Today we’re bringing you a guest post on content marketing by one of the industry’s top names, Problogger‘s Darren Rowse. This post is a bit longer than our usual articles, but it’s well worth reading to the end!

If you don’t know much about content marketing, it might seem a strange way to try to increase website value of a site you own.

Most people think content marketing is about guest posting, and wonder how publishing content on someone else’s site could possibly increase the value of their own.

As I’ll explain here, content marketing is more than guest posts. And if you do it right—writing with your customers in mind, with a strong, consistent voice, it can add significant, lasting value to your site, making it all the more appealing for potential buyers down the track.

The good news for busy site owners is that you don’t need to do all the work yourself.

So let’s look a bit closer at content marketing, and how you can use it to your advantage.

Elements of “value” for a site purchaser

Four main factors affect your website’s perceived value: traffic, authority, longevity and profit or potential profit. Growing traffic will, hopefully, help your site endure over months and years, increasing its profit potential and the audience’s perceptions of its authority. But your ability to build traffic will depend on your ability to establish authority, stick it out through the highs and lows, and this—plus the kind of traffic you attract—will affect your site’s longer term profit potential.

This isn’t a step-by-step plan. It’s more like a web of elements all connected to, and affecting, one another.

The facts about content marketing

Content marketing is a subtle, effective way of reaching people who are in the audience for what you offer, but may never have heard of your site.

Any marketing that hinges upon you providing quality content to new readers could be described as content marketing.

This kind of marketing allows you to target audiences who are already engaged (for example, with another site that’s hosting your content). Moreover, it lets you do that in environments they’re comfortable with—like sites they already know and love, or via referrals between friends on social networks.

If you’re thinking content marketing sounds too good to be true, there are a couple of caveats.

What it takes

When it comes to content marketing, quality is what will set you apart, and get you the most attention. Don’t think you can get away with light pieces, rewritten content, or generic information.

As such, it’s important to realise up front that, like any form of marketing, content marketing will cost you—either in time or money. What’s important is to see that as an investment in your site. Because if you do it right, that investment will pay off when it comes time to sell.

Let’s look at some of the content marketing options that are available to any site looking to build a profile among the right market segments.

Offsite content marketing

Offsite content marketing involves content that you share in places other than your own website.

  • Guest contributions: Many websites accept guest posts or articles for publication — like this one on the Flippa blog! This is a really big element in the world of blogging, but many industry news and interest sites will likely accept guest content too. Don’t stick to text—infographics, slideshows, and video are all great options for guest contributions.
  • Guest appearances: We’re erring on the side of public relations here, but if you can set up another site—perhaps an industry news site or blog—to interview you about your site or your offering.
  • Electronic newsletters/updates: Although this isn’t commonly seen as content marketing, it fits the description of providing quality content to people in a location other than on your site—especially if you get a guest spot in someone else’s newsletter! Definitely consider this as part of your offsite content marketing efforts.
  • Sharing: Aside from the standard social networks, sites like Reddit and Quora let you share content with broader audiences.

How can you optimize your offsite content marketing efforts to get the biggest bang for your buck?

Tie them into promotions on your own site, share them through social media and your newsletters, and spread the word that your site’s getting exposure and attention from others in your industry.

Onsite content marketing

Onsite content marketing includes the content you publish on your blog, which will, ideally, captivate visitors and keep them coming back. It typically includes:

    • A blog: It’s not a coincidence that so many business and service websites have blogs these days. They know that building authority by positioning their brands as though leaders is the best way to build a loyal following of people who advocate for them on social networks and among friends and contacts.
    • Content releases:Many sites offer whitepapers, ebooks, and other content as a means of attracting readers, providing them with deep value, and capturing their all-important email addresses. This is a great form of content marketing that builds value, in that it lets you respond to really specific needs, show your skills and knowledge, and build a subscriber list at the same time.

Whether you’re looking at offsite or onsite content marketing techniques—or a combination of both—the key to getting maximum value is sustained effort.

Content marketing isn’t a one-off thing, or a month-long campaign. To really add value to your site for potential buyers to see down the track, content marketing needs to be an ongoing process.

