Marketers have been arguing about whether or not to gate content for years. Should you gate your content behind a form to collect lead data, or forgo the data and allow your content to be openly accessible to anyone?
The truth is there’s no cut-and-dry answer.
Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to either option. But as technology has evolved, it’s no longer a black-and-white question. There are other options you may not even know you had.
Keeping your particular business goals in mind, and the type of content you're dealing with, let’s look at some of the arguments on both sides.
The first thing you should do is give your content an honest evaluation. Ask yourself: is it valuable enough to gate?
When you gate your content your readers are essentially “paying” with their contact information and thus will be expecting something good.
Then, if you do decide your content is worthy, be sure to manage their expectations and promote it accurately. You don't want to overpromise and breed resentment — but neither do you want to understate the value they'll get in exchange for their info.
Keep in mind that, often, a white paper download is the first real interaction someone will have with your company and its value proposition. You don’t want to leave them with a negative experience.
Now, assuming your content is good enough to even consider putting behind a gate, let's look at some of the benefits.
The most obvious benefit to gating your content is lead generation. Forms let you gather critical data for qualifying leads and building better customer relationships. Collecting your visitor’s name, email, company name, industry, job title (and more) will help you determine how closely they fit your ideal customer profile and warrant a follow-up.
If a visitor is willing to give up personal information in order to view your content, it’s likely they have a specific pain point, are looking for a solution and are hoping you can help them. In other words, they may be a hot lead.
Another benefit to gating is that you can personalize your content for the viewer once you have their data. For example, you could use merge tags in your white papers and insert your visitor’s name: “Hi John, This white paper will show you how to optimize your landing pages.”
This kind of simple personalization can lead to a huge increase in the average time your readers spend with your content.
One amazing example of next-level personalization is the digital magazine Marketing & Communication 2050. Because it's gated behind a LinkedIn social login, MC2050 will show you only the pages that are relevant to the industry listed on your profile.
A final advantage of gating is that it provides clues into the general level of interest visitors have in your content. If a large volume of users are submitting a form to get your content, you know you have a gem. It also indicates that they believe your organization to be a trustworthy source.
While the biggest drawback to not gating your content is losing out on lead information, the greatest benefit may outweigh that: increased viewership.
Some visitors simply won't give up their personal information on principle, no matter how interested they are in the topic. By allowing open access, you will automatically increase views, meaning greater exposure for your brand.
Ungated content has the potential to boost traffic from all corners of the web, including being listed in search results. There’s also more potential for influencers, or others in your space to promote your ungated content via their own channels; or for your visitors to share it on social media.
Content that is freely accessible on the web will be found and indexed by search engines, potentially increasing your rankings on SERPs. If it's behind a gate, on the other hand, web crawlers that follow links on your site simply won't find it.
An important exception to this is if you use digital publications, you can optionally set them up to allow crawlers through even it has a gate!
If you are set on gating your content, there’s a way to get even better data from visitors while allowing them to skip filling in a form altogether! With the click of a button, visitors can gain access by logging in with their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles.
Using social login allows you to collect much more data and will give you more insight into the interests and demographics of your viewers than a traditional form would provide. (Tweet that!)
On top of that, it eliminates the problem of "fake leads" — users that fill in bogus contact info when they download content. Social login ensures that the data you get is always accurate.
When you order a nice bottle of wine at a restaurant, your server gives you the opportunity to taste it and ensure it meets your expectations before committing to the whole bottle. Well, why shouldn’t you offer the same sort of experience with your marketing content?
Semi-gated content allows you to prove your worth by letting visitors access the first couple pages, and then presenting them with a form or social login to continue reading.
If your readers have already had a taste of your content, and then choose to opt in and keep reading, it tells you that their level of interest is higher, potentially making them an even hotter lead!
Another similar option is to provide a “skip the form” option to allow visitors to read your content without providing their personal information. You will still gather details from those who are highly interested, but you'll also avoid turning away those who'd rather not share their info.
If you decide not gating your content is the way to go, there are still ways to capture data about your readers. Consider inserting compelling call-to-action forms within your content for additional or related offers. Some visitors might opt in after reading what you have to say.
If possible, you can (and should) also add a retargeting pixel to your content so you that you can reach them later with additional content or offers on other channels.
So, as you can see, the decision depends largely on the goal you have in mind for your content — and this will vary depending on your larger business objectives and marketing strategy.
If lead generation is what you're after, gating makes a lot of sense. If your primary goal is to create brand awareness, boost your SEO and get your name out there, not gating is a solid option.
Luckily, the decision "to gate or not to gate" no longer has to be a matter of either/or. With digital publications you can both increase brand awareness and simultaneously collect visitor information using clever options like semi-gating and social login.
See some amazing examples of what interactive white papers look like.
Read about how digital publications can help you generate more leads.
Learn how to create stunning white papers yourself with a free Instant Magazine trial.