To gate, or not to gate your content, that is the question… This is one of the biggest conundrums in content marketing, and a decision many a marketer has mulled over in recent times. The trend is now moving away from gated to ungated content, but there’s still a place in the world for both, when used effectively. Here we examine the gated vs ungated content debate and look at the merits and minuses of each option.
What is gated content?
Basically, when you ‘gate’ your content, you require people to provide their details before they can access the content. These details might be the user’s name and email address, or they could include more in-depth, revealing details. The content will often be gated behind a landing page that includes the form they need to complete with their details, a persuasive call to action (CTA) promoting the content’s benefits, and a summary of what’s included in the content.
‘Gated content is any type of content that viewers can only access after exchanging their information. Essentially, the content is hidden behind a form. Companies use gated content to generate leads and ultimately, sales’.
Importantly, it should be noted that gated inbound marketing content is free and is not concealed behind a paywall. Someone only has to provide their details to gain access.
What is ungated content?
Ungated content, on the other hand, is, as the name suggests, content that’s made readily available to all. This has no barrier between the audience and the content, and so doesn’t require users to provide their details to access it.
With ungated content, there may be an option to download a gated version, by providing their details, but this is not obligatory and they can access the main content without providing any information.
Gated vs ungated content is a strategic choice
Ultimately, choosing to gate or ungate your content is a strategic choice. Gated content tends to be used as a strategy for inbound lead generation, while ungated content is often used for inbound demand generation.
- Inbound lead generation – This puts the emphasis on using content as much as possible to generate leads, but without much consideration of your buyers’ preferences.
- Inbound demand generation – This focuses on letting your buyers easily consume your content, while also developing an affinity for your brand. It also includes creating and distributing content to a wider audience, using mediums such as social media, podcasts, and communities.
Gated content is not used to create demand, because access is restricted for the majority of your audience. Ungating content lets your buyers consume it in full, without asking for anything in return. This also lets search engines index and rank it, which attracts more visitors and provides an easier content experience for your audience.
So, your use of gated or ungated content may depend on your goals.
Why do marketers gate content?
Marketers primarily choose to gate content in order to generate leads. They choose to do this just because their marketing efforts are measured by their business on the basis of how many leads they generate. So, to appear successful, they must supply as many contact details as possible.
It’s important to remember that the ultimate goal for a business is not to generate contact details, it’s to generate revenue. The reason to gate content shouldn’t just be to achieve marketing targets to generate X number of leads. This is only a tick-box exercise of collecting data and submitting it to sales.
Marketers, therefore, need to get away from this way of thinking and only gate content when it’s an effective way of driving sales and revenue.
What are the problems with gating content?
The argument about gated and ungated content centres around the fact that while gated content can produce leads, it will have a smaller audience and less exposure than ungated content.
According to one survey, 81% of customers said they would decide not to download content because of a form, and 39% said they would enter false information to download content. So, although gated content may generate leads, not all of these will be quality ones.
The tipping point when self-qualified leads seemed to stop working so well is reported to have happened around 2020, and audiences are now far less willing to hand over their details readily.
Buyers favour ungated content
The bottom line is that buyers favour ungated content. They’re reluctant to provide personal details to access content unless they absolutely must, and there is now an increasing number of alternative channels where they can find similar information, such as:
- Social media
- Live events
Not only will they find similar, ungated information elsewhere online, but it will also be in the channels they already use and love – it’s in their feed, their preferred medium, and almost requires no effort to consume.
Buyers have also become savvier. They know that if they hand over their details, they could get bombarded by marketing emails when all they want is to read a single piece of content. According to content marketing expert David Meerman Scott, ungated content is downloaded 20 to 50 times more often than gated content. He therefore suggests that if you do opt to gate your content, you should at least reduce the number of fields in the forms users have to complete.
How should marketers use gated content going forwards?
Going forward, if marketers are considering gating material, the best content to choose is that which contains original research, or information, which is harder to produce. This will be the most in-demand and is more likely to be successful gated content. It’s seen as high value and more people will be willing to submit their details to access it.
Conversely, gating tends to be less successful with content that’s considered to be of lower value, perhaps because it lacks original research, is easier to create, and is published frequently. This includes such material as e-books, guides, and infographics.
When gating your content, it’s absolutely essential that you don’t abuse the contact details you gather, by scoring, nurturing and pitching to them. However, these can be used to grow your blog subscription list and for sending helpful, non-sales emails relating to the topic your buyer is interested in.
How do marketers pivot from gated content to ungated content?
Changing from gated to ungated content requires careful planning.
The metrics you use to measure your marketing success will have to change. These can no longer be heavily based on how many leads specific pieces of content have generated. If you just switch to ungating all your content without adjusting such metrics, your leadership team will see a rapid drop in leads and presume the worst.
You will need to continue to chart the success of your content with effective content marketing metrics. However, the most important factors indicating success will be that your pipeline doesn’t drop and revenue rises or remains healthy.
You therefore need to change your:
- Mindset – Move away from a lead generation way of thinking, and start to think about marketing as a revenue department.
- Metrics – Instead of tracking the number of leads generated, focus on the pipeline and revenue you generate from marketing.
- Creation and distribution of content – Create more ungated content that can be distributed in your audience’s channels.
How do you get the most out of your ungated content?
To get the most out of your ungated content and achieve the best result, you need to provide an excellent user experience for your visitors, ensure good SEO, and maximise its reach.
Intuitive user experience
To create a good user experience, be sure to craft enjoyable material in a well laid out format. Your content should have good readability, useful navigation aids and provide logical next steps, to help time-poor readers swiftly and easily access the value of your content.
Optimise website content for search
With regards to SEO, your ungated website content needs to be grouped in what HubSpot calls topic clusters. These are collections of content organised by subject, which use logical and consistent internal links to create authority on a particular topic.
Repurpose to maximise reach
To maximise the reach of your content, you should repurpose it for different channels. For example, your blog or pillar page could be broken down into smaller LinkedIn posts or used for a podcast discussion. Repurposing content for your buyer’s channels allows you to maximise your reach and communicate your message effectively.
If you’re still wondering whether you should gate or ungate your content, the answer is, prioritise ungated content, but use gated content sparingly, as with the right intent it can be useful. With good strategic use of gated and ungated content, you can effectively optimise the value your content delivers to you and your customers.