Gatekeeping: The Gated vs. Ungated Content Debate

Gatekeeping_ The Gated vs. Ungated Content Debate

“To gate or not to gate, that is the question” – Shakespeare (paraphrased)

To gate or not to gate content is a long-standing, eternal conflict in the content marketing world.  Hop on LinkedIn any day of the week, and you’ll find marketers, content strategists, and sales teams arguing for or against gated content. Regardless of your stance, gated content plays a significant role in an organization’s overall content marketing strategy. It offers a trade-off between providing valuable information and capturing lead information. 

The Great Debate: Sales, Marketing, and Gated Content

In the world of lead generation and content marketing strategy, the relationship between marketing and sales is often a complex dynamic. Sales teams are laser-focused on acquiring email addresses, phone numbers, and any information that can generate leads, and they perceive marketing’s role as detached from the direct sales process. Their sole metric of success revolves around the number of sales generated. 

On the other hand, marketing teams view themselves as a driving force behind lead generation, placing emphasis on metrics like website traffic and engagement. They believe that their efforts in attracting and captivating audiences play a vital role in the overall sales process. 

So how does this play into whether or not you should gate your content?

For both teams, gating content and content marketing as a whole helps obtain valuable data from interested prospects, enabling each team to nurture leads and tailor future communications. It also helps filter out casual visitors from those genuinely interested in the brand’s offerings. 

However, some argue that gating content creates barriers and may deter potential readers who prefer instant access. Striking the right balance is crucial. The team must consider several factors, such as the target audience, goals, and the specific content piece. 

Ultimately, the decision to gate content or not should align with your organization’s overall marketing objectives and the preferences of the target audience.

Our Take on Gating Content in Your Content Marketing Strategy

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According to David Ebner, President of Content Workshop, if you’re asking whether or not a piece of content is good enough to be gated once it’s completed, something in your content marketing strategy has already failed. 

“People focus way too much on user experience,” says Ebner, “and they believe that gated versus ungated is a binary. A yes or no definitive. In reality, it is a much more complex question about the value of the content from the start, and for most, it’s just missed. It doesn’t matter how great your user experience is for receiving the content if the value of the content is just not there.” 

Any content you create should be developed to the point that there is enough quality and value to ask a potential client or customer for something in exchange. Your content should be worth enough that they’re willing to share their contact information as “payment.” 

People are willing to barter and exchange for content. Take Netflix or any other streaming platform; it’s not much different. You pay a subscription fee to obtain content for entertainment, and you see the value in that content.  

The same can be said for gating content. If the content is valuable enough and you know the information in that content is of value to your audience, you can (and should) gate it. 

If somebody’s willing to spend their time and energy consuming your content, you can ask them for various things in return—contact info, subscription fee, complete a survey, etc. Regardless of what you choose, you’re going to lose some potential leads because they won’t see the value in the piece OR because they will overvalue whatever you are requesting in exchange for the content. But that does not necessarily mean you won’t reach your goals or that you shouldn’t gate the piece. 

There are two ways to decide if something is worth gating:

  1. How has similar content performed in the past?
  2. Do you believe the piece’s value is well beyond the value the audience places on their contact info?

Regardless of the reason you choose to gate your content, you should also continually monitor the piece’s performance to decide if you should ungate the piece sooner than expected. For example, if the conversion rate of views to form submissions is below an acceptable amount, you may decide to ungate the piece.  

Side note: if your content management system can track visitors to your site and can identify if they are already in your systems, you shouldn’t ask for that information. Not only are you wasting their time, but you are also creating a less-than-ideal user experience. 

Best Practices: If You’re Going to Gate It, Do It Right

If you’re going to gate your content, there are a few best practices and tips that you should incorporate into your content marketing strategy to help you succeed. 

Know Where Your Content Lives in the Buyer’s Journey

Where your content lives in the buyer’s journey might change whether or not you want to gate the content OR how you plan to engage with them next. From a marketing point of view, if you are obtaining their email from a piece that’s for the top of the funnel, how you interact with them next is different than if they are downloading a piece that’s more closely associated with the bottom of the funnel.  

Knowing where your content lives can also help you identify how to transition an MQL who is simply looking for information to an SQL who is actively looking for a solution. It can also help you identify which pieces need to exit at each stage of their journey.  

Don’t Just Gate It and Forget It

When it comes to gated content, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t just gate it once and forget about it. The success of gated content relies on actively promoting and pushing it to your audience. When gated content works, it’s because individuals who genuinely need the information or value it provides are clicking on it. However, there comes a time in your content marketing strategy when you need to un-gate the content. By setting time limits, you can ensure that you’ve extracted as much value as possible from it as a lead generation tool. This approach allows you to strike a balance between generating leads and providing value to your audience.

Types of Content to Gate

  • Bottom of the Funnel Content: This is a generally great practice to obtain leads that are closer to buying your services or solution. 
  • Annual Reports: These once-a-year reports bring significant value to your audience. This might include State of the Industry, Deep Dives, and other more comprehensive reports. 
  • Evergreen Content: Pieces that have a continuous value that demonstrate a key component of your services or solution should always be gated. 

What to Do with Gated Content 

content marketing strategy

  • Include it as a CTA. Guide your audience to check out gated content using a CTA in your other content, whether that’s blogs, white papers, or social media posts that aren’t solely focused on publicizing the piece.
  • Slice and dice your pieces. This might seem counterintuitive to some, but find new ways you can expand on individual sections of long-form pieces and then direct your audience to the full piece of content. Try creating blogs, graphics, and social media posts from your piece to share and promote it.
  • Make a plan. Don’t just create a piece of gated content and hope it does the work for you. We’ve seen many a marketing team put time and effort into creating a beautiful eBook or whitepaper for it to just live on their site, waiting and hoping someone will find it and download it. Figure out how you plan to distribute and share the content near and far. P.S. You can achieve this by following the tip above about CTAs. 

Interested in Learning More about Gating Your Content and Developing a Winning Content Marketing Strategy?

 If you’re still a bit unclear about how to make gated or ungated content thrive within your content marketing strategy, we can help! Reach out to our chatbot at the bottom of this page or check out our content strategy services. 

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