Any time you sift through a mound of information, selecting a few that are best for a situation and present those to someone you are curating content. Curating content is the natural way to write blog posts – identify a problem or question and then collect information that defines, answers or provides context for the issue. Organize the information you collected in a way that makes sense with some explanatory comments from you about why you chose the information and there you have a blog post with curated content.
Identify a Question or Problem
Remember your English teachers telling your that you need a topic sentence? Identifying a question, problem or topic is the same as writing a topic sentence. I recently wrote an article about “Referrer Spam in Google Analytics“. There was an actual problem because I was looking at my Google Analytics data and noticed a strange referrer that was sending me over 200 links a day. My original question “what the heck is this site and are the links valid” turned into a blog post when I found out it was spam.
Most of my articles start out this way. This article started out on a different post (coming up next week) where I talked about content curation and then realized people may not know who content curation is or how to do it. I was getting to far into explaining the how of curating content and decided that needed to be an article of its own.
Going back to my example, I did a bunch of searches on Google, starting with a search on the site that was spamming me. That linked to two articles which used the spammer’s site name. Those articles talked about referrer spam, so I did a search on that term. When I do searches for articles I generally open each item in a tab and see if it is relevant or adds new information. If it doesn’t add anything new that tab gets closed. Eventually I end up with a bunch of tabs of articles about my original problem.
Organize and Present the Information
There are a couple ways to do this. I generally start writing my article with why I’m interested in the topic. In the example I explain how the spammer came to my notice. The topic generated its own organic organization – what is this spam? How did it get into Google Analytics? How does this even benefit spammers? How can I stop it?
The example article flowed almost exactly like this, but in other articles I pick out quotes from the original material that I researched and move them around with copy/paste until I feel they tell the story. Sometimes I use images form the sources, especially if it is an infographic or presents data in a way I can’t. Make sure you use captions or introductory text to where you got the images from. Linking the image to the original source is a good idea as well, but shouldn’t replace written reference.
In fact, when presenting information from your sources, make sure you reference your sources by name, provide links and make sure it is clear when you directly quote someone. Not doing this is plagiarism and dishonest. Besides, the internet runs on links and someone you link to may come and look at your article and comment on it. This community is why are you blogging in the first place – embrace it!
Add Your Personal Touch
Link together your curated content with your own conclusions or personal information. If resource #1 says X but resource #2 states Y, which do you believe? Or maybe you believe neither and have a different opinion. Writing these connections is what differentiates your articles and blog posts from the rest of the internet. At the end, try to sum up the answer to the question or the resolution of the problem in a few sentences.
Personally, I have a terrible time with ending articles. Usually I can write forever, but summing things up is difficult for me. When I’m really stuck I just restate the information in a short, concise manner. For example:
Adding curated content to your articles is a good way to get the juices flowing. Just identify the topic, do your research, organize what you found in your research and then link it all together with your personal touch in writing. Let me know in the comments how you curated content.