How to Improve a White Paper Title

Your white paper title can make or break it. As the first thing a reader will see, consider this your opportunity to make a first impression; something you can’t do twice.

Stress the benefits of your white paper to readers

Why not tell your readers explicitly what they’ll gain from reading your white paper, right in your title? That’s probably the single best way to strengthen a weak white paper title.

The classic business benefits that interest most executives include

  • Making money

  • Saving money

  • Saving labor

  • Cutting waste

  • Streamlining processes

  • Eliminating processes

  • Any other way to “run lean and mean” or “do more with less”

The classic technical benefits that interest executives include

  • Automating processes

  • Controlling IT costs

  • Avoiding mistakes or rework

  • Overcoming constraints or trade-offs

  • Linking smoothly with existing systems

  • Any other way to contribute to the company’s strategic objectives instead of just “keeping the lights on”

Here are two possible new titles, one highlighting business benefits and the other a key technical benefit:

“Save Time and Money with Today’s New Generation of Scanners”

“Automate Your Filing with Today’s New Generation of Scanners”

Identify the target reader for your white paper

Naming your target audience by a specific job title helps B2B buyers see whether your white paper is truly aimed at them. The simplest way to add a job title is to use a subtitle. You can even work in two job titles if you’re careful, as in “A Special Report for IT and Finance Executives.” In this case, always list your primary audience first and your secondary one last.

Never try to address more than two different roles, or your title sounds clumsy. If you have three distinct audience segments, you may be better off creating three separate “clones” of the same basic content, tweaked to include suitable jargon for each role. Then show the appropriate job title for each version of your document, as in the following examples:

“A Special Report for IT Executives”

“A Special Report for Finance Executive”

“A Special Report for HR Executives”

Try a question in your white paper title

Don’t you love a good question in a white paper title? Isn’t that an intriguing way to challenge readers? Can you ever go wrong with a question for a title? Turning a weak title into a question can give it an engaging twist:

“Is Your Firm Getting Crushed by Paper Burden?”

“Today’s New Generation of Scanners: Are They Up to Snuff?”

Use “how to” phrases in your white paper title

Western civilization, and especially America, is a can-do society that values know-how. Just try Googling the phrase how to to see the popularity of this little phrase; You get more than 3.5 billion hits! You can insert “how to” in front of almost any phrase and see that it works just fine.

After all, your white paper is supposed to help readers learn how to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. Here are a couple examples:

“How to Save Time and Money with Today’s New Generation of Scanners”

“How to Gain from Unattended Scanning and Automated Filing”

Use selected keywords in your white paper title

In your title, try to work in the keywords that you think your target readers are searching for. If you believe they’re going to look for unattended scanning or automated filing, make sure to include those terms in your title. Doing so will propel your white paper into their search engine results, higher up in the list.

On the other hand, if those terms aren’t yet popular, use whatever synonyms your ideal readers are most likely to use. Choose the most popular terms that you can but always craft your title to sound as natural as possible.

Not sure what people are searching for? Check the popularity of various search terms with Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool; just Google that tool name to get the current location. In just a few seconds, you can test out any keywords, get many suggestions for related keywords and synonyms, and check the popularity of all your possibilities.

Test white paper titles in advance

Whatever you think of a white paper title, the ultimate test is up to your target audience. To improve your odds, try out some proposed titles on your ideal readers in advance. Where do you find them? Does your company have a Customer Advisory Board or user group? If so, this group is an ideal forum for generating white paper ideas and testing titles.

Even better, create a set of multiple covers with the same look but a different title for each. Then ask which one they’d most likely download. If one emerges as the clear favorite from this testing, use it. If not, consider going back to the drawing board and tweaking your suggestions some more.

If great numbers of your ideal readers find, download, and read your white paper, your title is clearly doing its job. If not, try again. There’s no law against tweaking a title and republishing the very same white paper again.

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