Gated or Non-Gated Content: When? Why? How…

Gated Content

Reaching your audience by intersecting with their digital behaviors is getting inherently more accessible through targeted advertising and media. Getting your brand to the forefront of your buyer’s mind, helping them become more aware of your brand and hopefully entering them into the well-known buyer’s journey is substantially harder. It takes is content that resonates with their needs and interests, and is served to them at optimal times to fuel that process.

However, the question that continues to be asked is should you “hide” some of that content from your audience?

Depending on your business objectives, hiding or “gating” some of your content can be incredibly affective for lead generation, data gathering, segmentation, email marketing, and creating an impression of value or thought leadership with your content.

Why Gate Content?

Gating content can be a very valuable tactic when looking to build nurture campaigns and gather information about your target audience. The problem that occurs when gating too much content is that you exclude possible audiences, most specifically search users. If your content is publicly accessible on your website—but gated—that gate can prevent audiences from finding or seeing it. The strategy of gating content is quite simply to encourages users to provide information about themselves in a form to receive the pay-off.

The risk with gating content is equally simple: withholding the wrong content may deter your audience from further engaging with your brand.

Analyzing Content for Gating/Not Gating?

The way to analyze which content is best to gate and not gate can be separated into three categories:

  1. Customer Journey Stage
  2. Search Query Volume
  3. Hyper-Targeted, Good Content

Questions for Customer Journey Stage:

  • What phase in the customer’s journey are they in?
  • Are they top-of-the-funnel and just learning about your company?
  • Do they know your brand?

Gated content is significantly more effective for nurturing and gathering data when the customer is between the consideration and acquisition phase because they are more willing to give their information to receive valued content. By creating that “velvet rope effect” of exclusivity, the user is more likely to provide more information for “premium” content, but if all content is gated, it loses its targeted effect.

It is also more valuable to gate specific consideration and acquisition content for your company because you can target their audience better and keep the audience engaged.

Questions for Search Query Volume:

  • What are the key search terms used in this content?
  • Are people searching these terms?
  • Do we want people who search these terms to find our content or not?
  • Is the search audience our intended users?

Gated content segments searchers out from valuable content so if you don’t believe that organic audience will find value in your content, removing it from search (gating it) will very easily do that. The biggest challenge when answering these questions is determining whether you will miss out on valuable organic search traffic by gating content. Use Google Webmaster Tools to identify if the audience that is searching for your key terms within the content is large enough. If those searchers are your intended users, consider leaving the content ungated.

Additionally, by tagging content against its stage in the customer journey, you allow yourself to build out a customized journey funnel. For example, awareness (top-of-the-funnel) content can be more generalized and public-facing while further down that funnel the user goes, the more valuable the content is for them. Just like anything of value, people are willing to “give/pay” for it.

Questions for Hyper-Targeted Content:

  • Is this content specifically focused around a program, industry, product, audience, etc.?
  • Would the general public find this content to be appealing or relevant? 
  • Is the content specific enough or too vague?

In addition to mapping content to the customer journey and understanding the organic search value of your content, there’s also the consideration of the problem your content solves. Very specific content that addresses an exact need, desire, pain point, research category, etc. improves the chances of the audience disclosing their personal information. That information can then be used to segment site visitors, personas, and look alike profiles into proper campaigns to be later leveraged in other multi-channel marketing touches such as email, marketing automation/lead nurturing, or social distribution.


Ultimately, gating vs. not gating content can be properly activated in a strategic funnel approach. The common recommendation would be to tag the content appropriately and address which pieces would be valued as “premium” or not.

At a time when digital users are consistently inundated with the most relevant content to them, it is important to understand how to nurture them through a strategic mix of gated and ungated content. Intersecting their behaviors is key to that first touch, but the right content, at the right time, for the right “price” to the user is what will keep them coming back.

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