Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (2023)

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Gated content, freemium offers, content updates. Whatever you want to call them, the idea ofcreating lead magnetsand locking them behind a sign-up form has been a core practice in content marketing for over a decade.

After working with a variety of marketing partners, as well as a wide range of B2B and B2C customers, we've noticed that opinions around the concept of “blocking content” are quite polarizing.

For one thing, it's a tried-and-true tactic. Create awesome content that encourages people to join you in exchange for their email address and grow your contact list for lead nurturing. It's a great way to drive leads through your sales funnel andstill works today, which makes it very difficult to argue against.

On the other hand, marketing landscapes (both B2B and B2C) have evolved dramatically in recent years. For starters, consumers are much more empowered now, which means marketers have had to adopt less intrusive ways to drive engagement. Traditional means of promotion have come to be seen as too salesy, too forceful, and downright manipulative. Not to mention thegrowing online privacy issueand new government regulations like GDPR.

In reality, there are wildly conflicting opinions at both ends of the scale. So we decided that the best way to come to a conclusion on this subject was to get insights from people who do the real fieldwork for brands.

So we thought that would be an excellent topic for a little debate.

We polled and asked expert marketers from all backgrounds if they thought brands should be blocking content in the modern age. Here's what they had to say:

Many still use (and love) gated content

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (1)Exclusivity can increase the value of your asset, but developing an annoying barrier can also deter some new potential customers. The trick to gated content is to create relevant value offers and compelling calls-to-action they can't refuse.

Always leave them wanting more! If your company owns the proprietary data, show your audience its value with a brief synopsis, then control the rest. We develop, design and manage some of our most valuable VR case studies and all we ask is that the user provide us with an email address in the pop-up form. If your form is too long and asks for too much, your information will never reach your audience.

This simple email exchange has been well received by our new prospects and our industry specific case studies are downloaded every week!

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (2)Gated content still works, but the execution has evolved due to the changing mindset of the customer. In the past, you offered visitors “basic” content that provided general information, and they could pay for more in-depth “premium” content.

Now readers/prospects have higher expectations of free content. To adapt, brands should offer premium content for free, with the option to buy “super premium” content. An example would be a course on starting an e-commerce business. Free content should tell readers everything they need to know to do this on their own. “Super premium” gated content would be far more valuable: one-on-one consulting, access to a mastermind group, custom tools to help automate the most annoying parts of running a store.

Content and guides are everywhere, so to stay competitive and capture customer attention, brands need to offer things that can't be found anywhere else.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (3)Should marketers use gated content for lead generation? In my experience, absolutely!

Offering unique content (for free) in exchange for an email address is one of the best ways to build a relationship with your readers. After all, a blog visitor can come and go and disappear forever. A social follower probably doesn't see everything you post online. A potential customer who didn't buy your offer on the sales landing page is much more likely to make the purchase after contacting you via email. You really need a way to 'capture' your website visitors, build a relationship and sell to them later. And gated content is the perfect way to do just that.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (4)I've been able to achieve incredible results by creating some truly amazing content, but enhancing it even further with a download that a reader would surely want. Then once they've read 1500+ words on the subject - the other half of the piece requires an email, with a lead generation type form.

We did this in our Analytics Basics guide, and the Google Analytics Twitter account even tweeted our guide! The first step is to create content that actually solves a problem, but still provides more value when they opt in.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (5)When a potential customer is reading “free” content on your site, it illustrates their interest in your products or services, or at the very least, the niche you are in. However, there isn't a great way to track this unless visitors are signing up for your newsletter along the way.

Therefore, using gated content is the best way to check who visited your site to read that content. Once they submit their email address, you can follow up with them or at the very least add them to your newsletter for bi-weekly or monthly updates. This qualifies the lead simply and effectively.

  • Nicolau Farmen (Spire Digital)

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (6)I have three reasons why brands should restrict content aimed at only the most qualified leads. For one thing, you don't need the contact information of random site users, and 'brand awareness' content should be shared and enjoyed by all.

Second, you don't want to waste your sales team's time bringing them leads that aren't ready for a human touch; so again, brand awareness content should not be blocked.

Third, you should block your most valuable, solution-specific content because only the most qualified leads will download or interact with that content. You want to engage these leads and know who these people are, so if you're not blocking your most valuable content, you're missing important information.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (7)Using gated content can help you see who is genuinely interested in your business. Anyone can peruse some articles via a quick Google search, but it shows intent if the user is willing to enter an email address.

These days, site visitors are savvy and understand that entering an email address means they are likely to receive some form of email correspondence. So if they are interested in the content enough to understand and agree to receive additional emails, that means you could be a great lead.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (8)Blocking content is still a perfectly valid strategy for gathering leads and subscribers. The important thing is to make sure you provide genuine value – and that means offering something better than what the reader will find for free elsewhere.

