Skip to content

What Are White Papers and How Do They Impact Marketing and SEO?

White papers require more planning, effort, and editing than a regular blog post, but the extra work pays dividends when you do it right. Steering an online marketing program towards the goals you've set for yourself demands a multi-layered approach. There are many ways to reach your audience, appeal to search algorithms, and a highly diverse level of demand for information. In other words, don't get stuck wearing your "blog blinders." Avoid a situation where you focus too much on quick short-form content you can turn around quickly. 

Long-form content is valuable today—and not only because it offers more keyword opportunities. Expanding your scope creates opportunities to set your business apart as a thought leader online. White papers are one of the best ways to share insights and dig deeper into a subject your audience wants to understand. 

What is a white paper? How can periodically publishing one of these in-depth reports help you achieve goals in both SEO and marketing effectiveness? 

The Purpose and Structure of a White Paper 

Remember research papers from your school days? Think of white papers as the marketing equivalent of those assignments. A white paper is a well-developed piece of content, much longer than a typical blog, built around a central thesis with a specific goal in mind. You might produce a white paper to explore the state of your industry, to consider how to solve a problem, or to educate readers on overlooked but essential knowledge. 

When thinking about how to create influential white papers, there are a few important things to remember. 

  • White papers aren't strictly sales brochures. You need to educate and inform rather than deliver a pitch. Assert your knowledge and use that authority to position your business as a provider of solutions.
  • Structure matters. Search crawlers can still find your content even when you package a white paper into a PDF. A well-defined heading structure makes your content readable and discoverable.
  • Research and data are essential parts of white papers. Don't make assertions you can't back up; leverage statistics and other insights to demonstrate your command of the subject. Use visual aids to keep readers engaged. 

Well-written white papers support your broader marketing campaign and play a key role in setting your brand apart. Just because three-quarters of users skim blogs doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for a deep dive into what you know and what your company can do. 

How Do White Papers Influence Your SEO Efforts? 

The marketing purpose of white papers is clear—be a leader first, and the buyers will follow. However, what purpose does this content have regarding your search rankings? The facts again reveal that white papers bring two distinct advantages to the table that make investing in them worthwhile. 

First, Google loves long-form content. Average content length has continued to grow in recent years, and the top-ranking items now often weigh in over 2400 words. That's too wordy for a blog—but it's perfect for a white paper on a targeted subject. 

Second, white papers let you target search users in multiple ways. The longer content allows for more opportunities to target valuable keywords. At the same time, grabbing search traffic from those asking questions or looking for "how to" guides is possible with the white paper format. 

As an additional benefit, white papers can be potent tools for content generation on a broader scale. Imagine taking a large white paper and breaking out different sections and ideas into their own blog posts. This gives you more opportunities to rank content and provides a funnel you can use to guide readers toward white papers. 

Capturing User Information Through White Paper Offers 

Some companies choose to give away all their white papers on the open web—and indeed, this is the best solution for improving SEO and ranking. However, sometimes you may wish to build a landing page for your white paper instead. These pages include a taste of the information readers want, then call them to action with a prompt to download. 

To unlock the file, users only need to provide some basic information, such as their name, business, and email address. When you need to gather leaders and grow your email lists, white papers also open the door to accomplishing those goals. 

Discover the Value in Exploring Long-Form Content 

White papers require more planning, effort, and editing than a regular blog post, but the extra work pays dividends when you do it right. Depending on your goals, white papers can have many functions, from exploring the need for a product to examining a significant issue facing your industry. Structured correctly and well-executed, you can publish content that ranks well and sets your brand apart as a thought leader. What interesting insights do you have ready to offer?