Case in point: gated content. You may know it by a variety of names - ebooks, white papers, case studies, etc. Basically, if you have to download it (and, even better, provide an email address to get it), it’s gated.
So why, you might ask, would anyone do that? It’s a fair question - free content floods the web every day. Why does adding an extra step suddenly make content worth having?
We’ve taken on quite a few gated content projects in the past and the results have consistently shown one thing: that extra layer between “invitation” and “access” can do magical things for your lead gen efforts
Let’s break it down, show a little of the philosophy behind it, and how it’s worked for us in the past - that way, you too can get on the gated content train and start bringing in those leads before they even get to page 1.
What Exactly Is “Gated Content”?
The best part about gated content is: it can be whatever you want it to be - and it can really be a place to show off what you’ve got.
That’s because your gated content audience and your regular content audience overlap only tangentially. That is, not everyone reading your gated content may be regular subscribers, and not all of your regular reader segments may find the gated content particularly relevant.
But that’s okay - gated content is the perfect place to dive into a particular specialty, focus on a niche area, and really engage with your audience segments in deeper, more meaningful ways.
Obviously, you should make sure your regular readers are seeing what you’re offering - but because actually obtaining gated content takes that extra small step of engagement, it’s the perfect place to offer something surprising, delighting, and even challenging. Those who download have made the extra effort, and deserve a little something special.
Some of our favorite gated content types include everything from long-form ebooks, to small cheat sheets on a niche topic, to visual assets like infographics, videos and webinars.
You do what you do best, or break out and try something completely new - it’s your gate, so go ahead and keep some of your best stuff behind it.
A Step Back - Why (We Think) Gated Content Works
A lot of us here at Altos are parents, and almost every parent knows one thing: the more you tell a kid they can’t have something, the more they’re going to want it. This is also known loosley as the ‘grass is always greener’ phenomenon.
Gated content kind of works on the same principle - if you make a user work a little bit to access what you’re offering, they’re more likely to implicitly value what they get that much more. Dr. Robert Cialdini author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion refers to this as the “Law of Required Effort”. By putting your content behind a gate, you instantly make it seem that much more valuable.
Take the “input your email to download our ebook” example. If your user is taking the risk of putting personal information in just to download your ebook, they’ve already shown a willingness to invest time in your content.
These users are much more likely to remain engaged and take action once they’ve downloaded - making them the prime target for your lead gen efforts.
It’s a little like having a super inviting bouncer at your party: you already know the people who made it through the door really want to be there, and now it’s just a matter of making sure they don’t get lost on the way to the dancefloor.
Get Gated Into Your Strategy
Maybe the hardest part of actually implementing gated content is getting it into your strategy.
For a lot of content producers, this might mean shifting gears a bit, moving resources away from your regular blog and social media production and onto these long-term writing and design projects.
As an agency, we know how important it is to meet those consistent deadlines, and why it can be tough to fit in a new project on top of what we’ve got.
That’s why we’ve found success pre-planning for gated content as part of our overall strategy, scheduling in a loose timeline for a gated project month ins advance, even before we’ve gotten the finer details fleshed out. That way, we can create actionable deadlines and keep everyone moving in the same direction through creation, launch, and follow-up.
We’ve come to view gated content not as additional content, but as a part of our greater content strategy. It’s a better way, and it helps hold off some of the headaches of trying to cram too much into our regular rounds.
Make Sure It Fits
If you’re not already making the case that you’re an expert in your particular topic - and, by extension, that your gated content can be trusted as an authoritative source before the user gets it - your users may be a lot less likely to trust that the reward will be worth the effort.
Even though playing hard-to-get can be effective for getting users to click on your gated content, getting them to actually take action is still going to require the same motivator that brings in all of your audience: authority.
When we created our comprehensive “Plan + Launch” web design eBook, for example, we strategically planned that theme based on our extensive prior work covering everything from general UX principles, to improved CTA placement, to our own cutting-edge web design work. The result was a conversion rate over 20% on our ebook landing page, helping us connect directly (and earn the contact info) of a significant portion of highly-relevant traffic.
Because so much of our work revolves around website design and creation, the time and effort we put into this eBook was backed by genuine authority - and the results suggest our audience thought so too, and felt comfortable enough with it to make that time investment to download and read what we offered.
Drive That Traffic Like Your Own Express Lane
So you’ve identified your topics, ensured your authority, and built creation of your gated content into your strategy. Now, it’s time to think logistics - and that means making sure your audience knows how to find your gated content, and making sure they know exactly what they should do once they get there.
For gated projects like our “6 Steps to Get your Site Voice Search Ready” cheat sheet, we took an angle on a topic we’d already successfully blogged about (content and site design for voice search) and expanded into a handy, bite-sized companion piece.
We also made sure to connect those relevant offerings with a big, bold “Download Our Cheat Sheet” button, which helped take that engaged audience one step closer to downloading as quickly as possible. This pushed over a third of all that original blog traffic to the gated piece, driving a 10% conversion rate with minimal time expenditure.
But the engagement shouldn’t just stop at the gated piece itself. We made sure to include easy, clickable “Contact Us” info in the gated content itself, as well links to our other work directly on the landing page and “Thank You” pages.
By making it as easy as possible to for users to keep on travelling down the funnel, we condensed all of that lead gen effort into one smooth transaction, bringing engaged and relevant users right to our doorstep from the get-go.
Seal The Deal - Don’t Forget The Follow-Up
When it comes to making a trade, we all like to end up with more than we bargained for.
For users who downloaded your gated content, that means giving them a little something extra on top of the piece itself - and since you’ve already gotten their email (or some other contact info), you’ve already gotten the perfect way to deliver.
One of the most crucial mistakes content producers make is not following up after users hit that download button. Consider sending over a simple “Hey, thanks for downloading” email, an invitation to follow on social media, or even an introduction to your other gated content pieces.
Chances are, anyone who’s already taken the time to engage will be more likely to engage again - meaning you’re one step closer to nurturing that lead than you were before. Best not to miss out on such an obvious opportunity.
Not A Barrier - An Inviting (and Exclusive) Entrance
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about planning out content, it’s not to give our best ideas away for free. Instead, we save a few good ones and make the audience work for it - and those who follow through have been some of our best, most engaged readers to date.
We’ve created gated content for ourselves and several of our partners, and the results have been pretty impressive across the board. If you’re ready to get gated, let’s talk - we’ll help you get started.
- Conor Snell
- Social Media & Content Strategist