That is the question, for anyone involved in content marketing today.
So what’s the best answer?
As you know, “gated content” is a white paper, special report, or any other content you give to a site visitor after they complete a registration form.
We’ve all filled in those forms. But do they work?
Here’s a dirty little secret of content marketing
Not everyone tells the truth on registration forms.
For example, one survey done by MarketingSherpa found that about 7 out of 10 prospects give their true name.
But less than 6 out of 10 give their real industry, company name, or job title. And less than 4 out of 10 give their actual phone number.
I’ve filled in some forms with names like “Donald Duck” and phone numbers like “123-456-7890.” Haven’t you?
Especially when the form is way too long.
Beyond that, many business people have a free e-mail account at Yahoo or Google to use only for content downloads. The rest of the time, they ignore those accounts.
Despite these issues, most B2B vendors used to routinely hide their white papers behind gates.
20X to 50X more downloads?!
At least they did until 2009. That’s when marketing guru and author David Meerman Scott made quite the splash.
He claimed that a white paper or e-book would be downloaded 20 to 50 times more often if there was no gate in front of it.
Consider what this means for lead generation, as shown in the following table.
|How many visitors to landing page?||120||120||1:1|
|How many downloads?||60||12||5:1|
|How many reads?||30||6||5:1|
|How many pass-alongs?||15||3||5:1|
This table uses relatively conservative assumptions:
- Ungated content is downloaded 5X as often
- Half those who download content read it
- Half of those who read content pass it along
Of course, your numbers may vary.
But if you’re in a position to do some testing and capture these metrics for your content campaigns, why not give it a try?
Then you can see for yourself what difference it makes to gate or not to gate.
What do you want to accomplish?
The problem with most discussions about gating is that they don’t start at square one: your purpose for creating content in the first place.
There are two main purposes for creating content:
- To generate leads
- To get noticed
This is where the discussion should start at your organization. Depending on your goals, you can quickly decide whether to gate your content or not.
1. Trying to generate leads?
If you want to generate leads and develop prospects, you’re going to need contact info to stay in touch.
So for generating leads, you need a registration form.
I’ve said it before: Keep the form simple. Maybe four fields in all: name, work e-mail, company, and title. And be thankful if you get honest answers to all four!
2. Trying to get noticed?
If you want to get your company noticed, you want as many people as possible to read and share your work. So take down that gate!
This is especially true for startups, and for any B2B firm waging a marketing campaign against an entrenched incumbent.
After all, they’re probably already on the shortlist of vendors to check out. Your goal is to get your firm noticed, so it’s in the running too.
Remember what makes content valuable
The most valuable B2B content helps a business person understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
If your content consistently does that, prospects won’t mind giving you some contact information.
When you give a business person something valuable, they know you’re going to try to develop them as customers by sending them more e-mails.
And they’re ready for that.
So don’t be too shy to ask.
For more on this issue, see our article “Gating: the third option.”
What works best for your company: gated or ungated content? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.
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