Build Your Email List Faster with Gated Content

David Lindop   0

Updated on March 21, 2023

If you’re serious about building your email list in 2024, you need to do more than just offer a newsletter. There’s now so much content available online that vague promises of valuable emails and offers won’t cut it anymore.

You need to make your visitors want to subscribe. Need to subscribe. Scramble to subscribe.

Luckily, you’ve got access to a range of proven tools: lead magnets, content upgrades, online quizzes, and now gated content.


We’ve written about gated content before, but it’s high time we revisited the subject and shared a powerful Thrive Leads feature that’s hidden in plain sight: Content Locking.

What is Gated Content?

Gated content requires visitors to subscribe to your email list, create an account, or purchase a subscription in order to unlock protected online content.

To avoid confusion, the term ‘gated content’ is not usually used to refer to online courses or memberships, although these are technically full ecosystems built around restricted access. ‘Gated content’ is also not usually used to refer to lead magnets or content upgrades that rely on a separate delivery system like email or redirects to a download page.

Instead, when we use the term ‘gated content’, we mean web pages you see a message like this…

“Enter your email address to keep reading."

So today, we’re focusing on gated content that requires the user to enter their email address in order to unlock valuable content… whether that’s an entire article, a specific section, or a useful resource like a video.

Why Does Gated Content Work So Well?

Opt-in based gated content is an incredibly effective way of growing your email list. It relies on 3 psychological ‘hooks’ that work very well together:

  1. 1
    The desire to find content or results that are highly relevant to visitors’ needs
  2. 2
    The desire to avoid the sunk cost of reading content without accessing the conclusion or payoff
  3. 3
    The suggestion that gated content must be higher quality than readily available content

You can combine all 3 by giving your readers just enough highly relevant, valuable content to get them wanting more, and then suggesting there is even more valuable content if they choose to submit their email address.

But what does opt-in based gated content look like in the real world? Let’s explore a few examples…

Real Examples of Opt-in Based Gated Content

The Guardian

Unlike many online newspapers that have switched to paid subscriptions, The Guardian encourages its readers to ‘register for free’ in order to unlock gated content. Of course, creating a free account is equivalent to joining their email list.

(In truth, it’s possible to skip this easily with the “I’ll do it later” link, but the wording of the content lock message makes it seem that signing up is required.)

National Geographic

Opt-in based gated content is also used by National Geographic, requiring readers to enter their email address to continue reading.


Nightfall uses gated content to require visitors to enter their email address in order to view their most popular embedded videos.

Many of Nightfall’s other videos are freely viewable, which suggests they understand that locking only selected content can be an effective list-building strategy.

Nightfall also tests alternative messaging on their gate content, sometimes asking for a “work email” along with first and last name, and other times just “email”.

But enough about other people’s websites – how can you add gated content to your website to accelerate your email list growth? Don’t worry, Thrive has you covered…

How to Set Up Gated Content on Your Website with Content Locking

Thrive Leads gives you everything you need to quickly and easily add an opt-in gate to your WordPress website.

Just head on over to the Leads Shortcodes section and click the ‘Add New’ button.

Give it a suitable name like ‘Opt-in Gate’ or ‘Subscription Required’ and click ‘Add Lead Shortcode’.

Then turn on the ‘Content Locking’ feature toggle and copy the newly generated shortcode.

The shortcode will look similar to this, but without the spaces:

[ thrive_lead_lock id='1430' ]Hidden Content[ /thrive_lead_lock ]

Be sure to paste your new shortcode into a text editor, as you’ll need it later.

Anything you place between the opening and closing shortcodes will be hidden until the visitor enters their email address. It’s up to you how much of your content to you want to hide – an entire article, just the best bits, or even a high-value video to help your audience get results.

But ­­­effective gated content needs a well-designed opt-in form along with compelling messaging too… don’t worry, Thrive Leads to rescue again!

Choose your opt-in form template design

Go ahead and click the ‘Edit’ button to the right of the Content Locking toggle.

Create a new form, give it a name, and then click on the first icon to choose an opt-in form template…

You’ll be presented with a range of professional, conversion-focused forms to choose from.

Choose an opt-form template that best fits your needs and don’t worry, you can easily customize everything to perfectly match your brand, audience and personality.

Thrive Leads includes many professionally designed opt-in form templates ready to customize and use.

Switch out the messaging and images with your own and it’s ready to go.

For example, this took me 2 minutes…

Once you’re happy with your gated content opt-in form, remember to hit the SAVE button.

Don’t forget to also connect your form to your email marketing service using the API connect.

Now it’s finally time to lock down your content with your new shortcode and opt-in form!

Choose which content to lock down

Using the WordPress editor of your choice, edit the post or page where you want to feature gated content. I’ll use the standard Gutenberg editor in this example so show you how easy it is, but you can also use Thrive Architect if you want to hide more advanced content and elements.

Add a Custom HTML block (Gutenberg) or Custom HTML element (Thrive Architect) above your gated content, and paste the Thrive Leads opening shortcode snippet from earlier.

As a reminder, it will look similar to this but without the spaces. Be sure to NOT paste the “Hidden Content” part in the middle… that’s just a placeholder for your content.

[ thrive_lead_lock id='1430' ]Hidden Content[ /thrive_lead_lock ]

Then do exactly the same below your gated content using another Custom HTML element and your Thrive Leads closing shortcode. Remember you can protect any content, not just text.

Like this…

Remember these shortcodes needs to be added as HTML snippets, not as text content.

Save your changes and you’re done… your visitors can only unlock your gated content by entering their email address!

Here’s the final result

Inspiration for Gated Content: What Can You Lock?

Don’t want to lock most of your page or post with gated content?

No problem – you can lock out just the very best parts, the final conclusion, or even a valuable video.

Here are some ideas that could work for your online brand:

  • If you publish how-to content, consider hiding the final steps in your tutorials. Fiendishly frustrating but effective!
  • Split up list-based posts into 2 sections, and ask readers to subscribe to unlock the second half.
  • Offer a curated list of tools, resources, or links in the middle of a valuable article.
  • Check your analytics to identify your most visited blog posts, and use gated content to offer an additional video.

Remember that you can hide anything with Thrive Lead’s Content Locking feature: images, videos, toggle and tabbed content, entire page sections, pricing tables, testimonials. Be sure to test what works best for your business.

How Will You Use Gated Content on Your Website?

Content Locking is one of my favorite features of Thrive Leads. It’s simple to use, quick to implement, and it has the potential to really boost your email subscribers.

But with great power comes great responsibility…

Gated content can also be a frustrating experience for your visitors if used too widely. It’s best to strike a balance between offering freely readable content, and asking for a fair exchange to unlock even more value for those who want it.

I’d love to hear your ideas on gated content. Let me know in the comments below!

by David Lindop  March 21, 2023


Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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