When someone reads or engages with a piece of content your team created — and that content provides specific value to that person — you’re establishing the foundation for a trusting, positive relationship. It’s that simple.
Another piece of that relationship — and possibly the most important step in your marketing funnel — is the gated content you offer to those readers.
Publishing content in external niche publications is a solid way to tap into new networks and grow your qualified leads, and when you’ve created that content strategically, you can lead those readers back to your own website and company blog.
But what happens once readers are directed from your guest-contributed article to your website and, finally, to your blog? If you aren’t enticing them with relevant, engaging content offers that they’ll find valuable through calls to action, those readers probably won’t stick around much longer.
Without high-quality, useful gated content to offer your audience, you’re not only missing out on the opportunity to engage them in that moment through the content itself, but you’re also missing out on the chance to obtain contact information to keep engaging them over time through content in email newsletters or campaigns, making it harder to convert them into leads and see measurable business results from your content.
Now, if you’re going to ask a reader to provide you with valuable information — from her basic contact info to details about her industry, company, experience, or skill level — you’ve got to provide something of value in return.
To earn the trust of your readers and become a resource for them, you’ve got to be absolutely sure that the content you’re delivering is worth gating. It’s not acceptable to request that visitors complete a submission form and then send them surface-level information or a poorly repurposed blog article that you decided to gate instead of keep open. Your audience will not appreciate (or even tolerate, in most cases) being tricked into putting in extra work to provide their personal information only to receive low-quality content in return.
Compare this idea to the apps you download on your phone — let’s not pretend we don’t all get slightly annoyed when the app we want to download isn’t free. But when that app is useful and valuable to us, it’s worth the cost.
For example, I’m a lover and dedicated user of Noisli, an app that provides background noise like coffee shop sounds, rain, thunderstorms, and any combination of a number of soothing sounds. The desktop version is free, and I use it regularly — it’s hands down my favorite productivity app.
(My coffee shop plus a hint of fireplace remix is pretty fierce.)
I was recently at an actual coffee house enjoying the real-life sounds of a coffee shop, a nice house brew, and a book on nutrition when a large group of people loudly took over the back lounge area. Without my computer, and therefore without my free version of Noisli, I turned to the app store on my iPhone where I discovered that the mobile version costs $1.99. In any other situation, that would have immediately deterred me. But because I have a relationship with Noisli, follow and interact with it on Twitter, and trust its services, I downloaded the app, and my Saturday morning was saved.
Moral of the story? Requesting information from someone is a lot to ask, so make sure your gated content — whether it’s long-form written content (like a whitepaper or e-book) or a productivity app — is worth the download.
So what should you keep in mind when you set out to create an exceptional piece of gated content? Here are a few dos and don’ts:
Gated content should provide a deeper dive into a particular topic or process — not just a repeat of your latest blog post. To give your audience members the deeper info they’re “paying” for, include specific client examples, share the secrets to your own process, conduct and disclose the results of your own research, or discuss other unique ideas that set your gated content apart.
For instance, our team surveyed more than 150 editors in our network to find out what they look for (and avoid) with contributed content we pitch for ourselves and our clients. We compiled our data and released the State of Contributed Content report because we knew that our readers were looking for this information and would find it valuable for their own teams.
If you’ve plugged your content into a generic black-and-white template, your audience probably won’t enjoy reading it — and it may present your company in a negative light. Brand your gated content, spend time laying out the information, and include graphics or images to make your ideas easier to digest. When you make sure your six-page downloadable guide is as visually appealing as possible, your audience will thank you.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many company blog posts don’t include calls to action. Whether it’s an offer to download a gated piece of content, subscribe to your email newsletter, or RSVP for an upcoming event, you want to ensure you’re giving readers some direction about their next steps, and you can do that through a relevant, compelling CTA.
And gated content doesn’t only have to live on your blog. Your homepage is another place to offer a relevant piece of gated content to help convert traffic. It’s also a great way to provide your readers with deeper insight into the value your company offers in way that requires less commitment than setting up a sales call, scheduling a demo, or making a purchase right away.
A piece of high-quality gated content doesn’t have to be 30 pages or contain a bunch of additional information or graphics to be valuable. The length of your content should be just enough to discuss your information, not any longer or shorter. An in-depth report and analysis might require more pages, and a one-pager checklist should be just that — one page.
One mistake we see way too often is that companies develop these high-quality long-form pieces of gated content and then wait for their leads to make the first move. Don’t do this.
We have a team member working with our marketing and sales teams who reaches out to qualified leads after they fill out any form on our site. She researches leads’ companies to better understand how our services could be helpful and how we might be able to develop a relationship, and she follows up with them via email.
To provide value right out of the gate, she’ll send a piece of relevant content our team has created that’s specific to that lead’s industry, reported pain points, or topic of interest. It’s an easy, proactive way to explain and showcase what we do and serve as a helpful, valuable resource to build trust and educate leads about content marketing.
Did I miss any key dos or don’ts? Throw ’em at me.
Social media is my happy place. My best days are spent discovering trends about coffee, health, content strategy, and fashion, 140 characters at a time. Let's connect! @MayaSLuke