That is the question on the minds of many marketers these days. In the debate over gated content, the answer is: It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of gated content, what type of content is more likely to be gated, and when in the buying process gating makes the most sense.
What is Gated Content?
Gated content is any media that requires a lead capture form. In other words, a visitor must provide personal information, such as name, company and email, to gain access to a particular content asset.
Marketers use gated content to generate leads by providing prospects with valuable information in exchange for contact information. It’s estimated that as much as 80% of B2B content marketing assets are gated (Instapage).
In general, gates are used for more valuable or “premium” content, such as white papers, e-books, webinars or instructional videos/product demos. Meanwhile, blogs, case studies, infographics, and videos are usually freely accessed. When you consider that B2B marketers use an average of 13 content marketing tactics (TopRankBlog), it’s easy to see how you could offer both gated and non-gated content depending on your objectives.
The Great Debate
Obviously, the biggest benefit of gated content is the ability to identify qualified leads by asking for more information about readers. Let’s say, for example, that a visitor downloads a white paper on the elements of good web design. Requiring contact information allows you to follow up with him or her regarding your website services. It’s a great starting point because this person is probably interested in improving their website or launching a new site.
According to B2B Content Marketing Trends, 83% of B2B marketers cite lead generation as the primary goal of content marketing. So, it stands to reason that requiring contact information should be an important part of your content marketing strategy.
And yet, marketers just can’t seem to agree on whether to use gated content. Experts on both sides of the issue make valid points. On one side, marketers believe the benefit of gaining qualified leads outweighs the risk of turning away potential visitors. On the flip side, some argue that by asking for personal information, you’re losing potential reach, SEO value and opportunities for links.
Undecided? Ask yourself this question: Are you more interested in qualified leads or generating page views?
He Said, He Said
Sometimes, experts from the same company have differing opinions on the topic!
For instance, Mike Volpe, Hubspot’s VP of Marketing, has this to say in support of gated content: “If I can get 100,000 people to see a page and I can get 28,000 people to fill out the form, 28,000 contacts may be more valuable than even 50,000 people viewing the content.”
Meanwhile, David Meerman Scott, Hubspot’s Marketer in Residence, argues: “A lot of people will see the form and say ‘Forget it. I don’t want to fill out the form.’ The vast majority of people are unwilling to share a piece of content that has a form in front of it. A lot fewer people will blog and tweet something that has a form on it.”
(Read their full debate on the topic here.)
Benefits of Gated Content
Use gated content to:
Gain a Better Understanding of Your Audience – Get to know the people who are visiting your site and reading your content with forms. Use gates to learn which topics are generating the most interest. Then apply that information to target and nurture those leads in the future.
Build a trusting relationship – When someone provides their personal information to gain access to your content, they’re trusting you to use that information appropriately. They’re more likely to see your company/brand as trustworthy or authoritative. Uphold your end of the bargain by providing valuable information and not bombarding them with promotional material.
Make your sales process more efficient – Contacting a prospect who has accessed your gated content is much more effective because you have qualifying information about them. Pass these warmed-up leads to your sales team.
Drawbacks of Gated Content
There are, of course, some potential drawbacks of gating content:
You will limit your reach – Because many people are reluctant to provide personal information, you will undoubtedly lose some visitors. Free content reaches your entire audience.
It can be harder to earn links – Many people will avoid linking to a gated landing page because they don’t want to “turn off” or frustrate their readers.
You may turn away some readers – To some, gated content is seen as a type of “blackmail.” It can result in a negative perception and chase readers away to another source.
Use Gated Content Wisely
So, what’s the right answer? In our view, gated content can be very effective when used at the right time in your buyers’ journey and in the right way. Let’s look at the three main stages of the buying process and the types of content that work well for each:
Awareness – In this stage, prospects realize they have a problem or need, but they don’t know much about your business or product. Build awareness and enhance credibility by offering free content that is relevant, useful and educational. Open the gates and let them in! Provide blogs, infographics, case studies, company videos and product demos to help prospects better identify their problem/need and learn how your company can help them address their pain points.
Consideration – At this point, prospects are (hopefully) starting to view your brand as an authority in the industry and a potential solution to their problem. Provide a combination of free and gated content to target those prospects who are still gathering information, as well as those who are farther along in the journey. In addition to the free content described above, offer some gated content, such as webinars, in-depth case studies, e-books and white papers.
Decision – Once a prospect decides that your product or services meets their needs, they’re typically weighing their options and comparing you to other companies/products. Help them make a final decision by offering gated content such as free consultations, product demos or free trials.
Take advantage of the growing interest in your company as prospects move through the buying process. They’re more likely to fill out a form to access in-depth or premium information the farther along they are in the journey. Don’t scare them away by requesting this information too early in the game.
The bottom line: Use gated content correctly to help you generate and nurture leads, while building a trusting relationship and potentially boosting revenue, which is, after all, the goal of content marketing.