Gated content is a great way to generate leads and establish a relationship with web visitors.
A lot of business owners make the mistake of thinking that an email opt-in form is the only way to set up gated content on a site – but that’s just not the case.
There are numerous ways to offer gated content on your website from a simple sign-up form to a paid membership service. The best approach for your gated content depends on several factors. We’ve outlined the pros and cons of each one below.
1. Email Sign-Up
Gated content refers to any website content that requires the visitor to provide some information in order to access it. The amount of information that a visitor needs to provide depends on the set up on your site.
The most popular type of gated content is an email sign-up form for access to an e-book or white paper. But no matter what type of gated content you’re offering, it needs to be compelling enough that a visitor is willing to give up some information. If the content isn’t appealing, then you won’t generate any form fills.
When setting up this item, connect your email marketing provider connected with the form, so that visitors can opt-in to your email marketing campaigns. Also, consider what the best format is for the content. For example, an e-book can be set up as a PDF and easily downloaded from a landing page.
As a best practice for GDPR and data privacy, you’ll also want to set up a double opt-in. This means that a visitor confirms their email. This can also cut down on the amount of spam you might otherwise receive.
If you are looking to dabble in gated content, the email opt-in is the first place to start. You can follow up with email campaigns to visitors who downloaded the e-book or white paper, guiding them to your products or services.
2. Free Membership System
A lot of business owners think of gated content only in terms of an email signup or paid membership, but there are benefits to starting with a free membership service.
With a free membership service, a visitor sets up a username and password to access a membership area of the site. This scenario has a few advantages over the email sign-up method.
First, you have access to more information than you would get with an email sign-up form. In the case of a free membership service, you have the option to track preferences on email marketing and content. It can also bypass the potential challenge of repeatedly requesting the same visitor’s email address for newly available gated content they may be interested in.
Free membership systems also offer the opportunity to create a sense of community through a members-only forum. If you’ve expanded beyond a single white paper or e-book and have a robust amount of worthy content, consider moving on to a free membership service.
3. Paid Membership Service
Paid membership services have all the benefits of a free membership (in terms of customer data,) but with the added benefit of generating revenue from your content. This option is a little more complex to set up and run, but worth it if you have enough interested parties.
First, select a payment gateway and decide on membership tiers and renewal standards. If you have a recurring subscription service, where members are paying monthly or annually for access to premium content, make sure the payment gateway can handle recurring billing well. Some payment processors require paid add-ons or are generally more difficult to use for subscription billing.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure the content is worthy of the payment and continue to show value, so that subscribers are motivated to renew. A great example of this is the premium TV streaming platforms where customers are on the lookout for new content.
Lastly, don’t forget about providing support for paying subscribers. Anytime you add payment processing to the site, you’ll have more customer questions on renewal, payment errors, and questions. You’ll want the membership area to include FAQ and customer support resources as well.
4. Gated Video Content
Gated video content is a special form of premium content, requiring extra steps to keep it from non-paying members. With an e-book or web page, all you need to do is set it up behind a login form, and search engines will be blocked from indexing it, making it more difficult for Internet users to find the content.
While you might think that you could just host it directly on your own site, that’s not really a feasible option. Video files are extremely large, and you’ll face high hosting costs and extra challenges in streaming the video. Uploading a video to YouTube or Vimeo and marking it unlisted isn’t enough, as it doesn’t block members from easily sharing the link with non-members.
One of the best options is to sign up for a paid Vimeo account. On Vimeo, you’ll have the option to embed a video while keeping it truly locked from non-members. You may not have to go to these extremes if you have an email sign-up or free membership, but they’re good to keep in mind for paid membership content.
5. Learning Management System
A learning management system is the most complex set up, but it can provide a comprehensive experience for visitors and a steady revenue stream for your business.
With this approach, gated content is organized into courses where viewers are led through different articles, videos and worksheets to learn a new skill set. But learning management systems require quite a bit of extra work and expenses on your end, so they’re best offered for a fee. There are two ways to charge for your content: à la carte or full-access membership.
A learning management system typically requires an additional plugin or software on your site. For WordPress sites, LearnDash is the most popular resource currently available to manage courses directly on the WordPress site.
There are also DIY platforms available, such as Teachable and Kajabi, which allow you to offer courses on their platform. With these options, you won’t need any plugins, as you’ll be directing potential users offsite to these third party platforms.
Offering a learning management system requires a larger investment in time and money, but it’s a great option if your content is most easily consumed as a course – and if you have the ability to regularly update the courses.
Balance Between Free & Gated Content
Selecting the best gated web content approach depends on numerous factors, including your current budget, the type of relationship you’d like to foster, and the type of content that you can create.
There is a balance to offering free versus gated website content. Too much gated content on your site can cause frustration if visitors don’t want to give their personal information away for information that is accessible for free elsewhere.
Focus on creating high-quality free content that guides visitors to your best premium content, whether that is a white paper, paid membership service, or paid courses.