Gated content is a funny thing, if you think about it. Websites that require a form to be filled out before displaying free, (yes, keep in mind it’s almost always free) content can be compared to the following scenario: You walk into a department store hoping to ask one of the salespeople a very quick, very specific question. You spot one, and walk over to him. Before you can open your mouth, he shoves a 3 page form in your face and says: “I need you to fill this out before I speak to you.”
“But I just want to ask one question,” you object.
“Sorry, but unless you fill this out I can’t help you,” he replies. Frustrated, you walk out of the store.
For many Internet users, gated content offers a similarly frustrating experience. Why, then, do so many companies follow the practice of locking their content behind forms? Salespeople like the one in our imaginary scenario don’t exist. Why would they? Such a practice would only drive potential buyers away from the store. Nevertheless, gated content continues to be a common occurrence across the Web.
While many marketers rely heavily on gated content to generate leads, there are several compelling reasons to take a long, hard look at whether such a policy is good for business, or actually counterproductive. Does your company use gated content? If so, the following 4 points may cause you to consider reducing (or even eliminating) the gated content on your site.
1. Gated Content Will Make Customers Bounce
Let’s be real, here: no one likes filling out forms. So why would you greet your users with a mandatory activity that generates the same level of excitement as filling out taxes?
Okay, what do the numbers show? Research has shown that “82% of Gen Xers, 80% of older Millennials, and 78% of younger Millennials today decide not to download content due to form-fills and are likely to enter false information when downloading.” Giving out personal information is just unpopular, plain and simple.
Here’s another factor: wait times. More often than not, customers who do fill out the form, even if they get the information they desire, are ignored by the company for lead conversion purposes. For example, in one test, out of 433 B2B sales teams, 55% never responded to completed forms. And even if the response does eventually come, the lead has usually grown cold by then.
Solution? Deliver High-Quality, Ungated Content
Why not present your customers with what they are searching for from the outset? Content that truly delivers value is what will keep them coming back.
2. Gated Content Will Make a Bad First Impression
The first impression is usually the lasting impression. That’s true in day to day life, and it’s true in customer interactions with your company.
In face to face interactions, it takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of someone. While a user’s impression of a website may take a little bit longer to form, it is crucial that he comes away from the experience without a bitter taste in his mouth. Blocked content may work against the “halo effect” you want your website to induce.
Solution? Make Lead Forms Optional
Here’s a novel idea: why not make the completion of your form optional? You’ll be able to create a good first impression on visitors, follow up on genuine interest, and keep some of the fundamentals of your lead conversion process in place.
3. Gated Content Leads Will Be Low-Quality
Speaking of optional versus mandatory lead forms, one big disadvantage to gated content is the volume of bad or low-quality leads that it delivers. Think about it: a user may want to access your content so badly that he’s willing to fill out your form, but he may have no intention of buying your product or subscribing to your newsletter. Even if the information he provides is accurate, odds are that as soon as he receives that follow-up email, he’ll hit the Unsubscribe button.
Solution? Find New Lead Sources
What can marketers do without the “safety net” of lead forms? They can look for new (and usually better) lead sources!
For instance, when the marketers at Drift.com replaced lead forms with conversations, they actually generated an increase of 15% net new leads. Conversation-driven marketing actually offers higher-quality leads at lower overall volume than the gated content approach.
4. Gated Content Will Lose SEO Points
All of your gated content may contain masterful writing, and may even include brilliant SEO integration; but because it is gated, it will remain invisible to Google search bots. While forms in front of blocked content may be one way to generate leads, by the same token this may divert critical traffic from your website to competitors who are more SEO-driven.
Solution? Unlock the Gates
You want to deliver consistently strong, SEO-friendly content for your Google SERP ranking. Ungated content allows you to keep your efforts focused on your SEO score, instead of exerting duplicated effort for blocked and unblocked writing. Sites like Zapierhave enjoyed the top spot in Google results with ungated eBooks. Even partially ungating your posted content can lead to an increased SEO score.
The future of digital marketing and lead conversion is not in gated content, not in forcing potential customers to provide personal information before they get answers, not in making prospective clients wait hours, days, or weeks for the response to a completed form, only to receive a flood of unwelcome promotional emails. The future of marketing is in ungated content. Conversation. Helpfulness. Human-ness.
At ClosedWon, we are committed to treating each website visitor as a unique individual through our conversational messaging platform. We believe that engaging with customers one on one, in real-time, is the key to driving optimized lead conversion and sustainable business growth. Reach out to us today to explore how our conversational marketing blueprint can help drive your business’ growth.
Don’t be like those fictional salespeople who drive away the customers. Unlock the gates, and reap the rewards. 🙌