What Does Effective Gated Content Look Like in 2021?

When it comes to developing a strategic demand generation plan, gated content is hard to overlook.

Not only can it position you as a thought-leader in your industry, but it also helps you build your email list. On the other hand, mess it up and you can lose trust with your audience.

To help ensure you’re using gated content to help your brand – and not hurt it – we’re sharing what effective gated content looks like in 2021. Keep reading to learn what to consider so you can create gated content that converts.

What is Gated Content?

Before we talk about what effective gated content looks like, it’s important to understand what gated content is.

Gated content is free content that’s made available behind a form. This content can vary in formats, but some common examples include white papers, templates, webinars or product demos, just to name a few. We’ve seen a variety of gated content types over the years and have even rounded up some of our favorites to help inspire you.

There’s more to gated content than just the format (don’t worry, though – we’ll talk about that, too). Keep reading for more tips on what effective gated content looks like in 2021.

What Does Effective Gated Content Look Like?

When done correctly, companies can use gated content to build their pipeline and drive demand generation. Likewise, website visitors gain access to high-quality content and data from organizations that (hopefully) provide longer-term value.

The key to effective gated content is providing an equal exchange of high-quality content that’s worth joining someone’s email list for – because let’s face it: we all know we’re going to be added to an email list.

Consider the buyer’s journey stage

To create content that’s valuable, it’s important to know where your audience is in the buyer’s journey. Content that’s valuable at the awareness stage likely won’t be relevant for someone who’s in the decision-making stage.

For instance:

  • Awareness: Check which blogs are your most visited and determine which might benefit from a companion content offer.
  • Consideration: Webinars and white papers are great consideration stage pieces that can be shared on your resources or events page.
  • Decision: Do you offer a free trial or product demo? These are great gated content ideas for your pricing page.

For more gated (and ungated) content ideas for each stage in the buyer’s journey, check out this content guide by HubSpot.

Think beyond traditional content formats

While the webinars, white papers and product demos mentioned above can be impactful content offers, it’s important to consider how you can elevate your content. By introducing new content types, you demonstrate added-value that builds trust and authority with your audience.

For starters, think about if any of the following apply to your content:

  • Can you turn a PDF into a webinar?
  • Is your whitepaper suited for a dynamic gated website?
  • Is your checklist suited for a quiz?

Take this gated content for instance. Instead of just building a simple white paper, we helped Switchfast Technologies turn their Remote Workforce IT Checklist into a dynamic presentation. Plus, it was repurposed as a webinar to add additional value and help them get more mileage out of their content.

Value of the content

Effective gated content isn’t just about the piece itself, but about the amount of contact information you ask for in return. If you require 10 pieces of information for a 5-step checklist, you’re likely going to see a very high bounce rate.

While having a ton of data on your new audience member is great, if you ask for too much information you’ll scare away leads. Your ask must be worth the reward.

A fair exchange for a checklist is often a name and email address, whereas a free product demo might warrant some information like your company name and industry.

Content relevancy

This sounds like a given, but your content needs to be relevant. There are a few layers to what relevancy means when it comes to gated content, though.

First, it must be relevant to your services. If you’re a B2B marketing agency that helps companies hit their lead, conversion, and acquisition goals, then content downloads related to B2C strategies aren’t relevant to your services. While they may garner a significant number of downloads, your content isn’t going to remain relevant and they’ll be likely to use a fake email address or unsubscribe right away.

Second, as mentioned above it must be relevant to the stage in the buyer’s journey.

Third, it must be relevant to the page the offer lives on. For example, you don’t need an industry checklist on your pricing page, but a free demo or trial makes perfect sense here.

Post-download funnel

Lastly, you can’t just stop at the point of download. To create truly effective content downloads in 2021 you must think beyond the content exchange and examine your sales funnel.

You don’t just want to dump every email into your newsletter list and call it a day (though if you’ve gotten permission, don’t forget to add them there). It’s important to segment and organize your contacts by the offers they’ve downloaded so that you can tailor their follow-ups to the products and services they’re interested in.

Picture this.

A contact downloads an interactive guide on how to set up their personal LinkedIn profile.

In addition to sending the content download and adding them to our newsletter list, we might do the following:

  • Tag them in our CRM as having an interest in social media and, more specifically, LinkedIn
  • Segment them into a list based on these interests
  • Add them to a workflow that follows up with additional social media content offers, lets them know when more blog content about LinkedIn is available and shares relevant case studies
  • Automate a follow-up to check-in after a week and see how their new profile is coming along

While all these items can be done manually, investing in a CRM that can automate these tasks can help streamline the process and save you time down the road. Plus, a CRM can help you score leads based on their content downloads, helping you manage your buyer’s journey process.

What Not To Do

So, you’re ready to publish your gated content offer. Just because you put a form in front of a content download doesn’t mean it will be successful.

If you try to gate everything, you may run into some problems. It’s important to be strategic and use the tips above, otherwise you risk:

  • Losing Trust with Your Audience: if you promise one piece of content and either don’t deliver or underdeliver, your audience won’t put much stock in your future gated content downloads
  • Lots of Spam or Fake Emails: if your overall content isn’t perceived as valuable, people won’t want your follow-up materials and will be more likely to use a fake email address
  • High Unsubscribe Rates: if they do use a real email address but your follow-ups and lead nurturing aren’t relevant to their needs, you’ll see high unsubscribe rates
  • Unqualified Leads: if your content offer isn’t related to your product or services, you’ll have a big list of leads that are never going to convert

Start Creating Your Gated Content

Now that you know what to do – and what not to do – it’s time to start developing your gated content. Take some time to think about your audience, their pain points and how you can help solve them with engaging, high-quality content.

Still not sure how to fit gated content into your 2021 marketing strategy? Check out our resources page for more inspiration.