It seems that wherever I turn these days, I can’t read a blog or a Warrior Forum thread without someone mentioning how content curation is the greatest thing since, well, since the last greatest thing that everyone was super excited about. I know – it’s a big deal and all that, but really, to me, content curation is a little too reminiscent of auto-blogging, which hasn’t done well. Still, done correctly, content curation does have its benefits. Here’s what you need to know:
So Just What Is Content Curation Anyway?
In essence, content curation means that you are able to pull together content from many other sources in order to be a kind of news aggregator ala Google News. It’s a bit more complicated than that of course and it happens that most people don’t do it correctly anyway, but that’s the gist of it. Here are the details:
Kind of Like Auto Blogging
To understand content creation, one needs only to understand what the whole auto blogging craze was about a couple of years ago. The idea then was to create a blog which would update itself with fresh content by in essence stealing content from other blogs.
The creators of auto blogs ranged from the merely naïve, who thought that as long as they put a link back to the original content they were legally on solid ground, to the pernicious, who would actually try to claim the content was theirs to begin with. Either way, this method worked for a short while and made some people some decent money by getting easy to create blogs well ranked and make money start flowing in.
The catch of course was twofold. First and foremost, the creators of the content rarely actually gave their permission for their stuff to be stolen and this lead to some webhosts getting cease and desist notices, especially from bigger news organizations who could afford to have an attorney on call to sue these guys.
The second problem was that Google noticed that these so called auto blogs were popping up all over the place and that they offered no original content of their own. They merely tried to take content from others and ride the coattails to greatness. Google started cracking down on these kinds of blogs and they have pretty much disappeared because people realized they couldn’t make money doing it anymore.
How Is Content Curation Different?
There are three ways that content curation is different from auto blogging and I’m going to go through them one at a time. However, readers should be aware that in most cases, people do content curation incorrectly and basically treat it like a new version of auto blogging. This will lead to disaster, both in the form of Google slaps and in the form of lawsuits. So be warned.
It’s Snippets, Not Whole Articles
First and foremost, content curation in theory is supposed to be a snippet of an article rather than the whole thing. It’s like quoting the first 20-30 words of a story and then providing a link back to the original content. The idea is supposed to be that you are providing people with the most important headlines in your niche and if they need to know more, they can click the link to learn more.
The problem however is that if you rely exclusively on content curation and doing it this way, you won’t make much money because people will visit your site only to click away to someone else’s site. As a result, many people have tried to up the number of words they take from other sites and I have seen sites which are supposedly “content curation” sites which have 300-400 words quoted, basically the whole article.
This is a problem because it’s first and foremost, theft of content. You are no longer noting an interesting story that your readers may want to read on another website. You are quoting nearly the whole story for them, which means that they basically don’t need to go to the other site. Anyone who does this with major websites may find a cease and desist letter in their mailbox along with a note from their webhost telling them that their site has been shut down summarily.
It’s Discussion about Articles, Not Merely Articles
In theory, the right way to do content curation is to actually write comments on what others have said. The idea is supposed to be that you take a snippet from someone else and then you editorialize about it on your own website.
The reason this is so important is that this allows for what is known as the fair use doctrine. This means that, according to copyright law (at least in the USA, I’m not familiar with the laws in other countries so this may or may not apply to you depending on where you are), you are allowed to quote copyrighted material in order comment on what was said.
The catch of course is that most people who do content curation never add in these extra comments and they simply pull in material from other websites. This leads to a highly questionable situation.
First and foremost, is it legal? If you quote just the headline and the first few words, it is possible that it’s legal because you are merely alerting your readers to an interesting story elsewhere. Note however that I’m not an attorney and the above is not to be construed as legal advice. If you get sued, it’s not my problem and I’m not taking any kind of responsibility.
The second issue is that Google doesn’t particularly like auto blogs and I seriously doubt they’re going to be interested in a website which is basically an auto blog with snippets. I could be wrong of course and I’ve heard from lots of people how Google loves content curation (more on that in a moment, when I finally get to the benefits).
However, my feeling is that Google wants to serve up relevant information to their readers and simply showing them a whole bunch of sites which just aggregate the material they could display fully from the original site is just not going to fly.
It’s Not Meant to Be Your Only Content
This is my biggest gripe about content curation. Even if you are able to get away with quoting snippets from other sites without getting sued for doing so and even if Google is fine with that, they are not going to be fine with a site which ONLY does that.
Auto blogs failed because they never provided a stitch of original content. If you try to auto blogging method with content curation, I cannot see how you will succeed any more than you could have succeeded with auto blogs.
The Right Way to Do It
The right way to do content curation is to treat it as part of your “mix.” You should have a blog or website which has plenty of relevant, fresh content published on a regular basis. It should include at least some original content which is unique to your website. You can then mix it up by also using content curation to fill in more content and keep your blog fresh and relevant.
Let’s face it – unless you have an army of reporters available to constantly write new material for your blog or website, you are not going to be updating several times a day. At best, you may update once or twice a day, but even that tends to be too much for most people who are also trying to run a business.
However, Google’s search algorithm is designed to give higher rankings to sites which do in fact get updated regularly. By using content curation, you can in essence add extra material without having to do research. Just add a sentence and then put in your snippet. The idea isn’t to keep people on your site with this stuff (that’s what your own original material is for). It’s merely to keep them coming back and to get rankings.
You Look Relevant
Another thing that Google’s engineers have designed their spider to do is to look for sites which are relevant. This means that you have content which seems to be about your particular niche and this means that content curation is a great way to look good to those search spiders. It also helps when you have links to major news sites on your site because Google’s system does like to see those kinds of links as well.
You May Get Backlinks
Finally, it’s also possible that you could get some additional backlinks by doing content curation since many places will actually publish trackbacks as a comment in their blogs. This means that if you use an automated system to find content to curate, you could get some additional backlinks for your trouble. Though I wouldn’t count on it too much – most bloggers don’t publish trackbacks, especially automated ones from content curation.