Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016. While added-value content is just as important as ever, the advice and examples were due for a refresh to be current for 2018.
Writing content is one thing. Writing content of true value, defined as value-added content, is quite another and is the difference between the contenders and pretenders as content marketing continues to mature.
What Is Value-Added Content?
Value-added content is any unique, original, or exclusive content or information that your audience cannot get anywhere else. Examples of this added value content include video content, case studies, research studies, white papers, promotional offers, tutorials, and blog posts.
Because this content provides actual value, it tends to be popular with readers and rewarded by Google. Think of value-added content as a multi-course, thoughtfully presented meal at that hot new restaurant with the award-winning chef. The meal you remember fondly months later and break your personal "no pictures of my meals on Instagram" rule for.
Content without added value is more like McDonald's. Okay in a pinch but not something you're going to tell your friends about.
BlogMutt's Value-Added Content
You can find much of our value-added content in our resources section. We offer advice on starting a blog as well as the best blogging tools for businesses to consider. As our blog has grown, we also continue to provide useful and unique content here as often as possible, like this post on blogging trends in 2018 as well as data-backed case studies, based on our own data and experience as well as industry expertise.
We know our readers and customers trust us to provide them with information that is accurate, helpful, and broken down in a useful way, and both our blog and our resources section are ideal for doing just that.
7 Examples of Value-Added Content
The best way to understand content value is to see it in action. Here are seven strong examples to give you a clearer idea of what we mean by added value:
1. Blog posts that inform, educate, answer a question, or meet a searcher's need.
A blog post in and of itself just won't cut it anymore. Companies with a successful content strategy understand that a blog should be relevant and address the searcher's intent. The blog post should answer a specific need with unique content that the reader wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.
Unique content doesn't just mean data. It can also mean your company's unique perspective or the expertise and insights of an industry veteran. Value-added blog content is not usually promotional or self-serving. Instead, aim for blog posts that are helpful and educational and that your reader will actually be glad they read (which means they will be more likely to share).
Example for blogs: Priceonomics
Priceonomics does a stellar job of using proprietary information to inform their audience. For example, this post focused on how much money you can save by cooking at home takes a popular topic and builds it out with their exclusive data.
Instead of learning some vague platitudes about how cooking at home is the responsible thing to do, the reader comes away with actual facts they didn't know before as well as a compelling argument in favor of home cookin'.
2. Videos that are engaging and relevant.
Video consumption continues to grow at a rapid pace, which means getting comfortable creating video content for your customers or audience becomes more and more important. The good news is that with the proliferation of Snapchat, Instagram Stories, the newly launched IGTV (longer-form videos via a standalone app from Instagram), and Facebook Live, your video content doesn't have to be as polished (or expensive to make!) as you think.
People are consuming more video that's not professionally produced, as long as the content is enticing and relevant to the viewer. Plus, these days all of our fancy phones practically double as HD video production studios, so there's really no excuse not to add some video to your content strategy mix. (Let BlogMutt know if we can help—we can get you in on our beta social videos product.)
Even just posting an Instagram Story a few times a week can give your audience a more personal glimpse into your business and brand, building that sense of connection.
Example for video: Moz's Whiteboard Fridays
Made popular even before video content "got big", these videos by Rand Fishkin at Moz do a fantastic job of adding value. Fishkin does a video/infographic hybrid and walks the viewer through the entire whiteboard, explaining best practices along the way.
The combination of the whiteboard and a dynamic delivery style keeps Moz visitors interested as they learn useful information like why paid ads often fail. Each whiteboard presentation is specific enough that you feel like you really learned something new that you can apply to your own SEO or marketing efforts, but they are also accessible even to newbies.
3. A thoughtfully put together e-book.
As much as been made of how technology is causing all of us to develop shorter and shorter attention spans, the truth is that the desire for long-form, in-depth content only continues to grow. An e-book can be your company's pièce de résistance when it comes to effective content. The beauty of an e-book is that it can not only be informative, it can further promote your company's personality, branding, and unique position in your industry.
Many brands are choosing to use e-books as one of the main pillars in their overall content marketing strategy. Your e-book might go into a variety of topics, which all tie together with a well-presented controlling argument. The various topics covered in your e-book are then turned into blog posts and social media updates which all nicely complement each other. Thanks to your e-book, you will never run out of things to blog about!
