Guide: gated vs ungated content in B2B marketing

It’s time to settle the gated/ungated content debate once and for all. 

This is The Final Showdown.

After gated and ungated have battled it out, you’ll be able to announce a clear winner, and you’ll know if you should gate your B2B tech content. 

Will the winner be gated content in all its former glory? Or will ungated content win the first place rank for its SEO ranking? Let’s find out. 

Before the battle commences, you’ll need some background information about the contestants so you know who they are, what they do and how they got to this climactic point of contention. 

What is gated content? 

Gated content is the content on your website that users have to exchange their personal details to see. They’ll fill out a form with information such as their name, email address and company in order to gain access to the content you’ve produced. 

Gated content commonly includes whitepapers, guides and ebooks. The main benefit of gated content is the contact details you’ll gain so that you can directly approach your prospects. They’ll become qualified leads as they’re given to a sales team. 

88% of marketers say collecting first-party data is a priority in 2021, as many are prioritising lead generation tactics. But that’s not to say ungated content doesn’t have a fighting chance. 

What is ungated content?

Ungated content is the information on your website that users have free access to just by clicking on a page. This often includes blog posts, company news and case studies. 

It is typically used for educating a target audience of the challenges you solve, and building an SEO ranking so that your website appears on the top of search results. 

Why is the decision to gate or ungate content particularly difficult for B2B tech marketers? 

As a specialist B2B SEO agency, we know in B2B tech, sales journeys can be long and complex. There can be multiple decision makers and a competitive space where cross-company comparisons are necessary before a purchase. This is where gated content comes in handy. 

When a sales representative can approach a lead and provide them with the information they need, the prospect is encouraged to make a decision. This shortens the length of the sales cycle. 

It seems simple. Keep B2B tech content gated so that you generate leads and move people down the sales funnel in a “push” approach. But there’s an argument for ungated content too. 

B2B tech products are often complex. Therefore B2B tech buyers require education about challenges they face and how your organisation can solve them. 

Content to educate a market and generate brand awareness would best be ungated. With the SEO benefits that ungated content provides, they’ll come across your solution in a “pull” approach to marketing and resolve the complexity of your product themselves. Ungated content is best for a prospect’s research phase to understand the tech product and its competitive advantages. 

There are many variables to consider when deciding whether or not to gate your content. That’s why this battle is split into five rounds to help you decide the winner. 

Round one: How much value will this content give the reader? 

One of the most important factors in the decision to gate or ungate content is perceived value. That is, how much value will the reader feel they have gained from the piece of content? 

Imagine a reader has given you their personal details in exchange for information they already knew. The gated content offers them zero insights and they could easily find it elsewhere. Their trust for your organisation will drop as they feel like they’ve given more than they’ve received, and they certainly won’t welcome an incoming sales rep. They’ll have changed from a warm lead to an ice cold lead.

In short, the less value it gives the less you should consider gating it. Conversely, the more value it gives the more you should consider gating it. 

One major indicator of value is uniqueness - can the reader easily find this information elsewhere? Is the content about something that your organisation is highly specialised in? 

Another indication of value is length of content - a gated blog post of 1500 words is a cause for disappointment. If your piece of content is full, elaborated upon and provides a large quantity of useful information, it might be best gated. 

One more indication of value is relevancy - is the content relevant to your target audience? Does it align with the rest of the content on your site and what your users would want to see? Is it what they expect to see from your organisation? 

It should be up-to-date with fresh research and current trends. 

Gated content that we often see working well for B2B tech clients is much more than just whitepapers or other long form content in a PDF. Instead resources that a user can take and do something with can be highly effective. This means resources like templates, frameworks, spreadsheets, interactive tools - resources that provide functional value, and help your customer to do better work and add value to their organisation.

A final indication of value is practicality - is the gated content downloadable, so that the reader can access it on their preferred device? Will they be able to access it immediately? An immediate download link means the user won’t have to waste time waiting for it to be sent to them. 

Round two: What do your customers like? 

Sometimes historical data is the best kind of data. If you’ve gated content in the past, you’ll probably have enough information to know whether your audience responded well to it. 

It might seem obvious, but if leads you’ve generated through gated content have resulted in customer conversions, keep gating your content! 