Of course, many startups and small businesses feel they don’t have time to dedicate to this kind of sustained marketing effort. So let’s look at some of the ways you can make it happen for your site.

5 steps to make it happen

1. Make a plan of what you want to do

It’s important to remember that your content marketing efforts don’t have to be really frequent—if you want to contribute content to other sites, you don’t have to force yourself to do an article a week.

What matters is that your efforts are sustained. So make sure your plan is manageable and achievable, and that it fits within your schedule. Prioritize things if you can’t bear to take ideas off your wish list.

Now, within your plan, set out the ways you’ll cross-promote the work you’ll do.

For example, as this post is published at Flippa, I’ll be mentioning it to my own ProBlogger followers through social media. Likewise, I’m promoting some of the content marketing I do on my own site by linking to relevant posts from this article.

This is an important thing to do—don’t just expect to publish your content somewhere and hope it works out. Make sure your current readers know where they can find your material, and your new readers know where they can connect with you, your site and your mailing list.

2. Allocate times and costs and responsibilities

Looking at the plan you just made, you’ll have some idea of how much time it’ll take. In the process, you’ll probably have already thought about who will do the writing—you or someone else.

So the next step is to get your schedule out and allocate time to get the work done. Even if you’re going to get someone else to do the content creation, you’ll need to oversee the process, find places to publish (if your efforts will be offsite) and make any structural changes to your own site (like adding a blog and dropping it into your navigation).

Set a plan for the steps you think will be involved, who will do them, and when you need them done. And above all, make sure it’s manageable both now and in the future. Remember: sustainability is the key to adding value through content marketing.

3. If you need to, find someone to write

If you’ve decided to create the content yourself, that’s great: you just need to make time in your schedule to get it done.

But if you’ve decided you need help with creating content—text, images, videos, podcasts, whatever—then here are some places to get started finding help.

  • A member of your team: If you already have a team—however small—they may be able to help with creating content. A VA might be able to do research, or a designer may help you with a layout for an infographic.
  • Freelance websites: Sites like Elance and Odesk can be good for finding writers, but at ProBlogger we run a dedicated blogging job board that tends to suit content marketers really well.
  • Google for ghosts: Ghost writing is a growing industry, so a web search for ghost writers who cover your industry, or have expertise in your field, might turn up some good options.

4. Carry out your plan

The next step is to put your plan into action. If you need help along the way, there are plenty of sites like ProBlogger that provide advice and tips for content marketing. Help is out there.

5. Track what works, tweak, and improve it

This really is the key to growing website value through content marketing.

Whatever you do in the previous steps, it’s tracking, tweaking, and improving on what works within your niche that will grow your site’s value in the long term.

What should you track? That depends on your content marketing strategy.

For a guest article on another site in your industry, you’d obviously track the traffic it generated for your site, the comments or responses the article received where it was published, and the social shares and commentary surrounding the piece.

For a whitepaper you’re publishing on your own site (and perhaps promoting via offsite content and other marketing) you’d probably track signups as a percentage of traffic overall, as well as the kinds of metrics I mentioned above.

It’s important to look at traffic—and to see if the traffic spikes and returns to normal after the promotion, or if your traffic levels retain some of that boost in the days and weeks that follow.

For offsite promotions in particular, this will give you an idea of which sites’ visitors are interested by what you have to say, and what your site offers. Then you can go back to those outlets with fresh ideas.

For things like newsletters, open rates and clickthroughs to your site should give you hints about where you can improve your efforts to engage your current audience.

But it’s also important to look at the impact of your content marketing beyond traffic. Social listening is an important way to find out how audiences feel about your messages, and your brand. Looking at responses on host sites (for offsite promotions like guest contributions) is also important as a gauge of audience sentiment and receptiveness.

If, for example, your article on another industry site got a stack of great comments and feedback and social shares, but generated little traffic to your own site, you’ll know that you need to work on techniques that entice readers of your guest content back to your own site.

After all, adding value to your site is the aim of the game!

Content marketing for website value

As you can see, content marketing is a valuable technique for adding value to your site. It gives you a connection with new visitors that techniques like advertising and search positioning can’t. And it gives you more control over your message than social media can.

If you haven’t tried content marketing, I can recommend it as a great investment in your brand, your future, and your website value.