content gating“He who wants to do good knocks at the gate; he who loves finds the gate open.”

-Rabindranath Tagore

Have you heard of content gating?

Technically, it’s that thing you do as an online marketer to force potential clients or prospects to reveal their contact details first in order to get free downloadable content. You literally put up some sort of gate to block any interested person to automatically get free content without getting something in return for it. There’s a Latin maxim that fits this description to a T: quid pro quo, which literally means “this for that” or “something for something.

Content gating is one of the most popular ploys that online marketers or entrepreneurs would use to build their email list. It’s a white hat marketing practice but the thing is; it may not really be helping you in your business at all!

In an article written by Ericka Chikowski for Entrepreneur magazine entitled, “Why You Shouldn’t Wall Off Your Web Content,” marketing strategist David Meerman Scott remarked that marketers who apparently force this practice of content gating are doing their business more harm than good!

Here’s a quote from the article:

“The author of Real-Time Marketing and PR, Scott believes content gating doesn’t make for a good getting-to-know-you phase between marketers and potential customers. “I liken it to a singles bar where some guy comes up to you and says, ‘What’s your phone number?’ without even introducing himself. It sets up an adversarial relationship,” Scott says. Instead, consider collecting information after prospects get a taste of your expertise–and realize how much they can learn from you.

Scott has found that ungated content gets between 20 and 50 times more downloads. He says a gated piece of content that would be downloaded 2,000 times could skyrocket up to 100,000 downloads if you open the lock. So, when do you get to ask for their information? List a secondary offer at the end of the freebie. But before prospects can view that webinar or download the next PDF, they’ll need to pony up their e-mail address. Even if just 5 percent of the 100,000 go for the offer, you’ll end up with 5,000 leads.

And, adds Scott, “you know every one of them has read your white paper. When I talk to sales people, they want to have a person who has already read the white paper and wants to learn more rather than someone who just traded an e-mail address to get a white paper and has never seen it before.” “

So, Should You Or Should
You Not Do Content Gating?

I’d really love to hear the comments of those who are practicing this and those who do not.

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to share, retweet, or bookmark! Thank you!

To Your Success,

Elmar Sandyck
Elmar Sandyck

15 thoughts on “Should We Give Away Content For Free?

  1. Jill Lorraine Stewartson

    Hi Elmar! I think most marketers are quite torn on this matter. I, for one, believe that content gating truly helps. I have used it eversince and it has pretty much produced good leads for me.

  2. Elmar – Love that Tagore quote…

    Great question mate, and one I’m considering deeply at the moment.

    At some point, gating has to come into the equation because that’s how we get paid – ‘you pay me and you get this information/product/service’ vs ‘you don’t pay me you don’t get it’

    My feeling right now is that ‘lower’ gates are a good idea, eg. you sign up here, you get this thing, you Tweet this you get access to that etc.

    However I advocate that only on the back of freely shared massive value. So loads of quality, ungated content is backed up by successive gates leading to higher and higher upsells…

    Interested to know what your other commentators think. And you for that matter!
    Thanks for raising this juicy marketing topic!

  3. Hi Elmar,

    Had never heard it called ‘Content Gating’ but makes perfect sense. I like the idea of giving something away of value and then requiring a contact address for getting the next piece.

    I think bloggers could do this with certain posts too. They could give the ‘what’ and some of the ‘how’ and then direct readers to sign up if they want the nitty gritty. As long as one’s readers now that what you offer is valuable I am sure they would sign up.

    Interesting topic this Elmar. Thanks for making me think it through.


  4. I have given a free e-book away in the past in exchange for my visitor’s email address, but have found that sometimes they downloaded the e-book but then either never opened the follow up emails or unsubscribed altogether.

  5. Hi Jym,

    Thanks for sharing with us a piece of your thoughts :). Most online marketers would gate their content to track and gain valuable information about their visitors or readers. But some visitors see it as a hassle and would not trust when asked for their personal information (especially with their email address). I do agree that sometimes gates are really not a bad thing as long as it’s being used properly.

    Take care,

  6. Hi Ilka,

    Content gating has its ups and downs and I guess it’s a case-to-case basis. As per your experience, I could see that even if you gated your content, it didn’t work out as you expected it to be. I think what you are doing now is more appropriate in your case and if you get the desired results in the end, then so be it!

    Thanks for sharing your experience on this matter. Gives another dimension to the concept of content gating.


  7. Hi Jill,

    Indeed, marketers have divided opinions on this. But deciding whether you stick with gated content (or to ungate it) would really depend on your objectives. Do you want to capture information? or would you want your content to go viral. It’s up to you to decide :).

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience!

    Take care,

  8. Hi Marcus,

    People are very cautious especially when it comes to giving out personal information. By initially giving something for free, you are slowly but surely winning their trust. I do agree with you that we need to ensure that what we are giving out is of value to our readers. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing with us your insights!

    Take care,

  9. Hi Arthur,

    Definitely, knowing your goals can help you identify whether you gate or ungate your content. But for David Meerman Scott, having an ungated content is really something to consider since it brings in more conversions.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Take care,

  10. Hi,

    Most visitors would only enter their details to download the e-book and not subscribe to the entire newsletter. I guess this is where ungating downloadable e-books comes in… to gain their trust.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Take care,

  11. Hi,

    Every business person should understand the nature of their company. In marketing, one size doesn’t fit all so we need to define our objectives and goals before we can can capture our prospects.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and enjoy your weekend 🙂

    Take care,

  12. I think that if you have something valuable to offer, you should just be honest about it, don’t try to trick possible clients to give their emails because your website will lose credibility.

  13. Hi Jill,

    A gated content has both pros and cons; it’s just a matter of knowing which one will help you reach your goals.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Take care,

  14. Definitely, you may trick them once but you’ll never get the chance to offer them anything afterwards. Honesty is still important even in the online world.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Take care,

  15. Hi Drew,

    Most people really think that when you give something, they expect something in return. But in the online world, giving may not always be in exchange for something. Sometimes FREE means simply that – Free.

    Take care,

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