It's pretty cynical to just distribute a glorified article, but distributing an e-book that provides a deeper dive, or perhaps some worksheets or the like, can be a fair "quid pro quo". It's really about being honest about whether you're giving away something worthwhile.

Read too:Facebook Content: Strategy Evaluation

Some think closed content is outdated

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (9)No, they shouldn't. In my opinion, people are very suspicious of giving out their personal information online. I think using gated content hurts your reputation and makes potential customers/readers afraid of your brand as they will label you as a “spammer” or someone looking for their contact information.

If you're already a household name or a big brand, I think you can use gated content. If people already trust you, you won't immediately lose them by trying to get their contact information. When I mean well-established, I mean the average person recognizes your name, which a lot of companies don't.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (10)I am a firm believer that content is no longer as valuable as it once was. There is actually a lot of content in the world these days. Also, people are much savvy about which websites and apps give out their personal data. So the idea that you would keep some of your content locked away – and that visitors would provide personal details to access it – is a bit outdated in my opinion.

I prefer to distribute all of my content for free through my website and charge a premium if people want to discuss specific topics that aren't covered in my published content. This model has worked really well for me.

  • Yaniv Masjedi (next)

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (11)Closed content works in some contexts. Unfortunately, there's a lot more where this is detrimental to the customer experience.

Consider your goal as a marketer: to take people on a journey from zero brand awareness to preparing for a sales call, in the most efficient and fun way possible.

With that goal in mind, is gated content really the way to go in every possible scenario? What about when you load a new site to be *immediately* attacked with an opt-in? "Wow!" Your first impression is that they are greedy for your data.

That said, if you've developed great authority content that can serve as perennial reference material, and you have the industry authority to get some sort of "buy" from your audience, then leverage that.

What we are really getting attention here is everyone trying to charge an “entrance fee” before a visitor can even walk in to see if they want to leave a few dollars with the establishment.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (12)For me, gated content is a big no. All it does is increase your bounce rate and allow your competitors to be more easily found and liked for their unclosed content. In 2019, content marketing is more competitive and blocking your content will likely cause you to lose more than you gain.

The alternative to gated content is creating additional content that you can use for a lead magnet that may be deemed more valuable than the content that brought the visitor there. Maybe it's a “Part 2” or course on the subject you briefly discussed. Something like this might work, but blocking your content completely for the purpose of capturing leads is likely to backfire.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (13)Coming from someone who has created gated and non-gated marketing content, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to this question.

It all depends. Personally, I don't use gated content much anymore. This increases the number of email leads you can get, but it doesn't necessarily correlate with the quality of those leads or your actual bottom line results and ROI.

Unlocked content, on the other hand, has many benefits. People openly consume it, people engage with it and share it with their friends, and website owners link to it. This adds a lot of value. Increased brand awareness, increased social media mentions, follower and website traffic, long-term increase in Google rankings and organic search traffic, and it still brings in a decent number of leads.

Some are taking a more specific approach to gated content

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (14)Having a mix of gated and non-gated content is usually the best way to go; you can attract more traffic with your uncontrolled content and then present your premium unique content to these users when they are on your site.

That said, here's a way to capitalize on the unblocked route:

Once you have an influx of traffic to your website, you can remarket to them through Google Ads, Adroll, Facebook, etc. If you have the right tracking pixels on your website, every visitor becomes a lead and you don't even need to collect their email address to get value from that visitor. We take a content-heavy marketing approach to most of our clients, and we consistently remarket to this audience (with great results).

If you want to produce gated content that still ranks on Google, you have two options: 1). Write a substantial intro or section before the CTA and optimize for the title tag and h1 or 2). Let the content load first (so bots can crawl it), then use a Javascript popover to block or “lock” the content. Results will vary with the latter, so test at your own risk!

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (15)Content gates – particularly in B2B marketing – are incredibly valuable for lead generation efforts, but they are often overused. You have to be strategic. Know what specific information you need to collect – and have a plan for what you will do with it. Email campaigns? Sales calls? Don't block until you have a plan in place for what happens next.

Gate content that is at the mid-funnel end – trust should already be established before you ask for any contact information from a potential customer. This means you should only access high-value content like webinars, ebooks, and whitepapers. Think about what type of content you would like to exchange your information for – it's probably not a blog post.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (16)People are much smarter and more experienced with these tactics, but they are still effective and a great way to build your lead funnel. There just needs to be a focus on quality versus quantity.

Providing a useful article/blog that genuinely answers the reader's question, "for free", is a much better approach. To get the reader to give you their information, you need to offer something that is of value to them.

Example: Your article is about refinancing a home, tell them how to refinance your home, no strings attached. Where you would add your lead magnet is by offering a refinancing checklist and custom payment calculator in exchange for your information.

In summary, you must provide value to the reader upfront, gain trust, and then offer a tangible resource for their personal information. So yes, it still works today and marketers should be using it the same way they did years earlier.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (17)When and how to place your content behind a lead capture form:

1) If you have a large audience, great organic traffic, and you need to filter your audience.

