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.
Why would you gate your content? The obvious reason is to gather leads. Whether candidate or client depends on the specific content you “trade” in exchange for their contact information. Here’s an example from Robert Half. (Because the link is active, which may be a coding error, this is not, strictly, gated content.)
What Robert Half is offering employers – potential clients – is a benchmarking guide so they can assess how their own accounting and finance department compares to others. For those employers who consider something like this valuable, they only must fill in the form, providing Robert Half’s sales group a wealth of qualifying and contact information.
Gating content is not rocket science. 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 resume writing, interviewing and other such. But really, how valuable is that content? Gating should only be reserved for premium content: original research, how-tos, and similar information that is useful and not readily obtainable elsewhere.
On Robert Half’s research page, most of the whitepapers and other reports are free.
Online marketing strategist David Meerman Scott says ungated content gets many times more downloads – visits – than does protected content. He isn’t opposed to ever gating content; just don’t do it before your potential audience gets a taste of what’s there, he says.
Think of it as pre-qualifying a candidate or client. Once they are convinced your content is worth their time, offer something of even more value – a free resume review or an analysis of the local talent supply – in exchange for providing their information.
How do you 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 no more than $250. 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 autoresponse. 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
One caution. 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.
One last word. 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. Simplify everything by working with an emailer like Mail Chimp or an email solutions marketer like Wishpond. The monthly cost is low enough for even small agencies, and the advantages go beyond form creation and databasing, to emailing your prospects and list management.