Why Download the White Paper When You Can Get the Blog for Free?



June 26, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)


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A lot of B2B businesses use white papers and other gated content as a form of lead generation. It’s seems like a fairly straightforward trade-off, right? A reader (prospective customer) gives you their name and email address and in exchange they get your super awesome white paper for free. If you have a large enough resource center you might ask readers to create an account that gives them access to all of your gated content including white papers, videos, articles, fact sheets, slideshows and so forth. While I completely understand the value in using your long-form content to generate new leads, locking all that B2B content under gate and key can actually have a negative impact on your SEO program.

Here are 3 reasons you might want to unlock more of your B2B content:

1. Gated content can’t be crawled by the search spiders.

The biggest problem gated content has from an SEO perspective is that it can’t be crawled by the search engines. That registration form or password stops search bots just as effectively as it stops human readers. And if the search engines can’t crawl your content they can’t index it, which means your gated content isn’t helping grow your organic search presence. Remember, the search engines rank individual pages of a site, not the site as a whole, so every page of unlocked content becomes a landing page in the SERPs for various keywords. Your site might only have 100 static pages, but your blog could have thousands of un-gated posts pulling targeted traffic over to your website.

I’ve seen many B2B websites get 2 or 3 times the traffic to their blog as they do to their static website simply because the blog has so much more content and can effectively target so many different search queries. Every piece of B2B content you lock up is one less piece of content that can help your organic SEO.

2. It’s hard for a gated piece of content to be shared or linked to.

It’s entirely possible that I just missed it, but I have never seen a piece of gated B2B content “go viral.” (If you have please let me know in the comments!) After all, what URL is a reader supposed to share when they are looking at an awesome piece of gated content, your landing page?

One of the great things social media marketing provides is instant gratification—tweet a link, click a link, read and move on to the next thing. People love social media because it delivers great, relevant content right to them and locking that content behind a registration form might actually turn people away. Social can (and does) deliver all this great traffic but the gate might be keeping them from actually getting to your content. And if people aren’t reading your content than what is the point of having it?

While some sites will source gated content, your website and SEO campaign aren’t benefiting from those links as much as it could because, again, your registration page is getting all those inbound links, not the content itself.

3. Readers are becoming less willing to hand over their email address for gated content.

This might be a side effect of the content marketing bandwagon that more and more B2B companies are jumping on, but it seems like readers are becoming more protective of their email addresses. With so many free blogs, PDFs to download, videos, articles, etc. out there to be had there isn’t as much of a need to “pay” for gated content with an email address.

I’m not saying that people aren’t willing to fill out a registration form in exchange access to a fantastic white paper or research report, but you have to make sure you are making it worth it to them! One “just okay” white paper might convince readers that your gated content isn’t really worth the effort of filling out even the shortest registration forms.

If you have a lot of your content locked up it might be worth unlocking a few more pieces to see what happens. Your website could earn more natural links (a great side effect of content marketing), you’ll have more content to fuel your social media marketing campaigns with, and you’ll be creating a whole new slew of landing pages for the search spiders to crawl and index!

Shawna  Wright is a senior SEO specialist at SEO marketing company Brick  Marketing. She is also Brick Marketing’s SEO instructor for the  company’s custom SEO trainings.

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