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The links to content in our weekly nurture campaign emails go directly to the content and not through a gate. However, most of the content on our site is gated; although, my understanding of best practice is to not gate early stage thought leadership content, but to gate substantial later stage content like buyer guides, analyst white papers, etc.
This also has been a big debate for our company. I agree that it does not seem right to gate the case studies and datasheets. We have ungated the later stage case studies and datasheets and gated the earlier stage research reports, whitepapers and ebooks. With behavioral scoring we are able to track and score a sales lead's interaction with the later stage content.
Am interested to hear what others have to say about this.
It's a bit of a quandary, because early stage is where we want to start identifying our leads, but it's the time when they're least interested in filling out a form. Conversely, by the time they reach later stage content, having a lead fill out a form seems unnecessary if I've already collected all the needed information in previous form fillouts.
I've found adding an extra dimension to my content classifications of "perceived value" has helped. With it, you could identify that while a certan piece of content may be considered "early stage", its perceived value is high enough that gating it will not adversely affect its performance. These could be things like the big ebooks and whitepapers, interactive tools, etc. You can identify what has high and low perceived value through A/B landing page testing, and monitoring conversion rates for pages with and without gates.