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Should You Put Your Content Behind A Registration Wall?

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Personally, I am in the David Meerman Scott camp on this, and would prefer that you not put any content behind a registration wall. Studies show that your content will be downloaded 50x more times if you don’t require info from the downloader. 50x more downloads equals more thought leadership. The message spreads farther and wider.

In a no-reg-wall scenario, prospective customers will download your content, and “tire kickers” will too. We must answer a few questions:

1. What harm, if any, is there in providing your content to mere tire kickers?
2. What harm, if any, is there in reducing the number of content downloads by requiring registration?
3. In a reg wall scenario, what do you do with the intel you receive from the downloader?
4. What protection, if any, do you provide yourself by putting valuable info behind a reg wall?

My answers to these questions:

1. I do not believe there is any harm. I believe that having more people consume your content is better than having less people consume it. More consumption leads to enhanced thought leadership.

2. There could be some harm. You need to be as easy as possible to work with in every facet of your business. Genuine prospects arriving at your site might balk at providing you info (even if they really think they want to work with you). Think of it this way. The most highly qualified prospect (the purchasing manager closest to pulling the trigger on working with you) arrives at your website. Perhaps he or she will download and consume your content either way (reg wall or no reg wall). However, there is a chance that they won’t download and consume it if you require info from them. In my book, that is a huge problem. Why depress your numbers like that? The only logical answer could be contained in the answer to question #3…….

3. If you take their contact info and do someone with it, then that is a reason for requiring registration. I’m still not nuts about it and would like to find another way to provide your content to everyone while still capturing qualified leads (for example, requiring registration for the second download, or putting the best of the best content behind a wall). But if your salespeople are individually contacting the people registering on your site, that could be an argument for erecting a registration wall. I would still be leery of using this info for “cold call” purposes, and just because someone provided you their email address in exchange for valuable information does not make that sales call any less cold. One of the important reasons you want a blog with great content and a social media strategy is to create a strong inbound marketing program, built around thought leadership and relationships. Help, help, help everyone you can, and then prospects contact you right at the moment of their greatest need. That’s the best kind of lead.

4. My opinion is that the mere act of someone giving you their email address (registering) will not make them a more likely buyer. You have captured some info from them in exchange for your valuable content. On your end, what happens next? As discussed in #3, if a salesperson follows up individually with each new registered person/company, then a reg wall could make sense. But to think that free, easily spreadable no-reg-wall content might land in your competitor’s hands…. I mean, it will anyway. I’ve provided a fake email address to a website before just to plow through the reg process. I just wanted to get to the info, and all of the registration stuff only aggravated me. So a registration wall provides you no protection whatsoever.

Restricting access to content behind a reg wall is only a good idea if you have a very successful system in place for doing something with the registration intel you collect from the downloader. And you may have that already. Ultimately, my opinion may not matter. Testing these theories may be your best option. As discussed near the bottom of this article, some companies have split test this and found that better leads were generated on reg wall (“gated”) days. For thought leadership purposes, I still prefer no reg wall, but perhaps you should test it.

Of course, I’d like to know what you guys think.

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