May 19, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Content marketers have two options when sharing information with the world. First, make it available to everyone, all the time. Second, make it selectively available behind a content gate. As Shakespeare might say, to gate or not to gate, that is the question. But the debate is actually deeper than that. Learning how to gate content has benefits for B2B companies to help you find more qualified leads and use data to shape your marketing strategy. In this article, we’re discussing topics like:
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Gated content is exactly what it sounds like, content on your website you put behind a gate, wall, or block, so people have to complete an action to see it. It’s also sometimes called “locked content,” which gives a similar visual. The action you require people to take to get to this content may vary based on your website and the types of content you gate. Some examples include:
There is debate over whether paid content is gated content. According to Rick Ramos at WP Engine, “gated content always has no monetary cost attached.” That’s not technically true. Subscription requirements and paywalls are types of content gates. But you use these types of gates differently than you do gates primarily for lead collection. For example, paywalls are popular for online editions of newspapers and magazines. They block how much content someone can read without paying for it. But in that case, the content behind the gate isn’t just a tool, it’s the actual product.
HubSpot makes a good distinction here that “gated content for inbound marketing is free, not behind a paywall.” For B2B companies, you won’t be asking your audience to pay for your gated content, but that doesn’t mean a paywall isn’t a gate for content. Instead of asking for money, inbound marketers ask leads to input personal information, like their names, email addresses, or phone numbers, into a lead capture form.
Most B2B companies gate content to collect leads. But not just any leads, qualified ones. You don’t use gated content to earn brand awareness or visibility. This type of content doesn’t attract high traffic as shareable content does. So why use it at all? Isn’t free, transparent content better? Like other areas of content marketing, gated content serves its own purpose. Besides collecting leads, gated content provides insights into what your customers find valuable. What are they willing to exchange their contact information for, and why?
The more you learn about your audience and their habits, the better you can shape your entire marketing strategy. But the best benefit of gated content is that your lead list weeds itself. You’re only attracting the most qualified ones at every stage of the funnel. Many people won’t want to access your gated content just because they have to complete an extra step. But then how qualified of a lead were they going to be, anyway? The people willing to go that extra step are not only interested, but they’re also ready to learn more and take action.
Just like the marketing world can’t decide what exactly gated content is, they can’t decide whether to use it. There are pros and cons on both sides. The “should” of it all comes down to your marketing goals. Are you trying to increase brand visibility? Don’t gate your content. Are you trying to get more qualified leads? Gate your content. But what happens if your marketing goals include both?
It’s best to use a combination approach. Offer some of your content ungated, like articles or blog posts, to build credibility. This builds trust with your audience. Once they see you as a truthful source, they may be more willing to share their contact information with you and get what you consider “premium” content. But that next-level content has to be valuable. What you think is valuable and what your audience thinks may differ. And if there’s a disconnect, you might hurt your strategy more than help it.
Discovering what content your audience finds valuable enough to gate comes from research and testing. Follow these best practices and tips to start your content gating strategy:
No matter what type of content you create or what web builder or service you use, these tips can help guide your content gating plan:
Don’t gate right out of the gate. Bad pun aside, there’s a slim chance that a brand new business can start its content strategy with everything behind a gate and see any results. If you don’t have an audience, you can’t convince them why your gated content is valuable. Focus first on brand awareness. You can do this with strategies like:
Looking at what other companies do helps determine what your target audience finds valuable enough to put behind a gate. Research their website and see what types of content they gate, if any. It’s also important to consider the quality of what they are and aren’t gating. Then, objectively review your own pieces to find what you think is on par with or better than what they offer.
Topic choice also plays a role in competitor analysis. What you choose to gate may become more beneficial if it’s information people can’t find anywhere else, gated or ungated, around the web. To help with that, request your free content analysis report from CopyPress. This document compares your content to your top three competitors. Then it shows gaps in your strategy where you could better target the keywords and content your audience craves.
“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”
Director of SEO at Auto Revo
Even with suitable topics and a steady following, it’s important to be selective about what you gate. Gating everything or gating too many pieces can put off both new and returning visitors. And checking the analytics and gating your most popular content isn’t the best idea either. Especially if that content is already bringing you prime organic traffic.
The type of content you choose to gate depends on factors like your industry, audience, and products or services. Common pieces to put behind gates include:
When using gated content for lead generation, create unique pieces for each stage of the buyer journey. This means making different gated pieces for people researching, considering a purchase or partnership, and those ready to commit. When gated content aligns with someone’s place in the customer journey, the resource may seem more valuable. It’s targeted at their needs. This makes your leads more likely to convert.
Once people pass through the gate, how are they going to consume your content? The choice you make depends on the content itself and the web builder you use. Some options include:
This is another area to consider when conducting your competitor analysis. See how others present their content. This gives you an idea of what’s expected or acceptable in your industry. It also tells you how people want to receive each type of content.
From a psychological perspective, gating content can work in a few ways. Some people get turned off by gates immediately. They all have their reasons, some valid and some not. But there are plenty of people willing to engage with gated content if the perceived value is high enough. The real trick is figuring out where that threshold is. What you find valuable may differ from what your audience does. So you have to find the right incentive. Where is the tipping point that they no longer think it’s worth it to share their information?
Try split testing putting some of your content types or certain pieces behind gates. See if people exchange their information for it. The data you get back can tell you if there’s enough incentive to get them to make a micro-commitment. Your call-to-action (CTA) is also part of the incentive. The better it is, the more persuaded people may be to share their info and pass the gate. You may also split test CTAs to see which one is more enticing to lead to your gated content.
The landing page is where your audience encounters the form or plugin to enter their details and pass the gate. Just because they found the landing page doesn’t mean your job is over. Far from it. The landing page is the ultimate selling point before conversion. It should be direct and eliminate distractions so people are aware there’s only one thing left to do: submit their contact information.
A good landing page includes a strong headline, quality copy that explains the content or resource, and a lead generation form. Keep the forms as short as possible, asking only for the most important information, like names and email addresses. Longer forms with lots of fields may put people off. They may also reduce the perceived value of your content if the lead feels they have to trade too much information for the offer. The risk isn’t worth the reward, so to speak, when you add more and more fields.
Gating content provides data about your audience and your campaigns. When you gate content, you’re creating a way to track conversions and measure analytics. Watch these numbers to see if your gated content performs as it should, and see who’s accessing it. This helps improve not just the content and the landing pages, but any future gated content campaigns you create.
There are tools and best practices to help you build content gates on different web builder services. This delves into the more technical aspects of gating content online. But it’s beneficial to know your options when making decisions regarding your gating strategy and policies. Some resources for finding gating tools for top web building services include:
Search engines are one of your best tools to get people to find your content online. But what about when you don’t want open access to everything you offer? Robots and search engine crawlers can’t fill out your lead capture forms, so they can’t index these pages the same way they do other content. But, everything behind the gate is a different story. If you don’t hide the gated content from search engines, like PDF documents, or redirect pages, they become discoverable by search engines.
Even if you have a gate when people access the content from your primary site, searchers may find a way to view it without the gate through search. Google says there are a few ways to prevent crawling these pages, or have them drop out of the index naturally after a re-crawl. Google also has a URL removal tool in Search Console to speed up the process. It’s important to take these steps to “protect” your gated content. Otherwise, it loses perceived value with your audience.
Gating content is all about discovering how to entice people with the allure of “what’s behind the curtain.” But you have to do it without asking for too much in return. Learning more about your target audience’s needs and expectations helps find the sweet spot. And it all starts and ends with high-quality content. Schedule your free meeting with CopyPress today to discuss your gated content needs and hope a partnership with us turns them into a reality.
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