Good White Paper, Lousy Title – 3 Ways to Fix It

This post was written by John White on Tue, 30 Mar 2010 09:33:01 +0000
Posted Under: keywords,publishing content,search engine marketing,titles,white papers

Title for White PaperThe title of your white paper is where you sell your idea to the prospective reader. Don’t blow your chance to make a good impression.

Industry colleague Jonathan Kantor publishes a list of free white papers each week from his blog, White Paper Pundit. I’ve followed it the last few weeks, looking for interesting titles. They are few and far between. (Mind you, these are not papers that Jonathan himself has written.)

Have a look at this list from last week and tell me what you think of them:

  1. Hosting a hybrid online conference
  2. Enrollment Marketing Predictions for 2010
  3. Lessons Learned From Windows 7 Early Adopters
  4. Real World Predictive Analytics
  5. Protecting Your Constituents’ Personal Information
  6. Collections Lawsuit
  7. Engagement: Understanding It, Achieving It, Measuring It
  8. Enterprise Microsharing: Nineteen Applications to Revolutionize Employee Effectiveness
  9. The Empowered RIM Manager
  10. The Predictive Enterprise
  11. Social Media and the 401(k) – The Time Is Now
  12. The ROI of Backup Redesign Using Deduplication
  13. An Unfortunate Surprise: Why Predictive Response Models Decrease Marketing ROI
  14. Do Fortune 100 companies need a twittervention?
  15. Measuring User Influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy
  16. SQL Server Consolidation Guidance
  17. The Lisbon Treaty
  18. Why Vyatta is Better than Cisco
  19. Understanding Web Accessibility: Why Universal Web Design Will Be Good for Your Organization
  20. HP_UX 11i v3: Congestion Control Management
  21. The Road Traveled
  22. How Industrial Equipment Manufacturers Can Grow and Protect Customer Loyalty
  23. Transloading Efficiency
  24. Sustainable Agriculture

Did any of those grab you? Even if you were in the position of needing to read up on these topics, did any of these titles raise its hand and squeal, “Oh, pick me, pick me!”?

White Paper Titles – Good and Bad

Let’s examine a few of these.

  • Collections Lawsuit
  • The Lisbon Treaty
  • Sustainable Agriculture

This seems like search engine optimization gone wrong; the titles are perfect for SEO, but when they show up in the results, they’re not very tempting, are they?

Whose point of view does each paper examine? What aspect of each topic does the paper cover? Who is in the intended audience? What will they get out of reading the paper?

Consider another group:

  • Real World Predictive Analytics
  • SQL Server Consolidation Guidance
  • The ROI of Backup Redesign Using Deduplication

These titles give us a bit more information and help us qualify them better. “I don’t need to consolidate my SQL Server implementation; I need to build it up. Guess this paper’s not for me, thanks.” Or, “Maybe duplication is what’s bogging down our backups. This might be worth a read.” And, they’re SEO-ready.

These titles give us steak, but not much sizzle. Your paper deserves both.

One final group:

  • How Industrial Equipment Manufacturers Can Grow and Protect Customer Loyalty
  • Understanding Web Accessibility: Why Universal Web Design Will Be Good for Your Organization
  • Enterprise Microsharing: Nineteen Applications to Revolutionize Employee Effectiveness

These are pretty well evolved titles. They demonstrate that the paper is not for everybody, and they save me time by giving me enough information to qualify them.

They’re long, but there’s nothing wrong with that, especially with SEO-ready keywords at the beginning.

3 Steps to Good White Paper Titles

  1. Include the job title of the intended reader. This is part 1 of the steak; it tells me you have done homework to find out who I am.
  2. Include the business problem the paper addresses. This is part 2 of the steak, in which you focus NOT on your expertise, but on the thing that has my hair on fire. (See David Meerman Scott on the single most important pitching tip.)
  3. Include verbs. This helps the sizzle.

So, how about:

  • Literacy Instructors Scramble – Get the Most Out of No Child Left Behind before It’s Left Behind
  • Let the Casual Bloggers Decide: WordPress or over the Long Haul
  • What Is My Pancreas, and What Did I Do to It to Deserve Cancer?
  • Rubbing the Buffalo off the Nickel – 5 Ways Deans Can Increase Revenue and Lower Expenses

And, since you’re front-loading the title with SEO keywords, you can consider publishing the paper under two different titles (A/B testing), with each one focusing on either 1 or 2:

  • Translation and Manufacturing – How Managers Can Successfully Mix the Two
  • Manufacturing Managers Take on Translation and Make It Work

What are you doing with titles to get your customers to read your content?

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

photo credit: Doug Coldwell

Reader Comments

Using the job role in the white paper’s title is a good one. For #18, how about:

Open Source Networking: 5 Connectivity Solutions Silicon Valley Giants Hope IT Managers Never Discover

Written By Mark McClure on May 2nd, 2010 @ 4:03

Sure. I (and the search engines) would prefer to see it near the beginning of the title, but that’s a good start.

Written By John White on May 2nd, 2010 @ 6:53