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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Apr 26, 2017 8 min read

Gated Content Vs. Ungated Content Inside An Inbound Marketing Program

Why Your Goals Drive The Decision Around Gating Content

Ungated content and inbound marketingTo gate or not to gate? That is the question. Do you give your visitors all of your content, allowing them to download everything without giving you anything? Or do you gate everything and do your best to encourage, motivate and reward visitors with amazing content, as long as they share their contact information with you in exchange for that content?

This is a question marketers are asking themselves more frequently these days. The answer lies in your content strategy and marketing goals. If you want to generate awareness for your brand, products/services and your company, then ungating all or most of your content makes perfect sense.

If lead generation is your objective, then gating all or most of your content is the right move. It’s possible that you fall somewhere in the middle, in which case gating some and ungating others is the way to go. It all comes down to your goals and objectives.

Since today’s marketing is so experience-centric, let’s look at the visitor experience in a gated website vs. their experience in an ungated website. This might provide some insight to help you make a good gating decision.

The Ungated Experience

If your marketing objectives are to gain awareness, to get people talking and to drive visitors to your website, then keeping all or most of your content open and available to everyone visiting your site is your best option.

Your visitors will get to read, download and share all of your educational content without any constraints or concerns that you’ll be collecting their personal information or reaching out to them later with email campaigns or product solicitations. Instead of a 20% to 40% conversion rate on people viewing your content-specific landing pages, you’ll see a 100% conversion rate, even though there won’t technically be a conversion.

This approach puts extra pressure on your content. It has to be amazing because even if awareness is your goal, ultimately you’re going to want these people to enter into your sales funnel, engage with a sales rep and become a new customer. Content that delivers this kind of experience should teach your prospects something they don’t already know, be easily consumable, be in the proper format (infographic, video or written) and position you as the only choice to help them with their challenge or issue.

Keep track of click data to measure which offers are being collected and which offers are being ignored. Sunset the underperformers and keep a steady stream of new offers coming to replace the weaker ones.

One other tip: Make sure you have content for people at all stages of the funnel (top, middle and bottom). A lot of people think content offers are just for the top of the funnel but they’re not. You should have offers for people across their buyer journey.

The Gated Experience

gated content and inbound marketingIf leads are your goal, then gating your content helps you generate leads. The more you gate, the more leads youre able to generate. Of course, this assumes some of what we discussed above. The more your content is compelling, educational, interesting, helpful and persona-specific, the more leads you’ll generate.

Content fuels today’s inbound marketing program performance. The more content you create and publish, the more leads you generate. Gating this content adds another element to your marketing effort — conversion rate optimization.

Now that you’ve introduced a form into the visitor experience, you have to make sure that form doesn’t introduce so much friction that visitors abandon the form without converting and without downloading your content. Poor headlines, too much page copy, too many form fields, unclear page direction and even technical issues like page load times impact conversion rates in a negative way.

You’re going to want to pay very close attention to the conversion rates on these pages. High-quality landing pages can convert at 50% to 60%. Make sure you’re tracking these metrics weekly and doing optimization on these pages after each week to improve performance over time.

The Hybrid Gating Experience

If you feel like a middle ground is right for you, with some content gated and some ungated, no worries. It’s a free world, so do what you think is right. Obviously, adding ungated content is going to put downward pressure on your lead generation numbers, but it’s going to increase the number of people downloading, reading and learning about your company.

Perhaps you create a few strategically appropriate pieces of content and promote those purposefully to people at the top of the funnel in the awareness stage of their buyer journey. This is easy. You should know what pages on your website are strategically designed for people early in their journey, so simply use ungated content there.

For middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel pages, use gated content. This means most of the leads generated will be higher quality (from a sales perspective), closer to sales-ready and likely more appropriate for the salespeople to follow up on. Take extra precautions to make sure this content is consideration and decision-making content.

This article and conversation highlights importance of focusing on strategy before you start creating content, building your website and measuring performance. You need your tactical execution aligned with your performance expectations. If you or the CEO are expecting a ton of leads and you’re ungating everything, you have misalignment. If you or the CEO are expecting a ton of leads and you don’t have top-of-the-funnel, high-quality and engaging content, you have misalignment. Work these strategic issues out first; you’ll save you and your company a ton of time and even more money. Your marketing execution will be more efficient and you’ll produce the right results faster.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.