Elizabeth Halle

SEO expert Rae Hoffman hit it on the nail when stating, “The sooner you accept that SEO is more difficult now, the sooner you can get on a path to success.” Now more than ever, companies are looking to differentiate themselves and have begun to direct their attention to not one but two areas of this dynamic space: Increased focus on user experience and sound content marketing strategy. While the frequency of relevant and fresh information being posted on a site is still of utmost importance to stay in accordance with the most recent Panda updates, a transformation into diverse content strategies across channels has taken the spotlight for search engine optimization. SEO success doesn’t come from techniques, it comes from strategies.

So…what’s your strategy? Do you think of white papers (which are generally downloadable – not indexed by crawlers) as part of SEO?

SEO success doesn’t come from techniques, it comes from strategies.

The Content Marketing Institute released two reports last year – one aimed at B2Cs and the other at B2Bs – that found the average company uses 12 content tactics for SEO and other goals. Sixty-one percent of B2B brands and more than one-quarter of B2Cs use white papers as part of their content mix. Have you considered white paper marketing? A lot of companies recognize this report-like format’s ability to build influence and credibility, but well-crafted white papers can also attract valuable links and shares. The SEO benefits are clear – white papers deliver results, and I’ve outlined some below.

Benefits of white papers

While cookie-cutter content would be perfect for a Stepford-Wives-esque company, businesses now need a diverse portfolio of content in both type and length. Utilizing different lengths allows marketers to go in-depth with certain subjects, and give bite-sized insights about others. It puts the benefit to the user in charge of the content – and search engines notice. Companies that want to speak to prospects at all points of the sales cycle might want to mix up their content production efforts to provide both short and long-form media for their readers to enjoy.

 More than half of B2Bs say they believe white paper marketing is effective.

Daily news, evergreen pieces, and blogs can be malleable in length to a certain degree, but if you want to reach a wider audience and really push prospects further along the sales cycle, white papers should be a no-brainer. Producing white papers allows companies to showcase their proficiency within a certain space. In a study by the Content Marketing Institute, more than half of B2Bs say they believe white paper marketing is effective.

The audience benefits naturally have a correlating search benefit: If user behavior shows people want to download your white paper, the landing page that lets them do that should rank well for related searches. Does it really work?

Researched content: Effective link bait

A 2011 MarketingSherpa report reveals 40 percent of marketers say white papers are highly effective for SEO. Don’t believe a stat from 2011? Let’s look at one of my client’s data from this year.

Approximately 10,000 of my client’s 27,458 links to its site point to its white paper landing page.

These links had a trust flow of 40 or higher. 

One client in my portfolio recognizes the importance of white papers in its strategy. While this long-form content can position a brand as a thought leader, this IT software business has not dismissed its value for SEO. White papers provide businesses with an added opportunity to generate organic links that drive referral traffic back to their website. Google’s Matt Cutts recently stated that links are still very much important to the authority attributed to a site and have many a good year ahead of them. In crafting industry specific pieces surrounding trends and best practices on Oracle, VMware and SQL Servers, approximately 10,000 out of my client’s 27,458 links to its site point to its white paper landing page. In pulling a report from Majestic SEO, these links had a trust flow of 40 or higher. For perspective, Search Engine Land has reported its trust flow is 64 and Search Engine Roundtable’s is 43.

I encourage you to consider the value of white papers for content marketing success. Your industry prowess and credibility can be communicated through these documents, and you can even pull relevant graphs and stats from your white papers and use them on Pinterest to drive traffic back to your site. If you haven’t explored white paper marketing yet, the time to start is now.