Gated blog content is a tried-and-true way to collect email addresses for your marketing campaigns. But gating all of your best content isn’t necessarily always the best move, either. You should decide on a case-by-case basis if a given piece of content should be gated.
There are multiple factors that determine whether a piece of gated blog content will meet the goals you have for it – or if it will just sit there untouched.
Gating your content can lead your marketing strategy to either skyrocket or nosedive, and it almost entirely depends on choosing the right content to gate. Here’s your guide to deciding whether or not you should gate your best blog content.
The Ultimate Guide to Blogging for Small Business
First, what is gated blog content?
Gated content is online material that readers can only access after they fill out a form.
This form – the “gate” in the setup – can ask the reader for multiple forms of contact information (including phone number and business name) but often focuses on capturing a reader’s email address. The gated material itself is often an ebook, a white paper, survey or study results, or an instructional video. Anything that a reader might deem worthy of handing over their contact info for.
The link to a piece of gated content tends to live on a landing page with a paragraph or two that explains what the content offers. This landing page is your chance to explain the value proposition that waits behind the gate form – and subtly encourage readers to fill out the form to access the content behind it. Here’s an example:
Gated blog content pros and cons
There are certain pros and cons to gating your content, and these pros and cons can help you decide whether or not a given piece of content merits gating. Take a look at the benefits and the downsides to determine if gating will help you achieve the ends you want to meet with your content.
The benefits of gating your content
The main benefit of gating your content is the contacts – namely, the email addresses – you’ll be able to capture through it. Setting up your gate as a form that gathers email addresses will allow you to beef up your subscribers list for an email newsletter or other marketing material. Alternatively, it could help you usher readers into a drip campaign that’s been shown to convert.
Accessing email addresses becomes more significant when you consider that email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing channels. Small business marketing statistics and trends show that email marketing is the top tool used by small businesses, mostly thanks to its 122% average ROI.
If you’re looking for sales leads, you could also have your gate form request readers’ phone numbers, but know that most will be hesitant to hand that contact information over, and you’ll see a lower conversion rate on your gated content as a result.
Either way, the contact information you do access through your gated content will be that of individuals who are interested in your industry – given that the content you gate is indeed pertinent to your core business offerings.
The downsides of gating your content
For all its merits, gated content also has its fair share of downsides. For one, landing pages with gated content aren’t likely to rank well in search. A gated download landing page, by nature, won’t contain your best content on a given search term – that content needs to live behind the gate. Because the content within the gated download isn’t crawlable for search bots, odds are, you won’t be able to rank for many high-traffic search terms.
Even when readers land on the page, the idea of handing over their contact information might deter them from actually accessing your gated content. Plus, they might not realize the reason they’re handing over their email address – you’re likely to receive an angry reply or two to your marketing emails if you send them to contacts you accessed through gated content. Do your best to avoid these emails by having your gate form explain that readers will receive marketing emails at the email address they provide.
Finally, many contacts you access through gated content will simply unsubscribe from your marketing campaigns because they have no intention of interacting with your brand beyond the content you offer.
Unsubscribes happen naturally, no matter how you capture emails. Though they’re not ideal, they also indicate that your mailing list is actually becoming more concentrated with high-intent subscribers. Nonetheless, the contacts you access through gated content won’t necessarily make up that core, high-intent group. Do your best to make the gated content as relevant as possible to your business offerings, and the number of unsubscribes you get from gated content contacts could gradually decrease.
Should you gate this content?
Now that you’re familiar with all the ups and downs of gated content, it’s time to get practical. As a reminder, you should consider your content on a case-by-case basis, rather than going on a frantic gating spree on all of your best content. Take the time to really ask yourself, “Should I gate this content?” Here are a few factors to consider when answering this question.
When you should gate your content
There are a few, distinct situations in which you should gate your content.
It has a distinct value
First, you need to make sure the content behind your gate has a distinct value proposition. Does it contain proprietary or exclusive data?
Say, for instance, you publish results from a survey you ran, or you crunched numbers from Census data. Especially if you accompany these numbers with valuable insights, in-depth explanations, and useful data visualization, then this content could very well get readers to hand over their contact info.
Another common value proposition that successful gated content typically offers is practical instruction. If your content will help readers save money, save time, or learn a marketable skill, then they’ll be more likely to make it past your gate form.
It aligns with your business goals
Before you gate your content, you also need to make sure interest in the content’s subject indicates the right reader mindset and demographic. Imagine you’re a company who offers small business credit cards. If you have a white paper on small business marketing techniques, then most readers who make it past the gate will likely be marketers.
As a result, these contacts won’t necessarily be in the position to apply for your product on behalf of their business. They probably aren’t even very interested in your core product. However, if you publish a white paper on data that reveals the best business credit cards currently available, interest in this subject suggests the contacts you access from the gated download are shopping for the type of product your business offers.
Even if your goal for gated content is less transactional – say you’re looking to increase your newsletter subscribers – this approach still applies. Make sure you only gate content that’s similar to the content that subscribers will receive through your newsletter.
When you shouldn’t gate your content
On the other hand, there are many reasons that you shouldn’t gate a piece of content, as well. These reasons go way beyond the flipside of the situations explained above. Based on the previous section, you’ve probably already inferred many of the main reasons you shouldn’t gate your content. That said, there are even more reasons to consider.
If organic traffic is critical
For one, if your core metric for success is organic traffic, then you should consider walking away from a gated content strategy altogether. Put your best content on the landing page in question, and make it accessible for all – especially the search crawlers – to appreciate. Gating your content will only make your organic traffic goals harder to hit.
If you lack promotional resources
If you can’t pinpoint an obvious source of traffic to the landing page beyond organic search, then you should step back and re-strategize. If your resources are limited, consider not gating your content. However, if you have the resources, you can also spruce up your design, beef up your content, come up with a paid marketing budget, and draw up a strategy that will get readers and influencers to share the content landing page. Only then should you move forward with gating your content.
If it’s promotional
Finally, if the content in question is promotional in nature, then you should hold off on gating it. The readers who actually access the promotional content could feel duped – few readers want to hand over their contact information, only to be marketed to for an entire video or white paper. Not to mention, gating your content creates another step in the process of reaching your promotional material. You invest all of that money for ads and SEO expertise to get your promotional materials in people’s line of sight, why would you choose to make it more difficult to access in this scenario?
Gated blog content – the takeaways
There you have it – your ultimate resource for deciding whether or not you should gate your best content. All in all, you should gate sparingly. Few resources meet the limited scope of gateable content. Make sure you check off all the necessary boxes for a piece of content before you make it more difficult to access.
Guest author: Eric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. He covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, finance, and marketing.