Can you remember when was the last time you visited a website and wanted to download an ebook, whitepaper or something else only to be hit with a web form asking for your contact info? That was content gating. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a website that won’t ask you for your contact info in exchange for some of their more top tier content.
But is content gating a good idea? Is this something that will drive people away or help you generate leads? Opinions on this are divided to say the least. Many users are unwilling to provide their details and will click away the moment they see a form. Others have no problem sharing their personal data, as long as the benefits are there.
Should you be using content gating? Let’s find out in this post.
What is Content Gating?
Content gating is the practice of putting online content such as ebooks, whitepapers, webinars, articles and more behind a web form and asking visitors to provide their information in exchange for them. A form can be very simple, requiring just the visitor’s name and email address, but it may also ask for the user’s other information such as phone number, address or details about their current job and company they are working for.
Basically, regardless of the information you are asking in a form, if you are asking visitors to fill one out in exchange for your content, you are effectively gating it.
Of course, you have to be careful how many fields you include in a lead generation form. 79% of B2B marketers say it’s between three and five fields, while 16% says it’s six or more, according to BrightTALK.
Now let’s see if this is a good idea or not.
Pros of Content Gating
There are, of course, both pros and cons to content gating. First, let’s look at the reasons why you would gate your content.
- It will help you understand your audience better
Depending on the amount of information you are asking in your lead generation forms, you can gather some valuable knowledge about your target audience and understand them better. This will then help you better understand your buyer personas and tailor content specifically to them.
- Determining how interested are users in your content
Content gating can also tell you how interested (or not) people are in your content. Let’s say that you were offering an ebook for free for a time on your website and then started gating it. Did users stop downloading it or not?
- Users might perceive gated content as more valuable
In a way, content gating can help you tap into something called the “Veblen effect”. This effect says that people will demand some goods more if their price increases. People don’t really like cheap or free things. By having to “pay” for your content with their contact information, they will perceive it as more valuable than if they were able to download it for free.
- Increases your authority
Content gating can also increase your brand’s authority and trustworthiness among your audience. Users that give their contact info in exchange for premium content are considered more loyal and will probably return, unlike those that refuse to do this.
Cons of Content Gating
A debate wouldn’t be a debate without hearing the other side. Many content marketing professionals are against content gating for these reasons:
- It decreases SEO
By placing content behind web forms, you are not only keeping it away from some of your visitors, but also from web crawlers as well. Time and again, Google says that quality content is one of the key indicators of good SEO. If you put some of your best content behind a form, you will lose some of that benefit.
- Audience might not want to link gated content
Some people will avoid linking to gated content. This is especially the case when their audience is not willing to provide information to a third brand (such as yours).
- It limits your reach
The biggest argument against content gating is that it will limit your reach. Not all your visitors will be willing to provide you their contact details.
- It decreases content sharing
If you offer your content for free online, you can include sharing buttons and see exactly how many people shared it with their friends. However, if you gate it, you will lose the ability to measure this.
Content Gating Needs to Follow the Buyer’s Journey
The question, it turns out, isn’t really if you should gate your content but WHEN should you do it. In order to have the best chance to get your gated content accepted by your audience, instead of rejected, you need to know when is the right time to present it to them.
It all comes down to the buyer’s journey and in what stage of it is your visitor.
In the awareness stage, for instance, you want as much reach as possible. You want both visitors and search engines to be able to find and share your content on social media. By gating your content, you will lose this opportunity. At this stage, people are not yet willing to give you their details.
However, they will probably be more accepting of gated content if you offer it in the other two stages of the buyer’s journey – consideration and especially decision stage, when they not only know your brand a bit more, but are also closer to or have already made a purchasing decision.
Think of content gating as asking a phone number from a crush. Do it too early and without first making sure you’re interesting to her and you probably won’t get far with her. If you use content gating too early in the buyer’s journey, it will have the same effect.
I’m interested to hear your opinion on this both from a content marketer’s and from a visitor’s perspective. Let me know what you think about content gating in the comments below and if you found this post useful, please share it on social media.