How to Curate Content Successfully (with Case Study)

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As niche site publishers we have an insatiable desire to publish more, more and more.

Our work is never done.

We no sooner publish 5 articles only to discover another 20 topics to cover.

It’s gruelling.

But it’s exciting.  It’s a thrill.

We’re on the hunt for the next piece of content that will hit it big.

A single piece of content can catapult a website from obscurity to success.

The trouble is we never know exactly what will work and so we soldier on day-in and day-out.

At some point we stop and ask “is there a better way?”

Yes and no.

Yes, in that if you don’t like the content mill model, do something else.  Sell something and buy traffic.  Or, focus on fewer evergreen pieces of content and promote those like crazy.

No, in that if you make money from content you need content.

Perhaps a better question to ask is “is there a faster way to produce successful content?””

Yes, there is.  You have many options.

I want to discuss curated content as a viable form of content that can hit it big.

I know from personal experience.

I’ve published a good number of successful curated articles (as well as some duds).

Let’s examine curated content – the what, how and why.

Curated Content Case Study

Just to give you an idea of how well curated articles can perform, here’s a brief case study of one of my curated articles on one of my niche sites.

  • Topic:  101 X Ideas for Y
  • Format:  Each of the 101 listings in the article are formatted as follows:  Heading / image / my editorial comment / attribution link.
  • Word count:  9,500 (it’s a beast –  I didn’t skimp on the editorial comments)
  • Referring domains (ahrefs):  80
  • Organic keywords it ranks for (ahrefs):  1,400
  • Traffic: 9,800 visits (last 30 days – December 11, 2017 to January 13, 2018).  Google: 686 / Pinterest: 7,901
  • Year published: early 2015 (it’s due for a little upgrading)

What is curated content?

Oxford dictionary defines “curate” as “select, organize and look after the items in a collection“.

Curated content is when you put together an extensive article from a collection of other articles.  You usually add your own editorial snippets, but the meat of it is formed via snippets, images and videos from other sources.

Example: 25 Curry Chicken Recipes where you include 25 different recipes from 25 different sources.

What is NOT curated content?

Content where you copy and paste an existing article is not curated.  That is syndicated (if used with permission) or copyright infringement (if used without permission).

How to create curated content?

Step 1: Come up with a topic that can be covered via snippets of a variety of sources.  You probably want to make sure there’s some interest in the main keyword or search phrase.

Step 2: Research dozens or hundreds of sources (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, other websites, etc.).

Step 3: Collect the curated snippets you want to use (it’s a good idea to get permission if using copyright images and/or unique copy – most will be good with it as long as you provide an attribution link).

Step 4: Organize all the snippets of content to form your curated content.  Don’t forget attribution links.

Step 5: Add your editorial comments – introduction and perhaps editorial comments throughout the piece.

Step 6: Set up proper formatting with heading tags, title, image tags, etc.

Step 7: Publish.

Examples of topics that are good for curated content

  • Meta reviews:  You create an article that briefly sets out reviews and findings from multiple reviewers of a particular product.  These can be really helpful articles.
  • Product galleries:  Showcase 10 to 30 particular products from a variety of online merchants.  Usually the collection should form theme such as “best basketball shoes”.
  • Recipe collections:  I already mention this, but recipe collections are a popular topic for curation.
  • Stock tips: You can curate a collection of stock investment tips for the week or month.
  • DIY projects:  Curation is big in the DIY niche.  You showcase a collection of cool DIY projects – like most curated pieces, the projects you choose should be related in some fashion.
  • Best articles for X:  Human Proof Designs does this really well.  Each week they feature a collection of the best internet marketing articles.  I read their list almost every week.
  • News:  I’m not a news publisher, but if you are, you’re probably no stranger to curation.  You thoroughly cover a news story from a variety of sources.
  • Twitter feeds:  I’ve read successful articles that simply embed a series of Tweets discussing a particular issue.  These are great because it saves readers from parsing Twitter for the pertinent messages.  One angle is to include funny Tweets pertaining to a discussion or issue.
  • X Tips: A massive list of tips on any topic – each tip sourced from somewhere else.
  • X Ideas:  Same as the tips concept.

Actually instead of putting together a list what could be hundreds of topics and article ideas, let me put it this way.  Any article that is in list-form for starters could be curated.  But they don’t have to a list.  It could be a text-heavy piece of content that’s a combination of other sources and your editorial contribution.

Why Curate?  Pros and Cons

Not every piece of content I publish is curated.  In fact, it’s not my main type of content; it’s one of many types of content I do.

There are more pros than cons.  Here they are.


Great results:  If you put the time in and do your research, you can create something far better with curation than without.

Social media traction:  If image-rich, you can get some great traction on social media, especially Pinterest and Instagram.  In fact, if you have multiple images, you can create multiple social media posts from one curated article.

Organic search:  Yes, well curated content can perform well in search and rank for intended keywords.  Google doesn’t care if you embed Instagram photos or YouTubes; arguably Google likes it as long as there’s more to the content than just an embedded image or video.

Fun to create:  Most people browse social media for fun.  You, as a curator, get to browse social media as your job.  That means your job is fun.  It really is.  I enjoy hunting around social media and image sites for the perfect image, meme, tweet or whatever I need to make my content awesome.

Can be outsourced:  Since it’s research-intensive, you can outsource it for fairly low cost.  Ask your hired VA to collect everything and you vet it.

People like it:  Most people don’t care if something is curated unless you typically publish thought-provoking work and that’s what they expect.  In most cases, people just want the content to be awesome.  For example, I read regularly.  That site curates plenty (as well as syndicates content).  I don’t care as long as I’m interested in the content.


It’s a lot of work:  Do not think that curating is a fast way to create content.  It’s not.  It’s a ton of work.

Must be careful with attribution:  You definitely want to track your sources and provide proper attribution.  I’ve done enough curation to realize that you need to be organized from the start to ensure that you know which site or URL to source for every snippet, image, etc. you end up using.  FYI, you don’t need to provide any link attribution if you embed content such as  YouTube video or Instagram photo.

What kinds of content can you include in curated content?

These days, curation is so easy with all the embeddable content available (by embeddable, I mean you can legally embed this stuff for free on your site).  You can choose from:

  • YouTube videos;
  • Tweets;
  • Instagram and Pinterest images (never lack images for your content again);
  • Facebook posts and videos; and
  • Infographic distribution sites.

There are others, but that collection alone offers piles of content for a great article.  Of course you will probably want to add snippets of text, quotes, stats, facts etc. from other sources to create something awesome.

Should you use curation software?

I’ve paid for two expensive pieces of software that supposedly help with curation.

I’m sure they help some people, but I found them more of a hindrance than a help.  I prefer just digging in, collecting everything and tracking it and then manually assembling it into one awesome article.

That’s just me though.  If you do curate regularly, the leading curation software options are definitely worth trying.  Even if you can shave 20% of your time using the software, it’s worth it.

Can your entire website be curated content?

Yes.  Why not?

It’s not like you’re trying to sneak in anything that’s bad.  A well curated piece of content can be something that ranks well, perform very well on social media and be liked by plenty of people.

Give it a shot

I’d love to say every piece of curated content performed that well, but it doesn’t.  However, it doesn’t take many of those to be the backbone of a great niche site.


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