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Gated vs Ungated Content: The Pros and Cons Every Marketer Should Know

When should you gate your content or leave it accessible to all? It’s not always simple to know what to lock behind a form. Yes, gated content can be an avenue to generate new leads. On the other hand, you can run the risk of alienating visitors and seeing your website traffic plummet. 

Weighing these pros and cons is the way to make the right choices for your content strategy, securing the maximum level of engagement and hot new leads. We will go through all the advantages and disadvantages of gated and ungated content to help you decide when to choose one over the other and create the best experience for your audience. 

Why marketers use gated content

As gated content is only available after a user provides information like an email address, it should offer a reasonable amount of value as an incentive. It often takes the form of an eBook, white paper, or other content that has a bit of weight, for example the latest reports:

Screenshot sourced from semrush.com

Another term for gated content is lead magnets — content that attracts and generates leads. Lead magnets are an effective way to generate leads, with 17% of marketers describing them as their top-performing content in 2023. This demonstrates the gated content’s considerable potential to collect the contact details of an audience likely to be interested in your product. 

This is instrumental in launching lucrative targeted campaigns and is the first step in building a relationship and including them in your customer database.

Pros of gated content

What is so beneficial about gated content? Let’s discuss. 

Quality over quantity

Gating content creates a qualification filter for lead generation. By filling out a form and handing over their information, leads express interest in your content and, often, your business. Create gated content that has strong ties to your product or service, and you’ll get more leads that are likely to convert. 

Better understanding of customers

While gated content is excellent for capturing leads, it also gives you deeper insight into your customers. 

  • More than just a name: Your gated content forms can include extra fields in addition to just basic contact information. Ask for job roles, industry, and even company size. This gives you a richer customer profile to make your future marketing campaigns more personalized. Take Slack’s “The State of Work 2023” report, for example. Apart from email, they ask for additional firmographic-related information like role, department, and address.
Screenshot sourced from slack.com
  • Content alignment: Gated content can be a great way to understand your audience better and help you create a marketing and product strategy that appeals to their interests. By creating a detailed form like the one above, you’ll be able to build a detailed profile of your audience and the content they’re interested in. This can inform what content you produce in the future, whether it’s a new report, a more targeted marketing newsletters, better ads, or even changes to your copywriting strategy.
  • Personalized marketing: The information you glean also helps shape your marketing efforts into highly personalized campaigns. Knowing where a potential customer works, their responsibilities, and what they’re looking for in a product like yours can help you create hyper-targeted personalization

The detailed customer insights gathered from gated content can become invaluable to your marketing reporting and help inform your future strategies. Your gated content will feed into your reports to supply demographic and engagement data, which can then be leveraged to inform your future marketing and sales strategies

Image sourced from semrush.com

Control over content distribution

Gated content grants you a unique privilege in the digital marketing landscape: control over distribution. Unlike most content that floats freely across the web, gated content sits behind a virtual barrier, which allows you to safeguard valuable intellectual property. 

If you have invested significant resources into in-depth research or creating highly specialized industry reports with the best lead magnet tools, you want to protect its value. Gating this content ensures it reaches only those genuinely interested, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or misuse.

Cons of gated content

While it has its benefits, gated content has some downsides.

Barriers to content accessibility

Requiring user information in exchange for access can be a toll some people aren’t willing to pay, deterring those who would instead not share their contact details. This can have repercussions on overall reach and engagement. 

So, while you may capture some leads with gated content, you’ll miss out on a potentially larger audience who could have benefited from the freely available information. This can be particularly counterproductive if your primary goal is brand awareness or audience building.  

Limited SEO benefits

Because search engines can’t access or index content hidden behind forms, gated content is invisible to organic searches. This can mean some missed opportunities for attracting new customers with your content. 

Potential clients could be searching for precisely the expertise you are offering but find your competitors instead. This can be a real drawback, especially if you want to build organic traffic and establish yourself as a top search result.

