While there are many written assets that can really help put a company on the map as a trustworthy industry authority, whitepapers are truly in a class of their own. A whitepaper is an in-depth written document that covers a specific subject or issue in great detail.
Years ago, mostly government entities, non-profit organizations, and similar establishments used whitepapers to explore public opinion on policy changes and similar factors before enacting them. But here in the internet age, you’re a lot more likely to see whitepapers published by everyday companies and businesses.
Like other popular content marketing examples, whitepapers make great additions to a marketing campaign. They’re fantastic ways to announce new products or demonstrate how a particular option is right for an audience. But they need to be correctly organized and written to yield results.
What Is a Whitepaper?
Traditionally, whitepapers were the realm of academia and think tanks where the content reads like a thesis. The private sector later adopted whitepapers as part of their content strategy.
However, whitepapers have assumed a different meaning in the modern content marketing world. They are still long-form content conveying more information than a blog post, but not as much as a full-length e-book.
Whitepapers are highly effective when it comes to both increasing brand awareness and getting leads more interested in the business. Companies rely on firsthand market research, data collection, and interviews that help explain the benefit of a product and its value to the user.
Whitepapers are considered to be the second-most important piece of content after a sales brochure in the sales cycle.
What Should a Whitepaper Include?
Writers aren’t a monolith and some are better-suited to longer pieces than others.
Writing a product description takes a different talent than writing a blog post, and the same is true for whitepapers. Long-form content requires a more granular approach than most objective business communications. The whitepaper writer should have experience with long-form content plus the ability to convey detail but also the conciseness that a B2B audience expects.
A writer who has of knowledge or experience in your industry is often a greater fit for a whitepaper. This type of content demands precise information to truly deliver value to the audience. While a blog post is likely to be a mile wide but an inch deep, a whitepaper is only a few feet wide but several miles deep. Familiarity is a plus.
How to Write a Whitepaper?
A successful whitepaper is quite similar in structure to the standard informational blog post. For example, it’s written in such a way that the audience is immediately engaged and feels compelled to read on.
However, it also presents depth, context, and details the reader wouldn’t find in a blog post. Here’s a closer look at how to write a whitepaper that really strikes a chord with audiences.
1. Choose and research a relevant topic
Every effective whitepaper starts with a well-chosen topic, so consider what you want yours to be about. As a medium, whitepapers can cover a lot of ground. You can use yours to introduce a new product line, explore an industry trend, or dig deeply into a topic that matters to your customers.
However, you’ll also need to be prepared to back up your points with hard facts and data. Some whitepaper writers spend days (if not weeks) researching a new project, so get ready to go deep.
2. Get organized with a detailed outline
A whitepaper can take many forms. Some provide extensive background information on a single topic, while others introduce a problem before following up with a data-supported solution. There are listicle-style whitepapers that present as numbered lists, too.
However, whitepapers are fairly long-form as a rule (around 2,500 words, on average), so it’s important to start the writing process with a thorough outline. A good whitepaper outline:
- Adds structure to your stance or argument
- Keeps in-depth data and statistics well-organized
- Defines a target audience and tailors the content to match
In general, your outline should help you weave each point and statement into a cohesive narrative that serves the greater purpose of your paper.
3. Write an introduction that pops
These days, the average person’s attention span clocks in at around 8 seconds. And people have a lot vying for their attention, so you need to give readers a good reason to give theirs to your whitepaper.
A riveting introduction and opening paragraph is key, so be sure to give yours some thought. Not only should it grab people’s attention right away, but it should adequately set the stage for the rest of your paper and let readers know where you’re about to take them.
Make your introduction pop by leading with your most compelling material. Introduce relevant statistics your audience can’t ignore, or leverage storytelling you know your reader will relate to. Choose active, electric language that really makes people sit up and take notice.
4. Prioritize readability from start to finish
A lengthy, meaty piece of content like a whitepaper relies on formatting to lead readers cleanly from the introduction of the paper to the conclusion. Well-chosen formatting breaks the content up, makes it easy on the eyes, and adds visual appeal to the mix.
It also promotes easy readability, something that’s always important but that becomes absolutely crucial with long-form content.
