Understanding the value of free vs caged content

Most businesses, particularly B2B, have been debating the subject of caged/gated content for years. Personally, I’ve always been a believer in striking a balance between which content should be “given away” and which should be “caged/gated”.

In general, gated content is content that requires someone to “put some skin in the game”. In other words, they need to provide some level of information about themselves, typically in a form on a landing page, before the content is released to them. At a minimum, this information would be the person’s name and email address. Options also include company name, title, intent to purchase, phone number, etc.

Content must be considered of high value to encourage someone to divulge their personal information; typically it comprises: webinars, eBooks, free product trials, demos, and whitepapers. Because the content is caged, the leads that result are likely more qualified. At least that is the premise.

The form itself plays a critical role here. Relatively short forms could deliver a higher number of leads, but a longer form may result in additional information and higher quality leads. As with anything, testing is key for all aspects including: subject line; call-to-action; the asset itself; and of course, the form. And to add more madness to the mix, the perfect balance for one campaign doesn’t necessarily mean nirvana for others…but it’s definitely a great starting point!

The argument for caged content is two-fold. On one hand you get better-qualified leads and can more easily weed out potential competitors from accessing your material. On the other hand, you could be alienating potential prospects who are genuinely interested in your product or service, but have no desire to provide their information and end up on some marketing list. Caged content is great when combined with paid advertising (ie: adwords), online campaigns, etc., by directing traffic to a landing page where you collect information. This is one way to measure the effectiveness of your call-to-action, keywords, and the campaign itself.

However, the argument for uncaged content can be equally compelling, as it’s tied to all things SEO/organic search. Uncaged content allows for more indexed keywords, resulting in more exposure in search engines. If content can be easily accessed, it widens the opportunity for the content to go viral as folks are more willing to share. Typically, this type of content falls under the bucket of anything that describe your general products and services, such as blogs, product datasheets, case studies, testimonials, and thought-leadership pieces. Video is HUGE right now and, unless it’s a product demo, should also be uncaged.

Now here is where it gets complicated. Because in addition to caged and uncaged content there is also: paid content (ie: e-books); subscription content (common with many news outlets and association portals); and sponsored content (where you pay someone to market your content to their subscribers). In this instance, you only get the leads of those who actually download your materials, vs the entire database.

So how do you determine the ideal mix? First you need to answer the following:

  • What type of lead are you going after (high quality vs high volume)?
  • What is your objective (move prospects along the sales pipeline, improve SEO rankings, go viral, etc.)?
  • Who are you targeting (executive, technical, business, etc.)?
  • What stage of the buying cycle are they in (early/research phase, ready to buy, etc.)?
  • How valuable is the content to your competitors?

Once you’ve figured out how you want your content to be accessed, you can begin to distribute it over a variety of both paid and unpaid channels including: social media; advertising; third-party marketing; online and/or print campaigns; events; and of course, your own website.


Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies of all sizes achieve business success. A consultant and founder of Joanne Gore Communications, Joanne is spearheading the initiative to help the print industry drive business now, and in the future, with programs that generate awareness, customer engagement and growth. Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121