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see saw showing white papers vs blog posts

White papers versus blog posts

Most people can tell the difference between a white paper and a blog post.

For starters, one is longer and the other is shorter.

For another, a blog post is another item on an existing blog, while a white paper is a standalone PDF you can download.

Beyond that, a good white paper is based on established facts and logical arguments, rather like a well-researched article in an industry journal.

But a blog post can be sheer opinion—or even a rant—more like a letter to the editor.

This table sums up some of the key differences.

 

 Blog postsWhite papers
FocusOne person's opinionNew solution to an
old problem, or
benefits of some
product or service
MessageHere's how I see itHere's a better way
to solve this problem
Length500 to 2,000 words2,500 to 5,000 words
FormatOnline, often text
with one stock photo
PDF with good design
and a few graphics
LifespanA few months,
then outdated
1 or 2 years,
then refresh
Time to create1 to 4 hours4 to 12 weeks
When to useAny time, depends
on content
Early in sales cycle
Why to useTo generate leads,
engage prospects
or channel partners
To generate leads,
engage prospects,
or explain product
or service
AnalogyLetter to the editor
or opinion piece
Well-researched
article

 

How to use white papers AND blog posts together

A good white paper contains enough ideas to fuel several blog posts.

In fact, here is the best strategy for how to use both together:

  1. Publish an effective white paper.
  2. Extract one key idea from the white paper to blog about.
  3. At the end of the blog, point to the landing page for the full white paper.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 to cover all the key ideas in the white paper.

This uses the SEO power of your blog to build visibility and downloads for your white paper.

The white paper is the cornerstone content, and the blog posts are spinoffs presented as smaller chunks that point back to the whole.

Repurposing a problem/ solution as a blog

As you know, a problem/solution white paper (chocolate) delves into an industry-wide problem that no one has ever solved completely.

And then it recommends a new, improved solution.

Here is my recommended way to organize this flavor of white paper:

  1. The problem
    A detailed picture of the scope and terrible impact of the problem
  2. The traditional solutions
    What’s been tried in the past and the drawbacks of each approach
  3. The new recommended solution in generic terms
  4. What to look for in an ideal solution
    A set of bullets listing the key features and benefits that only the white paper sponsor can claim

Each section shown above can form a separate blog post. Then you can link all three together into a series.

Best of all, you can pretty much extract these posts word-for-word from the white paper and drop them into your blog.

Repurposing a numbered list as a blog

The easiest and most informal flavor of white paper is a numbered list  (strawberry).

These all have titles that start with a number, like in “6 Things You Must Know Before You Buy BI Software.”

 

After you finish a numbered list, this is an ideal time to repurpose that white paper as one or more blog posts.

Your blog can present the bare list, and then direct readers who want more details to the full white paper.

Or you can break up the white paper into a series of six or seven blog posts—whatever number of points your numbered list contains.

As always, your white paper can present more detail, more evidence, and more logical arguments than each single blog post.

photo of scoop of vanilla ice cream

Repurposing a backgrounder
as a blog

The most traditional of all white papers is a backgrounder that focuses on the features and benefits of a certain product or service (vanilla).

A backgrounder always has a product name in its title, as in “Exploring Enhanced Security Features in Windows 11.”

You can extract each individual feature and its benefits as a separate blog post.

Or if a couple are shorter, you can group two together in a single post.

Then each post can direct readers to the full white paper “for the whole story.”

White papers: a whole different dimension

Some SEO enthusiasts tend to over-promote what anyone can really expect to achieve with blogging. They say a blog can generate vast amounts of Web traffic and push your site to the top of Google.

This is rarely true in B2B marketing.

In my experience, B2B buyers tend to consider a good white paper far more serious than a blog post.

And to achieve what B2B marketers want—a steady trickle of warm, qualified leads—white papers are in a whole different dimension beyond blog posts.

Despite this, you can quickly repurpose a good white paper into several solid blog posts using the tactics I’ve described above.

 

About Gordon Graham

Author of close to 300 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, from tiny startups to 3M, Google and Verizon. Also wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. And Gordon was recently named 2019 Copywriter of the Year by AWAI.

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4 Comments

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  2. whitepaperwritingblog on February 17, 2017 at 10:15 am

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  4. Hannah Jackson on February 22, 2019 at 2:56 am

    Informative blog. Thanks for sharing.

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