Should you gate your content?

20 October 2017

Should you gate your content?

An oft-repeated gripe about the internet is that everyone who uses it expects everything for free. It’s one of many common sayings with an element of truth to it but it is not the whole truth.

The whole truth is that people want some kind of reassurance that their money will be well spent before they part with it. They are increasingly aware that value can be measured in other ways than money, for example their time has a value, as does their personal data such as their email address.

So, where does this leave SMEs who are spending their resources on producing content and want to maximise their return from it?

We take a look at the three options for providing access to content and how they can be used.

Paid content

Paid content is a product, not a marketing tool, so if you’re going to provide paid content you are going to need to promote it in some way, possibly by offering some free content alongside it.

One classic way to do this is to provide a free sample of a larger product, such as a single chapter from an ebook (think about Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature) or a single lesson out of a whole course.

Gated content

Gated content is when a user gets access to content only after they have provide their contact details, usually an email address, which is then used to send a download link to the requested content. Alternatively, gated content may be made visible when somebody shares the page on social media.

If you are looking to generate leads, then gated content may be an appropriate way to go, but it is not perfect.

From the perspective of a reputable company that has devoted meaningful resources to creating high-quality content, it may seem fair to insist that a downloader gives you something in exchange for your content. The problem is that the principle of gating has frequently been abused, with users giving up their email address or sharing to their social followers, only to discover that the high-quality content they were promised was nothing more than marketing material.

This means that you run the risk of having your email directed to a spamcatcher address or blocked automatically as soon as the download is received, neither of which is going to do you any good whatsoever.

If you are going to use gated content, you may well find that you need to capture the user’s trust with plenty of high-quality free content, in order to convince them that it’s worth handing over their contact details.

Free content

While you may begrudge handing over content for free when it took time, money and resources to create, remember that successful businesses are often built on relationships; in other words, you want to build up the connection between you and your customers so that you are not only their first choice of supplier when it comes to making a purchase, but also a brand that they are happy to recommend to other people.

In short

When businesses spend money on content marketing, that content has to show a return on investment in some way and so it’s reasonable to think about options for making it pay for itself. At the same time, however, you have to be realistic about the fact that customers are only going to part with either their email or their cash if they think it’s worth their while and that generally means winning their trust with free content first.