When you're marketing your business online, your goal is to sell your product or service — eventually. You know it takes time to make people aware of you, convince them to trust you, and take some action that will ultimately lead to a sale.
While this sounds easy, it can feel impossible when your content doesn't translate into actual leads. You put lots of work into having fantastic blog posts and eBooks, and you want your website visitors to become customers, but…
The easy solution is to use your blog posts as an email marketing tool. All you have to do is ask for your customer email, and bam- a lead is generated. But is this a lead that could turn into a sale?
Worse yet, is this tactic going to scare customers away?
As you can tell, there's no easy answer to the great debate of gated or ungated content. However, we'll break down this complicated question to help you understand which strategies will work best for you, and most importantly, your audience.
Gated vs. Ungated Content: What's The Difference?
Put simply, gated content means you put some roadblock between your website visitor and the actual content on your website. Usually, this appears as a simple form that the viewer has to fill out before getting access to your content.
Ungated content is, in essence, the opposite. You post your content freely on your website without barriers between your customer and the content. They can consume it without giving you anything in return.
It’s easy to see why so many marketers and businesses prefer gated content — but they might not be seeing the whole picture.
What's Happening In The Industry?
The good news is that you're not alone in asking these questions about strategizing your gated and ungated content. Others in countless industries are asking themselves these same questions and have repeatedly come to the same conclusions.
So many types of content are constantly being gated, including:
Expansion on an ungated blog post
Despite many industry leaders gating these types of content, more and more experts are advocating for the use of ungated content.
For example, Steven Broudy at Drift feels very strongly about ungating your content — and he makes a compelling case. He feels that if you genuinely are a buyer-centric company, you shouldn’t put barriers between potential buyers and the information they need to make a decision. If they don’t get the information from, they will find it somewhere else.
He makes a good point.
So let’s take a look at both sides of the debate and help you make the right decision for your business, your audience, and your goals.
Why Should You Gate Content?
The form you're using to restrict access to your content isn't just to be mean and keep curious browsers away. Instead, your form is there to turn the general website viewer into a potential future customer.
Many gated content forms will ask for the browser's email address, name, and maybe even the industry that they work in. This information is crucial for your business when you're trying to generate leads. 59% of industry experts argue that you should gate in-depth content.
We would add that all in-depth content is not created equal. You should only gate content that is of high perceived and actual value to your audience.
This means that you gate content that the visitor can clearly and easily understand the value of possessing. It also means that the content should meet that expectation after providing their contact details to gain access.
But what if everything you create is high value — both perceived and actual value? Should you gate everything? No, and here's why.
Why Should You Ungate Content?
Ungated content is precisely what it sounds like — content that is freely available for any visitor to your website to digest and have unhindered access to.
This is a scary proposition if you are focused solely on acquiring an extensive list of contacts that you can turn into potential customers.
When it comes to ungating your content, you would be right to assume that you’d see fewer leads coming in. However, you should see a higher quality of leads coming in as the quantity goes down.
Sounds a little unbelievable, doesn’t it.
But here’s how that works. Once you’ve ungated your content, your visitors can freely access the information that is relevant to them. This gives you a chance to do many things upfront before they ever opt-in for something.
They can learn to like and trust you.
They can start to see you as an expert and can help them.
They can decide when they want to invite you to talk with them and offer them solutions instead of you having to chase them.
That’s the power of ungating your content.
Which Strategy Works Best for You?
Of course, a good website will have a combination of both gated and ungated content. But to decide which approach to take with a particular piece of content on your website, you first need to assess your goal for that piece of content.
In short, your goal for your content will help you decide whether to take a gated approach or an ungated approach. Let’s take a look at a few goals you might have for your content.
Goal #1: Do You Want To Generate Leads?
If generating leads is the most important thing, then you should lean towards gating your content.
As visitors trade their contact information for your content, you’ll gain insights into what they want to accomplish and what’s holding them back. They might be very early in their journey as buyers, but they're still on the right path to becoming buyers if you play your cards right.
It's essential to keep in mind that your content needs to meet the viewer's expectations. If you gate something extremely short or basic that your viewer could access for free elsewhere, they have no reason to trust your brand. Your gated content needs to be worth it to make that viewer turn into a viable lead.
Goal #2: Do You Want To Attract New People?
If your goal is to attract a new set of clientele to your brand, then ungated content is likely the avenue you should explore. If your prospective customers have just begun their journey as a buyer, they're not going to trust your brand yet, and you can create that trust by freely and openly providing information.
What's vital for a brand-new customer is building up trust and ensuring they find something valuable with your company. That means they won't trust you enough to provide you with their email address or contact information. For content geared toward the new prospect, stick with ungated content.
Goal #3: Do You Want To Appear On Search Engines?
If your goal is for a new set of customers to find you on online search engines, putting your content behind a gate will prevent it from being indexed.
This means that the content you worked so hard on cannot be found by someone searching, and you will have a limited reach.
If you've put effort into a blog post filled with SEO keywords, putting it behind a gate negates all of the work you did in writing the blog post in a way optimized for search engine marketing. These pieces do best when search engines can use them to their full potential.
What is the Best Decision for You?
Sometimes, you’ll be in a situation where one clear goal isn’t the answer for your business. You may find yourself unable to simply select one main goal, and that’s okay. In these cases, assess each piece of content on what it specifically can do for you.
The strategy that you choose is essential and you might need some expert guidance to get it right and adjust as needed.
We know how difficult it can be for you to determine which type of content works best for your ideal audience. We also know that gating content comes with many nuances, and quite frankly, it's not always something you and your marketing team have the time to consider when building your website.
That's why we're here to help.
Our team is here to help make the process of generating and converting leads online as easy as possible. We know it's possible because our strategies for you are the same ones we use on our own website and our own online content.
Are you interested in learning what kind of content will best serve the needs of your customers? Schedule a time to talk with us today, and let us help find what approach is best for you.