It’s one of the most frequently asked questions marketers ask themselves once they finish producing a piece of content. How do we present it to our audience? Do we just give it all away or should we request the reader’s information in exchange for the content?
It depends on your ultimate goal for the content. There are pros and cons to each strategy and we’ll discuss both in today’s article. Let’s start at the top.
What is gated content?
It’s estimated that as much as 80% of B2B content marketing assets are gated. Marketers use gated content to generate leads by providing prospects with valuable information in exchange for their name, email address, industry, title, and other contact information. This type of content can be a variety of content marketing assets such as white papers, videos, ebooks, product demos, or case studies.
Gates are a content marketing staple because they are a powerful tool for lead generation. On the other hand, gating your content isn’t always the best strategy for maximizing the viewership of your ebook or report, for example. Requiring prospects complete a form to download your ebook can decrease downloads drastically because some online users are still not comfortable sharing their personal information in exchange for your offer. If you are solely looking to build brand awareness, then offering the content without a gate likely is a better strategy.
Ungated content allows visitors to access the content without filling out any forms or providing any information. Typical examples of ungated content are blogs, infographics, videos, and case studies. Content without a gate can improve trust with prospects because it removes roadblocks to valuable information. It’s a trade-off, though, because although ungated content can increase views, lead generation can suffer if you’re not utilizing contact capture.
When and why marketers use gated and ungated content
Are you trying to generate leads or increase brand awareness? Those are the questions that marketers must answer when determining whether or not to add a gate to content. The answer isn’t always cut and dry. The ideal scenario is to generate leads while also increasing the number of views for your content.
One way to do this is to use gates only at certain points in the marketing funnel. Here are the three top stages of the marketing funnel and the types of content that corresponds with each:
- The awareness stage: In this stage, the prospect knows they have a problem, but they don’t know much about your business. Useful content for this stage includes blogs, infographics, podcasts, ebooks, and white papers.
- The consideration stage: During this stage, prospects are beginning to see your brand as an industry authority and a potential solution to their problem. Content for this stage includes webinars, software downloads, and case studies.
- The decision stage: In this stage of the buyer’s journey, the prospect decides whether your brand’s products and services can meet their needs. Powerful offers for this stage includes free consultations, product demos, and free trials.
During the awareness stage, most prospects know very little about your brand and have yet to trust you. Removing the gate from content in this stage can improve your brand’s visibility and enhance your credibility with prospects. As prospects move down the marketing funnel and are more interested in your business, they will be more likely to be willing to fill out a form in order to access to content like ebooks and webinars.
Let’s evaluate some gated content examples to see how companies use forms to generate leads.
Gated content examples
Content gating is typically associated with downloadable content like ebooks or white papers. But it doesn’t have to be restricted to a downloadable asset. Free consultations, product demos, and price quotes are all examples of gated content that isn’t a downloadable asset.
Appboy requires visitors to complete a five-field form to view their mobile marketing ebook. On the positive side, they receive more prospect information, but it’s a longer barrier to entry as well:
This Pardot landing page was designed to persuade visitors to download the marketing automation white paper. Customer logos near the CTA showcase other major brands that use Pardot, which helps convince prospects to convert. However, the page could be improved by removing the link in the Pardot logo and also the “Take It For A Spin” button, both of which act as exit points away from this marketing automation white paper:
Infusionsoft offers a product demo to prospects who complete the form below. By keeping the form short, Infusionsoft reduces friction and will likely increase the amount of leads that can be nurtured to sale:
Upon first glance, this Oracle landing page seems to have a short form. Only an email address appears to be required. Once visitors hit continue, they see a large eleven-field form:
If Oracle’s page was presenting an offer at the top of the marketing funnel, such as a blog subscription, the size of the form could scare off prospects. But since a live demo is at the bottom of the funnel and prospects are already familiar with Oracle, asking for more information isn’t unusual.
Examples of ungated content
The purpose of ungated content is to build brand awareness and develop trust with prospects. As prospects become more familiar with your brand through ungated content, they will be more likely to give you their contact information, fill out a form, or request a demo at a later date.
Even though ungated content doesn’t collect prospect information on the first visit, you can cookie their browser and retarget them later with a gated offer behind a landing page. Plus, ungated content has SEO benefits and can help you rank higher in search engines (which can also generate brand awareness and aids with retargeting in the process).
