How to make the right decision on gating content

Shield

There’s an ongoing debate in the marketing world about gating content.

Adding a form before your valuable marketing content has become the accepted approach. But is gating always right?

Here we explore the pros and cons of putting your content behind a data-capture form. To gate or not to gate?

What’s behind the trend towards gating?

With the advent of digital marketing, Marketers realised that they suddenly had access to a wealth of data. Being able to identify exactly who was reading your content – via email marketing, or the ability to capture reader data online – was potentially game-changing.

Wanting to tap into this data saw an explosion in online forms. Today, much premium content online demands some contact data in return for access, delivering a continuous stream of – hopefully – high-quality leads.

But have we gone too far? Are there downsides to gating too much of your content?

Content marketing – the ongoing big story

Content has been a key focus for Marketers for a number of years.

Again, this is wrapped up with the advent of digital, with brands keen to engage potential customers via relevant, valuable content. Thinly-disguised sales pitches or corporate brochures are no longer acceptable to readers; they want material that will actually help them with the issues they face, in their personal and professional lives.

A survey exploring how Marketing teams plan to spend their budgets in 2020 found that ‘building brand awareness and storytelling’ is the biggest priority for nearly 70%. Quality content is a key building block of this.

If you’re looking to increase your own web traffic, and assuming you’ve already got your SEO strategy right, auditing and refining your content is the next step.

There’s no shortage of research into the most effective marketing content, which you can use to focus your own efforts.

And once you have laboured over your precious content – do you restrict it? Or make it available to everybody?

Should you gate? – examining the pros and cons

  • Gating limits the number of people who will view your content

When you’ve put blood, sweat and tears into your latest piece of thought leadership, it’s not surprising that you want to get something back; the all-important lead in return for giving away your content.

But if this means that only a small percentage of your target audience ends up reading what you’ve produced – is it the best approach?

Some argue yes – that you only really care about a small percentage of your web visitors. And that if someone is interested enough to give away their data, they automatically leap up your lead qualification process. If gated content is valuable enough, it can improve your ability to generate quality leads.

Others make the point that if you have spent time producing content – material that implicitly, if not overtly, promotes your business – as many people as possible from your target market should see it. If you lose just one potential quality lead who can’t be bothered to complete the form – is this a fail?

One solution here is to create two pieces of content; a short summary plus the more detailed full version. You can whet readers’ appetites by giving them the summary ‘for free’ and then require them to complete their data for the full thing.

Doing this demonstrates your thinking, without giving away too much for nothing.

  • Gating has a negative impact on your SEO

This has been a big argument against putting forms in front of content. As this article by searchnengineland.com points out:

‘search robots won’t fill out forms; they don’t have a name, email address or phone number…gating the content from humans essentially walls it off to search robots.’

Putting all your most valuable material behind forms, then, can significantly hinder your work on SEO and impact your rankings.

Again, the answer here may be to have two tiers of content; summary information ungated, or on the webpage itself, with more detailed content gated. Make sure you have sufficient ungated content to balance out the gated.

  • You can use gated content to segment and qualify your contacts

This is a real plus-point for collecting contact details. Say you send an email to your 2000 segmented contacts. 1000 of them open it. But just 100 complete the form to access the content you’re sharing.

You immediately know several things about your marketing contacts:

  • 1000 of them are sufficiently interested in this topic to open an email about it
  • 100 of them have a real interest, which may translate to an intention to buy – and should at least lead to them being popped into your lead nurturing pot, to receive more content on the same topic

Being able to further target future activity – via lead nurturing, remarketing, promoted social media posts and other channels – means that your marketing ROI should rocket.

You’re not turning contacts off by sending irrelevant content. And at the same time, you can target those who really are interested by focusing on their priority topics.

Of course, being able to do this sort of laser-focused marketing activity isn’t just down to gating.

You need to do some pre-work to ensure you’re positioned to use the insights gating gives you. Do you know who your target audience is, for instance? If you haven’t done work on your buyer personas, your ability to maximise the benefits of gating will be limited.

Being able to identify the types of contacts who are willing to hand over data for content, means you can extrapolate the results of any email or online activity to your whole database. If you haven’t segmented your contacts, you won’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities this brings.

  • Make sure you gate the right content

A mis-step many Marketers make is to forget the marketing funnel when deciding what content to gate.

Attracting people to your website via blogs, videos, podcasts and other ‘top of funnel’ content is essential. But start gating this, and you reduce people’s ability to engage with your content; to drop into your funnel and enable you to start the process of building a relationship.

There’s an expectation that some content – like blogs or videos – is ungated. People at the start of their business relationship with you don’t expect to be asked for personal data immediately or to access generally ‘freely available’ content. There’s likely to be a sense that you are fast-forwarding the relationship, and potential leads may back off.

Think carefully about the content you want to give away for free vs the material you want to keep behind a form. Make sure you get it right, and you will be on your way to building a solid pipeline of qualified leads.

Gating – not an open and shut case

There are clearly many arguments for and against gating content – it’s not a yes or no question. There are many nuances when deciding what content to restrict and what to make freely available.

With the internet awash with content, producing valuable materials in itself won’t give you the rankings or conversion rates it once did.

If you want your website to rank well, but also to generate quality leads, you need an intelligent, considered approach that marries ‘free’ content to maximise visibility with gated materials that drive lead generation. Hopefully this blog has given you some pointers on how to achieve that balance.

For any marketer wanting to improve their own web rankings, our SEO tips will provide a good start point. You can download a free copy here.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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