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Addressing the content gating problem - Part 1

∙ 7 min

One of my son's drawings



B2B marketers face the “gated content dilemma” constantly. SEMRush’s blog post on the topic defines gated content as:

Gated content can only be accessed by the public through a lead capture form. Typically, a website visitor will need to provide contact details and possibly answer a few questions (e.g. name, position, organization size, etc.). They will then be granted access.

Generally, marketers and their related stakeholders have to balance the following considerations:

Example of a gated eBook from Salesforce
Example of a gated eBook from Salesforce
Source: https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2018/10/22/lead-capture-form

This article articulates the difficulties content gates (typically web forms) present and a potential solution to the problem.


Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge some sources of inspiration for this article.

Internal stakeholder friction

The gating dilemma often pits internal stakeholders against each other. Maximizing reach of the content (ungated content) exists in constant tension to maximizing lead generation (gated content). But aren’t both goals business-critical and therefore worth pursuing?

HubSpot published an interesting decision-making flowchart on content gating. Setting policies like this internally can help avoid repeating the debate, but the underlying tradeoff still exists.

End-user friction

Friction also exists in the end-user experience. Submitting one content form does nothing to remove the other content forms from the site. If I, as the website visitor, want to download four eBooks, I typically need to fill in four forms. This is opposite of what the marketing team should want: content binging should be encouraged as a way of progressing the prospect through the user journey. Instead, every form presents a drop-off point in that journey. Imagine having to re-enter your email and password into Netflix again every time you want to watch the next episode of a series. It’s not a big leap to predict that user engagement would drop off drastically.

Exploring a solution

This article sets out a framework to better address this gating dilemma using your most vital marketing asset: your website. I want to consider the nuances of both goals and defuse the debate while creating a better user experience. My proposal requires a fresh look at how you approach your content strategy. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll explore how to technically execute this in combination with existing marketing automation and CRM stacks.

Guiding principles

A mockup of how my last blog post would look like with a login “gate”. Part of the article is publicly-available but the rest of members-only.
A mockup of how my last blog post would look like with a login “gate”. Part of the article is publicly-available but the rest of members-only.

Content strategy adjustments

In order to pull this off, you need to be thoughtful about what you give away to the public and what you hold back for members. This, in itself, is not all that much different than the original gating dilemma: to gate or not to gate. But framing the thinking in this way drives new discussions around content. Depending on content format, you can plan members-only portions up front. Here are some ideas on what to make members-only:

Positive impact on internal stakeholders

These considerations reframe the question of gating because it’s no longer all or nothing and also no longer coupled to format. Something like a blog post might actually best be held back for members because it helps form the bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content journey.

And an eBook that took lots of effort and money to produce: you could still reach a wide audience by making the first few chapters publicly available but the last few chapters, or companion content, for members-only.

This will go some way to enabling more constructive, internal discussions about what to gate and what not to gate. It’s no longer coupled to content type, but instead more fully aligned to the content journey.

Positive impact on end-users

Members-only content would require a single login and that session would not expire. Once the user is logged in, he or she would have access to all content on the website - no more gates.

Your website needs to become an app

If you take this step, your website will start to adopt features often associated with web apps: a login (implying a user account), authentication, session cookies, user settings, etc… This may all sound pretty daunting. Essentially, your marketing website needs to serve certain pages differently depending on whether or not the user is logged in. Thankfully, recent developments in front-end technology make this implementation possible without having to go too far down the rabbit hole of building a full-blown app and all the deployment challenages that come with that. In addition to delivering impressive end-user experience, great developer and publisher experiences are also possible.


In Part 2 of this series, I’ll go into detail about how to craft the desired user experience and then how to implement that technologically. I’ll consider the connection to your marketing automation system and CRM, cookie management, edge/serverless hosting, headless CMS considerations and modern front-end frameworks.

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