White Papers: How to Write Better Titles

How do you choose the title of your white paper? Work backwards for a moment.

  • How do most people find your white paper? Mostly on Google, Bitpipe.com or FindWhitePapers.com or other white paper distribution sites.
  • What happens when they see the results? Lists and lists of white papers. It’s overwhelming.
  • Which do they choose? You, as the author of the white paper, are responsible for giving it an edge.

An interesting title always stands out.

Why? It makes you stop, click, and look at the cover page. If that’s well designed, maybe you’ll scroll down and read more. But first you have to get them, potential readers, to click on the title and then persuade them to read more. So, one thing at a time. Here’s the first.

White Paper TemplatesWhite Paper Template – Instant Download

How to Choose a Title for your White Paper

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

  • You have to entice them to read it. Something has to make them feel it’s worth a click.
  • What’s going to make them want to read this? Fear, uncertainty, doubt are classic emotional triggers that B2B writers manipulate.
  • How is your angle, slant, or interpretation different from others? Take a contrary view of something everyone assumes it true. Fight your corner.
  • The test is: if you saw your document in Google search results, would you click on it? If not, why?

So, it has to be interesting. But how?

First, identify the main point

Don’t play tricks with the reader using click bait or misleading titles.

Orient the reader, then

  • Be specific
  • Be unambiguous. Make sure there is no confusion.
  • Be descriptive. Weave your ‘point of view’ into the title. This sets the tone for the rest of the document.
  • Be meaningful. Don’t make the reader work to identify the subject matter. Try to be helpful.
  • Remove tired, jaded verbs and phrases, such as lessons learnt. Reader gloss over there.
  • Avoid clichés and buzzwords.

Examples:

Financial Transactions: Potential Versus Reality

Or

Social Media listening pulls direct opinion, focus groups get personal

Subtitle: Use social media to gain customer insights, as well as the value that older information-gathering methods still bring to the table.

Here’s an example of a clever use of acronyms

ADCs and NFV: Alphabet keys to network performance success

This white paper explains the role of application delivery controllers (ADCs) in Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), as well as three benefits for migrating to NFV.

Ask questions

This can be very effective if the question is interesting or takes an unusual slant. It prompts the reader to respond to the question.

Example

Why the Hybrid Cloud Makes Sense

Examine hybrid cloud design challenges and get advice on how to build and optimize for such clouds.

Example

Get insight now: How do users view your web page?

Radware White paper: This white paper explains why website speed is so vital for the retail industry, and has a major effect on sales for ecommerce.

Example

Why It’s Time to Modernize Your Printing Infrastructure

Hewlett-Packard white paper: This exclusive resource takes an in-depth look at how legacy printing strategies are no longer safe and why it may be time to modernize your printing infrastructure.

FAQ

The FAQ format allows you to answer the typical questions customers have about a specific topic. This format is very helpful in that it educates the reader in the process.

Example

Network virtualization FAQ

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about network virtualization. Learn how your organization can see benefits like cost savings, rapid provisioning and scalability.

Example

FAQ: Software Testing in the Cloud

Everything is moving to the cloud, including software development. What opportunities and challenges does this present for software testers? Read this e- guide for FAQs on using cloud tools for software testing.

Example

IT Compliance FAQ Guide

Examine some frequently asked questions with respect to GRC and IT compliance including important frameworks, who is affected and more.

Keywords

Use keywords to highlight the main message. This also helps people find the document, on their PCs, networks, and the internet.

Example

ECM and the Cloud: My Documents or Our Documents?

Uncover more benefits of using cloud technology to manage your enterprise content in this in-depth white paper from AIIM. Read on to get facts and figures surrounding cloud usage and trends to gain a deeper understanding of SaaS ECM.

Subtitle

The subtitle can either be appended to the main topic or as a second sentence

If you can’t get the message in the main title, use a subtitle to provides more information.

