To Gate, or Not to Gate? That is the Marketing Question

B2B sales and inbound marketing professionals are always on the lookout for new tricks of the trade to help drive customer and overall business growth. Sometimes, though, the ample amount of resources at our fingertips can make it hard to differentiate between valuable advice and tips that should go in one ear and out the other.

One such piece of advice that places marketers in opposite corners of the ring is the decision of whether or not to gate content created for the customer. When content is gated, it's essentially locked and hidden from consumers. However, they can still get to it if they use their key—their email address and name. In return for inputting those two things, consumers are rewarded with valuable, thought-provoking content. Ungated content, on the other hand, places no such restrictions on information. The door is left wide open, so everyone and anyone can access this material for free.  

Benefits of Gating Content

By creating content like blog posts, marketers drive top-level-funnel traffic to their organization's website. Once there, customers are encouraged to consume more content through calls to action, which will allow them to download informative eBooks, white papers, etc. The goal of this process never changes—to add value and build long-lasting relationships that will eventually increase revenue. According to a B2B Content Marketing and Lead Report conducted by Starfleet Media, respondents said roughly 80% of their major marketing content is gated.

Gating content gives value to both the customer and the marketer or salesperson. Individuals will reveal their email addresses in exchange for content they find interesting. Marketers are then notified that this individual may be ready to buy their product, and, poof, a lead is generated. Therefore, gated content helps marketers and salespeople identify who is seriously considering their product or service, effectively filtering out those who are just browsing or non-committal.

For the customer, gated content brings with it the promise of exclusive, quality information. This content will help convert leads into bona fide customers. Information individuals can receive include white papers, eBooks, webinars, live demos, and newsletters. If they deem the content irrelevant or not useful, you'll lose their trust. Sirius Decisions describes the value of gated content with a perfect analogy. The company compares gated content to charging a cover at a nightclub. You'd charge a cover when a great band is playing, but you wouldn't charge a cover to see your aunt's drum circle perform. Gated content must hold valuable information behind its locks.   

Pros of Ungated Content 

By keeping content available to every Tom, Dick, and Harry, organizations build trust with prospects and future leads. They'll be able to see samples of the information produced and can then gauge how they feel about it before revealing some contact info. This practice leaves fewer hoops for prospects to jump through in the promise that they'll receive something of value.

In addition to building trust, ungated content also increases brand awareness. Who says no to free stuff? Free content can easily be shared and consumed by others, promoting your brand in the process. In the meantime, traffic to your website can also increase, and consumers learn of what they could be getting for nothing. According to David Meerman Scott, "a whitepaper or eBook will be downloaded 20 times and up to 50 times more without a gate in front of it." What organization would turn down exposure like that? 

Marketers who choose to leave their content ungated also have a better chance of improving their SEO. When content is locked away, it's hidden from both consumers and search engine bots. If Google or any other search engine can't read the content you've worked so hard on, they won't be able to rank it. If you want to keep your content findable, it's best to leave it out in the open.

Related: SEO Strategy   

Like most issues, there's always pros and cons to each side. Gated content is the same. It can increase the quality of your leads and entice prospects. On the other side of the fence, ungated content allows organizations to build trust with consumers, increase their SEO, and build brand awareness. Now it's up to you to decide: should you gate your content or set it free?