It is a decision that needs to be made up front in every B2B content marketing strategy: which content assets will be completely free for all (ungated) and which ones will require a contact form to be filled out prior to making the content available (gated).
This blog post you are reading is ungated. Anybody can read it, with nothing asked in return. On the Manzer Communications site you will also find a series of white papers covering topics as diverse as crisis communications, trade shows and social media campaigns. We love to make this content available, but in return we ask for just a little bit of information.
No sales without leads…
So what is the logic behind choosing whether content needs to be ungated or gated? Do companies randomly decide to make some content freely available and others not? The answer of course is: no. The ‘gates’ in the form of the sign-up webforms are meant to collect information on the person (and company) who wanted to access a certain kind of content.
In content marketing speak, gated content is meant to identify the person who shows an interest in a particular marketing piece and ultimately understand to which buyer persona he or she belongs, what is motivating the search and where in the sales funnel to place the lead.
… but no leads without awareness
A general rule of content marketing is that the more perceived value a piece of content has, the more a prospect will be willing to share about himself or herself in return for the content. A 200 page booklet can be made available at a higher ‘price’ than a 10 page white paper.
The 2015 Form Conversion Report by Formstack showed that there are on average 11 fields on a lead form and that the average conversion rate of the form amounts to 17%. By most lead gen standards, 11 fields is a very high number, if not completely unrealistic at a 17% conversion rate. Perhaps there is even a disconnect with the study or a research bias but what is not disputable is that lead conversion rates are impacted by the number of required fields. In our experience, it’s better to keep the number of required fields below five unless you have a content piece that is based on intensive industry research.
So while gating content is important for lead generation, it does not mean that you can and should pass on ungated content. Websites generally contain more ungated than gated content for a reason. Search engines cannot index content that you put behind a gate. That means gated content won’t contribute in any significant way to your site SEO strategy, unless you provide a summary page as part of your landing page.
Gated content cannot be shared with a single click so with that easy social sharing is out the door. You need the ungated content to create broader awareness and encourage more social shares among your prospects.
The advantage of ungated content is that it fills the ‘top’ of your funnel and thereby increases the number of prospects who will be tempted to consult your gated content, thus becoming leads. Ungated content can be ideated from the start as ungated content, but it can also take the form of a repurposing of gated content. An example of the latter is when you make a chapter of an ebook freely available on your blog or through LinkedIn Pulse.
Two illustrations: a gated webinar of Salesforce and a collection of ungated manuals of Harte Hanks. The Salesforce form asks for among others the job title and the size (as measured by number of employees) of the company.
And the winner is…
There is a time and place for both gated and ungated content. For many B2B marketers, the right balance may vary greatly based on the perceived value of leads versus raw website traffic. What is indisputable is that ungated content will pull in more website traffic while gated content will assist in lead capture and converting leads into new customers over time.