Sep 21, 2015


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There was a time when Google was like a 4-year-old child: Easy to outmaneuver and even easier to fool (“Got your nose!”). Stuff a page with invisible keywords and simply watch your content climb up the search ranks.

Those days are long gone.

Since releasing a swarm of animal-themed algorithms, the lay of the land has drastically shifted from simple keywords to “quality signals”, a blurrier value that’s much harder to fool (if at all).

But how the hell does Google determine quality?

The bad news is, there’s no list of clean KPIs to target.

The good news is, it’s much more aligned with what we’ve been chanting as a group: value, utility and audience-centric solutions always win.

Picture the last time you searched for something on Google.

What did you do when you didn’t find what you were looking for?

Close the tab immediately. Pogo-stick back and forth between the search results page and other sources. You probably skipped over the super old stuff, and stuff from sites that you’ve already deemed “unreliable” from a previous search. Pages that took more than 4 seconds to load? Forget about it.

So imagine when you landed on exactly what you were looking for.

Google has feelers for how satisfied you are in the forms of low bounce rate, high click through rate, long to short click ratio, the rate of social shares, and the rate of returning visitors.

Today’s Google is all about fulfilling the users’ intent. It looks at context and semantics; it looks for a web of interconnected topics, subtopics, and people. If your content is a one-stop page that will fulfill 100% of a searcher’s needs, SEO should follow organically.

So does content curation play well with SEO?

The short and happy answer is: Curation brings about a ton of SEO benefits. But only if you do it properly.

If you’re looking for a more nitty-gritty breakdown of how content curation affects SEO, make sure to check out this experiment run by SEO veteran Bruce Clay.

To make sure that your curation efforts aren’t going to waste, we’ve put together the following ten commandments that will help you rake in all the SEO perks.

I. Thou shalt not steal (whole articles)

This one should require very little explanation.

Copying-and-pasting complete texts of third-party content is very clearly in the plagiarism bucket. Not only will this practice piss off the original content creator, Google will slap you for duplicate content.

Instead, add some context to the links you share. Whether this is a tl;dr summary, pulling a compelling quote and adding your take, highlighting the most interesting parts or dropping relevant data to back up some key facts, Google will see your curated piece as a separate source of information.

And it’s also common sense: sharing a naked link isn’t much of a value add for your audience. Offer new and diverse opinions for your readers. Do it in a memorable voice that will nurture a relationship between your audience and your brand.

II. Thou shalt not keepeth the same headline

This is a commonly forgotten step for many content curators.

Much like the logic behind the first commandment, the same mechanism applies to the headline. Search engines pay close attention to the content in titles. A new headline will eliminate the chances of you competing in a SERP with the original article.

Optimize your headline to what would appeal to your unique target audience. Use this opportunity to A/B test different headline structures.

(If you’re going to read one article on how to write compelling headlines, make it this one.)

III. Thou shalt check the legitimacy of each of thy source

Can we safely assume that if you’re curating content, you are actually reading the complete post? If you’re squirming in your seat right now, you can do better.

Checking to see that you are linking out to a reputable website is an important step to remember when it comes to SEO. Spam-flagged and untrustworthy websites can have a negative impact on your content indexation. Google gives every web page on the Internet a private internal score and this trust score has an impact on rankings.

Tip: To see whether a source is a trustworthy one, do a quick MozTrust score check. It’s available on the MozBar and serves as a pretty accurate way to filter sources.

IV. Thou shalt use a great variety of sources

While it may be tempting to curate from only the big content players in your industry, be sure to diversify your sources to constantly offer a wide variety of information for your audience.

From an SEO perspective, it’s important to have outbound links that point to a great variety of sites, not just two or three of your favorites. If you consistently curate from the same sources, Google might identify your site as a front to funnel traffic.

V. Breaketh thy bread with thy content creators

One of the greater advantages of content curation is the stuff that happens behind the scenes: connecting with influencers and content creators in your space.

Prominently feature the outbound link in your curation. Don’t be cheap and use a “nofollow” tag in the link. Let the original content creator know that you’ve featured their work on your site. More often than not, this will earn you an inbound link which will feed into your SEO juice.

Outbound links help search engines figure out what your niche is. If you include relevant links that enhance your visitor’s experience, Google will recognize you as a reputable hub of that specific topic which will help your ranking in the long run.

VI. Organize thy curation into relevant sub-topics

Enforce proper organization of your curated content. Create sub-topic pages that go deeper into a general umbrella topic. By offering relevant information that includes semantically related keywords, Google will see that you are offering content that fill in the gaps.

From a behavioural standpoint, a clear organization by tightly-related sub-topics will compel visitors to explore your site beyond the page they landed on. Average page depth is another indicator of “quality” that Google takes into consideration.

VII. Thou shalt share thy curated pieces on social

Social signals is another way that Google gauges quality. After all, if searchers find a piece of content highly valuable, they share it with their networks.

Do your due diligence and distribute your curated content on social networks. We all know that a post’s chance for success hinges on the work that happens after the writing is done. If you want people to notice you as an awesome source of information, let them know!

VIII. …But thou shalt not JUST share thy curated pieces on social

We get it. It makes sense to go where the people are. But marketers are now realizing the mistake in building a brand on giant, stream-based social networks.

Definitely engage with your audience on Twitter and Facebook but create a content hub where all your curated pieces can live. You’ve put in a ton of effort to interconnect high-value links in your niche. Make sure all that work is collecting ranking juice for a domain that you own, rather than evaporating as quickly as your Twitter stream expires.

IX. Boost thy long tail reach by not completely forgetting about keywords

Long-tail keywords are usually longer and more specific search queries. It’s why they’re usually called key phrases. And in most cases, a more specific search query indicates a higher intention to buy.

For example, if you are a car manufacturer, the chances of your site or blog appearing anywhere near the top search results for “car” is wildly unlikely.

This is because “car” is a very broad keyword, sometimes referred to as “head term”. The conversion will be very low because who knows what the searcher is really looking for. It could be anything from a car mock-up for an illustration project to the IMDB page for the Pixar movie.

On the other hand, the key phrase, “which car should I buy next” will drive less traffic but a much higher conversion rate because the intention of the user is clear.

Optimize your curation to include key phrases that are relevant to your specific space and audience’s needs.

X. Remember to keep thy curation consistent

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While there have been recent discussions over whether volume is as important as bloggers and content marketers have been advocating, one thing is clear: Google values freshness.

Make sure that you are keeping your freshness score up by adding new pages regularly. Ensure that your corporate website benefits from this quality signal by creating a related subdomain or directly embedding your curated content.