Gated content is an amazing way to get the customer’s foot in the door and companies are already convinced about the value it can bring to their business in terms of leads and eventual sales.
But the reality is that most websites often make mistakes with gated content – driving people away than actually getting them to sign up.
This problem is particularly prominent in the ecommerce space. This is because the audience is much larger than in B2B for any industry in ecommerce and the problems statements are different for different sets of people.
Moreover, when people purchase products online or sign up for content, it’s not just about the quality and the benefits – the trust factor plays a major role in ecommerce.
So it’s no surprise that queries around “gated content” are searched nearly 6K times every month. The most pressing questions are related to what type of content should be gated, how to effectively create one, and how to promote restricted content to generate more interest consistently.
In this article, we skip through the BS and get straight to the point.
- What do you gate?
- And what can you do to drive more engagement?
But first, let’s quickly understand the definition of gated content.
What do you mean by gated content?
If you’re new to the concept, you’ve probably reached this far thinking “ what the hell is gated content in the first place?”
Content that is restricted and is only accessible in exchange for contact information is commonly referred to as gated content. People have different names for it - locked content, restricted content, exclusive content, lead magnet to name a few.
While the content can be of any format, the primary goal is the same, generate leads for your business. The most popular type of locked content are ebooks, whitepapers and research papers.
However, in ecommerce, it truly depends on the industry but some common gated content examples include style guides in fashion, workout programs and diet plans in health & fitness, secret recipes in food etc. Coupons, pre-orders, product launches and freebies are also restricted by most online stores.
To gate or not to gate...
This is where the problems begin - figuring out whether or not a content is worth gating.
While there are flowcharts and other confusing mechanisms to determine this, we came up with a straightforward set of questions to help you settle the dilemma.
The 9-point checklist to validate gating a content
- Is the content valuable to the existing customer?
- Is the content unique from what your competitors provide?
- Does it have unique or fresh information?
- Is the content consumable immediately like a template, checklist or a coupon?
- Is the content exhaustive enough? (Bare in mind that people don’t like consuming content that’s too long either)
- Does the content solve a major problem? Does it answer a pressing question?
- Is the content backed by extensive and valid research?
- How will the audience find this content? What’s the main source for readers?
- Will the reader acquire new knowledge or skills?
If the answer to at least half of the above questions are “YES”, then gating the content is likely to add value to the business.
Just to be clear, it is less likely to add any long term value if:
- The content is just another extensive sales pitch
- 100s of other websites already talk about it
- The topic is generic and all fluff
- The content is just an opinion rather than a data backed inference (Everyone has an opinion, there’s nothing special there)
8 do’s & don’t while locking content on your ecommerce store
Now that we’ve covered the prerequisites to this strategy, let’s get to the meaty parts.
We’ve compiled a list of 8 do’s and don’t to follow while carrying out your gated content campaign. Stick around till the end to unlock the full capacity of running a content gating strategy.
1) Do: take the content creation a bit seriously
Adding a form fill to protect your content isn’t what’s going to make the difference in the long run. Any content can be gated but what separates successful campaigns from an average one is the quality of the content.
If your potential customers feel that your content sucks, they’re most probably going to shut down any contact with you in the future. In other words, all the effort - No sale.
Let’s take a deeper look at how you can get better at this.
Keep your buyer’s persona handy
Building a buyer’s persona is an important part of starting a business. It’s usually the first step for a reason - it always comes in handy. If you’ve not penned down your ideal persona or need to rework it, here’s what you need to cover:
- Basic information: Age demographics, Location, Job Title, Education level, Social Media Information
- Personality: The psychology of YOUR potential customer. Their traits - are they social? Do they run on intuition or research? The image below gives you a good idea of this section of the persona.
- Goals: This should ideally cover their goals in relation to your industry - What high level problems do they want to solve? However, to learn more about the customer, you can also add in typical life goals, as long as it adds value to running your business.
- Challenges: This is probably the most important segment of your persona document. You want to answer what problems potential customers face to a very granular level. This is what will drive the topics you can cover in your content.
- Preferred Channels: What channels of communication gets their attention? Is it social? Emails? Ads? Magazines? Referrals?
Add a scale to gauge to what extent each avenue reaches the ideal audience.
- Criteria to Choose a Product: These would define your USP, of your business but also of the content you create. What they pick in a product gives you an idea of why they will sign up to access your content.
Your finished persona would look something like this:
Take inspiration from popular ungated content
A common and effective practice is to create a piece of content that links well with a blog, article or video that is ungated. Find out what’s missing and offer it in exchange for your customer’s contact information.
Say for example - you write about fitness and the topic of one of your blogs is “home chest workouts using resistance bands”. You can host a webinar about “full body workouts using resistance bands (exercises and the right equipment)” and add it as a gated content with said blog.
Bodybuilding.com kills it with this strategy without getting too fancy.
The blog talks about the best tricep exercises while the gated content is a 4 week arm workout program - the perfect formula to drive sign ups.
Run a competitor gap analysis
Don’t ignore what your competitors and the top brands in your industry are doing to drive leads.
Pick the top 5-7 competitors, a mix in terms of reach and size, and run an audit of their pages to find out where they place their locked content, what’s it about, whom do they target and why someone would want to sign up.
Note down all your observations on an excel sheet and find out common gaps and unique ideas that you can capitalize on.
You can also do the same for big names in ecommerce that might not be a competitor but are the best at driving leads by restricting content. This helps get new angles and approaches to gated content.
Ask the experts
People listen to influencers and experts. That’s obvious.
While it might be very hard to get hold of one and set up an interview with them, it’s worth having a set of activities dedicated to engaging with famous experts of your field.
