4 ways to strike a balance with gated content

How much gated content do you have on your website right now?

A lot? A little? Just the right amount? (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Goldilocks reference.)

Most marketers struggle with the idea of gated content. You want to capture all the leads you can with your highest-value content, so you put it behind an opt-in form. Yet most website visitors hate filling these things out, and may never come back to your site if you ask them for too much information to get it.

And that’s the million dollar question: how can we generate leads without using an opt-in form on some of our content? There isn’t a simple answer to it. In fact, if you search online, you’ll find so much conflicting information on the subject that your head will spin.

  • Free content is shareable, can improve your SEO, encourage more inbound links, and boost your site traffic.
  • Gated content lets you develop a consistent lead generation process, maintain the quality of your leads, and nurture them through your sales cycle.

So which content should you give away and which should you gate? Here are 4 ways to strike a balance that’s right for your business.

1 – Give away the smaller pieces of advice to your readers

Blog posts, infographics, gifs, checklists, guest articles, etc. grab your readers’ attention and are a perfect introduction to you and your products. There’s no need to submit any information at this point, as they’re just getting a feel for you and your content. They want to see that you’re knowledgeable, professional, and are someone they could do business with.

Ian Rhodes, digital marketing consultant, gives away almost all of his content for free for a simple reason: “If the information is truly worthy of my time, I’ll naturally want to receive more. Give me easy access to your information and I’ll be your biggest customer; your biggest advocate.” He feels that content should develop relationships and build advocates, not just generate leads or customers.

1a – Giving away your content helps with your SEO

Unfortunately search robots don’t know what to do with an opt-in form, so if you’ve got all of your content behind one, you won’t get any search engine love. Keep some of your valuable and insightful content non-gated to keep your site updated with and optimized for the search engines. After all, if a prospect can’t find you while searching, it won’t matter if your content’s gated or not.

2 – Lightly gate medium-sized content like case studies and ebooks

By ‘lightly gate’, I’m talking about asking only for a name and an email address. Readers aren’t expecting a sales all after submitting this type of information, but may be looking to put you on an evaluation list for further investigation. Think of this as the “tire kickers” form. These readers are semi-serious, and could do with some lead nurturing, but don’t need the full-court press just yet.

Plus, you’ll know if they’re serious when they give you their actual email address and not their throw-away one they use for newsletters and other spam. Demian Farnsworth, Copyblogger Media’s Chief Content Writer, agrees, saying that,

Holding something back identifies those who are more serious. The blog post draws in a crowd and builds trust – the download indicates someone wants more information. If it’s a valuable download, more trust is accumulated.

3 – Fully gate your premium, end-of-sales funnel content

This is the content that you’re using for true conversion of your leads into customers. Your longer form articles, guides, white papers, product demos, etc. Readers expect to be put on a lead nurturing program at this point, and are ready and willing for the serious content you’ll be sending them. These are serious leads that are potentially ready to purchase now.

4 – Evaluate your content performance regularly

Readers are at different stages of the buying cycle, so to keep producing the right content for them, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. Base your evaluation on the status (gated or not gated), topic, and type, and ask yourself how each item is doing. Are gated pieces being downloaded more than non-gated? Are blog posts working better than case studies? Next, take a look at the lead gen performance of your content. What’s producing more leads? More qualified leads? What’s converting leads into customers?

Gated content bonus tip #1

Always include a way for readers to unsubscribe from your gated content. In some countries like Canada and the U.S. this is the law. You cannot ask for personal information without offering a way to unsubscribe. Plus it’s just a nice thing to see.

Gated content bonus tip #2

Make it easy for visitors to download future gated content. Some websites do this by using social media platform logins on their opt-in forms, so visitors just have one click to fill out their information. I’m not a fan of this as not everyone uses social media professionally and so may not have an account to use for this purpose. Secondly, if the social media platform changes their integration or sign-in protocols, your opt-in form may break down. My personal favourite method is to simply pre-populate the form for visitors based on their previous information (through website cookies or plugins.)