Risk of lower quality leads

While gated content generally means quality leads, there’s still the risk that some poor ones will get through. Users might provide inaccurate or even false information just to bypass the gate, and then you need to sort the bad from the good. 

Sales follow-up efforts based on bogus contact details become a waste of time, and marketing personalization attempts based on inaccurate data lose their effectiveness.

This may be a risk worth taking, but it’s important to be mindful of this potential pitfall when deciding whether to gate content.

Why marketers use ungated content

The door to this kind of content is open, and it comes in many forms. Blog posts, videos, and infographics are opportunities to share your industry know-how with whoever might stumble across it. 

The main goal of ungated content is to boost brand awareness and improve SEO. Offering these resources freely builds trust with potential customers and establishes your credibility as a helpful authority. 

A content strategy that uses a variety of ungated content formats helps to cast your net wider and contributes to your image as an industry leader. It can also be used as part of a tiered approach to your marketing content to entice new customers and add value and support for your existing customers.

For example, Convoso provides ungated content about their call center AI solutions, to get the attention of potential customers. On top of this, they also use gated content to generate leads, as users provide a small amount of information to gain access to exclusive guides:

Screenshot sourced from Convoso.com

Finally, they also have exclusive content that is only available to their customers. This serves as a bonus for their existing customers as well as demonstrates the level of support and advice Convoso provides:

Screenshot sourced from convoso.com

Pros of ungated content

There are a variety of big upsides to ungated content. Let’s go over them in detail. 

Greater reach, visibility, and traffic

Ungated content, like blog posts or infographics, can be easily accessed through search engines or social media. This eliminates any hurdles for potential customers, so they can discover your brand with minimum effort. 

It also supports other aspects of your marketing strategy. For example, as ungated content reaches a larger audience, it will provide greater insight into who your audience is and could even reveal new customer profiles by analyzing who is engaging with your content. These findings can be used to inform your targeting across your other marketing strategies.

SEO boost

Because search engines can freely access and index ungated content, it is a friend to organic searches. People look for a solution to a problem they’ve been having, so they type in a query that matches the keywords you’ve strategically woven into your content; voila, they’re on your page.

When your quality, ungated content ranks high in search results, organic traffic starts flowing in, and a steady stream of website visitors discover your brand entirely through their online searches. 

More sharing and engagement

Engaging infographics or intriguing snippets from a study can encourage interest in your brand’s offerings. The inherent shareability of ungated content means it can travel far and wide on social media, reaching a vast audience beyond your immediate followers. 

The more informative and visually engaging your ungated content is, the more likely it is to be shared and discussed online, which will increase your engagement numbers. 

When it comes to choosing which ungated content is likely to work best within your marketing strategy, you need to ask yourself “What type of content will add the most value for your audience?” 

For example, the clothing store, Lucy and Yak, use social media to create fun content that also adds value for their customers as they demonstrate the different ways their clothing can be worn. Ultimately, gaining high instagram engagement rates of up to 2.39%:

Screenshot sourced from Instagram

Alternatively, a SaaS company might find blogs and guides much more useful to their audience. For example, HubSpot provides a plethora of ungated tips, advice, templates, and statistics. This has made HubSpot’s content incredibly successful, frequently ranking in Google’s top 10 results, as it has become one of the most trusted sources of information and statistics in marketing. 

Screenshot taken from HubSpot.com

Cons of ungated content

Unfortunately, there are disadvantages to ungated content that you should also be aware of. 

Lack of direct lead generation

Since ungated content is open to all, it doesn’t directly bring in leads. Without capturing user information, the higher engagement and reach of content is somewhat negated. This is due to the inability to actively engage those potential customers in the marketing or sales process. You must find alternative methods to convert engaged users into qualified leads.

Difficulty in measuring conversion

Whereas the customer information obtained from gated content provides a clear trail, tracking the direct conversion path from ungated content to sales isn’t simple. While reading a blog or watching video content might eventually lead a customer to convert, quantifying that precise journey can be challenging. 

