What is Gated Content and How to Use it

Gated content has become increasingly popular for modern today’s business websites. For marketers, in particular, gated content is an important part of their toolkit. But what exactly is gated content? When should you use it, and when should you opt for ungated (open) content?

What is Gated Content?

Gated content is any digital content that you need to enter some personal information to access. Ungated content, on the other hand, is open to everyone. It does not require any type of signup.

Let’s consider an example of each type of content:

A blog post is an excellent example of ungated content. All the information is widely available to any website visitor. Other than general analytics information (like location and browser type), the company doesn’t really know who has read the blog. For the reader, visiting a blog site is a very low-risk activity; they’re not asked to provide anything other than a few minutes of their time.

An in-depth report is a good example of gated content. It’s very common for companies to ask for a name and email address before allowing access to the report. To sweeten the deal, they may email the reader an eBook or PDF of the information with exclusive tips to boot.

Why Use Gated Content?

Gated content is a great way to position yourself as the expert because you’re offering a level of exclusivity that automatically qualifies your leads for you.

Gated content is a way to procure quality leads. Anyone who has already taken the trouble to sign up for that eBook has demonstrated an interest in the topic — and, by extension, the solution you are highlighting.

However, gated content is not appropriate at every stage in the customer journey.

When Do Marketers Use Gated Content vs. Non-Gated Content?

There are distinct stages that people pass through before they become customers. Broadly speaking, these are:

Awareness. The potential customer becomes aware of a problem that needs to be solved. At this stage, they’ll be looking for information about the problem itself – not necessarily about specific solutions, vendors, or providers.
Consideration. The customer has identified their problem and is trying to find out what help is available. At this point, they may be aware of your company as a possible resource, but they aren’t ready to make a buying decision. They’re still exploring their options.

Decision. The customer has gathered enough information to decide how they want to fix their problem. They may have narrowed their search down to a few competing companies and are well on their way to making a purchase decision.

At each stage in this journey, the customer has a different goal. Therefore, one of the principles of inbound marketing is to create content for each part of the journey. While there is a place for gated content in the awareness stage, its value must be clear. And the customer information requested at this stage is usually less detailed.

At the consideration stage, the customer may start to recognize your startup as a trustworthy source of information. They may not be ready to sign on the dotted line, but they are probably ready to exchange their contact information for the valuable content on offer.

In the decision stage, your startup has become a contender for its eventual purchase. Here is where you’ll see things like gated product demos and free trials. It only makes sense that a customer who is already very interested in your solution will provide the most detailed information.

How to Use Gated Content

So, how do specific types of gated content work? More importantly, at what stage should you employ them? Let’s look at some of the most popular examples:

Content upgrades. We’ve all read an article or blog post that included an offer for a white paper or a recorded webinar on the same subject. This is an example of a content upgrade. While you can use content upgrades in the awareness stage, they work even better when you’ve established your credibility. If you do offer a content upgrade, make sure it’s completely relevant to the topic covered in the ungated content.

Webinars, eBooks, reports, podcasts, and white papers. These are often used to provide very detailed information on a topic. There may be a hint of sales involved, but the content is still mostly educational. This makes them suitable for both the awareness and consideration stages.

Email campaigns. Depending on how you structure the message, email campaigns can be used at various stages in the customer journey.

In the awareness stage, you can send an email campaign that educates the contact about their problem. For example, you might do a free five-part email course on more effective marketing.

In the consideration stage, you can begin to set up your company as an authority and a trusted partner. As you move to the end of the consideration stage and approach the decision stage, you can start to mention your company’s products and services. Continuing the above example, your email messaging would move to how marketing automation can build effectiveness – and how your company could help implement it.

Demos, free trials, free consultations, and case studies. It’s an old sales adage that if you want someone to buy something, get it into their hands. This is the digital version, where you get the prospect to try out a product – or, for case studies, read a detailed description of how the product/service can solve a relevant problem. It’s best deployed in the decision stage.

When Should You Use Gated Content?

As you can see, there’s a place for gated content at every stage in the customer journey. So how do you know when a piece of content should be gated or ungated? Consider these questions:

What do I want the content to achieve? If the goal is to generate awareness, ungated will probably work better; readers won’t see the need to provide their information just yet. If you’re trying to generate leads, then gated content is the way to go – provided, of course, that it’s a fair tradeoff in the eyes of your audience.

How does my competitors’ content compare? If other businesses in your industry openly provide the same content, why would readers give you their information? But if you provide something special, you can think about gating it.

Will readers think it’s worth trading their information for this content? You might get people to exchange information for short content like a cheat sheet – but you’ll probably get a lot more takers for a webinar, an eBook, or something equally meaty.

What information do we need vs. what are people willing to give? Sure, you’d like to get every little piece of data about your customers. But what are they willing to tell you? Most gated content gets at least a name and email, but you certainly can ask for more if you think the content justifies it.

Gated content has a place in your marketing strategy. Used in alignment with your audience’s stage in the customer journey, it can be a powerful way to generate qualified leads who are ready to engage!