When building out a plan to grow your business through digital marketing, you’re going to need to include a way to capture leads once visitors land on your website. For better or worse, the internet is powered by a certain kind of digital currency. No, I’m not talking about bitcoin, I’m talking about forms.
Whenever you fill out a form on a website and give out your email address, you’re exchanging your email address for information. Your email address is the digital currency that allows you to transact with a website for educational content--this is how marketers generate leads online from website visitors. The content behind these forms are what marketers call gated content.
What is Gated Content?
Gated content is educational content that is so valuable to website visitors that they’re willing to give up their email address in order to get it.
Sounds like a good deal, right? If you give up your email address, you get a copy of an eBook for free. You get the eBook, and marketers gain the ability to contact you as well as learn more about you—your business, your goals, and your challenges. What could be the downside?
Search Engines and Gated Content
Unfortunately, gated content doesn’t help to drive search engine traffic as Google can’t crawl content that you’ve placed behind a form. Think Lord of the Rings, “You Shall Not Pass.” You’ve spent hours creating a great piece of content that your audience will love just to find out that it won’t help with SEO. So clearly, we’ll have to make a tradeoff, right?
While gated content is the lifeblood of inbound marketing, it does have its downside—Google can’t crawl content that is hidden behind your web form--I know, gasp! This is why they call it gated content. From Google’s perspective, this makes sense, if searchers aren’t able to find the content they’re looking for on Google, then it makes for a bad-user experience for searchers.
It reminds of my days doing research in college, I’d search for industry reports while doing market research, but would quickly find that the search results led me to pages that provided only a brief preview of the information I was looking for. To gain access to the full report, I’d need to pay for it.
Like most college students, I didn’t have $900 to shell out for secondary research data, so I found myself frustrated with the results and went back to the drawing board. Thankfully, there were tons of search results so after a few pages of clicking, I found the information I was looking for.
When Does It Make Sense to Use Gated Content?
While organic traffic to your website is great for your page views, it doesn’t help you understand who your visitors are or if they come back to engage in any of your other content.
Because of the vast amounts of information available on the internet, clients and candidates are more informed than ever before—typically viewing more than 5 pieces of content before making a buying decision. For better or worse, creating content that visitors want to engage in is the only way to generate and nurture leads from your website.
By creating gated content that your audience is interested in like salary guides, or how-tos, they’ll gain valuable information and insights from the content and you’ll be able to reach out to them in the future with updated information and new content—a win-win for both sides. But therein lies the problem, Google can’t crawl gated content, so we still need to provide content that is crawlable by Google to drive new traffic and help searchers find your website.
When to Use Ungated Content
Since search engines aren’t able to crawl your gated content, it can be a bit of a balancing act between when and when not to use gated content—the answer lies in your goals. If you need to drive more organic traffic to your website, then it doesn’t make sense to gate the content. This is why you don’t typically see company blogs, websites, or social media posts hidden behind a form—you want Google to bring you traffic, if Google can’t find you, you won’t benefit from search traffic.
Can Gated Content Drive Organic Results?
If you notice your website is driving a lot of organic traffic, but you’re not getting enough leads from the content that you are creating, it is time to implement some longer-form pieces of content that will help your audience move further along in the buyer’s journey.
There is an exception to this rule, but it’s a bit trickier to pull off. In a recent study conducted by HubSpot, they found that gating html pages that are crawlable by Google actually increased organic traffic and conversion rates. Let’s explore how to gate crawlable content in part II, but for now, remember that gated content is important for generating leads, but typically does not benefit your organic traffic.
To learn more about how content marketing and when to use gated content to grow your business, check out our recent webinar recording.