Gated content is content that’s only accessible after a prospect takes an additional action that helps your business, such as filling out a form that captures their contact information for lead generation or liking your Facebook page. It’s the opposite of free content, like this blog post, which is available for everyone to read without any extra effort. Both types of content have a purpose in keeping your sales funnel filled and in distinguishing where leads and visitors are in the sales process, but gated content can be much more effective at driving up the conversion rates on your pages. Here are some reasons why your business should consider using gated content as part of its content marketing strategy.

Take Advantage of High Demand

Assuming you create content that your audience is eager to consume, when you put up a gate the majority of your following will decide that they get enough value out of your material that its worth it for them to exchange their contact information in order to get it. Without gated content, you’re essentially relying on your prospects to take it upon themselves to use your contact form or phone number to initiate the sales conversation, which has a fairly low likelihood of occurring on its own. Most visitors wind up simply taking your free content and not interacting with your company ever again. However you don’t want to risk letting these visitors, who are interested enough in your company’s business to consume your free material, become someone else’s customer because you didn’t have the means to capture them as a lead and then engage them further with a conversation or with supplementary content to what they consumed originally.

To effectively leverage gated content, you need to make sure that the material you keep behind the gate is valuable enough that it will generate significant demand from your audience. Your prospects won’t want to give up their contact information or share a link to your business to their social media following in exchange for content that they feel is generic and of little use. This is why you typically see longer content that requires a higher level of effort to produce, like videos and eBooks, used as gated content, whereas blog posts and infographics tend to be available for free. This isn’t to say blogs and infographics aren’t valuable, but given the constraints of their respective formulas it’s usually hard to make them appear high-value enough that it warrants an exchange of contact information or other action on the part of the viewer in order to access them. To your audience, eBooks and videos seem more likely to deliver the most useful information for them, which justifies you forcing the prospect to “earn” the right to access the material by doing something to help your company first.

Unless Content is Gated, it’s Harder to Measure the Conversion Rate

With free content, it’s tough to measure the conversion rate of each particular piece and how it adds to the overall visitor-to-lead conversion rate of your website. Unless you have gated content on them, there’s no way to know how many people who read an individual blog post end up in your database, follow you on social media, or purchase a specific product after reading the product page. Although all content doesn’t need a gate in front of it, you should have gates in front of certain types of material in order to measure your visitor-to-lead conversion rate and to know how to improve it.

Match the Exchange with the Content

If all you are offering behind your content gate is an email newsletter, then you probably don’t want to ask for the person’s name, address, ZIP code, phone number, and email address. That’s a lot of personal information to give away in exchange for emails from a company. Most visitors to your website won’t see giving away all that information as worth the tradeoff, and they will wonder why you need the extra information when simply asking for a name and an email address is a much more logical and fair exchange.

If the effort required on the part of the viewer to pass through the gate is out of line with the content behind the gate, you’re not going to increase your conversion rates as much because you’ve made it more difficult for the prospect to convert but the offer isn’t enticing enough to get them to go along with it. Another example: If you’re offering a free product demo or price quote, then asking for additional personal information is more appropriate. From the visitor’s perspective, it’s easier to understand why your business would need the extra details to deliver the offer, and because the content is more valuable to the visitor in making a purchase they will feel inclined to provide it.

To determine the amount of information that’s appropriate to ask for based on your offer, you need to consider the level of commitment needed on the visitor’s part to interact with that piece of content. A product demo or a price quote is a high level of commitment, as that indicates the visitor may be ready to buy, so asking for more personal information would be appropriate because that information would be necessary to close the sale or to deliver the material. A webinar or an eBook doesn’t require as much commitment from the visitor as requesting a quote or demo, so asking them to do something simple like following you on Twitter of liking you on Facebook in order to download the content or attend the webinar is a better fit. The lower the commitment level, the less information or effort you should require from the audience to make the exchange.

Do you offer gated content? What kind of success have you had with your conversion rate? Let us know in the comments!