The Great Gate Debate: When to use gated content

gated content, lead forms, registration forms, lead gen, lead generation, content marketingOftentimes we are asked by clients our feelings on gated content –  You know, the information that cannot be accessed until a form is filled out with the user’s personal information, usually their name, email, phone number and some innocuous question. The questions we get usually center on WHEN this type of content should be used, and IF it should be used at all.

As marketers, we know this form to be the ‘lead capture’ form, because that is exactly what is being done, we are capturing a potential lead on someone who has shown interest in our product or service.

Gated vs. Non-gated Content

Gated content can range from contests, guidebooks, templates to helpful research resources and training videos.  Non-gated content includes everything from articles in trade publications and blogs to press releases, testimonials and the like.  All content offered by a company is good, but the gated content is usually the information people are really after.  The information that is most useful.  The ‘really good stuff’.

The great gate debate rages on from marketer to marketer.  Some experts feel that gating content is an excellent way to obtain qualified leads of people really interested in your product or service.  I mean let’s face it, if you are really interested in something, you wouldn’t think twice about giving your name, email address and answer a question or two pertaining to the content you are looking to access.  Others feel that by gating content you automatically lose potential visitors to your site, which in turn translates into losing potential reach, SEO value and linking opportunities.

Leaders in content marketing strategy have narrowed down this debate to one question – What are you more interested in generating, page views or qualified leads?  Once you know the answer to that question, then gating or not gating your content will be obvious. Although, you may want to think long and hard about your answer.

Pros and Cons of Gated Content

Here’s an argument for gating your content.  One that we have thought about often.  Is it better to get 50,000 people to view your page, but you have no idea who they are or how to follow up with them… or would you rather have 50,000 people view your page, with 20,000 filling out the form, creating 20,000 potential leads/contacts for you?  For our clients, it is usually a no brainer.  We would rather have some names and contact information for people who may be interested, than having no information at all.

The argument against gating is that you may have some potential leads who are turned off by having to fill out a form and give some personal information.  And you could potentially lose business to a competitor who does not gate their content. Some feel there is an invasion of privacy, but as every modern person knows, the internet is not necessarily anonymous.

Gating content enables us as companies and marketers to understand our audience better by gathering more information about them.  We build trust with our potential customers and our brand seems more valuable and leading in the industry.  We can also streamline the sales process because we already know some things about our potential customers just from them answering the questions to access the gated material.

But the drawbacks are still there. Not everyone, no matter how interested they are in your product or service, will fill out a form.  Plain and simple.  And sometimes, you are reaching a customer at the wrong stage in their research endeavors.  They may not be ready to give their information away if they are just beginning to research what it is that you have to offer.

To Gate or Not to Gate…

Here’s the thing, gating the wrong content at the wrong time during a customer’s research phase can discourage them and disengage them from you and your brand.  Gating the right content at the right time can help you capture the lead you need while building trust. But how do you do you do that?

The Hub and Spoke Model

hub and spoke content, content marketing, evergreen content, gated contentConsider using the Hub and Spoke model.  With this model, you research, produce and publish a main piece of content (the hub), then you create smaller pieces of content (the spokes) that relate back to the main piece of content. The hub is the gated content that is behind the lead capture form.  It is the information that offers the most to the audience.  It is high quality and rich in information, information that people wouldn’t mind giving their personal data for.

The spokes are what funnels the traffic to the hub.  It is the enticing information that helps solidify the trust of the customer along their journey.  And like with a bicycle tire, the hub and spokes work together.  If not, everything collapses and you have nothing.

Part 2 will evaluate how to create highly-effective evergreen landing pages that play an important role in the gated and non-gated debate.

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