Online white papers and eBooks are a great way to engage and convert your audience. They make complex topics easier to understand, increase engagement with your content, and provide readers with an experience that is impossible to achieve with a printed version. And, when used correctly, their ROI can be immense and bring many leads to your marketing funnels.
In this blog, we’ll explain what online white papers are and show some successful examples. We’ll also take you through the 7 benefits of an online version compared to print or PDF, and how they can increase the effectiveness of your lead generation campaigns.
What is a white paper?
White papers are in-depth reports or guides on specific topics and the problems that surround them. They aren't written to make a direct sale, but to help the target audience in making their purchasing decision, learn more about the industry, product or service, or solve a problem for their business. B2B content marketing professionals use them to build brand awareness, share knowledge, and gather leads.
What is an online white paper?
With regular print or PDF white papers or eBooks, the target audience only gains access after performing a specific action - such as filling out a form (and sharing their details) on a landing page. Or, if it is only available as a printed version, a visitor has to visit a physical location to obtain the publication.
Both of these options have limited sharing options, as they can’t be indexed by search engines or shared directly via social media. This limits their reach and forces you to set up a separate landing page or paid campaign to distribute your white papers.
But an online version has many more benefits. Let’s dive in:
What are the benefits of an online white paper?
First of all, online white papers and eBooks drastically increase your exposure to potential target audiences, as they enable you to publish and share globally through digital media channels. With traditional print versions, you would need to print and distribute the publication to select parties, limiting their potential reach.
With an online version, there is no limit to the amount of channels you can utilise. You’re free to share it wherever and as often as you prefer - think sharing social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other platform), sending newsletters to your email list, linking in blog posts or presentations, and posting them to (internal & external) websites or landing pages. You can even place QR-codes leading to your online white paper in physical places, such as magazines, reports, posters and flyers.
Online white papers are also indexed by search engines such as Google or Bing. This means that your publication can be found and read organically, without you having to set up a separate landing page or paid promotional campaign to distribute it.
While traditional print (or PDF) white papers have to make do with mostly text and images, online white papers bring entirely new features to the table. Interactive elements - such as clickable links to resources, videos, graphs, infographics, quizzes, animations, and much more - completely enhance your viewer’s experience. When used well, these new elements increase the engagement and understanding of your content, ultimately leading to more conversions.
Although it can be a lot of fun to explore and add all of these new elements to your white papers, do keep an eye on the amount of interactive elements you’re using. Overdoing it will make it harder for your audience to keep their attention, reversing the engagement benefit and leading to negative results.
PDFs and print publications have a fixed layout, meaning they can’t adjust to different screen sizes. This forces viewers to zoom and pan their ways through the publication, creating a horrible experience on mobile devices.
In today’s mobile-first world however, digital content assets such as white papers and eBooks are still published in a print or PDF format. But with 60% of internet traffic coming from mobile, you risk excluding this entire audience segment, costing you valuable views and conversions.
Online white papers are natively optimised for mobile, meaning your viewer can view the publication on their own preferred device.
Accessible to all audiences
Elements in your online white papers can be enriched with additional descriptions and meta tags to make them (WCAG) accessible to all types of audiences. This is not just useful for people with disabilities, but also vital for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Search Engines use this data to rank your online publications in the search results, so it would be wise to make use of these features and get your white papers to end up amongst the top of the search results.
Save money on production and distribution
Online white papers are much more cost-effective than traditional printed or PDF publications. Because they have very low production and distribution costs, companies can save money to dedicate their resources to other areas.
With online white papers, you can use your already existing digital distribution channels to share them. This saves both time and money, as you no longer need to manually set up distribution channels anymore.
And with various digital tools available today, production time can be reduced drastically by working with templates. Maglr has several templates readily available to use, which have been designed to drag-and-drop your existing content into, so you can rapidly produce and scale your online white papers.
This might be the biggest benefit of online white papers, as it’s practically impossible to measure the result of your print or PDF versions. You can of course track how many people downloaded your PDF version, but it’s only guessing what happens afterwards. There is no way of knowing when and how your audience experienced the actual publication itself.
With online white papers, you can see exactly where your visitors are coming from and how they are experiencing it. You can also share the publication with UTM codes to analyse visitor behaviour from different digital marketing campaigns.
Maglr has real-time analytics readily built into the platform, so you can see exactly how your white paper is performing through a single dashboard. And because these analytics are privacy-friendly in nature, you no longer have to set up custom cookie consents to comply with GDPR laws.
Pro tip: generate more leads with content gates
Traditional white papers are, most of the time, locked entirely behind a form or content gate on your website. With online white papers, you can insert your lead generation forms directly into the publication, which then triggers only after they have already seen a certain amount of pages.
This way of setting up content gates is also known as ‘mid-gating’. It increases the probability of your audience filling out the form to continue reading, as they are already invested in your white papers when the form pops up.
White paper examples
Below are some examples of online white papers that open up new worlds in terms of structure, design and accessibility.
The Future of Work - Absolute Software
The Age of Inclusive Intelligence - Dentsu
Decarbonising Transport Series - WSP
How to create a white paper?
The most important part of a white paper is its content. Start by creating content that your audience is willing to ‘pay’ for with their personal details. Do your research, gather information and bring all this knowledge together. The more value your white paper contains, the more leads you will gain from it.
Which tools are available?
For simple print or PDF white papers, many tools are available. You could start off with Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create text-based publications, or go fancy with design tools like Adobe InDesign, Sketch or Figma.
However, these tools would all have you end up with PDF versions, which still offers limited benefits. For example, they are harder to share than online versions and require a separate landing page on your website to download. A PDF version also isn’t optimised for mobile and can’t be indexed by search engines such as Google and Bing, preventing any type of organic traffic from accessing your white papers.
Create and publish your white papers online
Online white papers are optimised for today’s audience, because they are easy to read on mobile devices and can be shared across all digital media channels. They also allow for more customisation and interactive elements, and can be found organically. This increases their reach and engagement, ultimately leading to more valuable leads.
With Maglr, you can create interactive online white papers that are natively indexed by search engines and can be shared on all types of digital media channels through a single link. And with interactive elements and content gates within the publication itself, you can increase the engagement and generate more leads. Maglr also offers a large library of templates to start with, so you can rapidly create & scale your white papers.
Maglr enables you to create, publish and analyse your interactive white papers - all through a single platform. Request a demo today and start creating with a 14-day free trial - no creditcard required.