What is Gated Content?
You may have heard the term ‘gated content’, but what does it mean?
Gated content is any website content which is hidden or locked until the user performs an action to gain access.
That action could be making a payment, but usually it will come in the guise of a sign-up form. This would be either for a mailing list subscription or just to gather information about the website’s users. The content itself could take the shape of an e-book, template, video, webinar, article. This or any resource the customer would be redirected to or sent a link to via email.
The content should be high-value and worth the customer having ‘paid’ with their precious information and time. For example, when a customer visits your site, a pop-up box with a form is visible and is clearly asking the customer to subscribe to your email list in return for access to premium content not available elsewhere or accessible otherwise. The offer should be enticing and rewarding!
It’s worth mentioning at this stage that ungated content is obviously the opposite. Content that is accessible without the customer having to provide any information prior. As mentioned, the purpose of this is usually to capture leads and data from your visitors.
The gated content is a reward for the visitor having provided you with their information.
There are some rules
It is extremely important that people are aware of what they are signing up for. It is imperative your visitors understand what their information will be used for and consent to it, especially when it comes to mailing lists.
With the new GDPR rules having come into play, your visitors must understand that by providing you with their email address they are agreeing to sign-up to your mailing list (if this is the case) and it is your responsibility to make it abundantly clear. You must gain active consent in order to legally hold your customers’ information. They must not be ‘tricked’ in any way, shape, or form as you will be held legally responsible and could face fines. In order to ensure you meet the regulations and understand your responsibilities, you will want to read up on the GDPR privacy law.
It’s all about consent
- Your visitors must actively opt-in to mailings, i.e. no pre-ticked boxes!
- Email consent must be separate and not bundled with any other terms and conditions.
- Unsubscribe or ‘forget me’ must be easily accessible and actionable. A customer has the right to withdraw their information at any time and it must be simple for them to do so.
- It’s also worth bearing in mind that the data asked for should be relevant to the offer, i.e. why would you ask a customer’s hat size if you’re sending them a productivity guide?
With regards to gated content, our advice would be to have a separate tick box for your mailing list opt-in, so that it’s not conditional.
NB: The retention of data is governed by GDPR. Individual’s information must be purged after a certain period of time of inactivity and/or after unsubscribing. You may wish to audit your existing mailing list or implement a re-submission mail-out to ensure your subscribers have the chance to opt in. This all very much depends on how your original list was implemented and how individuals signed-up. We would highly recommend reading the GDPR Privacy Law or consulting an expert.
What are the Benefits of Gated Content?
There are several benefits to offering gated content, however there are also downsides which need to be addressed. A quick internet search and you’ll find plenty of worthy arguments for and against its use. To break it down somewhat, a taste of the pros and cons are as follows:
- Data Capture. Using the information provided, you’ll be able to build a clearer picture of your customer base and keep them updated via your mailing list (should they opt-in) – an absolute must for your marketing strategy.
- Quality Leads. The customer obviously wants what you’re offering and so you know you’ve hit your target market.
- Perceived Value – asking for something in return gives it a perception of worth. Just make sure you deliver on that promise by creating quality premium content.
The main benefits of offering gated content are that you’ll gain more detailed information about your leads and that they will have consented to giving you their contact details, having subscribed to your mailing list. The other is that these subscribers are warm leads. They have signed up to what you are offering meaning that they are interested. These benefits alone are appealing as it means you can communicate more effectively with your audience.
- Fewer Leads. Some people just don’t want to give their information, regardless of the return.
- Off-putting for some. If not done properly, landing on a page with an annoying pop-up form or immediate demand for information may cause people to leave the site without having first looked around.
Fewer leads isn’t necessarily an issue as at least the ones you have are quality, but it is certainly something to consider. You don’t want to put off those who are interested but take umbrage at having to part with their contact information. You also don’t want to irritate your site visitors.
From a technical point of view, if you want people to know the content exists, you need to ensure your site is well optimized for search engines in regards to the gated content you’re offering.
You also need to ensure the content is protected in such a way that it doesn’t become accessible to those who haven’t first completed a form, something which your web developer should be responsible for.
Gated vs Ungated
Gating content is quite a common practice and you may have seen several examples of gated content without realising it. Webinars, B2B e-books, and free e-courses to name a few, are all examples of content where it is more than likely you’ll have to provide an email address at the very least, in order to access. This is something we’ve become used to and is considered the norm.
Ungated content will usually take the form of standard blog posts, social media pages/posts, and YouTube videos. Although these can be gated too, they’re usually accessible without a ‘sign-up’.
Without doubt, ungated content will be downloaded or accessed, and shared far more than gated content. That’s just the nature of the beast. However, this isn’t necessarily an issue. If you are offering good quality ungated content, this implies that any gated content you have is going to be even more valuable.
Give your visitors an opportunity to get to know you before hitting them with the offer of gated content. This will create trust and certainly be perceived as less demanding. People are becoming increasingly intolerant of the ‘hard sales’ tactics of yesteryear, so a softly-softly approach can be much more effective. From a design point of view, you want your call to action to be obvious yet non-intrusive.
Sharing content on social media has never been more popular. It’s a great way of getting your name out there. If you want your gated content to be shared, you must be certain it’s worth it from the customer’s perspective. The last thing you want to do is alienate a potential client by being too pushy or demanding. Or rewarding the relinquishment of their information with substandard content.
The answer is providing value via great content that your visitors will want to share.
The effectiveness of your gated content boils down to how and when you use it and what your intentions are in gating it, rather than just giving it away.
There is nothing worse than ‘duping’ your visitors into parting with their information, for them only to be rewarded with substandard content. This is how to lose their interest.
If you want more page views and shares, go ungated. Go gated for qualified leads. For both, offer both! The point is it’s another weapon in your arsenal for attracting clients. Your ammunition is value.