By Scott Decker

Annotation Tips for Curated Content


While simple content curation is a good way to develop thought leadership for your business, adding your own original commentary to complement third-party content you share to your blog, social feeds, and e-mail newsletters helps you develop a stronger editorial voice that will help you connect with your audience. Within PublishThis, this is called “Annotation” and it has many forms. Done properly, annotation can effectively convey your perspective and even add SEO value to the pages that contain sufficient original text (over 200 words).

Below you’ll find tips and tricks for adding your own original flare to curated content you publish as well as some examples of innovative annotators that are already experiencing great success with a content strategy that includes this best practice.

Digest Post Annotation

The most effective way to annotate is to create a piece of original commentary paired with a Roundup or Digest Post that includes a variety of curated content pieces with your annotation drawing them together. If your annotation is long enough, studies show that you can get SEO lift on par with a page of completely original commentary if you add more than 200 words of commentary to place some context on the items you are sharing.

Example: Pam Didner’s Content Marketing Blog posts a regular Content Marketing event “Wrap-Ups” that draws on posts by speakers and companies at an event or even just a Roundup of what she has read in the industry lately. Pam adds her own original commentary to the top to put these various content items she shared into the context of where the industry is headed.

Top Content Marketing Articles of the Week

The world of content marketing is constantly changing and it’s important to stay on top of your stuff! There is so much you can learn from case studies, industry articles from experts and internal review.


Summary Annotation

A brief summary of a longer piece of content is an effective way to explain why you are publishing this particular piece of content. Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the content alongside your summary to express your opinion, too.

If you create a synopsis that is just a few lines and add one line about your perspective on the article, you have not only helped the reader understand what to expect but you have provided your perspective on the subject as well, a small step in building your company’s voice.

Example: includes a brief comment they call “Why This Matters” to add their perspective and let readers know why they believe an article is worth reading.

George Washington U Uses HD Streaming Video in Art Therapy Program curates critical news and trends in the higher education technology arena. It offers insights on Campus Technology, MOOC, Education Technology, Flip Classrooms, Learning Management Systems, Web 2.0, Pedagogy, Lecture Capture, Distance Learning, Whiteboards, Classroom Audio, Classroom Video, Education Apps, Big Data, Streaming, Control Systems, IT, Mobile Learning, and Security.


Question Annotation

Simply adding a question to your annotation is an easy way to engage your readers and it can help in a variety of ways. First, it draws a reader in by asking for their perspective and to think directly about how the content will impact them. This can also invite comments and interaction in the comments section of your blog or social page.

Second, readers may find your content when they search for an answer to the question you ask. Web surfers commonly type questions directly into Google and other search engines these days and this can favor you with traffic if you ask a question that is relevant for your audience and the content you are curated helps answer that question.

Title or Picture Changes Combined with Annotation

Title changes can be an effective way to enhance content for curation to suit your audience. In addition to adding your own commentary, ensure the title of your post directly interests your audience, add keywords that you want on your site, or find a more interesting and new way to contrast a boring title for the curated item. There is an element of newsjacking here, too, as you can add a title that ties your curated content to the news of the day to draw more readers over.

Pictures changes can also increase interest in a piece of content. While you always need to be cautious about using pictures without a license, many services like Getty Images or Creative Commons can give you access to a great library of images to use when modifying your post based on curated content to make it more compelling. Don’t forget that a publicly available infographic that ties in with an article is an excellent substitute for pictures as well.

Keep in mind that this type of annotation should, as a best practice, be used with other options on this list.

Example: ZergNet is famous for their provocative titles and picture choices that are designed to draw clicks with terms like “20 things you should know”, “disturbing things you never knew”, or “shocking facts you must know today”.

ZergNet – Discover Interesting Articles


Best Snippet Annotation

Draw out a highlighted comment or quote from the author or interviewee to place within your annotation. If this is the snippet of the article that is really at the heart of the content piece or best represents it to your audience, add this in as your annotation so it previews the main thought in the article for your readers alongside your own commentary and context.

Golden Rules of Content Annotation (and Curation)

Be respectful of every publisher’s content. While sending readers to their site is a win-win situation for everyone involved, wholesale copying of a publisher’s content into your own annotation could violate fair use rules and this should be avoided. While the lines are not clearly drawn, a few tips can help you avoid any issues with fair use:

*  Add value and purpose to your curated content by including enough original commentary that it balances the elements you are sharing from the third-party.

*  Always note the source of the content and include links. Identifying the author/creator shows respect for the originator and clarifies that you are exposing others to their content, not just using it for your own purposes.

*  Limit reuse of content to what you need to express your point of view. A quote can be often be used in an annotation to highlight what you are saying in reaction or reference to the content you have curated.

*  Curate from a variety of thought leaders, especially in the context of a Digest Post, which serves as a roundup of thoughts on your subject. In addition to lending authority to your company as one that knows the best sources in your space, you avoid the appearance that you are using everything from a single or small number of sources.

A favorite recent example of well-placed annotation and curation is the below version from The Boston Globe’s BDC Wire, which offers a variety of perspectives on a key subject to show how perspective can color reviews and articles. Rather than a single take, they offer a range of interpretations to provide a complete story.Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 3.20.05 PM


















There are many opinions online about annotations and fair use.

Fair Use per Wikipedia

The four factors of analysis for fair use set forth above derive from the opinion of Joseph Story in Folsom v. Marsh, in which the defendant had copied 353 pages from the plaintiff’s 12-volume biography of George Washington in order to produce a separate two-volume work of his own. Read More at

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By Scott Decker
Scott Decker is the President and Founder of PublishThis. Before PublishThis, he led technology at, Blue Nile, and development solutions for the government. When he’s not running PublishThis, the industry’s most advanced content platform, he’s exploring new technologies, preparing for next Halloween, or watching something with superheroes, dinosaurs, or at least a lot of explosions.