Creating content consistently for your business website is a key part of your inbound marketing strategy. Gathering reader information is a key part of your lead gen strategy. You have to find the balance between the two in order to grow your business. Experiment with both gated and non-gated content, weight their value to your business, and review their performance regularly. You’ll eventually find the equation that works best for you, without ticking off your readers.

Find What Works: 5 Actionable Social Media Strategies for Tech Brands

Engaging social media content gets shared more often on social media.

Well yes, of course it does! We’re more apt to share content if it resonates with us, or creates an emotional connection/reaction with us. Engaged audiences are more likely to turn into customers too, so if you’re using social media for your technology marketing programs, it’s critical that your content is better than 90% of what’s out there.

Here are 5 actionable social media strategies that will help you develop your own winning social media program.

Lesson #1: Write in the second person (“you”)

Connecting with your audience is easier when you talk directly to your audience. Start a conversation, don’t just talk at them. Use the second person voice in your content to create that connection. Use “you” and “your” instead of generic terms like “clients” or “customers”, or worse yet, “I” and “we”. Your audience will appreciate that you’re speaking directly to them and become more engaged when you do so.

Social Media Lessons for tech companies: Use the 2nd person
Sonia Simone uses ‘you’ 14x just in the intro to her article.

Lesson #2: Go all in with images

We’ve all heard the stats about images on social media, right?

Visual content gets 94% more total views and is 40% more likely to be shared on social media networks. – Buffer Blog

Images + pinned post on Twitter = 3x the engagement - Buffer
Buffer found that pinned tweets got more shares

So why aren’t you using more images on social media? Twitter makes it easier than ever to add images to your messages, while Instagram and Pinterest are really taking off for sharing business images.

Create images more easily for social media with these tools:

  • Canva has templates for all the major social media networks
  • Piktochart lets you create infographics easily
  • Link to images on Getty Images or use the awesome free photos on Unsplash or Pixabay
  • Create custom branded images using Buffer‘s new tool Pablo.

Lesson #3: Use more power words

There are certain words that have that uncanny ability to unlock your emotions when you read them. They’ll give you goosebumps, make you feel happy or sad, or inspire you to greater action. These are the words I’m talking about when I say power words. It’s the ones that go beyond how a product is “great” or “awesome”, but tells you how it’ll save your “teetering distribution network” or how it’ll “smash through those time barriers” your customers experience. For some great lists of power words to use in your social media messages (and frankly, everywhere else too), take a look at this list, this list, and this list.

Use power words on social media to create deeper connections. - Julia Borgini

Lesson #4: Showcase your customers

Lots of tech companies don’t want to talk about exactly how they helped their customers; just that they’re working with them. That’s why they always put up the company logos of their customers, but don’t often quote them in success stories they publish.

That’s a mistake when it comes to social media. In social, it’s all about making connections with people. Yes, reaching out and connecting with the people behind the account handles and usernames. In fact, if you sound too corporate or impersonal, you’ll lose followers quickly and no one’ll listen to your stories.

Ask your customer support teams to find out how your customers are using your products; then write about it! Tell your followers the obstacles your customers overcame using your products. Go beyond the traditional case study and showcase your customers’ surroundings, market obstacles, challenges, and more. Revealing this information to your audience helps them identify with you, since they probably face the same ones.

Square shows this through their Square Stories series of videos on YouTube. They’re short videos of Square customers explaining how they’re using the product in their business. There’s everything from retail shops to restaurants and even a pediatritian, Dr. Nash of 1-to-1 Pediatrics.

Lesson #5: Write in smaller chunks

On Twitter you’re forced to be brief, since you only have 140 characters to play with. But other social media platforms give you a much longer space to write in. Avoid the temptation to fill it up. That’s because as readers we love to scan, and not read. This applies to all social media, including the business blog.

  • On the blog, keep paragraphs between 3 and 4 lines each, regardless of how many sentences you’ve written.
  • On Twitter, stick to around 75 characters, so you’ll have space for the URL of any images you’re sharing.
  • On Instagram and Pinterest, let your images do the talking. Put short chunks of text on the images, and write only a couple of sentences for the caption.

Today’s marketer is creating content at a staggering rate. There’s no way for us to read it all. Give your content the best chance possible at being read and shared by using these 5 lessons in your next social media program.

