6 April 2022 Inge de Jong

Open the gate! Should we stop using gated content?

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80% of all B2B content marketing assets are gated, so HubSpot found in 2020. That’s the lion’s share of all B2B ebooks, guides and case studies out there! Clearly, using content to convert website visitors into leads has become common practice. But the more marketers use it, the more dissatisfied the leads seem to get. Most people don’t feel nurtured by lead nurturing campaigns at all- they feel harassed. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of gated content and search for an alternative that makes leads happy. After all, an unhappy lead is worse than no lead at all.

The rise (and fall) of gated content

Gated content started a big bang transition in marketing. All of a sudden, marketers could trade content for an email address, which, at the marketing department, is the holy grail. After all, when you have an email address, you can send out emails. An entire marketing strategy was set up around this concept: marketers created workflows to follow up on new leads, and CRM software was put in place to monitor website behaviour. When leads were considered “nurtured”, they’d be handed over to sales. It was a new, revolutionary way to personalise marketing and marketers felt very happy. 


Slowly but surely, leads grew tired of all these “personalised” emails. More often than not, content was product-focused rather than helpful, and bad timing and high frequency added to the frustrations. Over time, gated content turned into a marketing trick and leads started to feel like victims.


The alternative: gateless content

A simple solution to this problem would be to throw out all forms and go back to where we were before. All of your content would be freely available on your website. Website visitors could read your ebooks, download your case studies and watch your webinars without being bombed with follow up emails. They’d probably love you for it, since you’d be helpful without asking anything in return. And since you publish more content on your website, you’d rank higher in search engines and get more readers and more reach. If you look at it from this perspective, gateless content beats gated content. Happy leads, happy life! 



Gated content

Gateless content

Low threshold

More readers

Good for SEO

Happiest people


But wait. If the world was gateless, it would become impossible for marketers to try to and build a deeper connection through lead nurturing campaigns and website personalisation. Also, marketers would lose insights into lead behaviour and marketing ROI. After all, if you don’t know how a lead changed into a customer, you can’t take the credits.


When we look at it like that, gated content actually comes with quite a few perks: 



Gated content

Gateless content

Lead generation

Lead nurturing

Lots of lead insights

Able to proof marketing ROI


What’s a marketer to do?

By the time you’ve reached this paragraph, you’re probably confused. Both gated content and gateless content come with a lot of perks, yet both have a dark side too. So which one to choose?


I suggest you don’t. I suggest you have it all!


What if you built a content library on your website that includes both gated and gateless content? You’d give many of your resources away for free, while creating a lot of goodwill among your audience (and Google). At the same time, gated content pieces would still get you your leads, that are probably more motivated since they’ve been given so much content for free already. In the end, this would lead to both happiness and leads.  


Which content should go where?

That’s a great question. The answer completely depends on your company. If you’re fairly new to your audience and you haven't earned a place in the top rankings of search engines yet, opening the gates might be good as it will get you more traffic and a lot of goodwill. Then again, if you are an established brand with an extensive online content library, adding a form to your top pieces of content is probably a good idea. In our experience, short pieces of content such as blogs, videos and infographics should always be gateless, as they’re simply not worth an email address. Long reads such as ebooks and case studies often are. So, when deciding whether you should go with gated content or gateless content, consider these factors:


  • Brand awareness
  • SEO rankings
  • Content value


Last but not least, when you do opt for gated content, try to be as helpful as you can be. Don’t send out lead nurturing emails because you want to push them through the marketing funnel. Instead, try to think like your ideal customer and be relevant instead. This means you need to adapt your content to the needs, timing and circumstances of your leads. Yes, it might take them longer to reach the sales station, but at least they’ll be happy when they arrive there. 


Good luck!