Podcast: Gated vs. ungated content - what's best?

By Alexander Evjenth

Podcast: Gated vs. ungated content - what's best?

In this episode, Stellan, Anders and I discuss gated and ungated content. Gating your content - meaning to only make it available to users who have handed over some information, maybe by filling out a form with their email address - allows you to grow your contact list and nurture relevant, engaged leads. But if you gate too much, you risk losing trust and making life harder for your reader. So how do you find a balance? Listen to our discussion to find out.

We've written about gated and ungated content before, and it's a very relevant topic, so this week I thought it would be worth speaking about it more deeply in the podcast. Here at Zooma, we publish gated content, but it's hard to deny that too much content online today is gated without a good reason. Hiding your most valuable content behind a form and making users 'pay' for it with their contact details is a method that produces good results for you as a marketer — but as Gary Vaynerchuk says, marketers ruin everything!

If you want to gain more leads and understand the relevance of your content, gating is very effective — and it's this effectiveness that has lead to gating becoming an overused tool. Some marketers hide very basic content behind forms, and when a user realises that they've handed over their details to get access to a piece of content that wasn't worth it, they feel cheated. This in turn makes them less likely to bother accessing other pieces of gated content in the future.

That's why we want to make sure that you use gating responsibly! In the long run, it's better for everyone - marketers and their audiences alike.

Listen to our discussion to find out how to gate your content in the right way - Stellan and Anders will explain what kinds of content you should gate, how they personally interact with gated content, and how gating as a strategy will change and adapt in the coming years.

You can watch the video episode above, but if you prefer, you can listen to the podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud. You can also subscribe on these platforms, or right here on the blog - that way, you'll get an email alert when we publish a new episode. And as always, the full transcription is available below if you're in a rush.

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AE: [00:00:00] So welcome, Anders and Stellan!

SB: [00:00:02] Thank you, Alexander.

AB: [00:00:04] Thank you, Alexander.

AE: [00:00:05] How are you, Stellan? How's the weather?

SB: [00:00:11] Always the weather! Well, it's sunny today as well, so I think that always brings a little bit of an edge over days where it's rainy and cloudy.

AE: [00:00:23] Great, and Anders, how's the weather at your place?

AB: [00:00:28] I'm well, and I have no idea what the weather is like.

AE: [00:00:33] I guess so. So in today's episode, we're going to talk about gated versus ungated content, which is a very actual and interesting conversation and discussion.

AB: [00:00:47] One perspective, Alexander, perhaps it's always a good start, we always presume that people know what we talk about when we say things. So, Stellan, could you please explain 'gated versus ungated', sorry for interrupting Alexander, but perhaps you're used to it.

SB: [00:01:04] Yeah. So the principle of gating content is basically that instead of showing it to anyone who wishes to access it, you have to give away some information in order to access the content. So that can be as simple as your email address. And once you do that, then you get access to the content, and the person who provided the content or the company that provided the content will then know for sure that at least some individual has been interested in this piece of content. So it sort of brings one level of sort of a deeper and the potential sort of start of a relationship, versus simply having unknown visitors viewing the content.

AE: [00:01:59] So what kind of content do you think companies should gate versus ungate?

SB: [00:02:06] Yeah, so basically what you should gate is content that is a really high value. So it should be data that the person can't get anywhere else. It could be your own original research or it could also be that it's from an author that is really sought after. But that type of content could you know, if you have a price list of your services, for example, or your products, that could be an excellent thing to gate, depending on what your sort of customer journey and sales process looks like. But obviously, it's high-value content. And so that's the most obvious things to gate. And then there is sort of a gray area from that down to things where you have to more or less provide the answer already in an article. And it's on a topic that is sort of competitive, meaning you potentially can find that information in other places as well. And if you don't provide it so that it's indexed by Google and other search engines can find it, then you won't be sort of part of the table because you won't be attracting that traffic and those people from the beginning.

AE: [00:03:34] Is there a general objective with gating content and a general objective with ungating content?

SB: [00:03:41] Yeah. So typically gating is because you want to make sure that you can lead nurture in a good way so you can start a relationship with a known contact. And then to ungate, is essentially then as I said before, you could start with content that like it needs to be written in an ungated form. But you can also have tried to gate that content, which you then find that there is very few people who find it, or the people who find it don't convert on that page and give away their information. So then you should try to ungate the content and see if you can increase the organic traffic, see if you can get people to convert after the fact. So they read the content, like the content, and then can they convert afterwards to perhaps get a template or get a guide where they can practically then implement what they've learned from reading the content?

AE: [00:04:40] Yeah, and Anders, what kind of content do you tend to download, give away your email address for?

AB: [00:04:49] And there's two questions in one, I usually use my company address when I download things. That's due to, that's dependable, when it comes to the email address, on where I download something. Can be based on gut feeling or how well I know the brand or the company that I download from. But generally speaking, I always use my company address, and remind me that we can come back to when people use their Gmail address when it comes to downloadable things. But I download everything that can save me research or save me time to be reused in my daily work. Very, very seldom that I download something privately, it's usually work-related, I can find a few examples, like a while ago when we talked about solar cells, I've been downloading things there. Been very, very disappointed with how it contributes. That is because talking about knowledge content, as Stellan said, I believe that it's answers or solutions on my challenges and needs, their experiences. I definitely think it's relevant insights and data. I usually want practical help. And when I say practical help, it can be defining the why, it can be suggesting the how, and explaining the whats based again on my challenges, problems and needs. And I think way too many companies, whether it comes to content generally, ungated or gated, have a problem to understand that when it comes to knowledge, content and educational content, I'm willing to do a lot of things. But when it comes to them providing editorial stuff or commercial stuff or their brand stuff, don't go that way because I won't return. Don't try to use your sheepish tricks to fool me that you are better than everyone else.

