guide to gated marketing content

To Gate or Not to Gate: One Rule for Deciding

Five years ago, inbound marketing was all about gated content. Gated meaning that you placed a valuable offer for download behind a form, requiring a work email address. Recently, the necessity of gating your most valuable content has come into question.

As pillar pages have gained traction as a powerful SEO tool, ungated content is on the rise. By having your most valuable content freely available for readers, you’re able to build trust up-front. Further, leads who chose to share contact information in exchange for a download demonstrates a higher level of interest than when readers chose to download gated content.

With differing opinions on each side of the debate, how can you decide whether or not to gate your next campaign?

Are you interested in generating page views or qualified leads?

While seemingly a nuanced debate, choosing to gate your content can be boiled down to a few questions.

Are you interested in generating page views or qualified leads?

If you care about page views, ungated is the way to go. If you want to qualify leads for sales, you’ll want a gated form to gather contact information.

Are audience size, reach, and future marketing benefits greater than detailed leads as a campaign outcome metric?

If you care about audience size, reach, and future marketing benefits — don’t gate your content. If detailed leads are valuable, gate content with forms to capture relevant lead information.

Do competitors offer this content ungated?

Would you want a prospect ending up on your competitor’s website when searching for the answer to a question? If leads could potentially wind up on someone else’s website to read the same content, consider providing it ungated on your own website.

Do you have the following set up?

  • Automated email sequence
  • Tracking & testing
  • Triggered communication

If not, don’t bother gating your content. You won’t see the full value of collecting lead information and you’d see more benefits by providing it openly on your website.

What are the pros of gating content?

When you place content behind a form, you’re able to collect contact and demographic information on your leads. This provides a deeper understanding of your audience and allows you to better qualify your leads. Instead of marketing to every contact that comes in, you can focus your efforts on prospects that fit your ideal buyer profile.

Gating content also creates the opportunity to develop a mutually-beneficial relationship. Your audience benefits from your content, while you’re able to collect their contact information. A crucial consideration for gated content is ensuring the value your provide within your resource is as beneficial for your audience as the information you collect is for your company.

One of the largest benefits of gated content is the ability to speed up the sales process. Once a lead downloads one piece of content, you can set up lead nurturing sequences to drip more relevant resources on your contact. As they consume more content, your audience will further understand your expertise and respect your company as a thought leader, helping move them through the buyers’ journey.

What are the drawbacks of gating content?

When you gate content, you risk reducing the size of your potential audience. Naturally, there will be visitors who drop off before filling out the form or don't read the resource after downloading. Having to take extra steps to read a resource effectively reduces its reach.

Additionally, readers are less likely to promote a landing page via social media or email than they would be to share an ungated resource. This makes it more difficult to generate backlinks and could, again, reduce your audience.

At the beginning stages of a relationship, trust is crucial. It’s very difficult to establish trust with a new contact through gated content. Depending on the value your resources provide, it can be difficult to bring leads into the sales funnel with gated content.

What are best practices for building effective landing pages?

If you choose to gate your content, you need to build a great landing page to attract downloads. First a foremost, your landing page needs to establish a need that entices a download. Address pain points that your resource solves and tease the benefits of downloading and reading.

No one likes not knowing what a company will do with your information after filling out a form. Be sure to set clear expectations as to what prospects will receive if they download. Use bullets to highlight the main points of the resource and don’t forget to mention how you’ll contact them in the future.

Make the form clear and easy to fill out. Don’t ask too many questions and only ask for low-friction information (name, title, company, email). Your lead shouldn’t have to ask someone else in their company or go look up revenue data in order to download a resource.

Finally, use a bold and clear call to action. Your prospect shouldn’t be confused about what to do next or potentially distracted by other offers. Make it as easy as possible for viewers to understand the value of your offer, relate to it, and download.

Decision time

A mix of both gated and ungated content is necessary to successfully market throughout the buyers’ journey lifecycle. Carefully consider your goals of each campaign when deciding whether or not to gate an offer.

During the awareness stage, users know very little about you and you’re still working to develop trust. Use a surplus of value-adding, ungated content to establish trust. As prospects move down the funnel, they’ll be more willing to share information in exchange for the resource. Your audience is less committed early on, meaning they’re less likely to go through the effort of downloading something unless they see a lot of value in it.

When you create landing pages, consider the user experience. The longer the form, the less likely prospects are to fill it out. Keep forms as short as possible earlier in the funnel. You can get away with asking for more information deeper in the funnel and especially for more valuable content. Remember, basic case studies, FAQs, and product specs never need to be gated.

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