Potential overexposure

Brand awareness is great, but you must be careful not to cross the line into content saturation. Your content can be shared all over the internet, but this extended reach means competitors may take note, copy your approach, and dilute your USP in an ocean of similar content. The pressure is then on to constantly keep your content fresh and your voice unique.

Which works best, and how to choose your content type

Image sourced from turtl.co

Deciding on which free content or lead magnet ideas to use and how much you focus on gated or ungated content can be a lot, but focus on these principles, and you can’t go far wrong.

Understanding your audience and objectives

Deciding between gated and ungated content should start with clearly understanding your audience and what the business aims to achieve. For instance, if the goal is lead generation for high-value products, then gated content is the way to go. However, if you want to improve your website SEO, ungated should be your priority. 

Content value and uniqueness

The decision should also consider how unique and valuable the content is. Suppose you’re a cloud computing company: any content that offers quick help or information, such as a guide to PaaS examples or a blog on cloud data security, should be ungated. 

On the other hand, a white paper analyzing the cost benefits and technical challenges of adopting hybrid cloud solutions should be gated, as it offers significant value to your audience.  

How to combine gated and ungated content

As previously mentioned, combining gated and ungated content requires a lot to gain. The goal is to find the sweet spot between them. You pull in organic traffic to your site with SEO-optimized free content, like blogs, and then place your gated content strategically to catch the right people. 

Finding this balance requires a well-thought-out content strategy considering how every piece fits together. A collaboration tool can help with this process, streamlining content workflows and ensuring everyone in the marketing team is on the same page. 

For instance, maintaining organized to do lists within these tools can ensure that each team member is aware of their specific responsibilities and deadlines, facilitating better coordination and efficiency in content creation and distribution.

Best practices for implementing gated and ungated content

Let’s take a look at the best practices for both content types. 

Gated content

  • Create enticing offers: The value proposition of your content must be clear and compelling enough to justify leads giving you their contact details. For example, an eBook or white paper should contain insights or data that can’t be easily found elsewhere.
  • Optimize forms for conversion: Keep forms short and straightforward. Request only essential information to reduce friction and abandonment rates. Testing different versions of forms can also help identify the most effective format. For example, at encharge we direct customers by also asking what challenges they face:

Screenshot taken from encharge.io

  • Always follow up: Once a user has engaged with your gated content and you’ve conducted lead scoring, contact any good leads carefully. Send emails that continue to deliver value related to the original content to help nurture leads down the funnel.
  • Mitigate the SEO deficit: Include a summary or snippet of the gated content freely on your website. This preview can pique user interest and encourage them to take the step of providing their information for the full piece. Additionally, optimizing the landing page for relevant keywords can help with search engine visibility. 

Ungated content

  • Encourage social sharing: Make it easy for users to share your content on social media by including visible sharing buttons and compelling CTAs that urge people to share your content. Use social listening analysis to monitor how your content is doing, as this will help inform your strategy going forward. 
  • Update content regularly: Keep your ungated content fresh and up to date. Regular refreshes provide ongoing value to your audience and boost SEO, as search engines favor recently updated content.
  • Analyze and adjust: Look at metrics like page views, time on page, conversion rates, and bounce rates to understand what is working well. You can even check contact center analytics to see if a new piece of content causes an uptick in calls. Use what you learn to adjust your approach accordingly. 
  • Maximize SEO and readability: Employ SEO best practices to enhance visibility. This includes using relevant keywords naturally, optimizing meta tags, and ensuring the content is structured effectively for readers and search engines.

Strike a balance

Choosing between gated and ungated content involves weighing the pros and cons in the context of your marketing strategy and goals. While some companies might prefer to leverage only one of these two types, the truth is that, ideally, you need to find the right balance that will serve the needs of your business and your audience’s needs.

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