I love information and useless facts, but I love useful facts even more. And, you know what? So does everyone else. White papers, reports, studies, mini-ebooks, or whatever you want to call them are one of the hottest pieces of marketing power any website owner can have.
The Benefits of Including White Papers in Your Marketing
Well-written white papers can provide you with a full range of benefits. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to include a white paper or two in your marketing strategy (keep in mind that this is written with the understanding that your white paper isn't on some wild, obscure, topic.):
- Traffic -- if you host your white paper on your website and allow everyone to download it, and you spread the word a little bit through your blog and social networks, you're going to get tons of people showing up to your website, and who knows what they'll click on while they're there.
- Links -- If you have good reference material, chances are that others will link to it because it is good reference material. You've already done the work for them.
- RSS Subscribers & Email Lists -- Since you have all of this wonderful traffic coming to your site, and downloading something for free, get everyone to sign up to a list or subscribe to your RSS first. Of course, this doesn't give you permission to spam them to death, but sharing a great newsletter and using these mediums to sell your info products or whatever you happen to have lying around (*cough* *cough*).
- Authority and Reputation -- Think about it: What makes someone an 'authority' on a subject? Brace yourself: They KNOW things...things you don't know...and you can trust that they're telling the truth because they can back up what they say with proof. And, when you release a white paper, you're showing people that you know things and have the proof to back up with you say. You have to be careful here though. If you publish things you think are true and find out that they're false afterwards, you're going to get yourself into a situation that will require some quick reputation management.
- Respect -- Along with all that authority and reputation, you earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and once you have that, you'll find that your business builds quickly. Your peers (a.k.a colleagues and competitors), target audience, and current customers will begin to recognize your 'place' in the industry. Getting this respect isn't easy, but every little bit helps. Producing white papers is just one of those important steps.
- Networking Opportunities -- When you distribute white papers, reports, and other items, you'll find that you will come into contact with lots of people. Everyone you meet will bring with him or her unique knowledge, contacts, ideas, and skills that might benefit both of you at some point. Keep that in mind.
What Should Your White Paper Focus On?
If you were to collect a bunch of facts, throw them together in a PDF, and distribute it, you can get results, but they might not be the ones you were expecting. There's a bit of prep work and careful planning that goes into the most successful pieces.
First, consider who it is you want to attract and why. If you want to build links, attract your competitors as well as those in complimentary industries by choosing topics they're interested in. For example, since you're likely in SEO or in a related field, consider subjects such as how SEO and usability go together, what makes users click (PPC, Titles, etc), conversion factors as they relate to keywords, or some carefully planned, in-depth SEO testing.
Statistics are great for linkbait, but you can also create a massive resource like a book of online tools where you test and rate each of them, for example. Just be sure to make the resource comprehensive enough to make it 'juicy'.
If your goal is traffic and conversions, you're going to have to take a completely different route. After all, customers generally hire you to know things, not to teach them about things. This means you have to think like your client base.
As an SEO aiming at new websites, for example, a report on the most effective beginner SEO tips isn't going to work. Instead, try a comprehensive white paper on how to bring traffic in using alternative mediums or types of landing pages with some great statistics.
Your final step during the initial stages is to plan your white paper out by drawing up an outline and providing some short points under each detailing what you'd like to cover. And, while you're drawing it out, make sure to watch for potential boring areas, over crowded sections, and note where you'll put your emphasis. This will give you a good idea of what sort of information you'll need and what to be cautious of while writing it up.
There's more white paper goodness to come in my next post.
Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.