- Use headings and subheadings to help your content flow and make it easy for people to skim in search of the information they need.
- Add bulleted lists to organize key points that go together and help them stand out.
- Use graphics, charts, and diagrams to illustrate information and add visual appeal.
Ideally, even a detailed, complex document like a whitepaper should be easy to understand at a glance and scan for key sections or points. Smart formatting is the key to accomplishing this.
5. Embrace the idea of multiple drafts
Although a very experienced professional writer may be able to bust out a completely clean result on the first try, the average person should expect to compose several drafts when writing a whitepaper. So, go into the process expecting to engage in a detailed revision process instead of expecting your paper to be perfect the first time.
Key concerns to consider when revising your whitepaper include the following:
- Is your title compelling enough?
- Does your introduction not only draw people in but accurately set up the rest of your paper?
- Is your text clear, snappy, and free of any unnecessary fluff?
- Is your paper readable, making wise use of elements like headings and graphics?
- Are any images and graphics used professional looking?
- Are all of your claims properly backed with hard research, data, or statistics?
- Did you end with a powerful call to action that tells people what they should do next?
And once you feel your paper is everything that it should be, give it a couple more reads just to be absolutely certain. Don’t call things done until you’re sure your paper is as clear and dynamic as can be.
Why Do Whitepapers Work So Well for B2B?
Whitepapers are primarily used in B2B to get leads interested purchasing or at least learning more about the brand. While B2C thrives with shorter content, B2B audiences usually accepts log-form content better.
Differently from consumer-focused content, whitepapers provide detailed information and is usually text-heavy. Tailored for a business-oriented audience, this type of content doesn’t require as many attention-grabbers like a B2C piece of content.
Using Whitepapers to Drive Lead Generation
Whitepapers are particularly important for B2B because they are excellent lead generators. 76% of decision-makers are comfortable handing over an email address to gain access to a whitepaper with helpful information.
Even if the whitepaper itself doesn’t have any immediate traction with the people who signed up for your mailing list, people aren’t likely to unsubscribe either. This leaves plenty of opportunity to use email campaigns to move the contacts through the sales funnel.
Whitepapers should strive to answer a few burning questions and provide helpful insights that the audience derives value from. They should also leave a few unanswered ones, so that the lead is compelled to spend more time on your website then buy the product or request services. Delivering just the right answers is a powerful lead generation tactic that makes whitepapers work so well.
Whitepapers can help with positioning just as much as published articles and help establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry. The better your positioning is, the more quality leads that you will attract.
Whitepapers Are Also Effective for SEO
A common misconception in strategizing web content is that blog posts and landing pages are the only content that needs keyword optimization and other important SEO factors. A majority of whitepapers are published as PDFs which can be optimized for SEO purposes in most PDF editing programs.
The text is fully searchable and comes up in search engines as a result and it works just like a regular outbound or inbound link whenever anyone links to the whitepaper. The more outbound and inbound links it has in addition to the desired keyword density, the higher the whitepaper will rank in the search engine.
Putting lots of useful statistics in the whitepaper can increase your chances of it being heavily linked. You should also link to your own whitepaper provided that it doesn’t require an email subscription to obtain or is behind a paywall.
Having both the inbound and outbound links will cause the placement to be higher on search engine result pages. Because whitepapers are so much longer than blog posts by default, the keyword density will be much higher which can make it even more of an SEO powerhouse than a blog post.
Whitepapers help drive B2B engagement by solving lead generation and SEO problems in addition to providing long-form value to the readers. They shouldn’t be overlooked in B2B content marketing efforts because they’re a boon to positioning and raising brand awareness. Longer content may not always work in B2C, but it really shines in the B2B sphere.
Ultimately, a compelling, convincing whitepaper just might be the SEO game-changer you’ve been looking for when it comes to putting your brand on the map. But whitepapers take finesse, skill, and experience to really shine and deliver results.
Consider outsourcing the job to a professional WriterAccess writer who knows how to write a whitepaper that hits all the right notes. Try the platform for free when you sign up for your free 14-day WriterAccess trial today!