Gated Content Unleashed

By signal

Many inbound marketers use gated content to generate leads. The idea, of course, is that you offer to give something (a tasty piece of content) and get something in return (valuable information to help you qualify and reach out to leads). Recently, the Signal team enjoyed a vigorous discussion on the old but important question: Should content be gated or not?

Our conclusion: there’s no wrong answer. There are potential challenges and opportunities with either path. This post gives you the highlights of our conversation – and will help you figure out the right approach for your organization.


To Gate or Not to Gate?

A few things to consider as you get started.

Gated content
  • Specifics about who accessed the content
  • More effective sales outreach and targeting
  • Smaller audience
  • Harder to earn links
  • Possible negative brand perception
  • Decreased SEO benefits
Open access content
  • Greater ability to drive traffic
  • Larger future audience for retargeting / remarketing
  • SEO benefits (links, engagement metrics, ranking)
  • Difficult or impossible to convert visits into leads
  • No information about valuable / important visitors
  • If you give it all away upfront, reasons to engage decrease

Informed by Moz pioneer Rand Fishkin

Ask the Right Questions

Whether or not you gate your content depends on many factors, including your business, audience and strategy. The goal is to get consumers through the sales funnel (or for non-profits, the giving funnel) by building up trust, engagement and loyalty. Some customers want to be convinced and will consider your content valuable enough to offer their information in return. Other customers will bolt if you make the process difficult.

And in an era of the cloud and social media, if you don’t give prospects relevant information to help them engage or buy, they’ll just get it elsewhere – probably from a competitor or a non-expert within their circle of influence. This is especially true of millennials.

We think that asking smart questions helps inform your gating approach. The more “yes” answers you give, the more appropriate gated content may be.

  • Do you have the resources to produce compelling content?
  • Is the content you’re offering valuable enough to ask for a name and email (or more) in return?
  • Do you have the resources to drive enough traffic to the content to make it worthwhile?
  • Do you have marketing software to start developing profiles on visitors?
  • Do you have sales/marketing teams who are trained on – and willing to use – their marketing software/CRM to work the leads?
  • Is your potential audience on the early end of the funnel, just starting to investigate you?

Mix It Up With the Content Pillar Approach

The Signal team liked the idea of an organization’s having a balance of gated and ungated content – known as the content pillar approach, defined as:

“A substantive and informative piece of content on a specific topic or theme which can be broken into many derivative sections, pieces, and materials. Examples of content pillars include eBooks, reports, and guides.”

It’s all about supporting your meaty central “pillar” of gated content (such as a white paper) with related, lighter ungated pieces (blog posts, videos). Customers enter the funnel through the ungated pieces, which drive traffic to the pillar content and to the gate that helps up the chances of converting traffic into leads.

Ungated content to support gated premium content could include:

  • Stats, tips, quotes, or ideas shared via social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media
  • Free preview chapters or sections of eBooks
  • “Micrographics,” small infographics focusing on one or two key points, or excerpted segments from a gated infographic – or even gifographics that show movement
  • Blog posts that focus on issues discussed in just one section of your premium content offer
  • List posts that cover the main issues discussed in your gated content offer at a high level
  • If your gated content includes any assets like a checklist, table or worksheet, consider providing either a portion of the asset or the entire thing as an ungated resource 

Final Thoughts 

The smart approach is to assess the needs of your audience and target content specifically to that audience – then offer it to them in the format they need it. Gate when it makes sense, but lean towards open access to cast the widest net possible.

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