In marketing circles, gated content is an often debated concept. Why? Let’s start with how gated content works …
Placing a “gate” on your website content refers to the practice of requiring your website visitor to enter specific information to gain access to specific content. For example, you might require a client to log in to your website to retrieve client-specific reports. Another example: requiring a prospect to enter their name and email address to download an eBook. This second example is the type of gated content we’re talkin’ about.
So when does gated content make sense for your website?
The Problem with Gating
Building a mailing list is essential for growing your business. It’s your single most valuable asset. By requiring people to log in before viewing your website, you capture every visitor who doesn’t immediately bounce. Sounds like a fast way to build your list…but is it effective?
Gating turns a lot of people off. When asked for personal information, or worse, for a credit card to “verify” age or location (or whatever justification you’ve decided to use), most people will get the heck off your website, pronto…and they might even complain.
Additionally, website visitors who DO fill out your form may provide false information. A mailing list full of fake email addresses or spam-catcher addresses is worse than useless: it can be costly.
When Gating Works: Generating Earned Leads
Let’s face it: there’s a LOT of ungated content out there. So, in many cases, if you haven’t earned your prospect’s loyalty, they’re probably not going to go the extra mile to give you their information in exchange for your content. However, there are situations where gating is both acceptable and accepted.
The school of thought on how to generate quality leads has changed considerably. Today, marketers are abandoning the idea of a huge untargeted mailing list in favor of a focused list containing only qualified leads: people who signed up out of genuine interest.
Earning an engaged prospect and customer base is a more involved strategy—but boy, does it pay off. Effort is required on many fronts: engaging in active participation on social media, providing valuable and unique content, and engaging consumers via both direct and indirect channels.
Your end goal: build trust.
An engaged audience will willingly hand over their contact details to acquire valuable assets, enter a contest, or participate in a live web presentation.
Gating only the most valuable content you offer, as opposed to all content, means qualifying leads at the beginning, before the buy cycle even begins. Your sales team will spend less time weeding out uninterested, unqualified, or simply false leads, plus they’ll have more time to engage people who are more likely to become customers.
Selective gating saves you money and helps you avoid productivity losses associated with a large, messy contact lists.
Content for Every Stage in the Buy Cycle
Potential customers, people ready to buy, and existing customers are all looking for different content at different times. Your content plan should include graduated content, from general industry and product information for site visitors in the exploratory stages of the buying cycle to content that answers specific questions to close the sale or retain the customer.
Which content you gate should depend on its value and potential appeal to interested buyers and it should be targeted to a specific stage of the buying cycle. Today’s marketing is customer focused. To get and keep their attention, it’s important to gate only content with a clear benefit to the reader.
Gating and SEO
Gating content poses serious issues in respect to SEO. Bots can’t fill out forms, so gated content is invisible to bots. Be sure to add SEO value with a summary of the gated content on a detailed landing page. Summary pages provide search bots with information while still guarding your value proposition.
If you do choose to gate content, make sure it’s worth it. Customers who give up their details only to receive mediocre content that does not deliver as promised are likely to become annoyed. It’s easy to break the trust you tried so hard to build. Don’t risk it!
Today, the decision to buy is no longer a moment–it’s a process. To learn how to engage with your prospects and customers at EVERY stage in the buy cycle, download our free guide to Growth Cycle Marketing.
- 14 ways to engage your prospects to drive home the sale
- How to influence your customer’s decision to buy
- Why your current customers are your biggest asset
- The exact type of content your prospects and customers want
- How this proven, 5-stage process attracts new customers and grows your business
Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. It’s where you meet, greet and impress your customers enough to buy your products or engage with your services. It should be a lead-generation machine: a hotbed of activity, delivering a steady stream of qualified leads to your sales team…or it can just sit there and stagnate.
If your website isn’t helping you close sales, here are 9 great ways to ramp it up.
- Spruce up your homepage. Unless they’re following a link to a targeted landing page, most of the time your site visitors will land on your homepage first. Is yours welcoming, informative, and easy to navigate? If your homepage is crowded, outdated or confusing, your visitors will bounce. Figure out why potential customers are coming to your website and make sure what they want to find is prominently displayed.
