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To gate or not to gate? There has been a dynamic and vigorous debate about whether or not marketers should restrict their content. “Gating” is the process of requiring a lead to provide information in order to view/ download a piece of content (for example, a whitepaper). There are benefits and retractors for each, and we’ve broken down the most popular below: For Gated Content:
- Pro: You collect lead information
Content that prompts visitors to fill out a form will have the advantages of collecting lead information and growing your database. It will also give your more insight about the leads who are interested in what content you are offering.
- Pro: Increase conversion rate on target leads
Leads who fill out your forms to get your content show engagement and interest. These are the leads who are ‘hand-raisers’ and the most likely to convert into opportunities and sales.
- Con: Fewer visitors
Nowadays there are more and more online users who are privacy sensitive when it comes to filling out forms, and will have a tendency to leave your site once they hit a gated section, resulting in fewer visitors.
- Con: It is not SEO friendly
If a lead were to search for your content, there is no direct path to it, there’s only a direct link to the form. This makes it difficult for search bots to find your content; which would affect your SEO ranking negatively.
- Con: Leads will look for similar ungated content on a competitor’s site.
If the same or similar information can be found on a competitors site in a matter of seconds without being gated, you risk losing those leads.
- Con: Unlikely leads will share a form that is barring content
Leads who want to share your interesting content and drive more traffic to your site will be less motivated to share a link that directs their friends and colleagues to a form instead of content.
- Pro: More visitors and more opportunities to share content
Leads will be more likely to share a link to content directly rather than a form.
- Pro: Higher website traffic
With more readily available and relevant content on your site, leads are more likely to visit more often and cast a wider net to collect more traffic.
- Con: Content is available for competitors
When you open your valuable content to a wider audience, you will also be welcoming competitors to view and use your content at the same time.
- Con: May get lower quality of leads
Because this content is for everyone and does not require leads to demonstrate any level of engagement, the quality of leads is not very high.
- Con: Unpredictable and inconsistent lead volumes
In comparison to gated content, you will have less control over traffic if all content is ungated.
- Con: Lower conversion rate
Because the leads are low quality, the conversion rate will be lower too. Engaged leads (who filled out a web form) are more likely to get converted into opportunities and sales than less engaged leads who access free content.
- Does not help populate database
When leads access content without filling out a form, it will not help grow your database, but fill it with anonymous leads you cannot market to.
- Not able to control lead nurturing
A common nurturing strategy would be to nurture leads who filled out a form for a specific piece of content and send them relevant and related content in the future. If leads don’t provide personal information like an email address, they cannot be identified. As a result, they cannot be nurtured effectively. When you are providing good content, you are paving the road to a long and trusting relationship with your customers. When deciding whether or not to gate your content, there are a few things to ask yourself:
- What is the objective of this content?
- Who is the content for?
- How valuable is the content to your audience?
- Can your audience easily get this content somewhere else?
image from ’20 Questions’ from wikipedia When should we gate content? This depends on several factors such as what the content is, and what stage the lead is at in the buying cycle.. Below is a table that separates leads into three stages of the buying process and what type of content is in which stage. In the first stage, ‘Awareness’, the content would be solely educational as opposed to promotional. Since this is such an early stage and the leads are not necessarily engaged or invested your products/ services yet, keep this content ungated. Marketo is an example of a company that does not gate early stage content, which is 80% of their overall content. In the second stage, ‘Evaluation’, leads are becoming more qualified. It is time to see if these are the quality leads in which you are seeking. They are already in the buying cycle. Prompting them to fill out contact information or a registration form for something like a webinar is good way to collect information in leads that show higher interest. The lead’s information collected at this stage can be used for further nurturing. In the third stage, ‘Purchase’, some content should be customized and some should be shared. You can share it by using social share buttons on your page. You may want to have either gated or ungated content depending on the objective of each piece of content. We’ve outlined some examples below;
- You may be providing more detailed (and possibly customized) information and prompt leads to fill out a form. For example, if you are requesting for a specific demo with a sales rep, leads understand that you need information from them in order to provide a customized service and therefore, they are more likely to comply. Customization is in terms of tailoring a service or package to the lead’s income, demographic or specific needs.
- Example 2: When you have a free coupon or trial to entice new leads, your objective is to spread word of this promotion. In this case, you should leave it ungated in order to encourage higher traffic. Ensure there are calls to action with the content to share on various social media channels..
There are numerous pros and cons to gated and ungated content. It is important to have a good comprehension of each before deciding which content you will gate. Map out your content strategy so there is a clear ‘playbook’ for you and (if applicable) your team to review, agree, and follow. It is most critical to understand that ALL of your content should be relevant, interesting, and valuable.