When Do I Gate Content For Lead Generation?
8 March 2019, Simon Hall
The concept of gating content has been debated a lot amongst B2B marketers, though probably it should be less about “whether” to gate, but more about “when” to gate content. Knowing when to gate content is the challenge, as timing it wrong can lead to negative results.
What is gated content?
Before we go any further let’s define “gated content”: this is content which is provided based on users submitting their contact details. For some consumers of content, the “gating of content” is seen as a nuisance and even unacceptable as they are asked to fill out multiple fields to access the content.
Why do we gate content?
Essentially gating of content is probably one of the easiest ways to capture prospect contact details, and fairly easy to implement. Of course, there are other alternatives to gating content, such as offering options to prospects via live chat, or other engagement options for them to leave their contact information.
Gating of content means we, as vendors, can define when and how to capture details, and one could also argue that we gate content to understand the level of interest from customers, and use this to further understand the stage in the buying process the customer is currently in.
Millennials won’t accept gated content – Not True!
One could say that for some more digitally savvy customers or Millennials, gating content won’t work. However, in a recent survey I conducted with Millennial B2B users, I asked this question. The response was that if they had previously engaged or used content from a potential vendor, they would be willing to provide some contact details, provided it was limited e.g. ~3-4 fields and relevant.
When should we gate content?
Ideally, we should be gating content in the consideration stage, as typically in the awareness stage customers are not ready to engage vendors. In the awareness stage, the customer is still exploring and understanding options regarding what they require.
So how do we know when to gate content? Here are a few options:
Gauge timing by identifying the type of digital traffic: One way to identify customers is by the type of traffic and channel to your website. Users referred from PPC advertising should not be gated, as this is often awareness-based traffic. Whereas traffic sourced from an email campaign, which was used in the consideration stage of the customer journey, may be a good candidate for gating.
Owned media properties: Understanding when visitors engage with your “owned” media properties or “owned” content, such as your website, blog or social media properties etc, can indicate that a prospect is well into the consideration stage. Hence content from these owned media properties should generally be considered for gating.
Type of content: We can understand “when to gate” by the type of content visitors engage with. If it’s purely education early-stage content, then we know visitors are higher up the funnel and we would generally avoid gating such content. Inversely, content which is more aligned to the consideration or purchase stage could be considered for gating. See Fig. 1.
Type of search terms: Where website traffic is using branded search queries, we know that prospective customers are aware of our brand, or branded products/services, and therefore this type of traffic is eligible for capturing contact information through some form of gated content. Inversely, non-branded traffic may be less inclined to leave details in order to access gated content.
Content sequencing: Another approach is to define a sequence to the content, through types of content, messaging, or even more overtly, by defining part 1, part 2, etc. Such sequencing of content can be driven through retargeting, where the 2nd or 3rd piece of content is gated. See Fig 2.
Compelling long-form content: It’s increasingly argued by some companies that compelling long-form content is a great way to engage customers, and that gating content is often best practice. This content can also have some value attributed to it e.g. the results of an exclusive survey. And due to the value or compelling nature of the content, prospects are more willing to provide their contact details.
Engagement indicators: Publishers and website owners can easily track time spent on a given web page, using analytics tools. Positive engagement indicators, such as visits to multiple pages e.g home and product/service pages, or increased time per session e.g. over 1-2 minutes, indicate strong engagement.
To summarise, we’ve seen from the above that there are a number of ways to identify the intent and stage of the customer in their buyer journey, as well as the level of relationship with the prospective provider of products or services. These techniques can also be used in combination, as opposed to being implemented in a mutually exclusive manner.