White Papers: The Ultimate Freebie

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What Is a White Paper?

Unlike the typical web page content, a white paper is a more detailed and authoritative document that is designed to help the reader solve a problem, make a decision or better understand a topic.

White papers help professionals solve problems and make informed decisions.
White papers help professionals solve problems and make informed decisions.

While most often associated with government documents and business-to-business marketing, white papers are not limited to these spheres. White papers are designed so that the reader comes away with something useful related to a specific topic he or she is interested in. They may also be used to help businesses make purchasing choices that have the best return on investment and may include a simple worksheet for reader calculations.

How White Papers Can Benefit Your Trade Website

Trade websites can generate tremendous loyalty and goodwill by offering free white papers. Generally, websites offering white papers ask for an email address or free registration in return, and then the paper is provided as either a web page, PDF file or downloadable Microsoft Word file. They are a terrific way for your trade website to showcase expertise. Suppose you run a trade website for automotive body restoration professionals. If one such professional downloads a white paper from your site on choosing an air compressor and benefits from that information, he or she is likely to come back to your site when seeking general information, or white papers on other relevant topics.

Tips for Creating Terrific White Papers

White papers are generally two or three times longer than a typical website article. Count on a white paper being 1,500 to 2,000 words when graphics, captions and references are included. Here are the critical elements of a useful white paper.

1. A Title that Clearly Communicates What the Paper Is About

A white paper should have a title like, ”Your Choice of Industrial Mixer Can Save Your Bakery $6,000 Per Year,” rather than a more vague, ”Industrial Mixers and Your Bakery.” Readers should see right from the start that your white paper answers a particular question. Even if the paper mentions specific brand names, you shouldn’t include these in the title or the reader will feel as if she’s reading an advertisement.

2. Summary and Introduction That Clearly Define the Problem

The ”problem” may be that you need a piece of equipment and don’t know how to choose. Or the problem may be how much money can be saved by choosing one type of product over another. After the title, present your reader with an introductory paragraph or two spelling out what he or she can expect to learn from the white paper.

3. An Overview of the Solution the Reader Is Seeking

Here you want to include a paragraph or two about the general nature of the problem and solution, and what other professionals have done in similar situations. For example, in the industrial mixer example mentioned above, this section of the white paper could refer to businesses that have upgraded their equipment and what it has allowed them to do that they could not do before. If you use such case histories, be sure to include references or links.

4. Details of the Solution the Reader Is Seeking

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Help your reader make concrete evaluations with the information you provide in white papers.

Here you can do an example cost / benefit analysis, a cost comparison analysis, a user checklist, or a user worksheet that allows the reader to get a handle on things like specific features they should look for, what they should expect to pay, and how soon they should expect a return on investment. This is the heart of the white paper because it lets the reader apply the knowledge contained in previous sections to his or her specific situation.

5. List of Benefits and Concluding Remarks

Finally, you should help your reader imagine the ”happily ever after” result of making a sound business decision (lower costs, higher profits, or increased productivity for example) and include a brief summary and wrap-up. Here you would include a call to action, perhaps to a section of your website where the reader can obtain vendor quotes, along with a list of references if you have not included links in the text of the paper.

Make your white paper as inviting and aesthetically pleasing as possible. Avoid walls of text by including helpful graphics, section headings, numbered lists and bulleted lists where possible. Your reader wants to be able to tell at a glance what information is in each section. Provide these things, and you’ll make your site ”stickier” while increasing your site’s authority. For more ways to enhance and monetize your site, visit RealMatch.com.

Photo Credits: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net, KROMKRATHOG / freedigitalphotos.net

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