Gated content is one of the key pillars of many B2B marketing strategies. But is it as effective as it seems? Let’s explore the concept of gated content, its pros and cons and evaluate its overall effectiveness in achieving marketing goals. When you understand the benefits and drawbacks of gated content, you can make better informed decisions when implementing this approach.
What is gated content?
Gated content is a marketing strategy where access to premium or exclusive content is granted only after visitors provide their contact information. While most marketers would tell you it is only one-time access to a specific content piece – for lead generation - it can also be registration for permanent access to some assets. This technique is typically implemented through a web form - the gate, which can range from a simple email address request to a comprehensive registration form.
Most popular content types locked behind a form include whitepapers, ebooks, checklists, infographics, or videos. But it can also have the shape of exclusive application demos, trials, software free versions, or online services accessed through portals and intranets. The key here is that visitors must value the content enough to be willing to provide their contact information to access it. At the same time, the organization must want the contact information so much that they sacrifice organic traffic and decide to lock the content.
Why do we use gated content?
There are several reasons why we use gated content. Here are four examples that you may consider when developing your marketing strategy:
This is the most common reason for gating content, and for many digital marketers, the only one they imagine when speaking about it. For lead generation, marketers can create leads in a contact management system or a CRM by collecting email addresses and other visitor information.
This data enables contact segmentation, lead scoring, persona profiling, and can serve as input for content personalization, marketing automation, or sales engagement. Along with email addresses, you might also want to collect information about visitors’ country, company, phone number, industry vertical, role, seniority level, interests, gender, age, and more. However, always keep in mind that the more information you request, the lower the conversion rate will be and the fewer leads you will collect.
Gated content can be used to augment contact information about visitors who have already provided their email addresses. You can encourage your visitors to share more by offering another exclusive gated content piece (ideally using smart forms that request only the missing information). This technique will enhance your understanding of your visitors.
Registration and authentication
In this case, membership and other organizations require visitors to register and become "members" to gain access once authenticated. Registrations may be approved automatically (based on predefined criteria, usually including email confirmation) or individually by a specific administrator to verify the genuineness of member candidates. Access can be limited to contractual business partners, members of early access programs, beta testers, specific community members, external contributors, editors, or analysts.
Moreover, various user roles and access tiers can be applied to these groups (role-based access). This approach allows you to channel different content to different roles, which ensures content relevancy and enforces access permissions. On top of that, it also enables you to track engagement of specific roles, companies, personas, gender, industry verticals, etc. By that, you get a better understanding of your visitors and members.
Sometimes solutions like Microsoft SharePoint may be too extensive, and companies prefer to offer their employees a smoother and more effective communication channel. In such cases, employee portals are ideal. Employers can manage access to the content via access-control lists or role-based access rules, so different members have different access privileges and see relevant content.
When is gated content effective?
The goal of gated content for registration and authentication and contact enrichment is the same – to gain additional information about our website visitors. Also, with authentication in place, you can allow only certain audiences to access non-public content. This is an effective and easy way to restrict access. The same applies to employee portals.
The effectiveness of gated content becomes more disputable when we start talking about lead generation. Should you use gated content or rather not? The answer has to be a strategic decision based on the business goals you want to achieve.
The end goal is typically revenue and profit, but how do we get there? What most companies do, is drive organic or paid traffic to their website, converting it to leads using forms (gated content), and then nurturing those leads in the hope that they will qualify as MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) and later as SQLs (sales-qualified leads), opportunities, and deals. But that doesn’t often prove very effective. The key here is understanding different approaches for different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Lead generation and demand generation
B2B content marketing strategies work with two contradicting approaches: lead generation and demand generation.
Within lead generation, you hide valuable content behind forms to generate leads. The benefit is that you gain the leads necessary for marketing automation to nurture them, and you also obtain additional information about them (company, role, country, interests, etc.) for further segmentation and personalization, as well as to learn about the context of your visitors. This information can help marketers connect the dots while tracking campaign attribution and mapping the customer journey. The downside is that you provide your visitors with a less-than-optimal user experience and, even worse, disqualify your content pages from any search engine ranking since you block crawlers from accessing them. Gated content can be seen as a missed opportunity to gain extra organic traffic and brand exposure.
