Gated vs. Ungated Content: Driving B2B Marketing Leads

To gate or not to gate? That is the question.

Marketers have been gating content since the dawn of digital. And why not? It is an effective method of gathering data from a visitor to add to your CRM and generate leads for your sales team. However, requiring their information runs the risk of scaring off potential customers.

So, should you gate your content or not? Well, there are several different factors that go into making that choice – factors we are going to go into in this blog. And while we’re at it, we’ll also address the best types of content for each portion of the buyer's journey.

Gated vs. Ungated Content

Gated content generates leads through your capture form and provides you with valuable information you can use to advance your marketing strategies – information you won't get from ungated content. Yet, you can also pick up fake and inaccurate information from visitors who enter incorrect information to get to your content. Thus, wasting time and energy as marketing and sales attempt to follow up on the lead.

What gated content doesn't do is increase traffic to your website. It also doesn't necessarily build trust with your audience. 

In contrast, ungated content is designed to increase traffic - hello, SEO optimization! By leaving your content open and readily available, you gain your visitors’ trust by providing information and tips that address their pain points without asking for anything in return.

Arguments are made on both sides of the gated vs. ungated content debate. And while this may not be what you expected or hoped to get from this post, the truth is both types of content are valuable and should be included in any comprehensive and successful content marketing strategy.

The trick is to choose which type is better at each stage of the buyer's journey.

Let The Buyer's Journey Be Your Guide

When a prospect goes through the buyer's journey, they'll go through three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

In each stage, the prospect is looking for something different as they progress to a purchase decision. It is up to your marketing team to determine the right content for each step of the journey – and yes, some of that content should be gated.

Stage: Awareness

In the awareness stage, your prospect is trying to address an issue or question that is likely broad and generalized. They are primarily doing research to understand the root of their issue so they can attempt to find a solution in the future.

Ungated blogs, how-to's, FAQ-style content, and general overview videos are the most useful at this stage. The goal is to provide the prospect with high-level information that addresses their broader issue and offers additional educational information to help them narrow down their issue so they can begin finding a solution. This type of content will introduce them to your solutions and help build their trust in your brand. If you require them to fill out a form before they can read your content at this stage, the prospect is much more likely to move on to the next website with the same type of content.

Stage: Consideration

In the consideration stage, the prospect has more clearly defined their issue through research. They also likely took note of which websites and brands offered the most helpful information without too many sales pitches included. By now, they probably have a good idea of what brands they may trust and are interested in now determining which brand has the best solution for their issue.

At this stage, it is worthwhile to gate your content. The prospect will be looking for more specific content and will be exploring webinars, guides, white papers, or toolkits to help them achieve their goals. 

For certain topics and solutions, you will be able to offer templates or tools to prospects. These can be used for addressing a specific issue, making processes more efficient, eliminating mundane tasks, and overall making their working lives easier. If your tools and templates really do provide value to the prospect, they will be happy to submit their information in exchange for the ability to simplify their daily life.

White Papers, Guides, and Reports

Perhaps the most common gated content is white papers and reports. Nearly every brand gates this type of content – from Forrester to broad content websites. The logic here makes sense. White papers and reports are significant pieces of content that take time and energy from several of your team members to create. This type of content also tends to be well-researched and carefully crafted to provide the most informational value possible for the reader. Research is a valuable commodity, and the better your content team is at creating content pulling research and valuable information, the most likely the prospect is to value and trust your content.

Live Or Recorded Webinars

Webinars are another common type of gated content. This can also include recorded podcasts and videos. The key here is to gate well-produced content that includes subject matter experts and/or leaders and influencers in your space. The other benefit is that they are interactive and include a human element which further helps to build trust and leave an impression on the prospect.

Gate Content With Purpose, Provide Value

From our perspective, gated content serves an essential purpose for both marketers and prospects. Determining what to gate and what not to gate should always take into consideration the following factors:

  • Where your website visitor is in the customer journey
  • The types of challenges or questions they have
  • The value and exclusivity of the content
  • Your overall content marketing strategy
  • Whether you need more traffic or more qualified leads

Once you have determined whether gating the content is appropriate or not, post it to your website and build valuable trust with your audience. In doing so, your audience will be primed to meet you when they reach the decision stage of their journey.