What Is Gated Content?
Gated content, or premium content (as HubSpot so lovingly refers to it), is designed to turn anonymous web visitors into leads by asking users to fill out a form in exchange for valuable information. By including these premium content offers as “calls-to-action” throughout your ungated content, users will know exactly what you want them to do next — and therefore, will be more likely to do it.
Related: Why is nobody clicking on your CTAs? eCity’s Account Director Stephen App explores common CTA mistakes that could be hindering your conversion rates, and how to avoid them.
The goal of premium content is to provide value to prospective students while helping you learn more about where they are in the college application process. Gated content can be anything that goes beyond the information found in a blog post and provides a more in-depth look at a topic of interest. eBooks, whitepapers, and webinars are just a few of the most popular formats for gated content. Recently though, we’ve seen more and more organizations experimenting with interactive content like surveys, calculators, and assessments.
A Note About Ungated vs. Gated Premium Content: Before we dive into the benefits of creating gated content for higher ed, let’s address the elephant in the room. Isn’t the goal of content and inbound marketing to freely provide valuable information to your audience in order to build brand awareness and trust? Does putting the most valuable content behind a form go against everything content marketing stands for and make the user experience noticeably worse?
For a long time, HubSpot best practices dictated that premium content should be gated; the rationalization being that in exchange for content of significant value, prospects would be willing to give up some small value in order to obtain it, such as their name and email address. However, things have changed since then. Because premium content is so thorough and useful, it carries with it a significant amount of potential SEO value; value that is wasted when the content isn’t crawlable by Google’s bots.
As inbound marketing has evolved, the notion of premium content has changed with it. Today, premium content comes in many forms, some gated and others freely available. By making some of your most valuable resources ungated, you can capitalize on search engine traffic and provide greater value to casual prospects who may not be ready to fork over their email address quite yet.
The Benefits of Gated Content for Higher Ed
Choosing a college is a big decision — one that involves extensive research, a healthy dose of emotions, and a sizable deposit. As students explore their options and move through the applicant’s journey, their pain points and content needs change. If the only calls-to-action on your website are “Visit,” “Apply Now,” “Request Information,” and “Donate” you’re missing out on a whole subset of conversion opportunities earlier in their decision-making process.
Gated content is important for colleges and universities because it provides a next step for prospective students who aren’t yet ready to apply. By providing these opportunities for micro-conversions, you’ll learn more about where your prospects are in the applicant’s journey and create opportunities to nurture them towards your primary conversion goal of enrolling in your college or university. It’s a win-win scenario: prospective students will receive highly personalized and relevant information to aid in their decision-making process, and you gain greater visibility into every stage of the student journey.
Here are three additional benefits of adding gated content into your school’s content marketing repertoire.
Benefit #1: Increased Lead Generation
Most students don’t decide to attend an institution during their first visit to the website. Rather, students conduct extensive research before narrowing down their list of top schools and ultimately deciding to apply. What if there was a way to know who these students are and what they’re interested in before they sign up for a campus visit or start the application process?
Gated content is important for colleges and universities because it provides a next step for prospective students who aren’t yet ready to apply.
Downloading a piece of gated content is the intermediary step that tells you someone is a lead rather than just another visitor. It also tells you more about the person depending on what content they download or interact with. Once a prospective student is entered into your CRM, you can track their subsequent behavior and send targeted communications to nurture them into enrolled students.
Related: Discover how schools can use personalized content to speak to students on a much more personal level, using targeted messages designed to increase engagement and guide them down their own unique path towards enrollment.
Benefit #2: Acquiring Prospective Student Leads Earlier in the Sales Funnel
Using gated content means that your content marketing strategy is working ‘round the clock to generate leads and fill your applicant pipeline all year long. Rather than scrambling to generate applications each year through name buys, or running an expensive ad campaign right before an application deadline, why not create educational, valuable information that students will seek out and download months, or even years, before they’re ready to apply? This approach to lead generation will put you ahead of schedule and help you more accurately forecast how your marketing budget can best be spent.
Benefit #3: Starting Yield Earlier
Gated content not only helps you generate leads earlier in the funnel, it also enables you to jumpstart yield season by doing so. Rather than relying on your website to generate student leads primarily through bottom-funnel offers such as “Request More Information” or “Apply Now,” premium content gives you the opportunity to create content geared towards students who are still in the early stages of choosing a college. By acquiring these leads earlier, higher ed marketers have the opportunity to start nurturing them earlier rather than waiting until shortly before they need to make a decision. This gives you more time to get your message across to and build a relationship with your prospective students.
Examples of Gated Content for Higher Ed
Your gated content offers will vary greatly depending on what stage of the applicant’s journey students are in. In order to create relevant content offers, it’s important to consider what prospective students are looking to achieve at each stage. How do you know what students’ pain points are throughout the applicant’s journey? Creating student personas, conducting keyword research, and talking to prospective students are all great ways to discover content ideas that will appeal to the exact students you’re looking to attract.
Related: Our free, customizable persona template will let you easily organize your research to create your very own personas. With this template, you can create well-formatted personas that you can share across your department or school.