AB: [00:07:10] The only way to reach me when I download or not download or use content is - help me with my problems to become more efficient, to gain from your learnings, then you will be credible. So sorry for the very broad answer, but in summary, more in my B2B work than in my sort of B2C life, and take a stance from my problems and challenges and needs. And don't be too general, I need it for something that is important for me and urgent. Then if I give the example that Stellan had a company and I visited him online and he gave me a PDF that seemed very, very smart, ungated, fantastic. And then I realized that Stellan gives me the possibility in his B2B business, to get the PowerPoint if I contact them, because, yeah, I can migrate the PDF content through blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I'm fine with that. I understand that he wants to get to know me better and therefore, yes, that's fine with me. And if he is a nice guy not trying to sell to me and talk about his brand and his commercial stuff and how fantastic he is, and all the other things that I don't ask about that I presume or expect that he knows, then it could be a business relation, that's a fine, gated/ungated example for me. But if he says download this and it's no value of it, don't start calling me, don't send emails. I will never, ever download anything from your company, Stellan!

AE: [00:09:03] Stellan, do you agree? What's your take on that?

SB: [00:09:09] An additional perspective is that I personally, being the nerd I am, often tend to end up in the close phase sort of as part of the attract phase. And so I'll try to explain that, as part of my sort of getting to know an area and understanding whether I should do something or not, I often tend to, at some point, want to access the manual, for example, or access the specification sheets and stuff like that. And that's often considered to be sort of further down the funnel for most people. So I think it's an overlooked area where certain companies can actually use that type of content earlier in the journey and bring in the potential prospects earlier and shortcutting, in a way, the customer journey a little bit by providing that type of content and that often has quite high value for people. So I'm more than prepared to give away some of my personal details to access that type of content if it's good.

AE: [00:10:21] And do you have any thoughts and ideas of how it will look in three to five years?

SB: [00:10:28] Yeah, so we've sort of looked at what people are saying and what has happened historically to techniques in marketing, if you wish. And it's pretty clear that we have, if we're not in, then we have perhaps at least reached or just passed some type of 'peak gated content'. So a little bit like radio reached the peak and television reached the peak, and newspapers reached the peak and so on, this type of technique is also reaching a peak and it is doing so because marketers tend to ruin everything, as Gary Vaynerchuk famously says, we basically over-optimize and use everything, everything that we see working until it doesn't work anymore. So gradually there would be a progression towards what I think is more personalization and more using data to be relevant. And then you get into the whole sort of privacy discussion and everything.

But all research so far has pointed to the fact that people trust you with your data if what they get in return is relevance, they don't trust you with your data if they find out that you sell it to third parties without permission and stuff like that. So this is the sort of debate that is now, well, it's been ongoing for a couple of years, but that is being intensified now, also because of Apple's stance versus Facebook, for example, and, you know, demanding that apps be more transparent about what data is sent where and so on. So we're getting into that whole type of landscape. But on the other end of that, I think it's going to be a good thing, because when the transparency will make us be more trustful with companies, with our data, and then we can do much more personalization and be relevant to a higher degree than before. My guess is now that Anders has a take on this or a reflection on what I just said. But going to one of his favorite places, Amazon, this is what they have been doing for a long time, is to stay relevant through data, and I think we're going to see that generally increase on the web, and then gating versus ungating becomes more of a sort of academic discussion, because we will know essentially when we should gate and when we shouldn't gate and to which target groups or even down to the individual level.

AE: [00:13:09] Anders, do you have a take on that?

AB: [00:13:11] I think that it shows each and every day, gated versus ungated, it shows. If you look from the outside and not from the company providing the content's perspective, if it's useful, if it's relevant based on what I need, I don't think it matters. I don't think it matters if it's gated or ungated, video, text, if it's relevant for me, I most likely think good about the brand or company that provided it. If it wasn't and they gated it, oj oj oj, that hits back. If it was, doesn't matter. Maybe I gave away the same data as I've been giving away 25 times before. Doesn't matter. It's relevant. Feel free to contact me. I like you. Thank you so much for the help during the years, although I haven't been a customer, now I'm ready. Thank you for asking me if this was something relevant for me to buy. Relevance, relevance beats everything and good intentions are much better than trying to be so-called smart and fool someone to give away more than they wanted to give away or that they weren't aware what they were giving away. Playing smart, that's the old 'get a foot in the door' trick from salespeople. And I can tell you, I never heard of anyone who got a foot inside the door who managed to change the position. If you got in the foot bottom-right, that's where you stay.

AE: [00:14:46] I think that's great closing words.

SB: [00:14:50] Well said!

AE: [00:14:54] So, thank you both very much for participating in this episode.

SB: [00:15:01] Thank you, Alexander.

AB: [00:15:04] That's how we presume to say every time.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys even more is creating knowledge content.
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