How long should a white paper be? How do you find a good title for your white paper? In this sequel to my previous blog post, you will find answers to these and other questions. You’ll also learn why the white paper title is important for search engine optimization and how to make sure your white paper is guaranteed to score well with Google.
5) Most companies don’t name the specific authors of the white paper
Another interesting fact is that less than 30% of companies and white papers showed the very author of the published white paper. Of course they included a company box and the company website at the end, but only in about 1 in 4 cases they included the specific author(s) of the white paper.
You may find this more or less important, but I personally think that it is advantageous to include this type of information. Why? Because a prospect who is really touched by the paper may want to follow that thought leader or expert on social media, or contact them on LinkedIn to ask 1 or 2 more questions before they are ready for the next step in the sales funnel.
Moreover, a prestigious and knowledgeable author deserves recognition and can lend additional credibility to your white paper. In fact, my colleague and long-term experienced white paper author Michel Benedetti likes to say that a real white paper should be written by an external expert, someone who is an authority in the industry. Only then is a white paper really significant and carries the weight that it should.
Why? If a company publishes a white paper, it is easier to suspect that “This is just kind of advertising.” or “They just want to push their own products.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t publish a white paper by your company alone. And it also doesn’t necessarily mean that you should hire an external authority in the industry. In fact, you may just want to hire a qualified copywriter for your white paper and this is a great idea. You may also choose to have 1 or 2 experts in your company create the white paper and publish it.
My personal belief is that these experts deserve to be named and will be appreciative of the opportunity to showcase their experience and have their name attached to it. Still, your company may decide on a different policy and that is good as well.
6) White paper titles are surprisingly long
The surprising finding was that the average title of a white paper contained 72,55 characters, so basically was 73 characters long. Now I don’t know how you see this, but I personally was shocked as to the length! 73 characters? You can make entirely meaningful and expressive sentences with 73 characters.
Considering that the typical word length is about 4-6 characters, this means that the white paper titles are about 10-15 words long on average! Sure, the title alone doesn’t make the white paper, but it can seriously contribute to its success – or lack thereof!
There are two reasons why the white paper title is of crucial importance:
6a) It signals relevance .
Whether a reader comes across your white paper “accidentally”, or more likely because they search for white papers on a specific topic using Google Search, if you use the main keyword early on in an expressive white paper title, within split-seconds the reader will know that this white paper is relevant to him.
If you fail to communicate relevance with your title – maybe because the title is flowery, little creative or doesn’t use the relevant keywords – then you have lost a reader and potentially a lucrative prospect.
6b) It helps in SEO.
As just mentioned, most readers will come across your white paper because they type a certain keyword or -phrase into Google Search. And this most typically is something like “[trend] white paper”. The [trend] is the very topic your (thought leadership) white paper is about.
If you want to stand chance of being found on top of Google’s Search Results, you will need to keep those keywords in mind and use them in all the relevant SEO-elements of your white paper landing page (which you should have!) – such as site title, page title, meta description, <h1>-headline…
7) Most white papers take 15-20 minutes to read
It has been said that the average adult can read about 300 words per minute if they read with an inner voice and attentively. Some people may be able to read at faster speeds, but probably not when it comes to innovative, important trends and developments that are going to affect their industry in the upcoming weeks and months.
My study revealed that the average white paper had a length of 3794,75 words, so roughly 3800 words. Given that a reader may go back to reread certain passages, it is safe to say that most white papers take about 15-20 minutes to read.
Is that too much? No, I don’t think so. If it is clear to the reader that the content of your white paper is highly relevant and very valuable, they will make the necessary time to read through that. If you fail to show the significance early on by using a relevant title or writing a good introduction into the white paper, you probably won’t get that time and have them close the PDF reader before that.
Of course, the length of the white paper is primarily dictated by the information and educational needs present. If you have a lot to tell or more trends to cover, a complex topic to present, it probably has to be longer than that.
But as a general rule, as managers and decision-makers are time-pressed, a white paper shouldn’t be any longer than necessary. If you can say it in less words and less pages, do it! After all, a white paper is not about art, it is about business – and here we don’t have time to fuss around…
White papers are and remain a crucial element in B2B marketing and lead generation. Although they are complemented and partly replaced by corporate videos and corporate blogging, no software and IT company can afford to leave them out of their content marketing arsenal.
Lack of standards and common practices in white paper publication can be a frustrating and irritating experience for interested readers. The extensive analysis of more than 5400 white papers by the world’s leading software and IT companies offers a starting point to the creation of more homogeneous and clear standards for white paper publication.
The extensive advice covered in this blog post can be a first step for companies and copywriters in improving and optimizing their white papers and templates to correspond to the current best and common practices in white paper publication.
If you would like to gain access to the full report on the extensive analysis, including benchmarks and key metrics on all quantitative aspects of white papers, as well as a qualitative analysis in terms of contents and readability as well as a blueprint for the OPTIMAL WHITE PAPER STRUCTURE, be sure to claim your download now.
If you would like an experienced white paper author to support you in the creation and effective marketing of your next white paper, contact me now to discuss the next steps.