Many companies publish e-books and whitepapers that require you to sign up before you can read them (“gated content”).
I’d like to apply this to blogs more generally: gating certain blog posts until the user has provided their email address. If readers are willing to give their emails to get access to useful content, then they’re revealing themselves to be high intent prospects. And once you have their email, you can retarget them with emails/ads specific to the pain-point that they revealed by reading that blog post.
The reason this makes sense to me is that content marketing funnels are very leaky, and attribution with content marketing is very difficult. I think this solution solves both problems.
That’s the thesis. I’d love for you to tear it apart 🙂
Well, challenge accepted!
So there’s two major problems with this. Number one is gating high value content automatically closes it off from Google. Google can’t see it, then it has no value, at least from a search perspective. You need to have enough content that is high value, high keyword terms that are indexable, findable in order for Google to create value.
The second problem – and I think this is the bigger problem – is I’ve tried content lockers and they haven’t worked well for me. Here’s why they don’t work for me. When someone’s looking for a blog post or a piece of casual snackable content, they are very early on in their intent; when someone downloads a white paper or webinar, they’ve done some research already. You’ve established your credibility and they say, “ok you you seem to know enough from your public content that I’m gonna go ahead and and put my business card into the slot”, if you will, knowing full well they’re gonna get calls, they’re gonna get emails, all that stuff.
Blog posts are not the same. Blog posts are discovery; they’re much earlier on in the customer journey most of the time; locking it away, people see that and say, “nope I’m out, I don’t trust you, I don’t know you ,I only found you because of search; if it’s locked, I’m just gonna go to the next search result.”
Then you have two harmful aspects from that. Number one, we know Google’s algorithm has behavioral components to it, so if the user comes back and goes to the next listing, guess what happens to your rank, right? And two, you’re turning away people who are there to be educated.
Remember the three E’s:
You have to do one of those three; ideally, you do all three. If something is locked away and there’s only a teaser, you’ve done none of the three and you have not proven your value to someone very early on the customer journey. So the idea of content lockers, locking up content like super high-value blog content on the surface makes sense, but once you get into how people behave, how people think about things online, that’s when it kind of doesn’t really work.
It’s a fine idea and I would say, prove me wrong – there are good content locker plug-ins for WordPress, like 30 bucks, test it out. Do a/b testing, use Google Optimize, see what happens when you lock some content.
I guarantee there is an audience out there for which this will work, especially if you have a strong brand already. For the average corporate marketer, we don’t have the brand strength to do that. Could The Rock do it? Could a Kardashian do it? Sure, because they have such a massive brand halo that anything they put out, you’ll get some audience participation. If Beyonce said here’s my grocery list, put your email in address in here, I’m sure there would be hundreds of thousands of people saying, “yep I want to see, I want to see the grocery list!”, but most of us don’t have that much brand strength to pull that off.
That would be my other condition – if you have super-powered brand strength people may do it, but for the most part, if you nobody knows who you are, nobody trusts you, or not enough people know you, trust you, it’s probably gonna be an ineffective tactic. Give it a try, test it out, see how it works, but accept that it’s probably not going to generate the results you think it will.
Thanks for the question, and we’ll see you next time on “You Ask, I’ll Answer”.
Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get updates here:
Get your copy of Marketing Blue Belt!