An alternative to interviewing them is to back your content based on their public statements and opinions. Keep track of what they post on social media, what they write about in magazines and what’s hot about them in the news.
While drafting your content, reference what you learn from these sources or base the majority of the content on their activity.
Let’s say you run an online fashion store. Here’s an idea for a good content - “10 popular Heidi Klum outfits and where to get them - we did the research”
However for many ecommerce websites, this can be a hefty investment. In that case, tap into your own employees or your own credentials. You don’t have to be famous, you just have to get people to trust that you know your stuff.
A few great ways to do that is to:
- Keep your social media accounts active with relevant and insightful information
- Maintain a personal blog or a review channel to present yourself as a knowledgeable critique
- Answer popular questions on Quora that are relevant to your brand
It takes time but once people get around trusting in your credibility, the content you promote has more of a chance to attract a lot of sign ups.
2) Do: have a streamlined communication & tracking process in place
Once you get their contact details, the work doesn’t stop. Your goal is obviously to drive sales and not just sign ups. Here are a few things to implement to streamline communication and drive more sale:
- Make sure you have the right email nurtures set up. The important thing is to space out your communications and not end up in spam.
- Establish an automated email series to help you keep track of sign ups and other important email metrics
- Set up a lead scoring mechanism to gauge the interest of each lead towards your brand and products. If you’re looking for tools to put this process on autopilot, Capterra has listed the top lead scoring platforms in the market.
- Set up tracking and clicks on Google Analytics and UTM trackers to make sure you have a birds eye view of how leads interact with your content and other site pages post registration
3) Do: offer an extra incentive to sign up
People who register to access your content trust the potential it can offer and your brand.
To show your gratitude, reward them with a discount coupon or a FREE giveaway. This helps build connection with your customer and drives more buys.
Don’t push it though. Avoid being wild and offering a FLAT 90% off - Makes you look cheap and can seriously impact your business.
4) Do: create an SEO friendly landing page
Google does not crawl your lead magnet but it does crawl through the landing page that hosts the gated content. Which means that this page becomes an infrastructure to drive search traffic.
Make sure the landing page is optimized for search engines and clearly states what the content covers and the problem statements it solves.
We’d be happy to offer more tips about this but I’m sure you’re looking for specific advice on ecommerce SEO.
Well, not too long ago, we caught up with SEO expert and founder of Pearl Lemon Deepak Shukla to slice and dice landing pages of various small ecommerce websites to offer actionable insights. Learn more about it here - “5 SEO Strategies That Founders Love”
5) Don’t: ask people to sign up too soon
We’ve seen this happen quite a few times - people search for a problem and land on your blog page. A few lines in, they are asked to register to get a copy of the full blog.
Now, this probably works if you are as big as Vogue or New Yorker. But for the rest, all it does is drive readers away. People don’t mind signing up to read a popular magazine because they’ve been around for a while and have garnered a lot of popularity and trust.
Before you can interrupt customers to sign up, you need to deliver sufficient value - draw their attention, get them to see the quality of your work and then, it makes sense to restrict access to the rest.
A solution to this problem is to implement heatmap tools by hotjar or by ConvertCart and study the average customer scroll rates to identify the perfect time to restrict reading.
The visualization looks something like the image above - the red implying high engagement and more visitors and blue implying the opposite.
Somewhere in between these two sections (ideally in the green) is when you want to hook them and ask for their contact information to let them read further. But bare in mind - the content quality should never take a hit, from start to finish.
6) Don’t: use copies like “register for exclusive content”
It’s time to get creative. Playing it safe won’t work anymore.
Drafting a kickass copy involves 3 simple things:
- Do away with boring and formal copies and try adding a human touch. A bit of wit, humour and personality never hurt anybody.
- Present the value proposition early and highlight their potential key learnings from signing up.
- Keep your CTA buttons eye catching and compelling. Move away from the usual “Download now” or “Register today”
Here’s a gated landing page we liked:
What’s great about it? - it’s simple, clearly lists down the value and is creative in its copy as supposed to:
“Sign up now for exclusive content”
“Register to read more”
“Join our exclusive community for special benefits”
These sound robotic and don’t display the voice of your brand. People love some personality and copies like that of Upstanding connect with the customers by rocking their brand in a witty and fun way.
7) Don’t: ask for way too much
Cool it with the form fill! You’re only giving them some content or an exclusive membership - Not real gold.
Asking them for their Full name , email id and contact number is plenty. Sometimes, requesting a contact number can be a friction point, Stick to their name and email and that should be more than enough to get you started.
A lot of other websites would tell you otherwise but studies have proven that shorter forms drive more conversions and engagement.
8) Don’t: create a landing page all the time
Picture this - your potential customer browses through your website and checks out the blog page or content page. A popup appears asking them to sign up for some exclusive content and once they click “download now”, they are taken to another page (leaving what they were looking at) where they have to provide their details and then access what you have.
Why have them go to another page? Directing a visitor to the landing page every time can cause them to bounce off
Instead, launch a popup form fill - especially for those that accompany a blog. This way, they can continue browsing afterwards.
Check out these simple examples by Squattypotty and Flashrouters:
Seamless isn’t it? - sign up -> take what’s yours -> keep browsing/ reading
To top it all off - A/B test!
Gated content can become a strong marketing pillar for your ecommerce business if you can successfully implement these tips. It can be overwhelming at first but you don’t have to try all of them at once.
A/B test different types of gated content, landing pages, copies and CTAs to identify what works best for your site.
Once you’ve figured that out, all you need to focus on is retaining your customers and managing your excess revenue :).