Get More White Paper Downloads with a Great Title

The title is one of the most important determining factors in whether your white paper is downloaded for reading or passed by in search of better content. Unfortunately, the white paper title is often approached as an after thought. And this can have damaging results. A lackluster title can severely impair the performance of an otherwise well-written paper.

Defining the title before you write can help give purpose and shape to the paper. For example, many tried and true attention-grabbing titles are based on formulas, such as “How to _______ in X easy steps” or “X Reasons Why ________ Fail.” These types of titles drive the structure of the paper.  When you write the paper first and title second, you limit your opportunity.

To improve the effectiveness of your next white paper, develop the title before you write the paper and use these tips to help you make the title great…

  • Focus on what’s in it for the reader. Your audience is out there looking for information because they have a problem that they need to solve. Tell people how you will solve the problem or give them a reason why they should listen to you.
  • Be specific. The needs of your potential customers vary greatly depending upon their industry, company, area of responsibility and current projects. Help your readers quickly identify what the paper is about and decide whether or not it’s applicable to them.
  • Balance creativity with relevance. Try to strike the right balance by giving the title enough personality to entice the reader, while still explaining what the paper is about. While a creative title may win you a chuckle, not many people will send their precious time downloading a paper just because it made them laugh.
  • Focus on Benefits, not Features. Benefits are the language of your customers. Features are the language of your engineers. Your customers don’t care if you have the fastest processor, strongest encryption or largest libraries. They care about the benefits those features will deliver, whether its cutting costs, supporting revenue growth or getting more done with less. So focus on what your product or services can do for your customers, not how it will do it.
  • Be succinct. Eliminate any unnecessary words and use the active voice to get your point across as quickly as possible (and avoid the awkwardness of the passive voice).
  • Be original. If you are syndicating your white paper, you will be competing with hundreds of other titles. After you have brainstormed and identified your short list of title favorites, do an Internet search for white papers on your chosen topic. If you find similar titles already available, cross them off your list. You cannot compete with a “me too” title.

There are hundreds of more tips available in books, blogs and articles. I’ve focused on the ones that I think are most important. If I’ve overlooked some, please feel free to weigh in with your suggestions.

P.S. Journalists that write for popular publications are masters of writing attention-grabbing and succinct titles. Perusing the headlines before you start your title brainstorming session can help get you in the right frame of mind and stimulate your creativity.