Someone asked me recently, “Do people even read white papers anymore?”
The question is understandable, especially if you’re not in B2B technology. The trend in content marketing is towards short, “snackable” content that’s easy to share. And I applaud that trend – to a point.
Longer papers still have a role to play in lead generation, thought leadership and lead nurturing. The traditional white paper has other, long-form cousins that are equally useful, such as:
- Recorded webinars
- Research reports
Your content marketing strategy should include lengthier content for three key reasons:
1. Improved SEO
Search engines love long-form content – the more words, the better they can analyze.
According to Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media, the ideal length for a blog post from an SEO perspective is 1500 words.
(Thanks to Ann Handley for sharing this fact in her wonderful book Everybody Writes.)
My blog posts aren’t that long, so I don’t practice what I preach in this regard. And I certainly don’t advocate writing massively long web pages. Always consider human readability first.
The content marketing take-away: Put a longer paper up on your website so web crawlers can find it, and see what happens to your organic search results.
2. The psychological pay-off
Here’s a fun bit of research I found in the book Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in an Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen:
“When we deliberately seek information, we are more likely to use it.”
When I read this, I started thinking of the content marketing implications:
- You create an informative or actionable piece of content and make it easy for your audience to find.
- Your audience searches it out, downloads it, and invests time to read it (paper, ebook) or watch it (webinar).
The fact that they deliberately sought out the content makes people more likely to use that information. If the content was good, then you’ve already delivered value to the audience.
The content marketing take-away: Figure out what questions your audience has and try to answer them. Do original research or interview experts if necessary.
3. Generating more content
One long piece can result in many other content assets. Repurpose a white paper or report into multiple blogs or infographics. Use it as the basis for videos, a webinar, or a SlideShare presentation. And by all means create those snackable tweets and quotes.
For inspiration, here’s a post I found today by Justice Mitchell on the Maximize Social Business blog on how to take a five-minute video and turn it into multiple pieces of content.
The content marketing take-away: Find one paper or video on your site that has useful insight for prospects and customers. Now try to generate four or five new content pieces across different channels from that single piece of content.