These 6 points can help you decide whether or not to gate your marketing content
Picture this: You’re lost in the depths of Google searching for the perfect article to use in a pitch to your boss, share on social media or simply educate yourself. Finally, you find it — the title looks promising and the teaser on the landing page reveals exactly what you wanted. But before you can get too excited, you see it — the dreaded form. Just when you thought you had it, you realize you can’t use it because you really don’t want to share your information just yet and you certainly can’t just share a link to a form on social media or with your boss. We’ve all been there, and it’s less than ideal.
As marketers, we’ve all been on the other side too. You spend months collaborating with different team members to put together an amazing piece of content that’s on message, provides value and looks fantastic. So of course you’re going to put it behind a form — you can’t just give away all that hard work for free, right?
This dilemma is what we like to call “the great gate debate,” and it’s a question that’s been nagging at marketers for years. Should you gate your marketing content?
The Dreaded Decision: Gate or No Gate?
Ask any marketer their opinions on gating content and you’re sure to get a mouthful in response. You might get some who consider themselves progressives by landing firmly in the “no gate” camp, others who will preach the benefits of gating content all day long and others still who will say this is something their team debates every time they publish a new piece of content. So who’s right? It depends.
Why Marketers Gate Content
When it first became clear that content would be a powerful currency in the digital age, marketers started throwing up gates left and right.
The reasoning made sense at the time and largely still holds true today. For example, some of the most compelling reasons to gate content include the ability to:
- Capture detailed information on new leads
- Improve qualification for new leads and scoring for existing leads based on level of interest and engagement
- Demonstrate the value of certain pieces of content and protect the hard work that went into creating them
Why the Tides Have Shifted on Gated Content
Despite the benefits that gating content can provide, as technology matured and people became more digitally-savvy (not to mention wary), the tides have shifted on gated content.
Today, those gates often bring just as much downsides as they do upsides. Common arguments against gating content include:
Turning off would-be readers who don’t want to give away their email address
Limiting reach and shareability
Diminishing SEO benefits
Making a Confident Decision on Gating Content
Once you know the pros and cons of gating content — what should you do with that information when it comes to making the decision of gate or no gate? We recommend the following:
- Get a lay of the land: Make sure everyone involved in the decision understands those pros and cons, as that will help you frame the arguments for and against gating content in light of the piece of content at hand and your goals for that content.
- Determine the value and exclusivity of your content: Lighter, more “snackable” content like blog posts and infographics should typically remain ungated, while heavier assets like eBooks and webinars often have a strong reason to live behind a form. In terms of exclusivity, if you have something that no one else does and no one else is talking about, its value increases and the argument for a gate becomes stronger.
- Outline your goals: Set your goals for the piece of content and your marketing efforts at large. If you’re focused on lead capture, you likely have a good argument for putting up a gate. That said, you should also consider other options for lead capture, such as a sign up for blog updates, and determine if they can accomplish your goal in a less obtrusive way. Meanwhile, if you’re focused on awareness and reach, you’ll likely want to forgo the gate. Finally, if you’re focused on understanding engagement with and interest in content, you need to keep asking more questions like those outlined below.
- Consider your target audience: Did you design the content to be for the top, middle or bottom of the funnel? Gated content has a sweet spot somewhere in the middle. If you throw a form in front of leads who are not yet warm enough, you’ll likely get little results. And if you throw a form in front of people who are almost ready to close the deal, you’ll likely turn them off by making the experience feel impersonal.
- Think about sharing context: Are you sharing the content with the world on social media or with a targeted group through email? Maybe the answer is both, but the context makes a difference. If you’re sharing content via email, then you already have information on those recipients, so the only benefit to sending them to a gated version of the content is to measure interest in actually viewing that content. But the truth is, you can just as easily measure interest and create a much better user experience by tracking email performance (including opens and clicks) through your marketing automation platform.
- Evaluate opportunities to go hybrid: Depending on the content, you might have opportunities to take a hybrid approach, for example by creating a blog post or infographic that shares some key points from the larger piece of content. This approach can check a lot of boxes by giving you a piece of content on the topic that’s shareable and can extend brand awareness, satisfying those who are in earlier stages or not as interested and serving as a teaser that demonstrates the value of the larger piece of content for those who are unsure if they want to give away their information by filling out a form. If you do take this approach, be careful not to give everything away upfront though, as there still needs to be added value that comes from filling out the form.
Always Keep the Experience in Mind
Last but not least, if you decide your goals, the value of your content, your target audience and the overall context in which you’re sharing the content do warrant a gate, you should always keep the experience in mind.
For instance, you should keep the form fields to the absolute minimum that you need and provide information on the landing page alongside the form that previews what people will get by filling out the form and demonstrates the value of the content.