By Aubreigh Ulicki

If you’re an inbound marketer, you’re constantly thinking up new ways in which you can be helpful to your target audience. Which topics are they interested in? Which pieces of content will answer their questions? Which types of content will they download, or do I need to provide it without asking them for more information?The gated versus ungated content debate has been around for years, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. If you’re wondering which type of content your audience will respond best to—gated or ungated—the best thing you can do is test and iterate. 

A/B testing is also known as split testing. During an A/B test, you experiment with different variables to see how your audience responds to each. This type of testing is so valuable because it gives you insight into how your target audiences are responding. With any experiment, we always recommend testing a single variable at a time. In this case, that variable is a form on a landing page. 

Now let’s dig into two ways you can set up an A/B test for your content.

Option 1: Create two versions of one page.

*Most effective way for HubSpot users.

Summary

Run an A/B test on gated versus ungated content by creating two different versions of a single page. One variation should have a form gating the content, and the other should show the offer on the page itself. HubSpot’s functionality is set up to ensure half of your visitors see Variation A, while the other half sees Variation B. 

You can look at page performance to determine which version was more successful, and choose that page to show moving forward. If you’d like to run another A/B test in the future, you can do so because the losing version will just be reverted back to draft mode. 

See below for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to set up Option 1.

Step-by-Step Walkthrough

Step 1: Create your original landing page. When complete, hover over the More button and click “Run a test.”

hubspot-run-test

Step 2: Select A/B test.

hubspot-a-b-test


Step 3: Create your variation.

hubspot-create-variation


Step 4: On your variation, delete the form module.

hubspot-remove-form


Step 5: Customize your variation to show the content offer on the page itself (ungated).

hubspot-customize-page


Step 6: Launch your page and start tracking results!

Set yourself a reminder to look at page performance a few days later. HubSpot will allow you to select that winning version and use it moving forward.

Watch Gated vs. Ungated Content Live Debate

Option 2: Create two different landing pages and share via promo emails.

*Most effective way if your marketing automation software does not have A/B testing functionality. This is not a true A/B test.

Not everyone has the luxury of marketing automation software that allows for proper A/B testing, but there are ways to set up something similar with a little more time and effort.

Summary

  1. Create two landing pages: One with a form (“Landing Page A”) and one with the offer directly on the page (“Landing Page B”) 
  2. Create two lists of equally qualified contacts: “List A” and “List B” (these lists will include your testing audiences) 
  3. Create two calls to action (CTAs): “CTA that links to Landing Page A” and “CTA that links to Landing Page B” 
  4. Create two promo emails: They should mirror each other in everything except the send list and CTA 

“Email A” should be sent to “List A” and go to the landing page with the form.
“Email B” should be sent to “List B” and go to the landing page without the form.

See below for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to set up Option 2.

Step-by-Step Walkthrough

Step 1: Create two landing pages—one with a form and one without.

landing-page-with-form landing-page-without-form

Step 2: Divvy up two lists of equally qualified contacts. It’s important to ensure there is the same number of contacts on each list.

email-lists

Step 3: Create two CTAs that have the same verbiage, but link to different landing pages.

calls-to-action


Step 4: Create two promo emails that mirror each other, with the exception that one goes to “List A” and includes “CTA A” and the other goes to “List B” and includes “CTA B.”

 

Step 5: Send your emails and start tracking results!

Set yourself a reminder to look at results a few days later, keeping in mind that data may be skewed in Option 2. A few reasons for this may include:

  • Differing send lists: Send lists will never be equal because no two people are the same.
  • Inconsistent open rates: Emails will have different open rates.
  • Inconsistent click rates: Emails will have different click rates.

What are some A/B testing tips?

Before you run an A/B test, consider these best practices.

1. Set a goal for your experiment and track specific KPIs. 

When looking to learn whether gated versus ungated content performs better, set up a thank you page and track page views.

For example, on the gated version, the landing page should redirect to the thank you page once the form has been completed. On the ungated version, you can place a CTA that says “Download Now” which will redirect to that same thank you page; however, the visitor should not need to fill out their information.

2. Test a single variant. 

If you experiment with multiple variants, you won’t know which one impacted the end result.

3. Test different topics

Different topics resonate with different people. Depending on your line of business, industry, and target audience, try A/B testing with a variety of subjects.

4. Test different types of content. 

Similar to above, visitors may be willing to fill out a form for e-books or checklists, but they likely won’t want to for an infographic.

What’s next?

No matter which version of the A/B test you run, always remember to look at the contacts’ behavior after seeing the landing page. Did they fill out the form if they were directed to that page? Did they go elsewhere on the site if they were given the content ungated? 

The A/B test will give you relevant information on what your audience preferences are, but you’ll need to use the data to continue meeting them wherever they’re at in their buyer’s journey. We all have a hunch of what will work for our audience, but marketing should be based on data, not hunches. Run an A/B test to see if your audience responds better to gated or ungated content, and start delivering it to them in the most effective way.

-Gated-vs.-Ungated-Content--Debate-cover

Watch this interactive, “gated versus ungated content” debate as SmartBugs defend the benefits of each strategy.

Gated vs. Ungated Content Debate

Check It Out
Aubreigh Ulicki

About the author

Aubreigh Ulicki is a Senior Director of Marketing Strategy for SmartBug Media. After being introduced to HubSpot in 2014, she began implementing the inbound methodology for both B2B and B2C clients. Aubreigh has experience in a variety of industries including SaaS, financial services, manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, senior living, and more. She has a passion for helping clients grow their businesses by sharing helpful, relevant content. Read more articles by Aubreigh Ulicki.

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