By Paul Schmidt

If you're trying to generate marketing qualified leads (MQLs) using ungated content, we've got six methods to get the job done. But let's start with an MQL overview.  

What is an MQL?

MQLs are leads that, on the surface, appear to meet all of the attributes of a quality lead. A rule of thumb is that an MQL is someone whom you'd want to invest another marketing dollar in. MQLs are identified based on the information they provide when completing a landing page form or when they conduct certain behavior on your website or social media channels, which indicates that they could be a good fit for your product/service. MQLs meet your definition of a quality lead and are identified based on demographics, activities, and behaviors on your website.

One mistake many organizations make is thinking MQLs are ready to pull out their credit cards to purchase their product or service. MQLs are usually not ready to purchase and will require lead nurturing to move them through the sales process to determine whether they are sales qualified.

Here are six methods for generating MQLs through ungated content: 

1. Turn Blog Subscribers into MQLs

Blog subscribers are easy to generate, assuming you’re producing interesting, engaging content for your readers. A single form field on your blog can be an easy way to drive email addresses into your database. After these contacts have been receiving your blog articles, they're in a prime position for you to share your longer-form premium content offers.

Because you already know these users, you don’t have to send them to a landing page to fill out additional forms. You could send them an email that takes them to a thank you page or an ungated page where they have the ability to get a copy of your latest white paper without having to fill out a form.  

Based on your MQL criteria, the subscribers who click through straight to your thank you page (instead of the landing page) may be considered MQLs. 

2. Create Pillar Content

Another method for generating MQLs is to provide your premium offers in long-form, ungated content and then offer your users the ability to download a PDF version in exchange for their email address. Another benefit, besides lead generation, of pillar content creation is that search engines are then able to crawl all of your ungated content, which could benefit your organic rankings and SEO.

3. Implement Content Upgrades

Similar to the pillar content technique are content upgrades. Content upgrades are typically found on long-form pieces of ungated content and provide a value-added related piece of gated content that is available for download. An example of this is if you’re reading an ungated guide on how to make cookies, the content upgrade could be a gated piece of content with 101 cookie recipes.

4. Use Facebook or LinkedIn Lead Capture Ads

One of the most effective ad products with the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA) that we're seeing right now is lead capture ads (although this won’t always be the case). Facebook and LinkedIn both provide a cost-per-click (CPC) ad that allows users to get a copy of a premium content offer by clicking on an ad and submitting their pre-filled information (i.e., based on what the social media network knows about them). Lead capture ads are as simple to use as Amazon's 1-Click ordering. From there, the pre-filled information can be synced with your CRM system, and the user won't have to fill out any more of your forms. 

5. Launch Web Chat

Drift’s web chat product is making waves in the marketing world by pushing websites to avoid gating their content and instead capturing leads through real-time chat. Web chat isn’t a new technology, but it can be an effective way to interact with users on your website who have questions and then more passively collect their information. 

6. Retarget to Anonymous Web Visitors

MQLs can also be generated through retargeting. More than 90 perent of your website visitors are never going to convert. Retargeting through Google Display Network or Facebook ads is an effective way to drive this traffic back to your website’s ungated content or even retargeting them with a lead capture ad on Facebook or LinkedIn.

As more and more consumers turn to ad blockers and refuse to fill out forms, marketers need to be more creative to generate MQLs. What are some methods you use to fill up your MQL funnel? Let us know @smartbugmedia on Twitter. 

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Paul Schmidt

About the author

Paul Schmidt is a strategist at SmartBug Media. He works with clients on SEO, analytics, lead generation and inbound marketing strategy. He recently co-hosted an SEO webinar series with the HubSpot Academy and spoke on social media strategy at the HubSpot Inbound conference. His past clients include: Travelers Insurance, Unilever, and the SABIAN Cymbal Company. He previously worked as a HubSpot Consultant as well as with a Boston-based search marketing agency. Paul studied percussion in Las Vegas and got his MBA in marketing in Boston. Read more articles by Paul Schmidt.

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