Gated content: The gated vs ungated debate

By Stellan Björnesjö

Gated content: The gated vs ungated debate

As companies mature with the inbound methodology, they all eventually reach a point where they start to ask themselves if gated content is as effective as it used to be? This article outlines Zooma's view on the gated vs ungated content debate and insights into how we reason ourselves and advise our customers.

The elephant in the room

It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: Gating content. Historically there has been a direct correlation between the number of landing pages (content offers) and the number of new leads, as showcased by, e.g. HubSpot in 2013 in the HubSpot Marketing Benchmarks from 7000+ businesses 2013 report. Hence, using gated content has been a core feature for anyone working with inbound marketing and sales.

However, the world tends to change after a while and move on to other more successful ways of approaching things. Gary Vaynerchuk described it as a case of “Marketers ruin everything”; all tactics after a while get over-used and over-optimised by marketers because that’s our job (yes, I count myself in!). Are we perhaps at that “tipping point” with gated content?

Marketers ruin everything

- Gary Vaynerchuk, #INBOUND 2016

Since 2018-2019 we’ve observed more people talking about the beginning of a shift, both with brands and agencies. That shift consists of mainly four components or assumptions:

  • All content is top of the funnel content: Your visitors should decide how they want to interact with your content, don’t try to curate their process by hiding certain content in steps.
  • Landing page transactions “isn’t all that”: There are so many other signs someone is interested, whether it’s a specific page they visit or a tool they interact with.
  • Email doesn't equal qualified: An email address can be fake while spending time with your content seldom is.
  • Automation isn’t always the next step: If you have time now, let’s meet now, or why not book a meeting with me at a suitable time.

The beginning of a shift

So what does the above mean? Well, we’ve probably seen “peak gated content”. Like linear TV ads and other “post peak” tactics, gated content will gradually decline. How fast, however, is up for debate. At Zooma, we would argue that testing and basing your decisions on data - as always - is core along the way to get your timing right. But for starters, there are some easy adjustments that everyone should consider.

Gated content best practices for now

First and foremost; gating content is about gating the right content. For example, there is less reason to gate educational content (e.g. blog posts), because you fill your database with contacts that are not yet ready to buy. On the other hand, only using ungated content will result in a high bounce rate and a lesser likelihood of analysing the visitors’ next intent and next step.​ So how do you balance this equation?

In the example above, best practice would be having an (educational) article describing a subject and then providing a template as a content offer, so that the visitor can download and apply in practice what they just learned from the article. Offering the article itself as a downloadable document isn’t as helpful (as they have already consumed the content) unless it is the presentable format itself, that adds significant value.

Below are the best practice rules you can apply when considering gating and ungating content.

Gate (or keep gated)

Extremely high-value content (e.g. price list):

  • Data they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Original research.
  • Knowledge leadership from sought-after authors.

Gated content that is already performing well:

  • Let the conversion rates decide.
  • Make an audit of existing pages (see further on).
  • If ungating, measure impact (traffic, clicks, attribution).

Complement existing ungated content with an offer:

  • E.g. on the pillar pages.


Ungate (turn into a webpage + offer download)


When you need to increase (organic) traffic:

  • When you aren’t attracting enough traffic to generate a sufficient number of leads.

When your gated content isn’t performing well:

  • People are finding it, but very few are submitting the form to access the content.

When you ungate content, also consider these best practices:

  • Complement the HTML page by offering a download in suitable format by giving up some contact details for the best of two worlds!
  • Also, make it easy to get in touch and talk to an expert on the subject.
  • Note: These leads are generally more qualified as they give up their email after consuming your content.

An example from Zooma

To help you further, here is an example from Zooma, where we decided to ungate what was previously a content offer.

A while ago, we published an article about 'digital definitions' and the importance of talking about the same things when it comes to online and digital. We added a gated PDF content offer, with digital and online terms that we use at Zooma (see below).

Zooma-gated-content-example

After a while, we ungated the PDF and populated digital definitions on a webpage with a gated PowerPoint presentation (see below). Thus, readers can have direct access to the terms and, if they wish, download the terms as PowerPoint and use them internally with their branding.

  Zooma-ungated-content-example

Did this article make you curious about inbound? If you’d like to read more about inbound, read our comprehensive Inbound guide covering the why, what and how of Inbound, and it's also available for download!

Stellan Björnesjö
Online Strategist at Zooma since 2012. 15+ years of experience as a manager, business developer and specialist within online and e-commerce. Has a perpetual drive for knowledge, and knows what to do with it. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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