To Gate or Not to Gate - When to Give Your Content Away for Free
If you've ever had to enter your email address to download a whitepaper or been confronted with an email form when you clicked to continue reading an article, you've come face-to-face with an email-gated landing page. It's a simple form that requires the entry of certain information before you get to the "good" stuff.
What it's not is the usual email contact form that most agencies have on their website. Those are typically used for voluntary sign-ups; newsletters, for instance. An email-gated page is more sophisticated, and called a gate for the simple reason that only by providing the required information can the visitor pass through.
Essentially you are gaining a lead, who you can market to, in exchange for your gated content.
Email-gates can be placed on your own website, hosted offsite by a service provider, or used on social sites like Facebook with the help of an app (one popular one is iFrame Apps) or by directing visitors to click into a special offer. Many brands routinely 'like'-gate their Facebook site, requiring a visitor to like their brand in order to gain access to special content. Also called fan-gating, it's most commonly used in connection with a contest, promotion, or event.
Is Your Content Gate-Worthy?
Whether you should gate some or all of your content is a marketing decision that needs to be well thought out. It might seem a no-brainer to require visitors to give up something to read your blog or get tips on home buying, mortgages and suchlike. But really, how valuable is that content? Gating should only be reserved for premium content: original research relating to your local community, how-tos for the buying and selling process and similar information that is useful and not readily obtainable elsewhere.
Think of it as pre-qualifying a client. Once they are convinced your content is worth their time, offer something of even more value - a free property market review or exclusive listings - in exchange for providing their information.
How do you do this? The easiest way is with cookies.
The second or third time (you decide the frequency) the visitor returns, you make an offer. This kind of programming is not especially complicated, but it does take more than a casual knowledge of coding. Some of the more advanced hosting options offer this as part of the premium package. A web designer should be able to get this done for you in a couple of hours tops for a reasonable rate. Check the listings on your local Craigslist or find a developer on Upwork or similar site.
Of course, the value of some gates is immediately obvious. An RSVP to a hosted event naturally requires contact information. When provided, it lands the candidate on the event information page. You can handle this with a simple email form, providing the same information via an auto-response. This method has the advantage of being simple to create even for an amateur. In fact, chances are your website hosting company offers ready-made forms you can tailor to your needs.
Don't Get Greedy
Avoid the temptation to ask for too much information. The more you ask a visitor to give up, the fewer responses you'll get. The fewer fields to fill out - the better the results.
Whether gated or not, email submissions have one big downside, without a connection to a database, you'll have to enter the information manually. That's not a problem if you only expect a few forms now and then. But as the response volume increases, data entry can become quite time-consuming.
Online form builder tools like Wufoo and 123ContactForm not only allow you to easily build your own custom forms but also give you the option to collect and store the submissions in a database. But if you're already running email marketing campaigns and you want to be able to target new sign-ups quickly and easily you can simplify everything by working with an email broadcast tool like MailChimp or an email solutions marketer like Wishpond. The monthly cost is low enough for even small estate agents, and the advantages go beyond form creation and databasing, to emailing your prospects and segmenting and managing your lists.
Four Types of Content that Shouldn't be Gated
As a rule, your top-of-the-funnel content should remain unlocked so anyone can easily discover it. Visitors at the top of the funnel are looking for a solution to a problem. They are seeking out information that will help them identify potential solutions. They are not qualified or ready to consider a home purchase or sale. To help you map out your content marketing strategy, here are 4 types of content you should never gate.
- Single Blog Posts
- Press Releases or News Articles
- Short Video Clips of Listings
While there may be some value in gating a blog series that includes a lot of impressive research, most stand-alone blog posts should remain open.
Your company blog allows you to connect with your audience and express your brand personality. Your posts can offer helpful tips and position you as a thought leader in the property market. They can also help you gain trust among your audience.
Walling off blog posts with a web form can alienate a big chunk of your target market. Blog posts can drive traffic to your web site through search and social sharing, so you should keep them as discoverable as possible.
When your company has a major win like selling an iconic property, hitting an impressive revenue goal, or receiving an industry award, you want to spread the word with press releases and news articles.
Press releases and news articles let the public know what's happening with your organisation. You want to get your news in front of as many people as possible, so requiring submission of a web form for access doesn't make sense.
If you use short video clips on your web site, you might want to think twice before requiring viewers to submit a registration form to watch the videos. The Internet is full of videos that are free and open to the public. So if your video is locked down, chances are your visitors will go elsewhere.
If your video is produced quickly and easily, there's no need to gate it. Use it as a way to engage your audience and generate interest in your estate agency.
It's been well documented that people are drawn to visual elements on the web. And infographics are no exception. Demonstrating your expertise in an easy-to-digest infographic can do a lot to boost your reputation among prospects.
Infographics are a great way to spread awareness about your company because they are easily sharable. But if you gate them with a web form, you prevent prospects from sharing the graphics across their social sites and you miss out on potential new web site visitors.
Know When to Gate Your Content
While some types of content should never be hidden behind a web form, there is clear value in gating certain content. If you are providing high-quality information in the form of an e-book, a research report or a webinar, you can capture qualified leads through a download or registration form. The key is to understand what types of content your prospects are willing to "pay" for with personal information.
Remember to ask for permission
If you gate your content with the aim of sending marketing emails to your new leads it's important to gain their permission on the form first. Remember to include a simple and clear statement on your form that tells your visitors that by submitting the form they are agreeing to receive marketing emails from you.