10 Principles to Choose the Right Layout for Your Business Blog

I’ve been working on a new Wordpress site for a new business I’ll be launching shortly, and it got me thinking about what I value in a professional business blog design too. Good use of images, colour blocks, and white space. Solid font choice and accent colours. Buttons that stand out, but aren’t in-your-face about things.

It’s obvious that these web designers chose well for their audience, and it’s paying off with lots of web traffic and post shares, likes, and comments.

So what about your business blog? How does it look? Think it needs to be refreshed?

Let’s take a look at some of the things to keep in mind when choosing the right design for your business blog.

10 principles to creating the right business blog layout - Julia Borgini @ spacebarpress.com

10 Principles for a Business Blog

1. Fast loading pages/posts

Online readers are impatient; business readers even more so. They want to read your content NOW, so a business blog that takes too long to load just won’t cut it. You could have the best business blog content in the world, but if it takes more than 10 seconds to load, readers will just bounce to another site.

Test your blog’s loading time and see where you’re at. Try Pingdom, GTmetrix, or WebPageTest for all the details.

2. Great mobile experience

In the U.S. alone, we now spend more of our time online on a mobile device than ever before. It’s surpassed 51% usage this year to date. So if your business blog (and website, for that matter) aren’t mobile responsive and don’t deliver a good user experience to your readers, your blog will never succeed.

Your business blog should be mobile responsive at the very least, and if possible, optimized based on device operating system too. That ensures a consistent look and feel for readers regardless of the device they’re using to read your content.

3. Multiple paths to social media

Most business websites have their social media badges somewhere on their home pages, and probably in the footer of the site as well. That’s great, as you want your audience to connect with you on those networks. But what about social sharing buttons? They’re on individual blog posts, but is there anywhere else you can put it too to increase your SEO love? You bet!

Try putting sharing links on:

  • Your business blog’s main page
  • Your business blog’s category pages

This helps your audience share the blog as a whole with others, as well as the individual posts too. Plus if they’re interested in a specific category of posts you publish, they’ll be able to share that as well with other colleagues and hopefully decision makers.

4. Simple way to share content

Having social media sharing buttons on your business blog is important, however cluttering up your blog with all the buttons can be bad. In fact, giving them too many choices can be overwhelming for them and they’ll subsequently take no action at all.

Limit the sharing buttons to the networks that send you website traffic and leads new prospects to you.

Bonus tip #1: You should be active only on those same social media networks, since that’s where your audience is! For example, I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn because that’s where my audience is.

Bonus tip #2: Maintain a multi-network connection with your audience by including prominent “Follow us” social media badges in the sidebar of your business blog.

5. CTAs in every blog post

Including CTAs in every business blog post you publish is critical. Actually, it’s more of a requirement if you want to turn your blog into a well-designed lead generation machine. After all, you want your readers to do something after finishing your awesome content, right?

6. Clear subscription CTAs

For the readers that enjoy the longer courtship of a B2B sales cycle (or ones who are simply too lazy to come back to your business blog each time you publish a new post), invite visitors to subscribe to it via email or RSS. That means having an obvious CTA that encourages them to subscribe to the blog. Most email newsletter solutions will let you create a great little subscription box, like the one I’ve got here on my business blog.

7. Obvious connection to your core business website

Your blog is a part of your larger business website, so don’t isolate it from the rest of your site. Your blog design must make it simple and obvious for blog readers to get to the key parts of your website. Pages like your product and services pages that give them more information about how you can help them. Landing pages that advertise the next webinar you’re hosting next month. All of these pages need to be connected to your business blog to help move your readers along to the next stage in the buying cycle, whatever that is.

Try using clear blog navigation links and buttons, as well as dedicating some of your sidebar to direct readers to key website pages.

8. Allow simple searching and sorting of content

If you’re restarting your business blog, you may have a back catalogue of posts that you’d still like new readers to see. If you’re just starting it, you don’t have that, however it doesn’t mean you should ignore the search functionality. Make sure your blog design makes it easy for readers to search and sort for all content (new and old.) You can use search boxes, tags, recommendation widgets like Outbrain, YARPP, Engageya, and more.

