Last Updated on September 10, 2020
A Content Marketers Dilemma
Digital marketing is based upon information. In the sales process, the power has shifted from the seller to the buyer (caveat venditor versus caveat emptor). Content (in the form of blog articles or new web pages) is written as a way to attract and educate potential buyers via organic search. Most content on the Web is open, meaning it’s readily searchable (as long as it’s well organized, optimized and relevant). But should all content be free? Let’s explore the idea of gated content as a way to urge searchers further into our sales funnel.Ready to Talk?
What Is It?
A simple definition is this: any content that requires a user to fill out a form or pay before they gain access. Here are a few examples of gated content:
- Training Videos
- Online Courses
- Presentation Slides
- Library of content
- Subscription-based information
Content that you can read, or download, without the need to exchange any information, doesn’t offer much to the company that created it. To solve this problem, many companies decide to “gate” valuable content in exchange for something. It can be as simple as asking for an email address and other contact details. Harvard Business Review and Copyblogger are successful examples of gating their most valuable content. Or, it may be a 30-day free trial. For news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, their coveted content is behind a paywall. This makes sense as readers expect there’s a cost to gaining access to subscription-based news and information. The same holds true with Consumer Reports and their product reviews and buying guides.
For news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, their coveted content is behind a paywall. This makes sense as readers expect there’s a cost to gaining access to subscription-based news and information. The same holds true with Consumer Reports and their product reviews and buying guides.
Perceived Value & SEO Price
Gating content has a cost… to the brand. According to CrazyEgg (a web heat mapping and visitor recording tool), “premium content will generate traffic and inbound links when not gated. ” So by using gated content, you lose these valuable SEO opportunities:
- Visibility in organic search because the content isn’t indexed by search engines
- Inbound links from other websites who want to refer to your content
- Lower conversion rates as some qualified visitors will leave
Gated Content – Locking in Customers
Typically, the more detailed or high quality the content, the more information you should ask for. The same principle applies to your buyers’ funnel. The further down the funnel your content sits, the more information you should be asking. Not only does this qualify the customer further by weeding out those who might not be ready, but it also shows your content is valuable. Making content gated also allows you to truly assess if your content is fit for purpose and actually drives people to become customers.
The decision to gate content or not often comes down to how much confidence you have in the content that you’ve produced. Do you think someone really wants to read it? Do you think it’s actually going to help them? If the answer to either of those questions is “no”, then maybe you need to go back to the drawing board.
Obviously gating content has a consequence. Not everyone is comfortable in giving away their personal information, even if what they are asked for is fairly limited. So as a marketer you need to make sure you work out the relative value of the content you have produced versus the impact of lower conversion rates. If you’ve written a 400-word blog post, don’t expect someone’s social security number.
Gated Content and GDPR
GDPR is new legislation from the European Union that applies to any business (or website in this context) that has European customers. GDPR prohibits blocking access to content if a site visitor doesn’t give consent to their data being collected, so you need to be a bit more open about gating your content.
Put simply GDPR asks that companies prove the information they collect is needed for them to provide the content. So, for example, if you’re sending a white paper, asking for an email address is fine. It also says that if you’re using a form to collect customer data you need to clearly state how the information being collected is going to be used.
One simple solution, if you don’t get a lot of business from Europe, you can hide all the pages of your site with gated content from European visitors. Or, you can make that information freely available to all visitors from Europe, but hide those pages from visitors from the US.
Do you gate any of your brand’s content?