Does Gated Content Really Increase Subscriber Rates?

by Sid Bharath

Last updated on August 3rd, 2017

When it comes to building email lists, one of the most widely accepted practices is to provide high-value content (e.g., ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, webinars) behind an opt-in form as gated content.

Blogs like Harvard Business Review and Copyblogger gate their most valuable content. That means, in order to read their posts, you’ll need to register on their website.

On the other hand, some marketers believe that providing the content behind an opt-in form is not the best strategy to follow. Neil Patel, for example, doesn’t recommend gating content. His famous advanced guides on QuickSprout are open to any reader even though they cost thousands of dollars to make.

“From my experience, gating content creates a lot of backlash. Optin forms give me 3x the leads of any other method, but they tick people off… by a lot.” – Neil Patel

Neil agrees that gating content helps to generate leads, but for him, traffic is what matters most. Even so, he has a massive subscriber list that continues to grow because his content is that good and people want to read each new post as it comes out.

Unbounce uses a combination of free and gated content. They have a free Landing Page Optimization course that doesn’t require an email address. However, some of their more advanced content, like webinars and ebooks, is gated.

Ultimately it depends on what your goals are. Premium content will generate traffic and inbound links when not gated, but if you need leads, you might want to consider gating it while sacrificing the traffic and links.

Let’s have a look at a couple of examples of gated content, and how it helped increase email subscription.

1. Copyblogger

Rather than going the ebook or email course route, the team at Copyblogger wanted to offer something more unique and valuable to their subscribers for their email address. They created a premium content library called “MyCopyblogger” that contains 15 high-quality e-books and a 20-part Internet marketing course, and made it accessible to registered users only.

This single strategy helped them to increase email signups by 400%. On top of that, by creating an ever growing hub of premium content, their subscribers would keep coming back, ensuring that the lead quality remained high.

Here are some interesting results they achieved by gating their content.

  • Besides the landing page, the most viewed page on Copyblogger is behind the paywall, with almost a third of all traffic logging in after arrival.
  • $300,000 Authority sales were accomplished in the first month because it was connected to MyCopyblogger.

Copyblogger gated content

Key Takeaways

By providing your leads with a continuous stream of premium content, you can build long-term relationships with potential customers, and increase the lifetime value of the leads. If you have already created some epic posts on your blog, simply repurpose it to create a content library, and make it accessible to your members only.

  • Membership site: If you are on WordPress, use a free plugin like Membership2 to transform your blog into a fully functional membership site. This allows only your subscribers to access and download your premium content.
  • Simple opt-in: If you prefer a simple opt-in rather than creating a fully functional membership site, you should consider using plugins like Leadin. This plugin helps you to better understand your website visitors. Once someone fills out your form, it will identify that specific person on each visit, and show you what pages they visit, when they return and what social networks they are on.

2. Crowe Horwath

Enticing users to subscribe to a premium newsletter is another commonly used content gating tactic. Crowe Horwath, a public accounting and consulting firm, used a series of gated content to generate leads, which helped them hit an ROI of 133% in 7 months.

What makes their lead generation tactic so successful is that they’ve clearly defined the sales funnel and carefully nurtured the leads through each phase of the funnel. They created downloadable content at each stage of the funnel so leads would qualify themselves further with each download.

Best of all, at the final stage, leads become sales-ready.

Key Takeaways

For better ROI, define your sales funnel properly. The ultimate goal of your gated content must be to increase ROI. Here are a few tips that will help you nurture your leads properly.

  • All leads are not the same: It doesn’t matter if all of the leads enter to your system at the same time. You’ll need to identify which phase of the sales funnel they are in. Do this by creating a secondary offer, and if the prospects respond positively, they qualify for the next phase of funnel.
  • Marketing automation: Try using marketing automation tools to track all gated-content leads. It helps you nurture prospects with highly personalized and useful content that pushes them along your conversion funnel.

Types Of Gated Content

gated content feature

Before gating content, make sure the content is valuable and unique. No one wants to give up their email address unless the content you provide is worth it. This is true especially if you are not recognized as an authority in your niche. Here are some common types of gated content that will help you attract leads:

  • Ebooks – Ebooks are one of the most popular forms of gated content. They’re great because they can be downloaded and read offline and on mobile readers. Use ebooks to explain advanced concepts that you introduced in your blog posts.
  • Email Courses – Email courses are a series of emails that explain a process or new concept each day. The good thing about email courses is that subscribers expect to see multiple emails from you and, if the content is good, they’ll be eager to read them.
  • Online Courses – Online courses can be video, audio, or a combination, and are great for teaching advanced tutorials that require screencasts. The high production quality and format can attract more subscribers than other forms of content.
  • Whitepapers – Use whitepapers for industry content that contains a lot of research and data. This content is typically something that’s hard to come by, which is why it attracts leads.
  • Webinars – Webinars are live presentations that have become very popular recently. You run them at a specific time on a specific day, and this ensure that attendees are giving you their full attention.

Final Takeaway: Should You Gate Content?

For Mike Volpe, the debate essentially comes down to what metrics you value the most. So if your primary goal is to generate more page views, gating content may not be good idea for you.

From the above examples, it is clear that gating content is a great strategy to build a list of qualified subscribers and leads. If you have a well-defined funnel and a means for tracking leads through the funnel, you’ll start seeing returns on your content.

What’s your take on gating content? Is it a valuable conversion tactic? What tips would you share?

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sid.



Get updates on new articles, webinars and other opportunities:

Sid Bharath

Sid is an entrepreneur, growth hacker and writer. To find out more about him or get in touch, check out his personal site.


Comment Policy

Please join the conversation! We like long and thoughtful communication.
Abrupt comments and gibberish will not be approved. Please, only use your real name, not your business name or keywords. We rarely allow links in your comment.
Finally, please use your favorite personal social media profile for the website field.


Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. July 17, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    I think it also depends on your goal for your company. My clients are solo-preneurs who tend to be professional service providers. They are less concerned with traffic than with signing up targeted leads (as they should be!). They need to form a personal connection that will be reinforced by email marketing.

    So everything gets gated unless they have a blog and the blog drives visitors to gated content.

    Food for thought! I hadn’t even thought about gated vs ungated till I read this post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. July 16, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Hello Sid

    Wonderful and Very Helpful Content Information Subscribe rates Article I like Your Step by Step Guide me Thanks a lot For Sharing me Great Info Keep it up
    Have a Nice day

Show Me My Heatmap

Looking for key #Webanalytics tools? Try @CrazyEgg for the best way to track your #digitalmarketing efforts in a simple to read #data form

Brad Chuck


What makes people leave your website?