If the opposite has happened and if your attempts at gating content have flopped, your audience probably prefers free access content and moving along the funnel on their own terms. 

If your website and gated content forms are integrated with a CMS such as HubSpot, you’ll be able to see where leads are in the sales funnel as well as your customer’s full sales journey. Your CMS should have enough data to tell you whether or not gated content played a vital role in converting past leads to customers. 

Every B2B tech organisation is unique, and every target market is unique. That’s why listening to and understanding your audience can set you on the right path. 

Round three: Is your content promotional? 

Promotional content plays a big role in B2B tech marketing, as it’s how you showcase your organisation’s achievements, solutions and ability to make prospect’s lives better. Promotional content includes your case studies, company news, catalogues and customer testimonials. 

When it comes to purely promotional content, the answer is quite clear: it should not be gated. Instead it should aid your prospect’s own research process by being in an easily-accessible place when they want to find it. 

Your best bet is to disguise promotional content within gate-worthy pieces by mentioning your solution as an option the reader might want to consider. 

Promotional material in exchange for personal information is not a fair transaction according to B2B tech buyers. 

Round four: What are your wider business goals? 

Wider business objectives should be taken into account when deciding whether to gate or ungate your content.

If your marketing team is driven by MQLs with a quota to meet each quarter, gated content is a great strategy. Gated content is a surefire way to gain contact information for warm leads and to pass them on to sales. 

If your marketing is inbound driven, ungated content can build your SEO ranking. Google responds well to lengthy content that is full of keywords. It doesn’t recognise the downloadable documents that gated content often comes in. 

If your goal is to know more about your prospects so you can optimise your targeting, there are alternatives to forms. Anonymous tracking tools are a great way to learn more about your audience. Google Analytics is completely free, and will give you valuable insight into who your visitors are. This is a GDPR compliant tool as it does not record a website user’s personal data. 

To summarise, If you’re looking to build brand awareness, SEO is important. If you’re looking to generate revenue quickly and to grow your business, you may want a hands-on sales lead approach that can be boosted by SQLs from gated content. 

Round five: What content is already on your site? 

It's important to look at your existing content and find a balance between gated and ungated content. Plenty of B2B tech marketers have both on their website, which can suit the needs of a wider range of prospects and customers. 

If you already have a lot of gated content, give it a rest. You don’t want your visitors to suffer from ‘form fatigue’. Instead, post open content to build an SEO ranking - a win-win, as prospects will be able to find your gated content easier when it shows up on their Google searches. 

If you haven’t got any gated content, try it out! Test the waters to see if your audience responds well to forms. 

An easy way of generating gate-worthy content is by packaging up your existing blog posts into one downloadable document. They might not be valuable enough as individuals, but blog posts can turn into a high-value piece such as a guide or whitepaper. Repurposing content is a useful way to save your own time, provide added value to your prospects and offer an alternative to blog posts. The blog posts you choose to group together should have a common theme and be in an order that makes sense to the reader. 

Having multiple pieces in one downloadable pdf means all the information is in one place, the reader has it forever and can read it wherever, whenever, internet connection or none. 

Final score 

After five gruelling rounds, it’s time to determine who the winner is. You’ll need to judge your B2B tech content based on: 

  • How much value it will give the reader. Will the reader feel that the information they gave was worth it? Will they feel like they have gained new, relevant, timely knowledge they can use in their career? 
  • What your customers liked. Looking at historical data, you’ll be able to see if your website visitors converted into customers after they gained access to gated content. 
  • If your content is promotional. This variable is quite clear cut. If the main purpose of your content is to showcase your solutions, don’t gate it. Instead, try weaving promotional messaging into a value-driven piece of content. 
  • Your wider business goals. Whether you want to put your business into hyper-growth by feeding plenty of leads to the sales team, or build brand awareness for a longer term marketing impact, gated and ungated content can help you achieve these objectives. 
  • Other content on your site. Most B2B tech marketers want to have a balance between gated and ungated content so that they get the best of both worlds and reach a larger audience. Try repurposing existing content as gated, or generating ungated content to build an SEO ranking. 

And the winner is… up to you! Now go forth and continue creating insightful, useful, relevant content for your B2B tech audience. 

To find out how to measure ROI of your gated/ungated content and attribute it to revenue, head here

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