Choose just the ones you think your readers will need and like, and just use those. No more, no less.

9. Prominent headline formatting

Not only do you have to craft compelling headlines that get readers to click on them to find out more, but your business blog design should make it obvious that it IS a headline. Use the right formatting to keep it front-and-centre for readers so they know where to click. (Not literally front and centre, of course.)

Your business blog headlines should be significantly larger than any subheads or other titles on the page, and possibly even a different colour, if that works with your site’s overall theme.

10. Clean and simple sidebars

Finally, the last principle to a great business blog is to have clean and simple sidebars. I know some web designers have been doing away with them completely, however I think they’re still useful for business blogs — provided you keep them to a minimum. Like the social media sharing buttons, searching, and sorting options, it’s important to keep the information in the sidebar to a manageable level, otherwise it becomes too overwhelming for readers.

Look at each widget and how it fits into the overall look of the page. Does it serve a purpose? Does it encourage the right behaviour you want readers to take? Or is it driving them away from your blog? Keep it clutter-free and you’ll notice a big difference in how long readers stay on your blog.

What other business blog design elements or practices would you add to this list? Hit the comments and let me know.

Feel free to share links to your well-designed business blog too; I’d love to see them. 


#SociallyJulia – What I’ve Been Tweeting Lately

Here’s the latest installment.

And that’s a wrap!

Hard Core Tech: Clean Up Your Site Backlinks

Hard Core Tech - Clean Up Your Business Blog Backlinks - spacebarpress.com

Every time I log in to my WordPress admin panel to write a post or take care of a site admin task, I see a little box in my dashboard about my site’s links.

Verify all your business blog post links! spacebarpress.co

It’s from a handy WP plugin (Broken Link Checker) that verifies all of the links on my site and lets me know if any are broken. I’m mainly interested in the incoming links, since I don’t often change the link structure of my own site, but it’s always a good thing to stay on top of.

It’s also good from an SEO perspective. Broken links can lead to a decrease in inbound traffic, so I always want to know how I’m doing.

Ask any SEO wizard and they’ll tell you that inbound backlinks are the single most important objective to getting high rankings in SERPs. (Those are inbound links from other sites.) That’s why all the online marketing folks talk about guest blogging and commenting. Those inbound links are a difficult metric to manipulate, which is why search engines give them a lot of weight when determining the popularity of web pages and sites.

What’s the big deal with inbound links?

The big deal with inbound links is that they’re a good indicator of relevancy and popularity of a web page.

  • Inbound links from social media messages signal that many other people think the page is valuable and full of good information.
  • Inbound links from two sites that aren’t owned by the same person/entity are an even better signal, since that means there’s no collusion going on and the link is genuine.
  • Inbound links from multiple web pages and sites show that the site is popular; multiple links from trustworthy sites increases this factor even more.

Simply put, inbound links to a web page are a signal that the info is good, the site is trustworthy and is possibly an authority on the topic. Search engines (specifically Google) put a lot of stock into the notion of authority when weighting web pages on SERPs.

It starts as a numbers game

Search engines first look at the number of links to a single web page, and then cast their net wider, looking at the number of domains that link to that page. This is why having multiple inbound links from a variety of places is good, but multiples from multiple inbound places is even better.

Wait, that was a bit too confusing. What I’m talking about is having multiple inbound links coming from a wide variety of quality sites, not just one or two from the same site.

Why do numbers matter?

Normally traffic and other related numbers are buried in private server logs and databases owned by the website owner. External links are publicly visible and easily stored by services that are accessible by the public.

Line up your numbers correctly

So, after all this tech talk about search engine results pages, rankings, inbound links, and analytics, what does that mean to you, the website owner?

Simple: ensure that your backlinks are always up and running, driving traffic to your site.

Check your backlinks for free


The Top 10 List of Business Blogging Tools

Between all those meetings, status updates, reports, and actual work, who’s got time to keep the business blog stocked with great content?

Well, you should.

Here’s the Top 10 List of Business Blogging Tools that’ll help you do that and much more.

1. Highlight your archived content

Previously published content that’s valuable, insightful, and chock full of great info for your audience is good to read any time. That’s why it’s often called evergreen content. It’s always good and never goes bad.

