June 12, 2014
White Papers 101: Why to Write Them, How to Make Them Sing
A strong white paper can serve as the cornerstone to your overall content marketing plan, but there’s a significant difference between a super-sized blog post and a bona fide white paper. To do it right, it’s important to focus on well written technical content so that your white paper can act as a foundation of related content, and get your brand the recognition and credibility you’re looking for.
The Basics: What a White Paper Is, and What It Isn’t
Typically somewhere between 6-8 pages long, a white paper is a succinct piece of content that offers plenty of evidence, facts, and statistics on a particular aspect of your industry. Your white paper should be well organized, and include an engaging introduction, background information on the subject, individual sections for various elements and supporting information, and a clear conclusion that summarizes all of the important information.
Shoot for writing one page for the background, one page for each of the information sections, and a half of a page each for your introduction and conclusion. If you find yourself with more than six informational sections, you may want to break your ideas up into two separate white papers in order to keep your ideas focused and your readers attentive.
One important thing to keep in mind is that a white paper is not a sales pitch. Search Engine Land emphasizes the importance of taking the “high road” when crafting white papers. In other words, focus on creating high-quality, shareable content that positions you as a knowledgeable expert in the field. Oftentimes, content marketing is merely thinly veiled sales copy. Work to provide clear, unbiased information, and your potential customers will appreciate the value your white paper provides to their search.
Why Bother With White Papers?
A solid white paper requires in-depth industry knowledge that has been crafted into well-written, carefully proofread copy, in order to help people make educated decisions. The process can take some time, especially if you choose to compose a white paper in-house. So why bother spending hours on a piece of your content marketing plan that doesn’t explicitly sell your product or service?
Because they work. As noted by Smart Bug Media, several recent studies revealed the role that white papers play in sales conversion. In one study, 83% of those surveyed said that reading a white paper had significant influence in their decision to make a particular technology purchase. In other words, the majority of those who read white papers are utilizing this information when shopping,
In addition, a strong white paper can serve as a powerful piece of “evergreen” content, or content that has lasting relevancy. You can link to your white paper in blogs, email newsletters, even landing pages. Potential customers will appreciate your company’s focus on providing thorough information, and will see you as a brand worth doing business with.
While blogs and social media updates are essential pieces of any stellar content marketing plan, the longer length of a white paper allows you to share valuable information in a unique format that can benefit your brand for years to come.