2) If you want more qualified marketing leads.

3) If you want to gauge the level of interest in your content.

4) If the content you provide is premium (high value). Content shows all the signs of being Empathetic – Authoritative – Trustworthy

When you shouldn't block content:

1) If you want to build an audience i.e. generate brand awareness and reach

2) If you want to rank for quality keywords and boost your search engine optimization efforts.

3) if you want more customer engagement, interaction and content consumption at a higher level of the sales funnel (top of the funnel)

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (18)We tell people that the underlying purpose behind creating content should drive whether or not to block it. If your content is strictly about acquiring new email, blocking is the way to go. Of course, this creates a barrier to email capture and can result in bounces. But for organizations that need to actively grow their database, it's a time-tested way to do so. This is especially the case if you are using paid tactics to attract new individuals to your content. You don't want to spend money on that click and not get your contact information.

On the other hand, if you're more focused on nurturing an existing contact database, leave your content unrestricted. You already have the email addresses of individuals if not more, so no barrier to accessing the content is necessary. While it's true that you could use this as an opportunity to capture additional information about the visitor, there are enough other database field creation tools that allow you to do this behind the scenes without detracting from the user experience.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (19)In my experience, the freemium model can't always negatively impact the user experience; but closed content can definitely be "a dead horse". There is a big difference between the two.

The Freemium model is here to stay:

Marketers can offer a freemium model that enhances the content they provide, without blocking any content. Our streaming platform is a great example of this approach: both the free and paid versions of BitMar offer access to the same content, while the paid version enhances the offer.) In other words: a freemium model doesn't always have to be a fully closed content model.

Closed content is definitely dead:

The situation is simple: there is simply too much free content out there. As time goes on, it will become even more difficult for gated content providers to justify their offerings; and even more content becomes readily available at no cost. In my opinion, all gated content marketers will have to – at some point – reconsider their business model. Those that pivot their monetization strategies will survive. Those that don't will simply go out of business.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (20)Putting guarantees or information about your company at the top of your sales funnel is like charging someone for their business card. It's not a good idea. Offer high-value "free" content to potential customers so they're willing to trade in their contact information for more, potentially better content that lets you learn more about them and where they are in the buying process.

We don't recommend that customers block content until a prospect is at the right stage of the sales funnel for sales to be worth following up on. Before deciding to block a particular content or library of content, ask yourself if the reader will feel it's worth trading the blocked content for your contact information.

Make sure you offer enough value in your "free" content to make them believe your gated content will be worth their while. Potential customers will judge the possible value of gated content by the quality of the "free" content.

If your primary goal is high-quality leads and a larger contact list, gated content makes sense. However, if your goals are brand awareness, reach, and audience size, your focus should be on unmanaged content.

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (21)Should brands use gated content? Short answer: It depends. Long answer: If your goal is lead generation, curating your high-quality content can be a great way to gather relevant contacts.

If your goal is to increase traffic and climb search engine rankings, you might not want to block your content. Most users will not just give out their information. They need to be convinced that they will get something of value before they give away their data. This is where your free content comes in. By proving your worth through your free resources (blogs, tools, podcast) – you will dramatically increase the likelihood that a user will give up their information.

Our agency utilized gated and non-gated content, using our blog to prove we have valuable information; and using gated content to gather leads.

To gate or not to gate?

The bottom line is that some brands use gated content while others don't. And it seems to be working for players on both sides of the field.

Unsurprisingly, many brands are still using gated content to great effect. The lead-capturing nature of gated content gives brands the opportunity to initiate and maintain a dialogue with their potential customers, which is undeniably important forlead generation.

As for those who took a more open, free-sharing approach, they were also able to find success by improving the user experience in their sales funnel without necessarily sacrificing lead generation features.

So, comparing the gated content landscape to a decade ago, we can definitely see that it's nowhere near as popular a tactic as it used to be. It is now much more common to find brands leaning towards a “no strings attached” system for delivering content. And who's to say they're wrong when they can prove their worth with higher levels of engagement?

The concept of gated content is definitely losing steam in the modern marketing age, but rest assured it will never completely die out. As we see it, as long as there are still potential customers who appreciate the trust exchange that comes with accessing gated content, lead magnets will continue to be a valuable marketing tactic.

Which one should you choose? Well, there is no hard and fast rule. What it boils down to is whether or not your audience really appreciates it.

Here at Spiralytics, we use a mix of gated and gated content to support our marketing objectives (about 10% gated and 90% gated). we share freelyblog and resource articlesfor maximum engagement and SEO impact. But we also offercomprehensive ebooksfor leads who want to delve deeper into a specific topic. This has continued to work for us over the past few years and we can make it work for your brand too!

contact us todayto learn more about how we can improve your brand's gated and non-gated content!

Content Blocking: Brand Strategy Assessment (22)


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