The issue with your archived content is that it’s constantly being pushed down the page by your new content. There’s nothing wrong with the content, it just happened to get published first.

To revive and re-use them, add a related posts plugin to your website (if you’re using WordPress.) A related posts plugin will display and link to additional posts related to the current content a visitor is reading. The two most popular are Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) and Outbrain. YARPP displays only posts from your business blog, while Outbrain can display both your content and external site content that’s relevant.

Keep in mind that these types of plugins may slow down your site, so give them a try first and see how yours responds.

2. Edit images in Canva

Canva is a great online tool that lets you edit images quickly and easily. Upload your own images, then add text and other graphics easily. Download it as a jpeg and you’re all set in minutes.

Edit in Canva - Business Blogging Tool

3. Improve your writing

Whether writing for your business blog is your main job or just one of the many things you do at work, we could all use some help improve our writing. The newer writing tools out there not only help you with the basics like spelling and grammar, but will also check for more subtle things like your use of passive sentence construction and the number of adverbs you’ve used. Assess your writing quickly with Hemingway, which is free or Grammarly, which has both a free and paid version.

4. Discover new blog ideas

Give your audience what they want and they’ll keep coming back to your blog over and over. But where can you find out what they’re most interested in? Check out Google Trends to see what the hottest search topics are. Use BuzzSumo to find out what the most popular blog posts are for a particular topic. Just type in a topic and it’ll show you the top-performing posts, including how many social shares it got, as well as which social media influencers shared it (plus a lot more.)

5. Stop comment spammers

Blog comments are great for building relationships with your audience, answering questions, and just connecting with new people. They’re also an easy target for spammers who are just looking for a backlink to a questionable site. Install a comment anti-spam plugin or use an online commenting service like Disqus or LiveFyre to stop them in their tracks.

Stop comment spam with Disqus - Business Blogging Tool
Disqus helps you stop spam on your business blog

6. Optimize for SEO and Social Media with One Plugin

And that would be the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. It’s been downloaded over 14 million times and is free. Yes, free. Get immediate content analysis of your posts for your keyword and set up your Facebook and Twitter messages without having to leave your blog post draft. It lets you adjust the SEO data for both your site overall and your business blog posts in particular, and did I mention that it’s free?

7. Use quality images

You already know that you should have good, quality images in your business blog posts, so where can you find them? There’s the usual places like iStock and Big Stock Photos, as well as Flickr and CompFight. I recently discovered Pixabay and Pexels, which also have some great HD quality photos that are good for blogs.

As always when it comes to using images and photos, please be sure to check out the usage terms and abide by it.

8. Generate captivating headlines

There’s a good reason for all the posts, books, articles, talks, webinars, courses, and classes on how to write headlines; it can be really hard to do well. Good resources to look at include: Jon Morrow‘s Headline Hacks and Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines.

And if you’re looking for some headline fun, check out Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Here’s what it came up with for this post:

Portent's Content Idea Generator - Use it for business blogging

9. Pre-populate social media messages

Make it even easier for your readers to share your content by using plugins that will help them send out messages directly from your business blog post. Plugins like Click to Tweet from CoSchedule draw your readers to the content you want tweeted most with a visual cue like a button or special highlighting. Others like Click to Tweet let you set up the message to send out, including a shortened link to your post.

10. Upgrade your email newsletter provider

Many marketing automation tools have email newsletter capabilities built right in, so this may not apply to you. But if you don’t have a provider right now, then it’s time to get one. Your email list is the lifeblood of any business, large or small. Try MailChimp, Aweber, GetResponse, or MadMimi and see which one works best for you.


Create Recurring Value with Your Business Blog

In a benchmark study of HubSpot customers, they found that ones that blog 15+ times per month get 5 times the traffic than the ones that don’t blog at all.

Five. Times.

While part of that is because they’re putting out a lot of great, valuable content for their audience, the other reason is a little more subtle. The more blog posts you publish, the more you have in your archive. And your archive can produce just as much, if not more, traffic to your blog and site as your fresh content.Create recurring value with your business blog

Wait, what?