Another approach is to write an e-book for each topic you cover on your blog. The blog posts can be quick and easy to skim, while the e-book goes deep for those readers craving more information, context, and research.
HubSpot does a fantastic job of using e-books for lead generation throughout their blogs and newsletters. You cannot read a piece of content from HubSpot without being prompted to download an additional resource or e-book. This is enticing to readers who just learned something useful from the HubSpot blog and want to know more.
4. Newsletters that curate industry information your customers don't have time to find.
A newsletter without a purpose is useless, and likely to go unread, which is a waste of precious time and resources. But as the amount of information continues to grow, one unique way to position your newsletter is to curate the best articles and information in your specific industry. This is a newsletter that would provide value to your readers and benefit them by saving time. In fact, within your newsletter, you can include a link or two to value-added blog posts from your site.
Example for newsletters: Benedict Evans' newsletter
Benedict Evans works at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. His weekly newsletter cobbles together the tech news he finds most interesting. Considering Andreessen Horowitz's influence in Silicon Valley, it's great to see what one of their own is reading and finds particularly important.
Evans' readers get the benefit of his wide weekly reading, distilled into just the interesting details along with links. Talk about added content value: you get to feel like the most informed person in your office without spending your whole life reading dry tech articles.
5. Webinars that offer insight into a product, service, or technique or share new research.
Webinars can still be an effective medium for providing your readers with content value. But it's important to make sure that your webinar has value to your viewer, as you are asking a lot of their time. Viewers typically tune into webinars to learn about your product, get a behind-the-scenes look at your service, learn a new technique, or access information that they can't get anywhere else.
Example for webinars: Content Marketing Institute (CMI)
CMI always seems to deliver a webinar relevant to their audience. Not only are the topics relevant, the guests that appear are well-informed, prepared, and insightful when offering advice and tips for content marketing.
The key to a good webinar is to put together something that's easy to follow and engaging, digestible while also being genuinely educational (and most likely, in a few different media than just one—think audio or video recordings to send out to folks who weren't able to attend after the fact, or via Slideshare with all the major points). Luckily, many of CMI's webinars actually give tips on how to do just that.
Another way to add value to your webinar audience is to include a special offer that you'll hand out at the end, like a special consultation or coupon code they wouldn't otherwise be able to get their hands on.
6. Infographics that illustrate information better than just the written word.
Is there information that is better communicated with images, diagrams, graphs, or charts? Infographics remain a compelling alternative (or complement!) to text. And as readers tend to skim more than read, an infographic is an effective medium for skimmers. One approach is to write a detailed blog post, but curate the main points or data into a simple, eye-catching infographic.
Example for infographics: Backlinko's on-page SEO infographic
On-page SEO can be a moving target with a lot of information for content marketers to digest. But Backlinko's infographic communicates the best practices of on-page SEO in a succinct, easy-to-follow manner. It's also updated regularly, adding even more value.
7. White papers that offer in-depth research and information.
A white paper may not make sense for every company's marketing strategy, but in some cases they are just the ticket. A white paper is authoritative, persuasive, and in-depth, helping to position you as a true thought leader in your niche. They are especially valuable to readers if you give them away as a free download in exchange for subscribing to your community or your email list.
Companies like DocuSign, an electronic signature solution, have raised the bar of what solid white papers look like, with an entire library of useful, unique, well-researched white papers.
Example for white papers: DocuSign
They have a comprehensive resource section of white papers and aren't afraid to get technical.
The Key to Every Piece of Value-Added Content
If you're providing this content that adds value to customers or prospective customers and it meets the criteria listed above, consider making it quid pro quo. If you've put a lot of resources into creating a piece that's unique and valuable to your audience, make sure to "gate" that content. Value-added content that provides a benefit to your customers shoudn't be shy about asking for your customers name, email, etc., so they can download or view that information. This turns some of your more in-depth added-value content into true lead generators.
Keep in mind, however, that some readers will balk at the idea of filling out a form in order to receive your newest white paper or e-book, regardless of content value. We suggest a combination of gated and ungated content to truly reach and inform as many prospects as possible.