletters, plus topical aggregation sites like Alltop.”

The Content Marketing Institute has a great list of different content curation sources if you are looking for source ideas.

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2. Leverage your distribution channels

Content Curation Best Practices

A lot of people like to curate content using their social channels only. But let’s meditate for a moment on the reader experience: if the purpose of content curation is to bring greater meaning to your content, doesn’t it stand to reason that it would be an appropriate tactic for all of your distribution channels?

The big hold-up for people is to accept that there is a certain amount of content that you’ll share that won’t be directly attributable to you, and that traffic that you may generate that won’t come to your site for immediate conversion. You could easily talk your way out of content curation thinking like that. Remember that you are trying to share strong content with your readers, and their experience with your content is what will flavor their opinion of you.

Consider curating content for all of your distribution channels (except for paid media)

3. Know how to republish content

I found a best practice list for content curation which said to only publish a part of another person’s article and then link to it to avoid plagiarizing them. Think about that for a moment: do YOU like reading a paragraph or two and then clicking through to read the rest? Probably not, and neither do your readers.

In order to curate content on your owned media sites, seek permission from the author first. The opportunity to have their content exposed in a different distribution channel is enough incentive for many people. I’ve done this quite a few times on my blog and most people are very open to it.

Then, you want to focus on avoiding duplicate content penalties from search engines (both for YOU and for the author). Here’s how Google recommends that you do this:

In essence, this tells Google not to index this article (you can Google your article to see if this worked), it attributes the content to the source article and passes on some “link juice” to the source.

Note that Google does warn against too much of this type of content, although it’s unclear how much is too much. Many sites rely on a large portion of syndicated content without penalty. If you’re syndicating great content to share with your audience, this is a good way to do it with your earned media channels.

4. Change titles and images

Ally Greer of offers a sound, out-of-the-box method for curating content: change the title and/or photo:

“Part of adding value via content curation (taking it a step further than just adding your insight) lies in choosing a relevant image and title that could potentially bring a new perspective to the original piece of content that you’re curating.”

It makes a lot of sense. I submitted a post to Cision last week with a pretty weak title, which the editor changed before publication. Pure speculation here, but I would guess that the additional social shares and reads counted in the hundreds.

Just because somebody wrote a piece doesn’t mean that their headline couldn’t improved, or that their photos are optimized for Pinterest or Facebook or Instagram.

5. Add value to the content

We’ve all seen social posts like the one above, where the curator shares a little bit of narrative or insight as a preface to the piece. On Google Plus, this might mean a long-form opinion on the shared piece, on Facebook or LinkedIn something shorter, on Twitter a word or two.

There’s also opportunity to share value for curated content in your owned media channels. I’ve personally written short prefaces to curated pieces to provide context or other value, and this is perfectly acceptable so long as the author is okay with it.

6. Embed and enhance content

Content channels like Soundcloud, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and others offer very easy means to embed content in your owned media channels. You could easily create content around another piece of embedded content (such as the podcast on content curation shown below).

This is a higher commitment version of adding value to a piece of curated content, and can greatly enhance your effort while providing value through curation.

7. Consider a SaaS solution

At a certain scale, it may make sense to use a SaaS (software as a service) tool to curate content. Costs and involvement vary widely for many of these applications, but many are widely used by very well-known companies. In other words, content curation works at scale (which is reassuring, right?).

Here’s one of the best lists I’ve found of content curation tools.

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8. Measure your content curation

Marketer Heidi Cohen says that 40 percent of content curators don’t measure the effectiveness of their curation. It seems a little silly to perform a PR or marketing function without metrics, and since content curation is almost entirely digital and quite engineerable, there’s no reason not to have meaningful metrics around content curation. You should be able to engineer conversion metrics into content curation.

Content curation should be measured by the same criteria as original content, and by owning the curation you are able to go beyond social shares and traffic and measure more meaningful things such as conversions and referrals.


Content curation is the act of organizing content into a meaningful context. We do it everyday to varying degrees. There are things that you can do to plan better, to get better content, to enhance content and to measure your effectiveness.

Hopefully these tips give you some ideas of how you can curate content better.

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.