So which is it? Does gated content hurt or help? Here are some questions to ask yourself and details to understand before you toss gated content into your eCommerce marketing strategy.
Let’s get some of the basics out of the way…
What is Gated Content?
Simply put, gated content is restricted content. It is some kind of highly desired information that requires site visitors to complete a contact form before viewing is allowed. This form (aka – the gate) will request personal information in exchange for access to webinars, B2B books, quote estimates, how-to articles, videos, live demos, white papers, and more. The data you provide is often used for lead generation, marketing, advertising, and more.
Prep Work and Steps To Take Before Gating Content
How is the look and feel of your website these days? Is the existing content appealing and trustworthy? Before you can think about gating any content, there is a ton of work that must be done. Gated content is only appealing to users who are already familiar with your brand or who love what they’ve seen on your site. Once you’ve built up trust with them and delivered quality open source content, other users will be more likely to share personal information with you in exchange for your gated content, too.
Here are some steps that will get you to gated content:
- Build an awesome website
- Provide quality content with no strings attached
- Start building your brand reputation and loyal audience
- Create the intended gated content
- Build landing pages (that will hopefully rank organically)
- Upload your content and add the contact form
- Follow up with and thank the users who downloaded your content
In addition to these steps, keep in mind that owning an online store or website is an ever-changing business. Though trends change quickly, there are some hard and true rules that you should live by. You’re probably familiar with a lot of these standard expectations. Some of these steady rules tell us to only publish quality content, make sure all of your web pages (including landing pages) have enough words to be noticed by search engines and to keep your website fresh and relevant. You’ve got a basic checklist going for your site, right?
The Pros and Cons of Gated Content
Before we go through the pros and cons of gated content, let’s talk about your current company goals. Are you more concerned with earning more traffic, likes, views, and shares? Building brand awareness? Or do you need to focus more on direct sales and lead generation? The path your current company goals is taking will help you decide what the pros and cons of gated content mean to you.
There are many pros to publishing the occasional piece of gated content. Some of these include:
- It will be viewed as more valuable because it was harder to access.
- It will gather important data about those who are interested enough to exchange info for the gated content you provide.
- It attracts high-quality visitors which leads to more qualified lead generation.
- It provides estimates for future lead generation.
- Sales efforts will be more effective on those who have given their information through the form.
- It gives you the opportunity to build a quality future with your clients based on what they need and want.
Many experts are staunchly against gated content for these reasons:
- It drastically reduces the number of people who will actually view your quality content – possibly dropping by 90%!
- It will not help your site SEO as users tend to not engage, link, like, or share gated content.
- The landing pages associated with gated content may have very high bounce rates, which is also bad for SEO.
- It may do ruin your brand reputation in the eyes of some as some users don’t trust companies who ask for personal information.
- Did we mention that you’ll lose 20 readers for every 1 reader that is ok with gated content?
When used in moderation, high-quality gated content is a valuable method for generating leads. A few of the right questions on your contact form can really open the door for sales. Just make sure to keep it short and that the gated content you provide is exclusive, valuable, and irresistible.
~ Craig A. Fox – Owner/CEO of PinnacleCart eCommerce
Alternatives to Gated Content
Fortunately, there are always other ways to go about things. If you’re looking for a happy middle or another route, try these gated content alternatives:
- Give users a choice – when preparing valuable content that you plan to gate, it may be beneficial to also produce a shorter version of the highlights. This allows you to offer your visitors a choice. They can read the abridged version with no gate or opt-in for the full version. If it’s quality enough to hook them, they’ll do both and end up giving you your desired contact form of info.
- Run contests that will collect info – there are many ways to generate leads and gather information. One of the best ways is to run a promo or contest that requires a few questions to be answered for each entry.
- Partially gated content – another great way to skip around the damage a fully gated piece can do is to let users get well into your content and then ask them if they’d like to continue on to a more exclusive piece… which is your gated option.
- Give the gate an expiration date – Some companies may find it makes sense to gate their premium content for only a short period of time before releasing it to the public.
- Run targeted ads – avoid gating altogether by paying for targeted ads that bring in quality leads and traffic.
- Limit Free Content – another great way to engage an audience before you ask for their personal info is to offer a limited amount of free content to get them hooked on your style. Once they know your name and trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable handing over a few of their individual details.
So… what’s the verdict?
As with many of the other details that come with building an amazing online business, there is no one-size-fits-all with gated content. The only thing that we can be sure of is that if you gate, gate lightly. Gating too much or too often will likely scare everyone away. First, make sure most of your content is easily accessible and of high quality and then lightly sprinkle in irresistible gated pieces. Finding the right balance will help ensure you have your engagement, likes and shares AND quality leads that turn into sales.
Have thoughts or stories about what gated content has done for your online business?
We’d love to hear them in the comment section below!
Inspired by her love of travel, Susan is a passionate supporter of eCommerce software and the idea that people should own their own internet business (so they can work from anywhere in the world). Though she currently resides in California, she is often found blogging from random beaches and teaching her kindergartner the delightful difference between ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’.
With a strong past in product evaluation, educational content, and eCommerce sales, Susan is serious about helping online merchants succeed in their goals. She loves meeting other independent business owners on the road and hopes to run into you one day… maybe in the hammock next to her!