For years, we’ve been debating the merits of “gated” content on the web.
On one side, we have marketers who believe gated content is one of the best paths to driving more leads.
On the other side, we have marketers who believe gated content simply should not exist. That brands should give it all away in hopes that leads will eventually come in all on their own.
Two sides. One the biggest debates in all of digital marketing.
And I’m here today to tell you I don’t think there’s much of a debate anymore.
I think brands need to come to terms with the fact that they need to start giving most (if not all) of their content away for free.
There are 3 big reasons that have become too big to ignore:
1 – Modern content marketing is all about trust
Trust has become everything with modern day marketing–especially content marketing. The chart below says it all.
People are OVERWHELMING more likely to recommend, choose, and buy a brand they trust over one they don’t. And sure, there are many ways brands earn trust–customer service, CEO actions, and pricing just to name a few. But, content marketing fits into that mix, too. And since trust is such a huge driver of action, why would you risk asking for a few personal details for one piece of content vs. working toward building that trust you know will result in long-term, sustainable behavior change in your customers and prospects?
2 – Privacy concerns are at an all-time high
We all know privacy concerns are sky-high with most Americans. Just peek at the chart below for proof.
Protecting your customer’s privacy and security is now the #1 driver of brand trust! Protecting that data has never been more important. And most folks are still skeptical brands can do it. So, why ask for it? Why not just give them the content for free and not ask for their personal data? Doesn’t that just eliminate one huge piece of potential friction in the process?
3 – People’s expectations have changed re: content
7-10 years ago, gated content was in a much different spot. Content marketing wasn’t nearly the beast it is now. There weren’t nearly as many companies and organizations pumping out content as there are in 2022. But, as content marketing (and the social web) evolved, so did customers’ expectations. The prevailing attitude now is: “Why would I give my personal information away for a white paper from company X when I can get almost the same information for free from company Y?” If you’re still gating your content in 2022, it better be REALLY damn good content (and unique). Otherwise, people know they can find it elsewhere for free–and they will.
If those three big reasons aren’t enough, let’s look at some striking examples.
Some of the most savvy companies out there when it comes to content marketing are giving it all away–and have been for years.
Starting with global PR firm, Edelman. They’ve been giving away their annual “Trust Barometer” for years. This year, it’s as easy as clicking on the “Download the full report” Of course, it would have been ironic if the firm sharing a “Trust Report” asked for us to share our personal info to get it! Regardless, they’re still a good example of content marketing done right.
What about Edison Research’s Infinite Dial Report? Here’s another huge piece of research Edison could easily gate. But instead, they choose to make it available to everyone for free. In return, they build huge trust I’m betting they see come back in a big way through inbound leads.
Finally, let’s look at the world’s most trusted companies. Who heads the list? Google. All they do is give away all sorts of valuable content for free. What about their Google Analytics Academy? So good. In fact, it’s a course I put my students through at the University of St. Thomas each year. Or, what about Google’s popular “Year in Search” report and data? Why wouldn’t they gate that valuable content? Surely most folks would be interested. Google’s a great example of a company that’s giving away all sorts of content for free.
So, debate settled then?