Offering gated content on your site is a great strategy for lead generation and email marketing. However, a lot of missteps can occur if you don’t consider SEO best practices, data security, and the overall user experience of your site.
Beyond the technical consideration, there’s also an art form to choosing which content to offer freely, and which to gate.
If you can master all of the do’s and don’ts of gated content, you’ll reap the reward of engaging even more potential and existing customers who visit your site.
1. Quality & Readability of Your Content
Gated content refers to content that’s only available in exchange for information from your web visitor. The most common type of set up is an email opt-in form. This is where you can obtain a visitors’ email address and then grant them access to special content. This could include an article, PDF or video.
In order to entice your visitors to submit their information, you need to select your very best content. You also need to have a fundamental understanding as to what information is important. Without knowing this, it’s hard to create relevant and engaging content that your visitors feel is worth their email address.
One strategy for gated content is to create a strong article available to all visitors and then offer a resource or template that is gated. For example, a marketing agency may write an article on how to plan and schedule social media posts. Then they can provide a social media calendar template as a gated content resource.
Once you’ve selected which content will be gated, evaluate the readability of the piece. Aim for “dual readership” with your writing. This means that the text is easy to read for both skimmers and analytical readers. By utilizing headlines, subheadings and bullet points, you can make any piece of content easier to scan. This is a successful copywriting strategy for web content and these days it applies to both online and printed content.
2. SEO Best Practices
A successful content marketing strategy often involves long-form articles, gated content, resources and off-site articles. A common mistake is to gate a great article that could be optimized for a valuable keyword.
As an SEO best practice, avoid setting up a gated form for any articles that could rank well for keywords. Gated content is not easily accessible for search engines to crawl because it is blocked behind a form or sign-up process. You’ll typically set up a gated article as no-index, so that visitors can’t find it online through any other method than submitting the form.
If you are utilizing a membership set up where visitors need to login to gain access to several pieces of content, keep in mind that search engines are also blocked by the password-protection process.
From an SEO standpoint, you should be frugal about how many items you gate on your website. All of the search engines utilize crawling to discover content on a site. This means that a series of bots known as crawlers or spiders search pages on your site for links to other pages in order to discover new content to index. Every time the bot hits a form or gated piece of content, you run the risk of creating a barrier for the search engines to discover any further content on that URL pathway.
Lastly, always consider the purpose and goal of each piece of content on your site. If you want to encourage social sharing of a specific piece, it’s not the best contender for gated content.
3. Data Security
Unfortunately, web security is a necessary concern for every website owner these days. Even if you are just collecting basic information from visitors, you have a responsibility to protect and secure their data.
WordPress sites in particular are heavily targeted by hackers. Best practices such as secure hosting, 24/7 security monitoring and management of plugin updates can all protect your site against breaches.
Site security is also a trust symbol for visitors. One of the basic security standards is to have an SSL certificate installed on your site. Once the certificate has been set up, the URLs on the website display as HTTPS instead of HTTP.
Browsers such as Firefox or Chrome will now label a website as Not Secure in the browser if an SSL certificate is missing or if any content is being displayed as an HTTP URL. This can sometimes happen with certain images or files, even if you have an SSL certificate on your hosting server. In these occasions, the image or file displaying an HTTP URL will trigger the Not Secure warning. In fact, the latest Chrome 86 update will enforce this further and will warn users before submitting a form if the website form processes the data over HTTP.
4. Overall User Experience
In addition to SEO best practices, you should consider how gated content fits into the overall user experience. For most websites, you’ll have different types of visitors coming to the site. Each may be at different stages in the buying cycle.
Providing a blog and resources on your site is a great way to build credibility and to educate visitors who may be in the research stage and not yet ready to buy. During a website redesign project, you’ll often determine the different types of visitors on your site and how to engage each audience with relevant content.
When setting up gated content, you want to consider where to place this in a visitor’s journey. Similar to SEO best practices, you don’t want to gate a piece of content that may support visitors in converting. You also don’t want to have too many gated pieces of content because this can cause a frustrating experience.
If you do have numerous white papers or case studies that will be set up behind a website form, you can improve the user experience by allowing visitors to download numerous gated options within one session. You can work with a development team to set up this functionality.
5. Content Format & Accessibility
When selecting which content to gate on your website, you’ll also want to consider the format of the content and make sure it is accessible to all users.
For white papers or more technical documentation, it’s popular to offer a PDF that is downloadable. If you are providing graphics and data tables, it can be easier to format in a document than a web page. For less technical articles, you may want to provide an online format. PDFs are not very web-friendly, especially on mobile devices. An infographic is another popular format for presenting valuable content in a visual representation.
Understanding your visitors and how they’ll refer to the information will guide you on the best format to communicate your top content. Accessibility is an important consideration whether you are providing a PDF, infographic, or online article after the gated form. In fact, your website forms should also follow best practices for ADA compliant websites, such as offering clear labels and error messages.
PDF documents are also not inherently accessible to all users. Adobe Acrobat offers options to enable accessible tagging, so that a user on a screen reader can comprehend the content of the PDF.
Lastly, if you are providing an infographic, make sure to add alternative text and include a description of the infographic’s main points near the image. This is also helpful for SEO and for any users who may not be able to view the infographic on a mobile device as images are often turned off during roaming.