Should I Content Gate or Not

It stands to reason you’d imagine we at GatedContent.com have one clear answer to the ‘to gate, or not to gate’ question.  Like the proverbial turkeys at Christmas, why would a business with a name like ours and set up to manage and optimize content gates be considering the question of content gate removal?

But, it’s precisely because of our experience with content gating that we feel well placed to take a central role in this discussion. 

What is content gating?

At its simplest, gated content is any content that your visitors can access only after providing their information. A gate is a value exchange where a web user exchanges data for content.  The level of information requested should match the value of the content being delivered.

Content gating is a marketing tactic.  Like any other tactic, the reasons to use it are dependent on the variables in the business you’re operating in.  Are your KPIs traffic numbers, views or brand awareness?  Or is creating and nurturing qualified leads the name of your game? 

Why doesn't gated content always work?

Marketers are beginning to notice a decline in the effectiveness of the traditional content gating and nurture approach i.e.: 

  1. Lead opts-in to the gated content.
  2. They’re enrolled into an email sequence.
  3. Nurturing emails run for a pre defined period of time 
  4. Lead scoring is applied to notify marketers of when to pass the MQL to sales 
  5. An SQL is created and nurtured by the sales team.

Marketing automation techniques like this can work well under the right circumstances, but generating quality leads is still cited by Forbes as one of the biggest challenges faced by B2B marketers.  The conversion rate of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales opportunity pipeline has been declining for years and is now estimated to be around 23%. 

Marketing landscapes (both B2B and B2C) have dramatically evolved in recent years – and even more so post-pandemic. Consumers are far more empowered now, which means that marketers have had to adopt less intrusive ways to drive engagement. Traditional means of promotions became regarded as too salesy, too forceful, and downright manipulative. Not to mention the rising issue of online privacy and Government regulations like GDPR.

There is also some evidence to suggest a lot of businesses are simply misunderstanding their audiences, so struggle to drive value from content more generally.  In that case gating any content at all is simply adding more friction to an already difficult scenario.  Research from the Edelman group shows that brands and businesses are failing to grasp the most basic motivations, objections and desires of customers.  Their consumer marketing survey which questioned over 11,000 people in 8 countries found that 51% of people feel brands are doing a poor job of asking about and fulfilling their needs.  From a content gating perspective, this would indicate a lot of businesses are gating content that is probably not even relevant to their audience, so results will be limited. 

What are the leading arguments for and against content gating?

Against content gating

  • Content becoming less and less valuable the more that’s created, so the idea of putting some content behind a wall is counterproductive.
  • It can be damaging to customer experience, and therefore may negatively impact brand perception.
  • Far fewer people will digest your content if it’s gated, it’s estimated that ungated content gets 10x the readership than a gated piece. 
  • You’re more likely to get a high proportion of bad leads, with people wanting access to what you’re offering but with no actual intent to buy.
  • Doesn’t support SEO as gating content means it’s not able to be indexed by Google. 

For content gating

  • As long as the content you’ve gated is relevant and valuable, it can be a really useful tool to gather data and build a community relevant to your product or service.
  • Only offering free content means you miss out on the opportunity to build a relationship with your audience.  Someone may bounce straight off a blog never to return, by offering a relevant and high value content option you can encourage them to develop a longer term relationship with you. 
  • Content gating can help you segment your audience so you’re able to deliver more relevant content to them longer term. 
  • Solution specific high value content is one of the best ways to qualify leads and reduce wasted time and resources in your sales team. 
  • It can also act as a great market research tool.  Gating various types of content and assessing download numbers can really help define what’s important to your audience, something that’s less obvious if all your content is free and untrackable.
  • A well structured content gating strategy will also allow you to collect additional data points from a lead such as job role, channel attribution and general account information. 

When and how should content be gated?

As a starting point, check in with your target audience.  Deep diving into the basic motivations, objections and desires of customers would be a better approach than immediately chasing leads.  In time, once that understanding is there and plenty of high quality free content is available, you could then look to gate some of your most high value, relevant and sought after content and expect to see better results.

Don’t forget gates aren’t just about lead generation from high value content.  For events or webinars, personal information is a necessity to facilitate registration and ensure you know who’s attending so you can prepare appropriately.  Careful segmentation of this data after the event and an intelligent follow up strategy will protect your brand value and build on the relationship with your prospect.  

You can also take a strategic approach to how you gate your content.  A mistake a lot of businesses make is gating all content at the same level.  To a B2B or B2C consumer, there’s a significant difference between handing over your first name and an email address, and giving out your address, job title, personal mobile number etc.  Progressive profiling is a great way to build a picture over time, rather than creating too much friction all at once. 

To gate or not to gate?

What’s the goal of the content?

The underlying goal behind the content you’ve created should drive the decision whether or not to gate it. If that content was created to grow your database through new email acquisition then gate it.  If it was created to nurture an existing database or strengthen SEO then make it free to access for your audience and Google.  

Always have a plan 

In B2B marketing content gating is particularly valuable, just be mindful not to overuse it.  Know what information you’d like to gather, and have a plan for what you’re going to do with it next.  

Blend your approach

There are so many variables in a business, and marketing goals change over time so your content gating strategy should too.  The definitive answer to the question ‘to gate or not to gate’ as with so many other business decisions is ‘it depends on the variables at play’.  Ultimately we’d suggest a blended approach works best, though there are a few key indicators you can use to help decide whether or not specific content should be gated.  

Gate More:

  • If you have a large audience, really positive organic traffic and you need to segment your audience 
  • If you need more marketing qualified leads 
  • If you’re looking to map out levels of interest in your product or service through your sales funnel 
  • If the content you’re creating is genuinely high value and worthy of access only by individuals with a genuine interest. 

Gate Less: 

  • If you’re trying to build brand awareness and reach 
  • If you’re looking to rank for quality keywords and intent on boosting your SEO efforts 
  • If you’re looking for more engagement, interaction and content consumption at the top of your funnel. 

For help or guidance on building a content gating strategy, supported by an intelligent approach to form strategies, all designed to maximize your marketing performance, talk to us at GatedContent.com 

Watch the full video

For more detail on GatedContent.com’s approach to Content Gating watch this video. 

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