Curated Content is Better Than Constant Content
Stop spewing an endless stream of content.
Audiences are drowning in an ocean of daily updates from companies, bloggers, and content creators with nothing new to add to the conversation, and it’s beginning to show in the rankings.
Today, I want to look at the differences between two content strategies: one that focuses on constantly producing short-form content to meet a quota or hit keyword goals, and another that focuses on fewer posts while spending more time developing each piece of content.
I.e. constant vs. curated content. There is an art and a science to content curation.
Curated vs. Constant: What’s the difference between content styles?
Let’s start with simple definitions:
This strategy relies on consistent posts, usually following a daily or weekly upload schedule. Due to the increased post rate, articles are usually shorter, somewhere under 1,000 words, and they tend to cover very general or very direct topics.
A good example of constant content is a blog that regularly updates with 800 to 1,000-word articles like “Top 10 Apps for This or That”, or brief “How To” guides that look kind of like WikiHow posts. Usually, these are accompanied by very basic links, images, and sometimes video content.
Constant content is often more like a newsletter, designed to keep people fed with regular updates from a single source. It’s fast, easy to consume, and sometimes forgettable.
By comparison, this strategy often functions on a longer post cycle, in the two to the four-week range, with a higher word count and more involved topics.
Examples of curated content might be something like an e-book that explains a complicated task or process, or a “deep dive” guide that fully explores a more nuanced topic. You’ll find plenty of links, images, and video here too, but usually, the video and images will be more integral to the content.
Rather than a newsletter or regular update, curated content should be more like a quality resource. Something that has a lot of replay value, which can be quartered and reused in multiple settings.
Each style has pros and cons, but from a marketing perspective, we’re seeing curated content pull ahead in terms of SEO valuation.
How Did These Strategies Evolve?
Content strategy as we know it today evolved alongside SEO, which means it also evolved with each iteration of Google’s algorithm update. Marketers have been curating relevant content and messaging since the beginning of traditional marketing.
Unless you’re a massive corporation like Coke or Apple, with brand recognition that supersedes the need for SEO, you’ll probably need to optimize your website and content for organic search channels.
That’s a fancy way of saying that if you want a competitive online presence, you’ll need to appeal to Google’s algorithm in exchange for higher page rankings. Beyond Google, you can achieve this social media marketing through sharing content on social media channels.
Why the Algorithm Matters
To save you a history lesson about the development of search engine technology, the absolute basic thing that you need to know is this:
Google’s algorithm assigns value to pages on the internet, and when you search for something on Google, it brings up a list of pages organized by that value.
If you look for “shoes” on Google, it’ll bring up about 3,920,000,000 results. That list of results is then organized by Google’s algorithm, showing you what Google thinks is the most relevant page related to “shoes”.
What does this mean for content strategy?
Over the past decade or so, Google has refined its algorithm to look for an increasingly complex and diverse set of signals. The goal is to match user search results more closely to user search intent.
Search intent, backed by a more nuanced set of ranking signals, is now the main focus of the content strategy. Compared to the past, where enough links and a high keyword density could push a page up the rankings, we now need to focus on whether or not the content produced answers the questions being asked by search engine users.
That’s where curated content comes in.
How To Develop a Better Piece of Content
Better in this context means more useful.
Google claims the main function of it’s search engine is to provide users with the most relevant and valuable information possible according to their search.
So instead of focusing on any specific trait of content writing, focus on how to develop work that provides value to users. But how do we do that?
It Starts Before You Write
Stop writing stuff that only feeds the company ego.
Remember, if our goal is to write content that performs well on Google, we need to write content that focuses on providing maximum value for users.
Sure, it’s marketing content, so the goal is also to generate leads, revenue, and attention, but SEO and content marketing are leaning heavily into this value-centric content process. That means content teams need to find a happy balance between highlighting your company value and giving users something they can take home, so to speak.
Instead, focus on engaging, useful, and meaningful content.
Think about why you go search for something on Google. You’re trying to learn or solve a problem, right? Here’s an example.
We’re looking for a new project management software for our content department.
Constant content, the kind I’ll usually skip, is just some five-minute read or video talking about how someone loves the product. It’s basically an endorsement without much substance, or maybe a very basic explanation of the available features.
Curated content, which is what I want, is a 10-15 minute video showing me how to build a content calendar. Maybe it’s a side-by-side of the same feature on two different platforms to showcase functionality.
Both styles might be well optimized, but only one will get and hold my attention.
Users might not work in marketing, but they’re not stupid either. Users are increasingly invested in the added value angle of content, and that’s why Google’s algorithm is working to find content that answers questions and does more than simply showing off a company name.
Practical Tips for Adding Value
Content strategy will vary a ton based on your industry and the product or brand you’re writing for.
