Advertising: To gate or Not to gate (Part II)


Thanks for your feedback on this topic. As promised, I am circling back on the Advertising: To Gate or Not to Gate post I wrote in late April. As you'll recall, I initiated a little experiment to offer one of our assets via an online ad without registration. For a period of almost two months, we ran ad units with 1 to 1 Media, American Marketing Association, BusinessWeek Online, destinationCRM and The Wall Street Journal Online.

The results are in!

And they're not what I expected (which prompts me to want to tinker some more). For the time being, here is what we found when we compared the two trial periods:

  • The Click-Through Rate (CTR) went up from 0.09% to 0.50%
  • The Conversion Rate (CVR) went down from 3.32% to 2.65%

To put those numbers into plain English:

  • When we removed registration, the proportion of the viewers that clicked through went up five-fold from 0.09% to 0.5%.
  • At the same time, the subset of viewers that clicked through and then also downloaded the whitepaper shrunk by 21% from 3.32% to 2.65%.

The CTR results were unexpected because we did not change the wording of the ad to say “no registration required,” so unless I don’t fully grasp this concept, there is no outward indication that would prompt more clicks. The CVR results are also unexpected because this should be like the bowl of Halloween candy left on the porch of the folks not at home. Remove the doorbell and the first group of trick-or-treaters hit the jackpot, but in the case of our ad it didn't play out as expected.

The “after” numbers (no registrations) were confirmed in the following weeks as the proportions remained the same. Preliminary conclusions based on these results are that if our objective with online ads is to drive awareness, then it’s more effective to offer assets ungated. Conversely, if we were looking to generate leads, then it would make more sense to continue gating our assets on the ads we place.

If you will recall, the asset we’re promoting in these advertisements is a Webcast summary paper titled, Tips from the Trade - Competing on Web Analytics from a Webcast called by the same name (Webcast Link). The Webcast featured an discussion with author Eric Peterson from Web Analytics Demystified and SAS Customer Office Depot, moderated by SAS' own Michele Eggers.

I am going to see if we can try another test, but this time changing the wording in the ads and the landing pages to see if that drives a different result and let you know what happens. Until then, let me know if you expected those same results. Have you had similar experiences? Share your thoughts when you have a chance. Thanks!


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

1 Comment

  1. The stats provided in the Gate or Not to Gate results require a little bit of thought before drawing a conclusion. If the number who clicked through before the change was 100, then 3.32 were converts. Click through increase of 5 fold means 500 now click through and even with a lower conversion rate of 2.65% this translates into 13.25 converts. Now this alone is pretty meaningless in terms of business impact. Think of it from the perspective of a retail store example.
    If the change to the design of the door means the number of people who come into the store increases from 3 to 13 per day, I might get excited. That is until I look at the dollars in the cash register at the end of the day. If that does not increase, or goes down, The change to the shop door was a waste of time. This is the same mistake that was made in the earlier days of the drive towards customer intimacy. Organisations made significant changes to their way of operating, and misread the conversion rate signals to mean success. They blindly continued and went out of business as they drove down the value generated from their customer base. Conversion rate always has to be weighted by the average change in value of the convert. That might actually take a while to figure out. If the white paper is feeding into an assessment of competing suppliers, you would want to be sure that it stacked up well against the white papers of your competitors.

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