Should your product content be public? Or should it remain a closely guarded resource, for your employees’ and customers’ eyes only?

Change is inevitable. Trends that governed how we approached content yesterday are not the same trends that we should apply to the content of tomorrow.

Online product documentation used to be a closely guarded resource. Many chose to keep their content private. But with the introduction of search engines, and the need to be discovered, this all changed. Many companies chose to have their content open to being indexed - abandoning the previous ideas of protecting content at all costs.

More recently, we’ve noticed a trend among companies which are adopting a hybrid approach to guarding their content. These companies are making certain elements of the content public while hiding others behind a login.

So, what should you do when faced with the decision of who is able to see your content? Here are your options when it comes to controlling your documentation:

  1. Hide all your content behind a login, for authorized access only.
  2. Open all your content to everyone, including public search engines like Google.
  3. The hybrid approach where some content is hidden behind a login and some is open.

Let’s take a look at the options.

Option 1: Gated Content

The reason that a large number of companies decide to gate their content is to protect sensitive information from prying eyes. By adding a login, you are keeping your customers or competitors away from your sensitive information.

Many software companies have internal documentation intended for their employees’ eyes only. An example is an advanced configuration which can only be performed by partners or employees.  Alternatively, you may also have content for customers only, as it could be used by competitors to mimic your algorithms or highlight weaknesses.

When to use this option:

If all of your content contains sensitive information that you would not want in the hands of competitors.

Option 2: Open Content

Gated content is invisible to the public and has absolutely no SEO value in search engines like Google or Bing. Not only is it blocked to potential customers, but it is also blocked from search engine bots that are unable to index what appears in your content. By un-gating this content, and allowing traffic to flow to your site, you will be able to increase organic search traffic and as a result, improve your SEO.

When to choose this option:

A typical use case of this is a company that wants their customer base and prospects to be able to search and find all of their content online.

Option 3: The Hybrid Approach

Gone are the days where you needed to make a blanket decision to open or gate all your content. Companies like Zoomin Software enable you to open or restrict different elements of your content. By giving you control over segmenting access to your content, you are able to manage user entitlements and permissions. You can decide whether to share content publicly or gate documentation on a case by case basis. By doing this, you are making the most of both use cases.

A prevalent trend is that companies are publishing a variety of documentation which needs different permissions. For example, documentation relating to the release of new features or an upgrade to existing features would be shareable publicly with a wide audience and findable by search engines in order to maximize its publicity. On the other hand, if you are creating documentation on internal procedures, you may not wish to inform the whole world wide web. Ideally, you would have the ability to regulate the content you publish accordingly.

Beyond this, Zoomin provides the ability to create different layers of permissions, such that employees and customers are not seeing the same information. Even further - with Zoomin, you are able to restrict different customers to only seeing information relevant to them. You can choose to differentiate these customers based on their role, or the product that they are using, or you can tag your content and assign permissions to each tag.

When to choose this option:

If you're authoring a wide variety of content types that are not always designated for the same audience.

It’s time to stop taking a one-size-fits-all approach to content - because let’s face it - not all content is created equal.

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