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Tips on getting the most out of your website and online marketing.

White papers - should you insist on registration before visitors can download?

Michael Schmidt - Tuesday, October 06, 2009
In a recent article, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs raises the question: "Should You Put Your eBooks and White Papers (and Other Content) Behind a Registration Page?". [Full Article]

This is an extremely relevant question for anyone using white papers and other downloadable assets to generate leads.

To register...
Requiring registration to download your white paper will give you the name/email of everyone who downloaded it, but you risk losing potential customers who are reluctant to give out personal information before they are ready to buy or engage in a dialog about your product/service - furthermore, you'll find that an increasing number of people simply submit fake names/emails to get the white paper while avoiding being contacted by you.

...or not to register?
Allowing downloads of your white paper without registration will almost certainly result in a dramatic increase in the number of people downloading your white paper, you just won't know WHO nor will you be able to communicate directly with them and your conversion rate will likely be much lower that with required registration. That being said, this can be a very effective way of getting your white paper in front of a lot more people! and you could still get good results (1% conversion of 10,000 leads is still better than 5% conversion of 100 leads)

There are good arguments for both approaches but there's really only one answer: whichever works for you! and the only way to find out is to test both approaches side-by-side:

Just test it!
Run an A/B split test by having your online ads send half the click-throughs to a page where your white paper can be downloaded without registration and the other half to a page where registration is required before download.

Make your white papers "trackable". Although there is no 100% accurate way to track conversions from white papers that did not require registration, there are a several things you can do to optimize the accuracy of your tests:

  • Use different file names for the white papers used in the test
  • Use different 800-numbers in each white paper - set up new numbers specifically for this test to make sure they are not generating calls from other source (yellow pages, magazine ads, business cards etc.) which would "pollute"  the results.
  • If the white papers contain links to content on your website, make sure you use different landing pages (links in white paper X link to landing page X and white paper Y to landing page Y).
In other words - make it all trackable in a way that allows you to measure and identify the source of all traffic (phone, web, email etc.) generated by this test so you can compare the end result and decide which approach works for you.

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