Should you gate your content or not? Many marketers deal with this difficult question and are unsure about the effects gated content will have on their lead generation strategy. There are many pros and cons for turning content into gated content. While ungated content increases the number of readers and impressions, gating can be positive for an enhanced lead generation. Yes, it is worth to gate your content – but the right way, and the right parts!
What is gated content?
Gated content describes the cenario where your readers can only access certain information on your website after entering e.g. their email address. In contrast to ungated content, where all information is available to everybody, gated content limits the reach of your information to the people who are willing to share their contacts with you. Various forms of gated content exist such as gated webinars, gated white papers or gated blogs. All of them have one thing in common: the reader must complete a certain action or fill out a form before being able to see the information behind the gate. In the last years, various new forms of gated content came to life. Especially in social media, gated content is often connected with other actions of the users such as sharing a post. In this blogpost, we use the standard definition of gated content which most inbound marketers believe in: gated content is the part of your content which is protected by a lead form and can only be accessed after the readers share their lead information with you.
The benefits of gated content
Gated content has one clear objective: getting details of the readers before the full information gets unveiled. Hence, the goal of gated content is not to protect any kind of information, not at all. In contrast to that, the goal of gated content mainly is to make as many people as possible interested in the gated part of the content and to share their information with you. These are the two biggest advantages of gated content in inbound marketing:
- More leads can be captured
- The leads have a better (sales) quality
The disadvantages of gated content
It would be unprofessional to say that gated content only includes advantages for your content strategy. There are several negative aspects of gated content which should be considered before you start to gate all your content. As you can imagine – not everybody is willing to share his contacts to get the information. Additionally, it is likely that the number of readers decreases tremendously after you gate your content. Hence, the negative parts of gated content include:
- Fewer impressions on the content
- Unwillingness of readers to share contacts
Why you should (not) gate your content
After this brief overview, it is definitely worth to get deeper into the pros and cons of gated content. Let’s start with the part of capturing more leads. The overall objective of content marketing is to attract prospective customers to your website. In most cases, and especially in B2B and IT sales, the readers of the content won’t automatically turn into paying customers. Prior to that, it is necessary to turn them into leads, to educate them, to nurture the leads and to close the deal afterwards. To begin this long process of customer acquisition, it is necessary to turn your readers into leads. You have probably heard about the buyer’s journey model. The earlier you get the contact details of the prospects, the easier it will be to further educate them and to strengthen your company’s position against competitors. That’s where the journey starts. But how do you get the contacts of interested readers? The number of people which write you an email or subscribe to your newsletters themselves is marginal. Why should they?
Your readers have been able to get all the information which they need (for now) and if there is anything more, they will come back, won’t they? Unfortunately, they won’t. In today’s crowded business world, it is necessary to connect with prospects through multiple touchpoints before they are willing to pay. This means that, after reading the first content on your website, there need to be many further contacts. Hence, you better get the email addresses of the readers to enable theses further contacts. Of course, the question if you should gate content at all depends on your company background and the objective of your inbound strategy. For some businesses, e.g. food bloggers, it often is enough to have a basic subscription form embedded multiple times in the website. But for most companies, especially in professional areas such as enterprise software, you should have a better strategy to gather lead information.
Why gated content creates better leads
Some paragraphs above, we mentioned that gated content brings better leads into your company. It could be that the total number of leads which you get first decreases. The earlier you start to gate the content, the earlier must the readers share their contacts to access the information. Naturally, not everybody will yet be ready to share his contacts at this early stage. Even if you include lead forms at the (nearly) end, it is possible that some of your readers are not interested anymore after reading the content and won’t share their email address with you. Finding the perfect stage in the content to create leads is therefore one of the key challenges that you will face. But it is also worth to face this challenge. In case that you doubt that gated content increases your lead quality, here are some more arguments which you should read:
- The fact that your readers get something for sharing their contacts makes it more likely that people share information with you.
- Only the really interested readers will share contacts with you.
- You know exactly at which point the readers shared their contacts and what they are interested in.
- While many lead forms are too obtrusive for professional B2B clients, gated content (and especially white paper marketing) is highly accepted in the industry.
- In contrast to lead forms which pop up, gated content better fits to the reader’s journey.
The number of impressions does not matter
If you are involved in producing content for your inbound strategy, you will maybe be proud of the number of impressions which your content gets. But even if this maybe will hurt your emotions now, you should accept the fact that impressions, likes, shares and reach does not matter much. Accepting this will tremendously enhance your content strategy and help you to succeed in your career long-term. When did you ever hear your company’s CEO saying “Great, we got thousand likes on Facebook and 200% more page impressions”? Probably never. For good reasons. The main goal of marketing, and especially of modern inbound marketing, is to turn people into prospects. And impressions are no prospects. If you are able to get five high-quality leads out of ten impressions, it is probably better than getting five leads from hundred impressions.
The absolute number of course depends on the budget which you invest. Getting ten thousand impressions is not that difficult if you drive traffic to your website e.g. with paid ads. But getting high-quality leads from these impressions is much more difficult. Also, if you look on content marketing from a sales perspective, it does not matter too much what happened to get the leads. It is much more important how many leads you gathered, which quality they have and how fast they can be closed by your sales team. Most problems between marketing and sales teams (in regards of lead discussions) occur because of the unaligned objective between marketing (raising awareness) and sales (increasing revenue). If your company manages to harmonize them, marketing teams will work more on capturing and qualifying sales-ready leads and sales teams will experience an increase in their performance. To conclude, instead of talking about the input which you get on your content (= impressions), you should emphasize the output that your content drives (= leads).
