The pros and cons of gating your content

To gate or not to gate, that is the question — content, that is. The dilemma over gated content is near the top of the pack when it comes to the choices facing marketers today. Gated content has emerged in the past 10 years as a major method of lead capture and nurturing, but recent backlash has prompted some marketers to question their content strategy.

But is it really necessary to totally rethink your strategy? Sometimes, an old-fashioned list of pros and cons is helpful when making decisions. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons associated with gated content, so you can make the best decision for your marketing strategy.

This is a guest post by Chris Strom, the Principal of ClearPivot, a Denver-based digital marketing agency. Learn more about what ClearPivot does.

What is gated content? 

Think about a physical gate — in order to get inside the gate, you need a key (or perhaps a combination for a lock) to enter. The same theory applies to gated content, but rather than a key or a combination, information is what gives you access to what’s on the other side of the gate. In most cases, this will include your email address. Sometimes, it may also include your name, phone number, and other defining characteristics of you or your company. 

Marketers use gated content in order to generate leads at the top of their funnel. For gated content to be successful, however, it needs to be valuable. In other words, it needs to be worth providing your information to get past the gate. 

Generally, gated content is considered premium content. The value provided by your content should be so high, it’s worth it for the reader to give you access to their inbox. Common types of gated content can include: 

  • Ebooks
  • Courses
  • Cheatsheets
  • Checklists
  • Videos
  • Email newsletters/subscriptions
  • Webinars
  • And more

Now that you have a high-level understanding of gated content, it’s time to break down those pros and cons. 

The pros of gated content

The most obvious benefit of gated content is that, when well executed, it results in more leads. And what marketer doesn’t want more leads!

Companies like Hubspot, Marketo, and Eloqua have been using gated content for more than 10 years to build their brands and establish trust. Chances are you’ve even downloaded a piece (or 2, or 10) from these and other trusted sites over the years. Creating and leveraging your own gated content helps you become a trusted brand. 

Gated content also allows you to:

1) Measure

With gated content, measuring the results of your marketing efforts is significantly easier than with other tactics. 

2) Build

Landing pages and forms protecting your gated content can be linked directly to your email marketing provider. When someone downloads your gated content, they can instantly be added to your email newsletter list, and/or be moved into an email workflow designed to nurture that lead. 

3) Research

Depending on the specific information you require for access to your gated content, you can paint a fairly thorough portrait of your leads. By asking for more than just contact info, you can enrich the data you collect with key identifying elements: Company name, first and last names, website domain, role, and more. This aids in segmentation, and allows you to deliver relevant follow-ups with pinpoint accuracy. 

The cons of gated content

Gated content has been helping brands grow for over a decade, but marketing has also changed over the past decade. As we have evolved as marketers, some cons around gated content have emerged. When planning your next content marketing strategy, it’s critical to take the following concerns into account.

1) Backlash

With the prevalence of gated content in recent years, backlash was inevitable. Many professionals today suffer from ‘inbox fatigue’ — they are becoming more discerning about what they allow in their inboxes, and are leery about sharing their email addresses (or other personal information) in order to download or access content. 

Unfortunately, some content marketers use gated content to ‘trick’ prospects into providing their information. If your prospects don’t feel that the content delivered is worthy of the information they provided, it could harm your reputation and cost you that lead. It could also result in negative reviews for your brand. As with any type of content, but especially gated content, it’s critical to ensure your content is truly premium.

2) SEO

Learning more about — and ultimately accessing — gated content typically happens via a landing page. By design, landing pages are short, visually-rich pages that are designed specifically to convert. Unfortunately, these shorter pages tend to have less search engine value as a result. That means if you rely too heavily on gated content, your site may not rank for key terms.

Additionally, search engines are unable to crawl and index gated content. In essence, this renders your gated content fairly, well, useless from an SEO standpoint. Going a step further, your gated content will also fail to contribute to link equity on your site. 

3) Sharing

We’ve all seen content go viral on social media. Whether it’s professional content on LinkedIn or other types of content on Facebook or Instagram, sharing can have a tremendous impact on your brand. While your gated content is likely (and should be) amazing, it is less likely to go viral if someone needs to enter personal information in order to access it.

Does gated content makes sense for my business?

A theme throughout this piece merits additional mention: Focusing on quality first is the key to successful gated content. If your content is valuable enough, your prospects will happily share their information in order to access that content. However, today’s most successful marketers avoid focusing solely on gated content for their lead generation. Instead, they craft robust strategies that are centered around pillar content, topic clusters, and other high-quality un-gated content. 

While you are likely crafting regular blog posts that offer value to your prospects at every stage of your marketing funnel, pillar content is different from a standard blog post. Rather than short (typically up to 2,000 words) content focusing on a highly specific subject, pillar content takes a ‘deep dive’ approach to a broad topic. We dive more into pillar content and topic clusters here. You can also see more specific examples of pillar content here, here and here.

Your traditional blog posts will explore specific subtopics of your pillar content. This approach is extremely SEO-friendly, offering value to and building trust with your prospects. When you take this approach to your content marketing, focusing first and foremost on value at every step of the buyer’s journey, your prospects will intuit that your gated content is really good. After all, if your un-gated content offers that much value to the reader, they can only imagine how much value your gated content will provide! 

Additionally, technological advancements like Chatbots (which use AI to provide targeted, relevant answers to your prospects’ questions), and membership sites or members-only content (which puts a range of premium content in the hands and devices of your warmest prospects and most valued customer), can make a big difference in successfully executing your marketing strategy.

Final Thoughts

Implementing pillar content and other technologies alongside your gated content is more likely to result in better-quality leads who are more engaged with your brand. They are also more likely to be receptive to follow-up email workflows and calls to action. 

This proven effectiveness of this strategy stems from the natural evolution of content marketing since those early days of gated content. With the right approach, you can take advantage of the traditional value inherent in gated content, leverage the best of today’s technology, and respect the needs and wants of today’s consumers to boot.