You read that right: your archived blog posts can give you just as much, OR MORE, web traffic than your new content. Especially when you’re publishing valuable posts every time.

You want to create recurring, lasting value with each and ever blog post, offering insight and information that your audience craves.

How to create recurring value from your old blog posts

Without any extra effort

Start with the search engines. They constantly send you traffic regardless of when you published the post. Each business blog post is a considered as a new page on your website, which gives it another chance to be indexed by the search engines.

Recurring value with SEO

If you’ve optimized each post for SEO, and included some nice images + ALT tags with keywords, you’ll enjoy the benefits of your blog post long after it was first published. That goes for both regular posts and evergreen ones too.

Add in social media sharing buttons to your business blog and your older content gets out there even more. Readers who like your content and appreciate its value are going to share it regardless of when you published it.

With minimal effort

Promote your older content any chance you get. Schedule a quick series of social media messages to blast out links to the old content on a regular basis (I do this every Friday on Twitter with my “From the Spc-Files” tweets.)

Ideally you should use different compelling headlines with each message, but you could even just use the same one. Much like the syndicated sitcom on TV, you’ll just be sending out the same message every time. It works for them, so it can work for you.

With a bit more effort

If you’re in the groove and really want to mine the value from your old business blog posts, then how about using it to build your email list? Simply take one of your post headlines and turn it into the opening line on your email sign-up form. Once the reader’s handed over their name and email address, redirect them to the blog post, where they’ll get the great content you promised if they signed up.

There’s still life in the old business blog

You don’t just publish blog posts and then forget about them. Use them to your advantage and wring every drop of value they have. Whether you just want to do the minimum for your old posts, or really go to town on them, they’ll deliver for you forever. Start them off right and they’ll be the gift that keeps on giving.

#MondayFun – Filmmaker Roberto Benigni

Painting of Johnny Stecchino by Borbay
Painting of Johnny Stecchino by Borbay

What It Is

This week marks the last film in the Roberto Benigni & Nicoletta Braschi retrospective at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival here in Toronto. I try to watch the occasional Italian film just to keep up with my Italian language skills, however I tend to watch the movies at home. Yet I may make an exception this time around. Tomorrow night they’re showing Johnny Stecchino, which is my favourite Roberto Benigni film.

Why I Like It

Johnny Stecchino was my introduction to the whirlwind that is Roberto Benigni. You probably remember him best for his crazy Oscar acceptance speech for Life is Beautiful (“La Vita è Bella”), or rather, for his journey to the stage for his Oscar. Here’s a reminder just in case you’ve forgotten:

One of the reasons that Roberto has such success with his movies worldwide is that he infuses them with a sincerity and heart that transcends the subject matter. Whether he’s talking about a serial killer in Florence (“Il Mostro“), a case of mistaken identity with a mobster (“Johnny Stecchino”) or Jewish internment (“La Vita è Bella“), there’s always heart.

But it’s in his pure comedies that Roberto really shines. Mixing great comedic timing with hilarious jokes and well-executed pratfalls, Roberto has something for everyone. If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer for “Johnny Stecchino”:

Just hilarious. So go enjoy some laughs today courtesy of Roberto. He’s hilarious in any language.

#SociallyJulia – What I’ve Been Tweeting Lately

Welcome to #SociallyJulia

aka What Julia’s Been Tweeting About Lately

I’m a big fan of social media in general, and Twitter in particular. I think it’s just a great platform to talk with others about whatever, whenever.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter @spacebarpress (and why don’t you? Come on, join in on the fun!), then here’s a list of what I’ve been tweeting about lately…

And that’s a wrap!

#MondayFun – XFiles Lego Sets

What Is It

Brent Waller is a Lego fan and artist who creates Lego sets for things he’s really passionate about (or Geeky for). Without further ado, here you are:

LEGO X-Files

Why I Like It

Yes, you guessed it: XFiles Lego sets! Who wouldn’t want to have a mini version of Mulder’s I Want to Believe poster?

I Want To Believe

Or Lego Mulder & Scully flashing their badges?
We don't need no stinking badges\

Go check out Brent’s work because it really is phenomenal.

Brent Waller’s Lego Xfiles link