Gated versus ungated content: Pros and cons
What is gated content
Gated content is any type of content which sits behind a data capture form. To access the content, users must typically submit their data, which could range from contact details such as email address and telephone number to more contextual information such as job title and sector. Gated content does not mean content which the audience needs to pay for – instead, it is offered for free in exchange for information from the user. By contrast, ungated content is freely accessible to all, with no barriers.
Gated content is a staple lead generation tool, especially for B2B marketers, with a significant proportion of B2B content assets sitting behind a lead capture form. The question of whether to gate or not is increasingly contested – and in this overview, we explore the advantages and disadvantages, when gated content is (and is not) appropriate, and how to create gated content that works. Read on to find out more.
Pros and cons of gated content
On one hand, some marketers believe that the advantage of gaining qualified leads outweighs the disadvantage of turning away potential visitors. On the other hand, some believe that by asking for personal information, you lose the potential reach of your content, plus SEO value and link opportunities, and that you can still drive leads from your content without gating. The main pros and cons are:
Gathers qualified leads: Visitors to your site who submit their details in exchange for content have identified themselves as relevant leads to your business – aka “hand raisers”.
Builds marketing lists: Gated content enables you to build your database for email and other types of marketing.
Builds audience understanding and aids your segmentation efforts: Your lead capture form may ask users for their job title, industry and company size for B2B marketers) or for household information for B2C. This information will give you valuable insights into your audience, allowing you to segment your marketing messages and refine your buying personas.
Creates perception of value/scarcity: Gating the content implies it is more valuable to users. Psychologically, users place more value on content which is harder to obtain.
Creates a barrier: The form will deter many (most?) users from accessing the content – as they fear that handing over their contact details will lead to spam or unwanted sales calls/emails – leading to a high bounce rate. (If you are a big brand or household name, users may be more willing to hand over their information, as brand trust and familiarity will be higher.)
Fake user information: Some users may use fake information (name, job title, telephone number and using a spam or disposable email address) when completing the data capture form. This adds friction to the sales process as you then have to filter out the spam. (One way to overcome this for B2B marketers is by setting up the form so it only accepts professional email addresses – i.e. not Gmail or similar.)
Lost SEO benefit: By hosting content behind a data capture form, the SEO benefit the content would otherwise convey can be lost. (There are ways to mitigate this, as this useful explainer from Search Engine Land shows.)
Reduced shareability: People are much less likely to share gated content with their networks than ungated content.
There is already a lot of content out there: Content marketing these days is a highly competitive field. It is possible that your competitors are already offering similar content which is ungated, so hosting yours behind a data capture form could cause you to lose more than you gain.
Consumer expectations are shifting: Related to the above point, consumers are used to receiving a lot of content for free without divulging their information. We live in an expectation-driven economy and operate within an information age, which means that if needs are not met quickly enough, customers will move on to find what they are looking for elsewhere.
When to gate your content (and when not to)
First, be clear about your objective. If it is brand awareness or generating inbound links or gaining social shares, then non-gated content is more appropriate. If it is lead generation, then a gated approach could be a better option. Most brands will probably require a mix of both gated and non-gated content.
Second, gated content is only suitable at certain points in the path to purchase. Let’s consider a typical purchase funnel where prospects move through different stages:
- Awareness: Prospects have a need or problem they wish to solve. They have started exploring the market but at this stage, may not know much about you. Prospects are exploring and getting to know your brand via information gathering. Useful top of funnel content at this stage might include blog articles or podcasts or infographics.
- Consideration: At this stage, prospects are considering you as a potential solution to their problem or need. Content that addresses their needs might be richer – for example, webinars or detailed case studies.
- Decision: At this stage, the prospect is close to deciding whether your product or service is the right solution to their needs. In a B2B context, content which can help to convert a prospect in this stage includes product demos, free trials or a 121 consultation.
In the early stage of the purchase journey, prospects are not necessarily engaged or invested in your products or services, so ungated content helps to build brand trust and familiarity. Gating content too early in the path to purchase can create a premature sense of distrust.
As prospects move through the purchase journey, the need for gated content increases – because prospects’ knowledge and interest in your brand, and therefore their willingness to exchange their contact details in exchange for information, increases. Obtaining their contact details allows you to start building the relationship so important to conversion.
Third, gated content is only suitable for certain content types – usually high quality, in-depth content that offers significant value to the prospect. If a prospect is providing their personal information, they expect something more substantial than a blog-style article in return.
Often, the decision about whether to gate content can depend on the amount of resources available to you. Typically, smaller companies have more to lose by ditching their lead generation forms than large well-known enterprises.
Oban can help
So, to gate or ungate your content? To find out how Oban can help with this and other content marketing considerations, whichever market you are targeting, please get in touch.
Suzie Oakford | Commercial Director
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.