On the other hand, demand generation leaves all valuable content open. Contact information is collected in a later phase when visitors (often still anonymous) start requesting product demos or appointments with company representatives. This technique generates much fewer leads, but they are further along in the marketing funnel and more ready to buy.
When employing gated content for lead generation, you should carefully consider which part of the marketing funnel you intend to target.
Gating inappropriate content at unfavorable moments in the buyer’s journey may dissuade potential buyers from further engaging with your brand, resulting in high bounce rates. Conversely, gating the right content at the right time can significantly contribute to nurturing leads and cultivating robust relationships with buyers. If your content delivers substantial value, your audience won’t be able to resist completing a form and sharing their contact information in exchange for that value.
According to 2022 Gartner® Technology Marketing Benchmarks Survey, which was conducted with CEOs, sales and marketing leaders, the respondents chose "thought leadership content created by an independent third party" and "thought leadership created by/for your organization" as the top two content drivers of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), indicating their vitality in the content mix. Case studies are also important in the content mix and highly performant, with 11% of respondents indicating that this asset type generated the largest volume of MQLs. So, it is obvious that gated content is still effective, but it must be done thoughtfully, used for the right audience at the right stage of evaluation.1
Target the right audience
The right moment to use gated content is in the middle and closer to the bottom of the marketing conversion funnel when your visitors are already at a more advanced stage of their research process. Using Avinash Kaushik’s See, Think, Do, Care methodology, the visitors should be in the later Think or Do phase of their journey. The topic of your content should be highly relevant to your product or service so that the leads have a higher chance of converting. Gartner provides the following overview of when websites should and shouldn't gate content:
Gartner, 3 Tactics to Boost Demand Generation Performance, Jeffrey L. Cohen, Ross Cosner, 28 November 2022
Always bear in mind your business and industry specifics. You should measure and optimize landing page conversions to achieve the lowest possible drop-off.
How can Xperience by Kentico help you establish the right kind of gated content areas for your website?
Content gating is a common practice, so most content management systems (CMS) or digital experience platforms (DXP) have tools for implementing forms on your website. But the practical implementation may vary.
Easy-to-use management for content gating Xperience by Kentico distinguishes between two generic scenarios:
You can simply select a form in the Xperience by Kentico administration UI, choose the fields you want to have in the form, and place the form on a specific conversion page.
Registration and authentication
For “members”, authenticated visitors of public-facing live websites, Xperience offers an authentication provider for easy implementation of forms, Single Sign-On (SSO), or third-party authentication providers. In the Xperience graphical user interface (GUI), you can select any content piece (page or content item) and lock it behind a gate.
How to gate content in Kentico
Discover how marketers can easily gate content and set up restricted areas within the Xperience by Kentico DXP.
Gating content can be a powerful tool, but its effectiveness depends on various factors, including your business goals, target audience, and stage of the buyer's journey. Gated content can be a valuable strategy for lead generation, allowing you to capture valuable information about your prospects. It also enables the channeling of specific content to the right audience only. But it's crucial to consider the potential drawbacks of gating content: a less-than-optimal user experience and missed opportunities for organic traffic and brand exposure.
Ultimately, the decision to gate content should be aligned with your overall marketing and sales strategies. By understanding your target audience and the value proposition of your content, you can make informed decisions on when and what to gate. Continuous monitoring, optimization, and adaptation to industry trends will help you achieve the right balance between gated and open content, maximizing the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.
Even though content gating is a controversial technique, it remains the main source of quality leads for most B2B brands.
And if you want to know how things are done in Xperience by Kentico, learn how to drive better results with our new platform.
1 Gartner, Demand Generation Primer for 2023, Ray Pun, Jenifer Silverstein, 2 February 2023. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.