SEO Glossary: Whitepaper



In a nutshell: What is a whitepaper?

A whitepaper (also: white paper) is an advertising tool in online marketing. It is a short document with a small amount of DIN A4 pages that provides readers with knowledge or helpful advice. For example, a company can publish the white paper to help its own target group solve a problem. In this way, the target group develops trust in the company, after which some of the prospects may become paying customers.

White paper: Originated in politics. Now a popular advertising method.

The white paper has its origins in politics. In the document, governments take a position on their actions and justify them with arguments. The political transparency that white papers are supposed to bring ideally contributes to more trust on the part of the population. White papers have been used for over a century for the purpose of political justification, argumentation and self-promotion.


In online marketing, white papers have gained in popularity, especially in the last decade. Here, the white paper has a different purpose than in the political arena: the white paper in online marketing is not used by companies to justify their own actions to the target group, but as a means of generating leads. Here's how it works:


  1. First, a target group (also: buyer persona) is defined. Measures are developed to arouse the interest of the target group. An example of a corresponding measure is advertising.
  2. Not all potential customers from the target group immediately decide to take an action that is intended by the advertising (e.g., purchase a product; take out a subscription). Some people bail out, others buy directly - and part of the target group initially becomes prospects.
  3. To turn the prospects into paying customers, there are specific methods. A rather popular method is to offer helpful content to the prospects. This can be done on the one hand via the website through good blog posts and professional articles, and on the other hand via documents for download.
  4. One of these documents is the white paper. It contains information on topics that are relevant for the interested parties. Typically, the white paper should contain particularly high-quality information and stand out from the content otherwise provided on the website. It may feature interesting case studies or guidance on how to solve a particular problem.


Since it is inevitable for almost every company for its own existence to be present with its own products and services on the Internet, various advertising strategies and advertising tools have been developed. In numerous strategies, the white paper is an essential component, because it binds the prospective customers by offering them additional benefits.


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Example of the use of a white paper in marketing

Several companies operate according to the funnel principle in online marketing. The aim of a sale funnel is to turn people from a broad target group into paying customers. The sale is the goal here.


After the attention of the target group has been aroused by advertising messages tailored to the target group (e.g. Google Ads; ads in social media) or by good content marketing (e.g. articles on the company's own website; posts in social media), some people become interested in the respective product.


When they click on the advertisement, the interested parties are taken to a landing page, for example. On the landing page, the product is offered for purchase. Those among the prospects who cannot yet decide to buy can be offered a free whitepaper. Some of the prospects, however, bail out, so the sales funnel narrows.


The whitepaper contains exclusive information that offers significant added value for prospects compared to other content available on the Internet. Only through a whitepaper with particularly high quality is it possible to bind as many of the prospects as possible and convince them of the product. The convinced prospects make the purchase. Because there are several prospects who decide not to buy despite the convincing whitepaper, the funnel narrows again.


In the end, out of a large crowd of people - the target group - the filtering processes left some of the crowd as paying customers. The whitepaper played its part in convincing some prospects who would normally have dropped out to buy the product after all.


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Differentiation from lead magnets: White paper with case studies and challenging content

Lead magnets have a firmly established place in online marketing. Like the white paper, lead magnets are used for lead generation and contain a lot of information for the target group. Basically, lead magnets are similar to the white paper in many aspects. So what is the difference?


  • A lead magnet is the term used in industries with lower demands. If readers are on the Internet looking for help quitting smoking or want tips on decorating their own homes, an informative document or e-book with the "Top 10 Tips" can be offered for download. This is a lead magnet.
  • The content requirements for a white paper are extremely high. The term "white paper" or "white paper" is used specifically in the IT industry or in other academic circles as well as in B2B marketing. The readers are extremely educated, usually bring a lot of knowledge with them and should be convinced by a high-quality white paper.


Due to the particularly high demands of the target groups for white papers, the content must be researched and formulated with the utmost care. In addition, a complex problem or topic must be chosen to be addressed in the white paper. The information presented in the white paper must be of great use and testify to the company's expertise.



Conclusion on the topic of white papers

The whitepaper is used for lead generation. People who have not decided to buy a product or not for another conversion on the basis of the marketing measures are to be subsequently convinced of the company by the whitepaper. Target groups for whitepapers are academics and people with expertise; to convince them, the content of the whitepaper must be exclusive and novel.


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