- Check your contact information. Sounds simple, but be sure your contact info is correct and easy to find on every page. Customers want to know you’ll respond. If a form on a contact page is your only option, you may lose business to more accessible companies.
- Communicate clearly and quickly. Is your language friendly and conversational? In the interest of professionalism, many business owners choose wordy, formal language delivered in dense paragraphs. Informal language, larger text, and shorter sentences and paragraphs appeal more to web users.
- Get your content on. Fill your pages with rich and varied content. Tell your brand story to engage visitors. If you don’t offer a wealth of information, instructions, training, and how-tos, your competition will. Win loyal customers with your expertise.
- Update frequently. Keeping your content fresh gives visitors a reason to return, plus, it boosts your search engine rankings. Add new press releases, start a blog, and ensure any current news on your site is, well, current.
- Create stand-out CTAs (calls-to-action). What do you want visitors to do? View your catalog? Sign up for your mailing list? Learn more about your services? Make your CTA bold, clear, and consistent on every page.A word to the wise: “Buy Now!” may seem like an effective CTA, but use it cautiously. You website visitors may be at any stage of the Growth Cycle Marketing process. In the early stages, they want to check out your products, compare prices, and find information. They may not be ready to buy. Others may be returning customers. Address visitors in different stages of the buy cycle with targeted landing pages and offer something valuable in return for their email address.
- Shorten your forms. In the early days of the web, IRS-length forms were common. Companies needed to collect everything. Today, you can cut it down considerably. Early in the process, many companies just ask for name and email. That’s all you need to build your email list. If you have a great CRM, your email list will link to your social media accounts. Once you earn their business, you’ll collect the rest.
- Evaluate your SEO. If you haven’t performed a comprehensive SEO audit in a while, your website may be buried deep in search page results. The rules have changed, so what worked just a few years ago may be hurting you now.
- Follow up. The Internet has raised expectations. Customers want a response in hours, not days…and certainly not weeks. When a lead is generated, a salesperson should get an alert, and follow up should happen as quickly as possible. Even in the digital automation age, customer service is your greatest asset.
Your website is not an online sales brochure. An optimized website can be an extension of your marketing department and a logical step in the buying process. By implementing the newest SEO and marketing techniques, providing information your visitors are looking for, and offering fast, personalized response, your website will become a lead-generation machine.
Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! A great content marketing strategy is a big way to make your website into lead-generation machine. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.
You’ll learn how to:
- Increase Your Referral Rate
- Increase Your Social Media Reach
- Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
- Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
- Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
In a challenging economy, marketing teams are increasingly being asked by company management to quantify their efforts. Companies are looking for BIGGER AND BETTER response rates from the marketing channels they’re using.
Because campaigns must now work harder than ever, marketing teams are being asked to track and measure each campaign’s effectiveness. Management wants to know how many people are really seeing and acting upon the marketing team’s efforts.
Digital marketing is easy to track, but traditional media channels are still needed to generate other touches with prospective customers. That’s where PURLs come in.
Personalized URLs (PURLs) are a method for connecting offline marketing
with online tracking and measurement.
What Is the Power of Personalization?
PURLs typically combine the direct mail recipient’s first name and last name into a specialized web address. For example John Doe gets a postcard that asks him to log on to www.JohnDoe.xyz.com. Not only is the postcard personalized — using variable data printing — but John’s entire online experience (assuming he visits that PURL) is personalized.
By migrating the customer’s offline experience over to the web, the recipient can receive more relevant and more personalized content. Thus, response rates are substantially higher.
Why Should Everything Point to the Web?
Direct mail has been successful in integrating with the web using PURLs. But, really, all offline media can be pointed to the web, where it can then be tracked. Sophisticated web dashboards allow marketers to see the results of integrated offline and online marketing efforts in real time.
So if you use traditional offline media channels, you may wish to entice your readers to go online to a PURL, where you can collect the requested tracking and measuring data that upper management is asking for.
For more information on using PURLs to ignite, track, and measure response rates, read How PURLs Improve Your Response Rates or subscribe to our eNewsletter to get notified when our ebook 10 Steps for Generating Leads Using PURLs is released.— COMING SOON!
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