How to out curate your competitors

This is the ultimate guide to content curation. Print it out and keep it handy.


What’s the next big thing in search? It depends on who you ask and how much booze is swirling around in her coffee cup.

“It’s local.”

“No, it’s social.”

“No, it’s mobile.”

“No, it’s A + B + C = EMC² x 3.”

ReadWriteWeb’s Richard MacManus argues the next big Internet thing is—wait for it—topic pages.

While he draws a clear distinction between this phenomenon and traditional content curation, MacManus notes that the modern Web is way too noisy, and we need more sites that organize third-party content in a meaningful way.

I couldn’t agree more. The facts are:

  • Content curation is a needed skill that will only grow in importance as more big brands and publishers flood the Internet with all kinds of content.
  • Curation can be a fun, rewarding, and highly effective part of your online marketing mix.
  • Curating content requires skill, tenacity, and above all, an unflinching focus on the needs of your audience.

How do you do it?

I assembled a collection of solid strategies and tactics that will help you consistently out-curate your competitors:

1. Don’t be fooled by the siren song of some fancy-schmancy tool.

The biggest temptation all search marketers face is to sell our souls and automate everything. Don’t have time to compile data, build links, or make delicious dumplings for the kids? No worries, there’s an app for all that.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate time-saving tools as much as anybody. And you can find plenty of reputable content curation services, including XYDO, Curata and Intigi. I just don’t recommend you shove all your eggs into the same stinky basket.

An effective curation strategy requires a healthy variety of sources. If you expect any one tool to do all the work for you, you’ll miss a lot of remarkable content.

Use a fancy tool as one of your filters, if you wish. But don’t fool yourself into believing you can put it on autopilot and watch it magically send you everything you need to succeed.

2. Scour the Internet with all the energy you can muster.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. If your goal is to curate content that provides true value for your audience, you have to out-hustle others who claim to curate, however half-heartedly.

Om Malik’s weekly roundup of interesting online articles is one of the few emails I look forward to reading regularly. Although it intentionally lacks a laser-like focus, Malik’s recommended reading list consistently delivers incredible value. He is such a voracious reader, he always finds fascinating content I haven’t come across.

Try these 21 tactics:

1. Create Twitter lists of experts and thought leaders in your niche.

2. Save Twitter searches for relevant keywords.

3. Build customized MyAlltop pages to keep up on industry blogs.

4. Set up Google Alerts for targeted keywords.

5. Subscribe to blogs by RSS and view them in Google Reader.

6. Create topic lists on Facebook.

7. Perform keyword searches in Trackur.

8. Explore Regator‘s curated blog directory.

9. Hunt down content by category on StumbleUpon.

10. Find applicable articles and experts with Topsy.

11. Join relevant LinkedIn groups.

12. Search Scribd‘s documents database.

13. Dig in the bookmarked items on Delicious.

14. Keep an eye on curated niche sites that serve your audience, like Inbound.org.

15. Scour the Web with Snip.it and Scoop.it.

16. Drop your keywords into Bottlenose.

17. Scan the curated lists on List.ly.

18. Sign up for a personalized email digest from YourVersion.

19. Say hello to Social Buzz.

20. Swing by Ice Rocket and ROCKZi once in a while.

21. Ignore Google+ at your own risk. I dare you.

3. Consider all kinds of content.

You should not—I repeat, should not—base your entire curation strategy on text-based blog posts and articles.

Spice things up with relevant podcasts, videos, images, photos, infographics, forum threads, screencasts, webinars, presentations, research, PDFs, and anything else that will benefit your audience or brighten their day.

Your ultimate goal is to create value. The wider you cast your net, the more value you will provide to the people you serve.

Here’s a smorgasbord of sites you can use to discover killer content:

  • Podcasts: iTunes Store, BeyondPod, Blog Talk Radio, Podcast Alley, and Blubrry.
  • Videos: Blinkx, YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Google Video Search, Mobento, Vodio, Metacafe, and Redux.
  • Images: Flickr, Instagram, Picsho, Google image search, Panoramio, and Pinterest.
  • Presentations: SlideShare, PPT Search Engine, and Slideworld.
  • Forum threads: BoardTracker, BoardReader, and Omgili.
  • Q&A: Quora, LinkedIn Answers and Yahoo Answers.
  • Research and long-form content: Google Books, Google Scholar, Longreads, Goodreads, and Amazon.
  • Projects and products: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, AngelList, and Refer.ly.
  • Product reviews: CNET, Consumer Reports, ConsumerSearch, and Buzzillions.
  • Patents: Google Patent Search, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

4. Constantly refine and refocus your curation strategy.

The brilliant social media curator Robert Scoble may have said it best: “If you want more followers, you have to follow better people. Your inbound will inform your outbound.”

I like to cram tons of different sources into my content funnel at the beginning of each curation project. Once I’m convinced I’ve cast my net wide enough, I begin the crucial process of whittling down those sources into a manageable list.

It’s kind of like a brainstorming exercise. If your focus is too narrow, you run the risk of overlooking some amazing opportunities.

First, fill your funnel to the brim. Second, cherry pick the highest-quality sources and kick the rest to the curb. (That’s a little technique I like to call “source pruning.” It’s similar to link pruning, but slightly less stinky.)

You also can use another little technique I call “favorites poaching.” It’s a lot easier than it sounds.

All you have to do is visit the Twitter profiles of authoritative voices in your niche, and comb through their favorite tweets. You’re bound to find valuable content and new authoritative sources.

5. Be the pickiest curator.

In college, I took a magazine article writing class from a professor who liked to pay for his African safaris by writing about them. He told us, “Don’t ever settle for almost the right word. Every word you use has to be exactly the right word.”

If you’re going to out-curate your competition, every piece of content you serve to your audience has to be exactly the right piece of content. (It’s good to have goals, right?)

6. Set high standards and strive to exceed them.

Here are five quick questions you should ask yourself before you share curated content:

  1. Will my audience find it useful or interesting?
  2. Is the source credible and trustworthy?
  3. What’s the likelihood my audience has already seen this?
  4. What’s the likelihood my audience will bookmark or share it with their networks?
  5. Can I find something better on the same topic?

This post doesn’t even begin to address how to organize all the amazing third-party content you collect. We’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Curate with confidence, my friends.

Am I wrong about anything? The comments section would be a lovely place for you to set the record straight.

Leo Dirr is passionate about finding, creating and sharing valuable online content. He is the content manager for Grow America. A version of this article originally appeared on Outspoken Media.

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