When to Gate (or Not to Gate) a Content Asset?

February 10, 2020 | 4 minute read
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Does the age-old strategy of collecting contact information by gating content hold up in 2020?

Over the last decade, content production online exploded from a nice bonus to an absolute essential. Everyone from startups to enterprises churns out tons of content, much of which goes unread and unnoticed. Even marketers who personalize their content can’t expect success if they don’t offer something better than what audiences can find elsewhere.  

Gated content may not make sense for every business or use case, but rewarding visitors for submitting their contact information remains an effective tactic for building an email list and vetting prospects. If you aren’t sure whether to gate a piece of content or post it for the world to see, ask yourself these revealing questions.

Is this better than what visitors can get for free?

In a world of limitless free content, gated content has to be better. What makes your content offering so special that audiences would give up their information in exchange for access? No one wants to provide contact details in exchange for a glorified sales pitch. You must offer genuinely useful content if you want your gating efforts to succeed.

Never hide a standard blog post behind a form. Doing so cheapens your brand and prevents you from realizing the myriad benefits of open content. Instead, reserve gates for pieces of content that truly stand out from other available offerings. Original research, useful templates, and in-depth guides to complex processes all perform well behind content gates. 

How would this affect lead qualification?

Some businesses use gated content to filter their audiences into categories. This can be an effective way to discover which visitors could turn into customers and which visitors aren’t worth turning over to the sales team. 

Before you gate your content, think about how to create the form on the front end. What kind of information can you request from users. Will users be willing to give up that information? Many companies ask visitors to input their budgets before providing access to gated content. Questions like these help with lead qualification, but they can put off users who’ve just begun the purchase journey. Consider where your gated content fits into your lead nurturing strategy, then construct your forms based on that information.

Do you have the resources available to create something worth gating?

Creating content is easy; creating high-quality content worthy of gating is difficult and often expensive. If your company lacks the internal resources to construct a phenomenal offering, you must turn to outside help, which can get pricey and presents its own unique challenges. You may find that you’d benefit more by investing in a robust blog than you would by creating a piece of gated content. 

Don’t let limited experience hold you back from creating great content, though. A small company with hardly any content can build an email list quickly with one stellar piece of gated content. Whether this tactic makes sense depends on whether the company can afford to spare the resources. 

Will gating content harm our ability to pursue other goals?

On a related note, businesses of all sizes have limited time and budget. Gated content requires significant time investments from a variety of stakeholders. Most big content pieces go through several rounds of revisions and require buy-in from leadership before publishing. Those people have plenty to do, so make sure you know exactly what you want to create — and why — before moving forward with a gated content project.

Others at your company may require a little convincing, especially if you haven’t tried gated content yet or have been unsuccessful in the past. Outline your strategy in full, including how you plan to attract page visitors and how you plan to judge the success of the initiative. Keep in mind that you can use gated content in a variety of ways and with a variety of campaigns. This isn’t a one-time investment, but an addition to your brand’s library of expertise.

Would this piece perform better as a pillar piece?

The pillar approach has taken over the content marketing world for good reason. Long pillar posts include tons of high-quality information; shorter posts link back to the pillar post to strengthen the brand’s online clout. This strategy works well for SEO purposes. By gating content that would serve better as a pillar post, you could deprive your brand of an important resource. 

Think carefully about positioning as you design your new piece of content. Something that begins as a gated asset might make more sense as a pillar post as the creation process moves forward (or vice versa). In this evaluation, consider your opportunities to build topic clusters and weigh those opportunities against your odds of securing more direct leads for your sales team.

Should you ever put content behind a barrier? For most businesses, the answer is yes. Whether you gate a particular piece depends on a variety of factors, but the more robust your content strategy grows, the more data you’ll collect, helping you make the best decisions for your company.


Once you have leads, you have to know how to properly nurture and manage them if you ever hope to turn them into customer. Find out how to “Do More with Lead Management.”

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Serenity Gibbons

Serenity Gibbons is a former assistant editor at the Wall Street Journal and a New York University alumna living in California. She is the local unit lead for NAACP in Northern California with a mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. She enjoys writing and interviewing people who are making a difference in the world.

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