  • Don’t repeat what’s in the title. Expand on the main point.
  • Help the reader understand the background to the document.
  • Place the white paper in context. Is it associated with a particular project, task, or development.
  • If the activity is well known, consider weaving it in to the title.
  • If this is part of a set of documents, consider using the same title structure, so readers can identify these as part of this set.
  • Avoid overlapping or repeating the title of similar documents.
  • Consider whether the title will be appropriate for all document that will be included in the series.

Break up long titles into shorter sections

If the central topic is complex or difficult:

  • Break it into smaller sections.
  • Use colors or dashes to divide the title.
  • Try to keep the word count more or less the same.

Write Doing ‘ing’ Titles

Add ‘ing’ to your title to:

  • Give a sense of action, urgency, and immediacy.
  • Highlight specific advice on actions to take.

Example

Safeguarding Mobile, Cloud, and Social Access

Simplifying Cloud Integration and Bridging Identity Silos

Measuring, Monitoring, and Improving Customer Experience

Search Engine Friendly

Make sure the internet isn’t already saturated with similar titles.

  • Look at the search terms related to your subject matter, then modify the title.
  • Be careful you don’t dilute or change the topic in the process.
  • Sprinkle keywords in headings.
  • People tend to use the name of the problem they hope to solve more often than the solution.

Numbered Lists

For shorter, less formal white papers, this format often works.

For example:

  • 3 Painful Active Directory Problems Solved
  • Top 13 Ways to Strengthen Google Apps Security and Compliance
  • Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Cobrowse Vendor

White Paper Titles: Mistakes to Avoid

Impact v Resolution

Don’t write about impact, instead explain the steps and solutions to resolve the issue. Avoid titles with ‘About,’ ‘Impact of’ and ‘State of’.

In this example, ‘ultimate’ sounds jaded.

Delivering the Ultimate Cross-Channel Experience

Oracle white paper: Explore this concise fact sheet which details the features of Oracle’s cross-channel customer experience platform, boasting potential benefits like increased customer loyalty, empowered customers who self-serve, reduced incident handling time, and more.

Vague titles don’t generate interest

  • If you use metaphors, avoid clichés related to sports and military. It hackneyed.
  • Avoid using weak, vague, or ambiguous analogies.
  • Avoid jaded phrases such as killer.
  • Remember, what worked for other industries may not apply to yours.

Example

Why Manufacturing Firms Must Improve Customer Service

Find insights from leading organizations and industry authorities to help you address the challenges of monitoring and measuring your CEM strategy.

Industry Buzzwords and Clichés

Nothing dates faster.

  • Avoid technical descriptions and jargon.
  • Jargon excludes less knowledgeable readers.
  • Avoid TLAs (three letter acronyms). It looks lazy.

Example

The ROI of Social CRM

This analyst report from Nucleus Research shows that businesses can achieve a significant return on investment by adding social media to their CRM deployments.

Brand names

Think long term and avoid trends.

  • Companies that may be popular right now may not even exist in twelve months.
  • Using their brand name in your title is risky if they change name, become unpopular, or go out of business. Netscape, for example, was the default browser for many years, now it’s history.
  • Using brand names can make you look like your jumping on the band wagon, for example, if you add in Apple into the title for no other reason than to generate link bait.

The exception is when you are specifically discussing some feature or services related to this brand, such as:

Example

Metrics That Matter – Introducing Exposure Rate, a New Facebook Advertising KP

Credit to Marketing Sherpa for the list of mistakes to avoid!

Summary

Finally, some research from CNET. Based on its studies, the most popular white paper downloads:

  • Provide education information related to the prospect’s job
  • Solve a vendor-shopping problem

So, they educate or solve a known issue. Sales waffle doesn’t have much impact.

A study from IDG found that

  • 27% of online shoppers prefer white papers with attractive cover pages and layouts.
  • 24% said the design of the white paper influenced their buying decision
  • 23% said it impacts if they shared it with peers

In the next article, I’ll explain how subtitles can strengthen the message of your white paper title.

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