When Content Curation Is Bad For SEO

Content Curation SEO

Generally the rule of thumb for SEO practices is that if it’s cheap and easy, it will probably end up hurting you in the end. It should come as no surprise, then, that the very same principal applies to the increasingly popular practice of curating content via owned media.

Studies show that 58% of brands are curating content and 82% of those brands have seen increased user engagement as a result of curation efforts. More than half of these brands also report that curation led to an increase in site traffic and helped establish a direct connection with their audience. There’s your business case for content curation — but what about the SEO case?

Content curation makes some marketers sweat because of the old duplicate content rule. That’s a viable fear, and one that Matt Cutts cleared up in a not-so-recent (circa Spring 2012) video. Let’s break down what he had to say. If you’d rather listen to Cutts himself, you’ll find the video at the end of this post.

The spectrum of web content

Cutts recommends thinking about web content on a spectrum. On the one hand you have original, created content like that which is published on New York Times. NYT reporters are paid to write content, not to copy and paste press releases (at least we hope so).

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have a site with pages that automatically pull in content on a given topic. Say, for example, you use an RSS reader to detect and pull in articles and press releases around the web that mention the keyword “Chicago Bears.”

Spectrum of Curation

Automation is evil

With the golden SEO rule in mind, you can probably guess which one of these options Google deems “low quality.” As Cutts puts it, “It’s probably not worth just having automatically generated stuff that could be duplicate content because everyone else has access to the same article bank directories, the same press releases and the same scraping of search results.”

Carefully curated content is ok, though

Don’t let aggregation give curation a bad name, though. Cutts points out that it’s a different story if your curated content is “content that nobody else has access to, or if you’re writing your own content, or if you’re really putting a lot of effort into curation.”

An example would probably help here, right? Cutts brings up Daring Fireball, a tech blog run by writer John Gruber. This is most definitely a curated site, full of clips and quotes from other writers’ content and links to other publications around the web. What it’s not, though, is a jumble of content based on one keyword. As Cutts puts it, Gruber “decides what to link to and […] has his own editorial philosophy were he wants to highlight things that are of interest to him.”

The bottom line for content curation & seo

Let’s reiterate: if it’s cheap and easy, it will probably end up hurting you in the end. To stay on Google’s good side when it comes to curated content, your program needs to be thoughtful, manual and ultimately valuable to the end user. Anyone can pull in content based on keywords; only you and your brilliant editorial team can mine through hundreds of mediocre articles to find the true gems.