How to Consistently Out-Curate Your Competitors


What’s the next big thing in search? It kind of 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 that the next big Internet thing is… wait for it, 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. Well, I could, but then I’d owe Mr. MacManus a totem pole, a Tootsie Pop and a tattoo of a dancing taco. So, let’s just stick with the facts, shall we?

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.

So, how do you do it? I’m so glad you asked. I’ve assembled a collection of solid strategies and tasty tactics that will help you consistently out-curate your competitors. Read on like Donkey Kong!

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 to the Borg 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 of that crap.

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 shoving all of 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 of the work for you, you’re going to miss a lot of remarkable content.

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

Scour the Interwebs With All of the Energy You Can Muster

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were any of Victoria Secret’s fabulous form-fitting bras. If your goal is to curate content that provides true value for your audience, you’ve got to out-hustle all of the namby-pamby posers in your niche who claim to be curating, however half-heartedly.

Om Malik’s weekly roundup of interesting online articles is one of the few emails I actually look forward to reading on a regular basis. Although it intentionally lacks a laser-like focus, Om’s recommended reading list consistently delivers incredible value.

He is such a voracious reader that he always finds fascinating content that I haven’t come across on my own.

Be like Om.

Drill down. Triangulate. Stop, drop and roll. Do whatever it takes to intensify your content curation efforts to the point that you are seriously rocking the shiggedy out of a little sumpin, sumpin.

Try these 21 tasty tactics that are kid-tested and mother-approved:

  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 topical 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 into the bookmarked items on Delicious.
  14. Keep an eye on curated niche sites that serve your audience, like
  15. Scour the Web with and
  16. Drop your keywords into Bottlenose.
  17. Scan the curated lists on
  18. Sign up for a personalized email digest from YourVersion.
  19. Say hello to your little friend: Social Buzz.
  20. Swing by Ice Rocket and ROCKZi once in awhile.
  21. Ignore Google+ at your own risk. I dare you. #smooches

Consider All Kinds of Crazy Content

Content is king. Betty White is queen. And Humpty Dumpty is stinkier than an old lady’s bunions smothered in onions.

The point here is that 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 out the wazoo. 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, Blubrry
  • Videos: Blinkx, YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Google Video Search, Mobento, Vodio, Metacafe, Redux
  • Images: Flickr, Instagram, Picsho, Google Image Search, Panoramio, Pinterest
  • Presentations: SlideShare, PPT Search Engine, Slideworld
  • Forum Threads: BoardTracker, BoardReader, Omgili
  • Q&A: Quora, LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo! Answers
  • Research and Long-Form Content: Google Books, Google Scholar, Longreads, Goodreads, Amazon
  • Projects and Products: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, AngelList,
  • Product Reviews: CNET, Consumer Reports, ConsumerSearch, Buzzillions
  • Patents: Google Patent Search, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Constantly Refine and Refocus Your Curation Strategy

The brilliant social media curator Robert Scoble may have said it best…

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

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

So first, fill your funnel to the brim. Then 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 it’s slightly less stinky.

You also can use another little technique I like to call bon bon eating. Just kidding. It’s really called favorites poaching. And 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 the tweets they have favorited. You’re bound to find valuable content and some new authoritative sources you aren’t stalking yet.

Bada bing, bada boom!

Be the Pickiest, Little Curator Allowed by Law

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. Hey, it’s good to have goals, right?

Set high standards and strive to exceed them.

5 quick questions you should ask yourself before sharing curated content:

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

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

I hope you find this information useful. I had a lot of fun writing it up.

Curate with confidence, my friends.

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

Your Comments

  • Paige C. Willey

    There’s a load of information here Leo! I like your thinking. I would say, however, that tools are necessary–they can keep you from letting things slip through the cracks. There isn’t a tool that can handle everything, but with a group of them you can get quite a bit done. I think the point isn’t necessarily to automate, but to monitor.

    • Leo Dirr

      Thanks, Paige. I agree that tools can be useful. I use tools. I just don’t think it’s a great idea to pick one tool, assume it will solve all of your problems, set it and forget it, and then never expand your content discovery process beyond that one tool.

