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 call 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.

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