To Gate Or Not To Gate, That Is The Question

April 23, 2014 José Antonio Sánchez

Imagine you are finishing up your latest content marketing campaign. Maybe you created a very insightful eBook, a beautiful motion graphics video, or perhaps recorded a webinar that you know your prospects will love.

You upload the files to your website, set up a landing page, and add a form that users can fill out in order to access your content.  Maybe you expect to build a list of prospects to follow up with people who downloaded your materials. But you’ve also reduced your potential reach by over 90% of what it could’ve been.



Did you make the right decision? How do you decide whether your content should be gated or free? What would make your content more productive?

First, let’s take a look at some basic concepts. Gated content is anything behind a form or CTA that requires information from the user. It refers to any content that requires people to give personal data (like an email address) in order to see, read, or interact with the content. 

For instance, the majority of B2B eBooks are gated. Almost all live webinars are gated as well. Even when users provide their email to receive a newsletter, they're trying to access gated content.

Non-gated content includes regular videos on YouTube, blog posts, Facebook posts — though some of this content can also be gated.

The decision of whether content should be freely available or only in exchange for contact details depends on your brand's goals.

According to Francois Mathieu, Inbound Marketing Manager at Uberflip, “If you want to reach a broader audience and increase brand awareness, free content is the way to go. People will be more eager to share free content with their friends and coworkers than gated content.”

“On the other hand," he says, "when you’re looking to grow your database of contacts, ‘charging’ for content is the best way to get started at lead scoring. It also allows you to understand what kind of resources each lead is interested in.” In this case, gating your content becomes the first step toward nurturing your leads and moving them down the sales funnel.



What triggers people to 'buy' content?

In the offline world, we don’t walk around asking people for their phone number and email. Similarly, online users expect to engage with your brand before giving away their personal data. The content you offer has to be valuable and a certain level of trust needs to be established before asking users for their contact info.

Having a 'conversation' and knowing what kind of content your buyer personas consume helps you understand when gating is appropriate.

"You’re playing the long game — attracting with breadcrumbs of helpful content until leads have wandered deep into your brand and the purchase process, " says Mike Weir, Marketing Lead for LinkedIn’s technology sector.

By offering non-gated interactive content like quizzes, videos, and surveys, you can first engage the user and interact while gathering qualifying information. Before presenting them with a form, you have already formed a relationship. 

An example of successful gated content

Uberflip’s designer recently put together an awesome collection of free eBook templates.

“This is highly relevant to our audience who create hundreds of online publications and other types of resources. That's why we first offered something really engaging and then captured their email addresses,” adds Mathieu.

So far, the templates were downloaded by 195 prospects. Ten of them even signed up for a trial of our product - that's 5% of users converted into high quality leads.  “Down the road, these leads might be interested in paying for our Flipbooks product to get the most out of their publications," says Mathieu.

In terms of non-gated content, Uberflip has recently seen a lot of success creating pretty and insightful SlideShare decks such as “10 CMOs Who Are Kicking Ass (And What You Can Learn From Them)” and “12 People Proving That Content Marketing Is More Than A Buzzword”, which have gotten thousands of views and were republished on major blogs. This means more reach and better brand awareness.

The grey area

When in doubt about whether gated or non-gated will be most effective, there is the option to embed forms within the content. These types of forms can be used as a way to gate only part of the content, allowing prospects to decide if it is valuable enough to submit information to read more. 



The result is usually more targeted leads than if the content were fully gated. 

In sum, if you think with a strategic mindset, you’ll be able to come up with a variety of content elements that support an overall plan. Strategize ahead of time to figure out which content works better for which goals. Pull people in and valuable assets and, if you’re doing your job well, the right people will want more and will eventually convert.

Learn how we boosted our blog subscribers by 9x by with our overlay CTAs

About the Author

José Antonio Sánchez

José Antonio Sánchez is Director of Marketing at Limelight Platform.

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