  • Joel Zaslofsky

    Hey Leo,
    I enjoyed this one and learned a few things too. Way to go beyond the superficial “do it ’cause it’s important” kind of summary articles I see on the topic lately. You mention casting your net wide when it comes to reputable sources on topics you love. Well, I love curating (so much I did an entire podcast episode on it) and consider yourself caught in my net. :)

    • Leo Dirr

      Joel, thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoy curating awesome content and podcasting. I’m sure you could teach me a thing or two about how to find the best podcasts on a given topic. I actually think somebody could make a career out of just curating podcasts, if that person did it with enough skill and passion. All the best to you, my friend.

  • Travis Van Slooten


    I love this post! I’m in the process right now of diving into curation. The one thing I’m really good at is organizing stuff – particularly information. Like you mentioned, there is so much noise on the Internet it can make your head spin. The information comes at you like water out of a fire hose when it would be much easier to consume if it came out of a water faucet filter:) That’s where great curation can come into play.

    My goal for my given industry will be to give them information they can consume quickly and easily:) And I’m not going to do it via a tool either. Sure I’ll use tools to gather information, but the actual curation will be done manually by yours truly. Personally, I think to do curation the right way, there has to be a human element…someone that can filter the good from the bad and organize the information effectively.

    Travis Van Slooten

    • Leo Dirr

      Thanks, Travis. It’s a great time to dive into curation. If you stay focused on providing value to your audience, you can’t go wrong. Curate with confidence, my friend.

  • Paige C. Willey

    Oh, I agree. There is a point at which tools become a crutch, and you can’t get stronger with a crutch.

  • Andrew Boer

    Think you are dead right. If you haven’t read Dave Pell, check him out. An amazing curator at NextDraft — he is always 100% on target w. great content. There are relatively few like that.

    • Leo Dirr

      Andrew, thank you for the tip. I’m going to have to start stalking Dave’s online outposts, so I can learn from his wise ways.

  • eve gelman

    How many hours in a day do we have? The flow of information is just too much and hitting you at 100MPH. Anyone know of a good speed reading course?

    • Leo Dirr

      Eve, so much of life comes down to what we spend our time doing. I get it. I’m not immune to daily pressures and time constraints, nor am I a superhuman insomniac who can somehow defy the Law of Sleep and still function as a contributing member of society. Speed reading is absolutely a valuable skill for a content curator to have.

      If you’re interested in learning to read faster, I recommend taking a look at this Lifehacker post titled “Top 10 Ways to Make Yourself Look (and Be) Smarter.”

  • Annie Sisk

    Awesome post, Leo. I’m going to be poring over this for most of the day, I’m pretty sure. As to the “how to organize” question, one word: Evernote. I’ve never had a problem with Evernote. You can organize your taxonomy however you like – baroque tiers or Shaker-style tags.

    • Leo

      Annie, thank you so much for the kind words. They mean a lot. Also, thank you for adding to the conversation by recommending Evernote. Please excuse me, but I have an appointment with my tattoo artist to get the phrase “baroque tiers” stamped on my lower back.

  • Carol Montgomery Adams

    I discovered your Blog post through a social media forum I’m in and read it with great interest as I’ve ended up doing quite a bit of unexpected content curation for clients that have limited Marketing resources. Your “5 quick tips”. are the exact ones that I push to my clients, so thank you for making me “look smarter”. Your “smorgasbord of sites” has given me new ones to explore. And, your “21 tasty tactics” being “mother-approved” is much appreciated as I may have to use my mother to help given the content projects on my plate! LOL. Thank you, Leo. I’m a new fan.

    • Leo Dirr

      Carol, thank you so much! Your comments are far too kind. Content curation is definitely one of my passions — nay, one of my obsessions! I believe it holds tremendous value and that it can actually transform the way we do content creation and promotion, if done with elan. Thanks again for your kind words. They mean a lot.

  • Shyam Ramamurthy

    This article is great and very comprehensive! Your 21 “tasty tactics” are inspired! Personally, I view curation as a catch 22. The more you curate, the more you realize its benefits and have to do it more. Using the best software to help you improve your efforts is just the beginning, optimizing strategy is up to you. You touched on the “wide net” of content channels available to the curator. Adapting your strategy to go beyond a simple text based medium will definitely increase the quality of your marketing reach. I look forward to reading more of your insights into content curation. Feeding the content Beast can be tough, learn how to tame it by downloading our new eBook:

  • Leo Dirr

    Thanks, Shyam. Curata does a fabulous job of providing useful content curation tips on its website. I do wish, though, that I didn’t have to submit my contact info to download that ebook. I would like to read it. I’m just not sure I want to read it THAT bad. Thanks again.