White Papers: Key to B2B Enterprise SEO Success

Enterprise marketers, particularly in the B2B space, often find content development for SEO a difficult proposition. The company’s thought leaders, although happy to pontificate, are often afraid of committing to a writing schedule. And the marketer, admittedly, is trying to get others to “squeeze in” content, essentially “off the books.” With no reward, why should anyone help with the difficult, thankless work of writing articles? The trick is for the marketer to take advantage of three key tactics:

• Appealing to the ego

• Re-purposing

• Transcription

Any enterprise that can harness these three elements can pump out high volumes of quality content. This white paper will show how enterprises can use White Papers as the basis of their content generation process, leverage these three elements to supercharge this process, and diversify their traffic sources beyond SEO in the process.

Very High-Quality White Papers: The Core of the System

The approach presented here (see Figure 1) uses the white paper as the core item that all other items flow from. If you have visions of outsourcing your white paper to India or having an intern write it forget it. When writing a white paper, think in terms of creating a comprehensive resource for a topic that only someone intimately familiar with your industry could have created.

This means either you personally are going to have to write it, one of your company’s thought leaders is going to have to write it, or you’re going to have to pay an extremely high-end professional writer to write it. However you handle it, make sure you include a lot of refinement, back-and-forth editing and perfection in any white paper. The better it is, the better everything that flows from it will be.


“When writing a white paper, think in terms of creating a comprehensive resource for a topic that only someone intimately familiar with your industry could have created”

Start By Simply Creating Lots of Lists B2B marketing is really a Features/Benefits, Problem/Solution, and often, a “Total Cost of Ownership” game; all of these play into creating lists, which are a great, easy way to pull together raw material for a white paper. Start out by creating a list of customer problems in the following lists:

• Customer problems

• Implications of those problems

• Aspects of those problems

• Complications or impacts arising from those problems

• Different approaches to solving those problems

• Pluses and minuses of the different approaches

Once you have these lists, a white paper, then, is merely a “peeling the onion” presentation of whichever of those lists you think are worth exploring. It’s the old “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them “game.

First, create a flow or circle diagram (just use PowerPoint: a bigcircle in the middle with arrows going to other circles). That will be a summary diagram for the background section that gives a sense of the structure of the white paper; and it can be around the life cycle of a problem, or a product, or elements that contribute to a problem, or players in a market or anything.

Then, the individual elements of the diagram are simply the sections of the white paper, each with its own table/list. Whenever you present a list or a table (say, problems and implications), just present in the table a bullet item, then a sentence. Then in the text itself, expand on this with a paragraph. Pretty soon you have a section, with a table, and with text that describes what’s in the table

One overall structure B2B for white papers is:

1. Cover Page/Title/1 paragraph description (1 page)

2. Introduction: “tell them what you’re going to tell them” (1/2 page)

3. Background: a section that sets the stage, with the diagram, elements in the diagram, and a sentence on each element. (1 page)

4. A Section Dedicated To Each Element: with a table (list) with sub-elements, and

then a paragraph about each sub element. There should be three to five of these sections (1 page each)

5. Conclusion: “tell them what you told them” (1/2 page)

The total length runs around 6-8 pages. If you end up with 10-12 pages, consider splitting it up into two or three separate white papers, and then beefing *those* up until they each reach 6-8 pages. One approach that works great is to simply put down as much material you can into one massive document, then carve white papers out of it.

Take the High Road — Don’t Mention Your Product or Service

A white paper is supposed to be “thought leading.” It’s crass to sell your product with it; your purpose instead is to impress the prospect with your expertise and to entice them to research whether they want to further a relationship with your company. So don’t mention your product — it knocks your company off the pedestal you’re trying to set it on.

Attain Credibility by Quoting Statistics Wherever Possible

wherever possible, quote your own data, or other authorities (results of surveys and so on… include original URLs so the reader can verify it for themselves).

Here’s a good trick, though: if you have knowledge but there is no actual study or numerical data you can easily point to…you can say “Acme’s extensive field experience with widgets has shown that…” After all, who can argue with extensive field experience?

Why It Has To Be Such a Long White Paper

Because if it were three pages, there would be very little to re-purpose, of course! Also, contrary to popular belief, David Ogilvy was right when he said “Long copy sells.”

Also, if someone downloads a white paper and it’s just a few pages, there is a bit of a feeling of being shortchanged. You should make sure your white papers are substantial, meaty and chock-full of solid facts, thoughts, diagrams, and tables – readers will devour it, and it’s all great material for subsequent marketing efforts.

The Real Work Starts When the White Paper Is Done

Now that you’ve created the perfect warhead for your marketing attack, you need to deliver it many different ways — both by delivering it as is, and by re-purposing it.

“Delivery” activities include:

1. Putting it on your website for download under “White Papers.” Be sure to require users to give minimal information – name, email and company — so you can capture them as a lead without discouraging them from downloading.

2. Using it as a Paid Search call-to-action (“Download Free White Paper Now!”).

3. Announcing the White Paper’s availability in a press release.

4. Announcing it on your blog.

5. Cannibalizing sections of it for individual blog postings.

6. Turning the diagram(s) and table(s) into a presentation.

7. Having thought leaders deliver the presentation at conferences.

8. Publishing the transcribed conference presentation on your blog.

9. Discussing the white paper during your regularly scheduled podcast (more below on this).

10. Publishing the transcribed podcast on your blog.

11. Having thought leaders deliver the presentation as a webinar.

12. Publishing the webinar as a video.

13. Publishing the transcribed webinar on your blog.

14. Re-purposing many of the above incarnations in your email newsletter.

That is a lot of mileage for one marketing piece! This is why spending a lot of time making a *great* white paper can pay off in spades. If you did everything listed above, and let’s say you got 5 blog postings out of the material in the white paper… that’s at least *thirteen* blog postings, by my count. If you were to crank out one very high-quality white paper every two months, and then did all of these follow-on activities, you’d be way ahead of the game — much further ahead than if you tried to hound three or four thought leaders and got an occasional short article out of them.

How This Strategy Leverages the Three Elements

This strategy *appeals to the ego.* By providing a thought leader with the perfect raw material, and excuse, to do presentations at a conference, and a webinar, you’re helping them succeed. What thought leader doesn’t like speaking at a conference? It’s a huge ego boost.

This strategy *re-purposes* content as text, audio, video, and presentations. Notably, much of it ends up being reworded/paraphrased, just in the natural course of things – which is great from an SEO perspective. When a thought leader presents the concepts at a conference, he or she will naturally use their own way of describing them; the podcasters, when discussing the white paper topic, will have their own.

Finally, *transcription* is the secret weapon of this strategy. When you can’t get people to write for you, you often can get them to *talk* for you. You’d be shocked at how much content you can create through transcription of talks, podcasts, and webinars. Try Speechpad at $1/minute. If you have historical content locked away in videos and audio recordings, it could be the cheapest way to produce high-quality content at your command.