When to gate your content
There are many good reasons why gated content will positively affect the number as well as the quality of the leads which you get. Next, it is important to decide which content to gate and when to gate the content. There are some texts which should not be gated at all, e.g. your product description, press releases and everything that targets users which are in the “awareness stage” of the buyer’s journey. On the opposite, some other content should definitely be gated. Especially white papers, sophisticated guidelines, industry studies and content related to the “decision making” stage of your inbound strategy.
How to gate content
In addition to the subject matter, the right technique of gating content is important for a successful implementation of gated information. Everybody hates lead forms which pop up in the middle of a reading. If you first simulate to offer interesting insights for free and suddenly ask for contacts within the blogpost with a pop-up, many readers will be disappointed. They will ask themselves “Why should I now suddenly share my contacts to finish this reading? Nobody indicated that to me. I came here for free content and in the middle of the text this annoying lead form does not allow me to continue”. Some of them probably still share their contacts, but they will be disappointed and probably your sales reps could have a tough time with them.
Lead forms should only appear if the reader actively does something. If you show an interesting white paper on your website and ask the readers to share their contacts with you before opening the document, the will probably understand that they need to give something for getting the interesting insights. It’s technically pretty like asking them in the middle of a blogpost, but it’s just a total different emotional feeling for them. The problem is that many prospects won’t share their contacts based on the title of your white paper. They want to get more information first. In the best case, your readers can see the first slides or pages of an interesting content and have to share their contacts before seeing the full information. Again, it is important that the lead form appears when the viewers actively click a button (e.g. next slide) and not pushes up automatically during a slide where they are focused on reading.
When gated content makes sense
After discussing the benefits of gated and ungated content, let’s briefly summarize when it makes sense for you to gate content:
- If you aim to maximize leads, and not impressions, gated content can be helpful for getting more contacts.
- Leads from gated content have a higher quality because of the better technique to ask for contacts in exchange of valuable information.
- Readers are more willing to share information if they feel that the content is worth the exchange of contacts and if the lead form appears in an appealing way.
Best practices for implementing gated content
Let’s now finally come to the best practices in gating content. First, you should start to analyze your existing content and define which parts should be implemented. The best way to separate gated and ungated content is to differentiate between the level of expertise which the content offers and the reader’s stage on the buyer’s journey. Sophisticated information at later stages of the buyer’s journey model make it more likely to get sales-ready leads. Second, you must define how you like to capture leads. Our recommendation is to combine basic content with expert content. This could for example be a blog post about “5 Tips for Capturing Leads” which attracts viewers. After these tips, a gated presentation or document with “3 Expert Tips to Maximize Leads” could be implemented below the first article.
After your readers have shown interest in the topic, they can dive deeper into the subject if they are ready to share their contacts. In the optimal case, they are even able to see the first expert tip and a lead form appeals before the remaining two expert tips. Of course, this is only an example which could be implemented in many similar ways with white papers, industry studies and sales pitches. By doing so, and by combining ungated with gated content, it is also possible to guide viewers through the buyer’s journey stages if you implement an ungated content for prospects on the awareness stage and a gated content below which targets the decision-making stage. In every case, gated content can best be implemented with Beamium. Beamium enables you to upload presentations and documents on the lead platform and to embed the slides on your own website, blog or landing page. A dedicated lead form, which can be customized according to your needs, gates your content and asks the viewers of the slides or pages to enter contacts for unveiling the full information. Of course, the lead form can be included in every situation of the slideshow – in the very beginning, during the presentation or before downloading the document.
Why you should gate content with Beamium
If you read attentive through this blogpost, you will understand the many advantages Beamium offers to optimize your content strategy. By embedding slideshows, you can guide your viewers through a story. At the right time, the readers will then be asked to share their contacts before seeing the gated content. There is no better way to integrate gated content than using Beamium which combines all best practices. Moreover, here are seven further reasons why Beamium should be used as fundamental part of your content strategy:
- Existing marketing materials can be uploaded as a PDF on Beamium with only one click. Hence, it is very easy to produce valuable content which is worth to be gated.
- Beamium enhances your documents and turns them into beautiful online slideshows which are accessible on every notebook, smartphone and tablet.
- The dedicated lead feature enables you to capture leads at the optimal point. All leads will be verified so that only real contacts get into the gated part of your content.
- Interactive features engage your viewers so that they can write you feedback and like the best slides.
- Engagement analytics help you to analyze which slides your readers viewed for the longest time, where they churned the document and how many of them shared their contacts. By analyzing this information, you can easily optimize your marketing materials to get more customers in future.
- All leads are automatically classified as top opportunities, sales ready or marketing ready. The smart lead scoring model of Beamium makes it possible to classify leads and can be combined with your existing lead classification tool.
- Finally, great customer insights help you to further determine the lead’s level of interest. Find out where the prospect left the presentation, how often he came back and many more useful information which makes the following sales process many times more efficient.
Image Source: ©unsplash.com/@santaana_photography