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.

btob-content-creation-process

“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.

A Content Marketer’s Guide To SEO: A Checklist

Content is an integral element of search engine optimization (SEO), so check out columnist Thomas Stern’s handy check-list to ensure your content reaches its full potential.

It’s 2015 and by now you’ve been told, again and again, the importance of developing valuable content to increase your visibility in search. It’s time to cut through the noise and step up with some advice you can actually use to generate results from content development.

The checklist below is intended for marketers to use with their team to identify specific tasks needed to create valuable content that generates results.

We recommend leveraging this check list to guide content marketers and capitalize on opportunities in your industry. Start by documenting your strategy and use this list each time you launch a new campaign to ensure your content reaches its full potential.

Understand How Users Search

Content strategy begins and ends with users in mind. Of course, your end goal is to increase sales, but the best way to achieve that is to keep users top of mind in each phase of your strategy development process.

By understanding your target audience’s online behaviors, interests, and expectations, marketers can develop stronger content that compels users to interact with and talk about your brand.

  • Analyze current data from search, social, and other owned assets to identify user trends (top content, sharing/engagement, and demographic data)
  • See what content currently appears in search and what competitor content users see when searching for related terms and keywords
  • Examine competitor content strategies to understand what content your audience currently sees in search Identify what users want and expect from your brand
  • Create a story from your data that identifies trends, behaviors, and interests to develop personas for unique audience segments

Optimize For Users

With users in mind, your content should be formed around the interests of audience segments to offer more value. Targeting your content will draw stronger followings and deliver more quality leads. While achieving high search rankings for keyword targeted content is valuable, speaking to an audience is what drives engagement and conversions.

Identify how your post will offer value through education or entertainment and create content worth sharing

Support your ideas with references to validated, external sources to increase credibility and authority

Build your content around the topics and keyword phrases your audience is searching for to increase exposure

Keep content “human” in delivery that is easily digestible and appropriate for your audience segments

Establish your brand’s tone and voice in individual channels to create unique content that contributes to your overall focus and strategy

Explore different content mediums and delivery channels to determine what methods generates the highest engagement

Keep the limitations and unique features of mobile in mind when crafting content to ensure all users have a consistent and quality experience

Optimize For Search Engines

High performing content is a balance between users and search engines. Just as your content needs to quickly capture the attention of a user and clearly deliver value, search engines require the same consideration.

Optimize your content and distribution channels to help search engines make connections between your content and the information your audience is searching for. Be careful to keep your content “human,” as search engines have evolved to respond to quality more than over-optimization techniques such as keyword stuffing.

  • Maintain a consistent schedule and focus by creating a content calendar that identifies topics and keywords for each piece of content
  • Integrate keywords into content and back-end optimization such as headlines, page titles, URLs, and meta descriptions
  • Leverage tools to audit content for SEO such as Yoast for WordPress
  • Create unique pages for content to earn authority for individual assets
  • Generate quality links from bloggers and trustworthy publications to help search engines connect content with keywords
  • Perform periodic audits to discover and fix any broken links
  • When applicable, optimize content for local search with unique pages and detailed information for individual locations
  • Create an XML sitemap and submit to Google and Bing to assist in indexing pages
  • Amplify content with paid media to increase visibility across the web

Measure & Improve

Your data tells a story of the obstacles faced and opportunities created from your brand’s content and distribution, and analyzing this data provides a path to develop stronger campaigns. By understanding how audiences interact with content, marketers can hone their focus to increase visibility, engagement and conversions.

  • Pull reports from all owned, earned, and paid channels and identify patterns of engagement and interest
  • Leverage tools in analytics platforms to discover what content drives more traffic and action from users
  • Define clear goals in Google Analytics to monitor how content influences your conversion funnel and sales cycle
  • Monitor Google Webmaster Tools to look for site errors than can inhibit exposure in search
  • See how users move across your website and content with click tracking and heat mapping tools such as Crazy Egg
  • Use data to understand what content mediums, focus, tone, and distribution channels result in the highest engagement

Conclusion

Leverage this checklist to create stronger, more visible content by understanding which components of your digital strategy to monitor. By viewing SEO and content marketing as partners, your brand can put the right content in front of the right users with timely precision. Always keep your content top of mind and current by revisiting your strategy throughout the year.