Instead of trying to develop your entire content strategy, think about content elements and curation that can add value and expand the reach of your content.
Here are some solid tips that we use to develop our curated content:
Make use of multimedia options
Infographics, videos, and visual content are all positive signals for both Google and users.
Readers want a modern reading experience, which includes a succinct writing style and multimedia-inclusive content catalog. You want something that might catch a user that’s about to stop reading.
You can stick with simple tools like Canva, or if you have the resources, invest in an in-house graphics team that can develop unique, custom graphics and visual content that will provide users with several ways to consume.
However, avoid cheap graphics when you can. Stock photos, corporate characters, and anything that looks too generic might water down your content and make it look cheap. In the same way that I’ll look at a cheap site and question the quality of information, users might skip over solid content for something with a more polished look.
Blend keyword research with intent research
Keywords aren’t dead, but they’re a more balanced part of Google’s ranking system now.
Instead of focusing purely on keywords, place them strategically in places that matter. Most of the time, your titles, headlines, and a couple of metas will be good enough. You don’t have to skimp if your article calls for the keyword in logical places, but don’t stress keyword density in 2021.
Instead, spend some time researching how keywords overlap with actual user intent. Try to figure out what users are trying to solve, and create content that resolves the problem.
Put yourself in the audience’s shoes
Consider your audience. Imagine yourself as the audience for any of the products, brands, or services that you actively buy.
What do you love and what do you hate about marketing materials from those services?
Chances are, your audience feels the same way about your marketing materials. So if you read an article from a competitor that makes you roll your eyes, you might want to avoid producing that kind of content.
For example, I hate top 10 lists where it’s really obvious that the writer hasn’t interacted with most of the list items. How can I trust a guy’s opinion on 10 different software options if he is getting basic information wrong about 8 of them, or if he’s sponsored by one of them?
I hate seeing it, so I’m sure others do too. That’s why we avoid producing content for subjects we can’t provide insight on without thorough research and vetting or getting more professional opinions.
Self-promotion is cheap and comes across poorly for most readers.
While it doesn’t hurt to be proud of your brand or product and showcase that pride, you should avoid making content that seems to exist purely for the sake of singing your praises.
Likewise, if you’re going to insert yourself in some kind of general content, do it tastefully. Nothing is worse than reading an article, and then feeling like the company that wrote it did it all for a cutesy CTA at the end.
Sure, go ahead and promote your company. That’s the whole point of marketing. But have some tact. A good article can easily be ruined by an awkward self-promotion at the end.
Remember, content isn’t a commercial. It’s a covert display of your company’s value via providing readers with something they want or need.
Spread your content across multiple channels and platforms
Finally, when you develop a really good piece of content, learn how to maximize the value without beating a dead horse.
Ideally, you should plan this ahead of time, too.
A really good piece of curated content should be designed with graphics, video tie-ins, social media posts, and everything else before you even start writing.
If you have a five-step guide to using some new marketing tool, think of which parts are easy to visualize and get your designers to make a graphic.
But don’t stop there! Make sure the graphic works for both your article and a series of social media posts where you can promote the article while providing social media users a useful graphic, even if they don’t read the full article.
This kind of fully integrated content marketing strategy relies on curated and thoroughly developed content.
These are just some ideas to help you get started. The real value of curated content from the marketing side of things is how flexible it is.
You can essentially house a whole range of different formats, platforms, and channels under the content umbrella. Podcasts, YouTube channels, social media, blogs, website pages, ebooks—it’s all packed with a lot of potential value for both you and your audience.
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You’ll Still Want a Content Calendar
Curated content relies on a well-developed content strategy and a whole team working together to produce good stuff, you can of course scale up or down and still produce curated work, but constant content isn’t necessarily bad so long as it provides value.
Consistency isn’t a completely worthless metric.
While curated content usually has a longer production cycle, people still like to see stuff around the same time.
They might be willing to wait for one to two weeks for each piece of content, or longer if you’re giving them something they want, but if you start missing deadlines or dropping pieces altogether, you could risk losing some audience members that expect regular deliveries of content.
Focus on adding real value to your content.
Stop producing tons of content that mostly fills a quota, because people aren’t reading it and the internet is flooded with the stuff.
Value is determined heavily by how well you understand your market and your audience, so there’s no perfect blueprint for developing content or a strategy. But you can take some of the stuff I covered here and make better content with it.
For a quick recap:
- Constant Content is about volume, Curated Content is about value
- In 2021, Google’s algorithm looks for content with an emphasis on value
- Content that matches user intent ranks higher and offers more to users and businesses
- Focus on practical, informative, and useful content
- Curated content should be diverse, multifunctional, and rich with multimedia elements