Here are a few examples of well-known brands marketing content without a gate:
A company blog is a prime example of ungated content, as Salesforce demonstrates below. Although the CTA button for the Salesforce newsletter is visible, prospects don’t have to click it or fill out any forms to access the blog content:
What makes infographics so compelling and intriguing for prospects to read is that they’re visual. Kissmetrics understands this and offers its blog readers a wide variety of infographics to teach them how to “track, analyze, and optimize the growth cycle.” Their website has an entire section dedicated to infographics, which can be accessed without filling out a form:
AWS has a very impressive case studies section, which details how their cloud technology has helped solve problems for well-known clients. Social proof is highly effective at influencing prospects, so offering this content ungated can help prospects come away with a positive view and better understanding of AWS:
Upon clicking through, readers get more detail about each respective case study. Here is another case study from BP that explains their challenge and why they chose Amazon Web Services to solve their problem:
Even we have an abundance of ungated content for marketers (our company blog and this article, for example). The landing page guide below is one of many marketing education resource guides that we make accessible on our website. These in-depth resources provide digital marketers with valuable information on a particular topic, which builds trust in our brand as an authority on landing pages and digital marketing:
The above examples demonstrate that not all content needs to be gated to be useful. What’s important to remember with all content is that it should be written and produced well and most of all — be helpful to the reader. Only then will the reader trust you as an authority and consider becoming a customer at some point down the road.
How landing page forms affect lead generation
Your landing pages should use a variety of persuasive elements such as compelling headlines, customer logos, and testimonials to maximize the number of leads generated. For instance, customer logos highlight major brands that are using your services and placing them near a CTA can help influence a prospect to convert.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is pushing traffic to a landing page that has a long form, especially early in the marketing funnel. The longer the form, more overwhelming it can be for prospects.
Here are two examples of how genuinely can impact lead generation.
The form on this ActiveCampaign landing page only requires two fields — company name, and email address. By keeping the number of fields low, ActiveCampaign is reducing friction and likely increasing the number of users who will sign up for their free trial:
SugarCRM takes advantage of a smart technique with their ebook landing page. Instead of overwhelming prospects with a long form at first glance, they chose to implement a two-step opt-in form. However, upon clicking the CTA, the prospect then learns they must fill out an eight-field form to get access to the ebook.
Including that many fields for a top of funnel offer increases friction and most likely reduces the number of leads that SugarCRM can generate from this page:
In this situation, reducing the number of form fields would certainly be a good A/B test to determine if form length is indicative of the number of leads generated.
The pros and cons of gating content
There are trade-offs to gating content just as there are with any other marketing technique. Gating your content is done primarily to generate leads, which you can then nurture through your marketing funnel. But there are other reasons to gate your content as well.
Perhaps the content is too valuable to give up for free, or you want to deliver the content to truly interested parties. The downside is that once you position the content behind a form, your content won’t be seen as much. Your ungated blog post is much more likely to go viral than your gated ebook.
On the surface, ungated content may not generate leads but it does increase your brand’s visibility and build trust with prospects. You can get an SEO boost as well with more web traffic and inbound links.
How to decide if you should gate your content
Here are some questions to ask yourself when making the decision to gate your content or not.
- What’s your objective: Build brand awareness or generate leads? For brand awareness, ungated content is likely the better option. Lead generation, on the other hand, is best for gated content because visitors must complete a form with their information before they can access your offer.
- Do competitors already offer this content ungated? If your competitors are offering the same content without a gate, then adding a form to your version can put you at a competitive disadvantage.
- Does the content provide enough value to be gated? Some content, such as a photograph, isn’t valuable enough to be gated. Make sure that your content is providing significant value to your prospects before you ask them for their contact information. Think 10-page ebook, research report, or free trial in this case.
- What information do you require to produce a quality lead? A long form creates friction and reduces the chances that prospects will convert. What is the minimum amount of information you need to nurture a lead?
How will your business use gated content?
Content gating is critical to generating the leads that your business needs to grow. But ungated content is key to increasing visibility and trust in your brand. How will your company find the right balance between gated and ungated content?
Gating content early in the marketing funnel can scare away prospects who could use your business as a solution to their problem. By waiting until later to use gates, you increase your brand visibility at the top of the marketing funnel while still generating leads in the middle and bottom of the funnel.
Whether your content is gated or not, create a strong first impression with Instapage, the most customizable landing page platform.