Let me start by saying that there are a few different groups of thought surrounding conversion forms as gateways to content like Ebooks, webinars, etc.
There are literally successful folks on both sides of the fence. And I mean really successful folks.
Guys like David Meerman Scott preach very heavily against having visitors fill out a form to download content. According to David, you should let your content go freely as it increases downloads and sharing - among other things. And it works for him. BIGTIME.
I don’t think I’ve ever been forced to fill out a form to grab something from Godin either. Although, I don’t remember the last time I saw content from him aside from an actual book or blog.
In their book “Content Rules,” Ann Hadley and CC Chapman mention that it is important to use conversion forms with caution, whereas Hubspot (and probably most of their partners) are 100% conversion form city. I don’t think I’ve seen anything from Hubspot that mentions NOT using a conversion form. In all fairness though - they will admit to benefits of both approaches.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a-ok to do whatever you want with your content. At the end of the day YOU are the one that needs to do what you feel is best for your business. I’ve been on all sides of the strategy and there are negatives at each stop.
Not Registering For Content
You get more downloads. Plain and simple. If there is no gate - people are going to walk right on through. In my music days, when I removed the signup form to download my music, well, the downloads went up. They didn’t necessarily skyrocket - but I did see more downloads.
And more repeat downloads. From people that may not have grabbed all they could the first time around.
How did I judge the success of this?
This is where I show the true depth of my knowledge, because aside from actual numbers of downloads and some anecdotal data like “there were more people at the event/show this time,” I really did not have a way to tell whether or not a no register strategy was working.
I’d imagine looking back on it, you could do this in a number of ways:
- Number of Links to download page
- Referring sites
- Re-tweets of link to download page
- Shares on Facebook
- Organic search data
Not sure if it is brand new or what, but last week I shared something on Facebook and when I searched for the content in the search bar - it now tells you how many times that content was shared. (i.e. “Shared 23 times”).
Registering for Content
You get less downloads. However, if your content is good and folks feel the need to download it - you end up with a nice list of leads that you can continue to communicate with.
I’ve sold out shows by having folks register for content. In that, the registrants opted-in to my mailing list and as the mailing list grew - so did the number of folks at my events. As in more tickets sold. Direct sales of my products grew as well. Or rather, sales by email, etc.
To me, the magic of forcing registration for download is in what you do with that information after you get it [Duh, Dave].
Requiring someone to give you their email address and/or phone number allows you more options in your communication. And as long as you don’t abuse it. As long as you keep it relevant - your list can become a gold mine. And not just in sales, but with data mining as well.
Meaning, depending on your form qualifiers or fields - you can learn a ton about your potential customer by using forms.
- Who they work for
- Where they live
- Their favorite things
- Demographic information
You can literally insert any potential question in that form and get an answer over the course of a few weeks/months.
Anyhow, look, you spent a couple weeks, a month, (or more) putting this project together, right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring info in exchange for download. If someone is a hard core download purist and doesn’t want to give you an email for that 40 page piece of content you put together - maybe you don’t want ‘em anyways.
I Say Use Both
I’ll say it again for good measure.
I say use both.
- Your blog is where you’ll give away no register required content. Assuming you are putting some real thought into your posts, these will spread like wildfire and retain all the benefits listed above. Once a week, twice a week - whatever your ideal post frequency is.
- Then maybe once a month or quarter, you offer register required content via a landing page on your website. Keep most of the forms rather short. If it was a HUGE project and you need a certain amount of information from visitors to justify giving the content away for free OR you are looking to gather some data - then make the form longer.
Again, this all depends on what you feel is right for your business. Try out all the different ways and record your results. Release content freely and test it. Make folks register and test that too.
Dave Huffman is the author of the blog The Indie Launch Pad.