Does your website feature content that’s only accessible to some visitors and not others? Known as gated content, it’s often used to attract subscriptions. You can create gated content, for instance, that requires a subscription to access. Only after signing up for a subscription will visitors be able to view it.
With gated content, visitors will have an incentive to sign up for a subscription. It’s a way to reward visitors for signing up. If you’re going to use gated content on your website, though, you should optimize it for search engine traffic. Gated content can still generate search engine traffic, but optimizing it requires a different approach than that for ungated content.
What is Gated Content?
Gated content is any kind of content (e.g., an article, video, eBook, etc.) that’s behind a paywall or registration form. In order to view the content, visitors need to sign up for a subscription or provide their contact information. The incentive for signing up is that they’ll be able to view the locked-away content.
Gated content is often used by website owners as a way to grow their email list or generate leads. By requiring visitors to sign up for a subscription or provide their contact information, website owners can then market their products or services to these individuals at a later date.
The Benefits of Gated Content
By putting content behind a paywall or requiring readers to sign up for a newsletter in order to access it, you can ensure that only your most dedicated readers will see your best content—and that’s a good thing! Here’s why.
The Quality of Your List Will Go Up
When you gate your content, you’re essentially saying, “this is my best stuff—if you want to see it, you’re going to have to give me something in return.” As a result, only your most dedicated and engaged readers will bother signing up for your newsletter or paying for access to your gated content. This means that the quality of your list will go up since it will be composed largely of people who are actually interested in what you have to say.
Gated content helps you segment your audience.
Another benefit of gating your content is that it helps you segment your audience. When you know more about who your target reader is, you can tailor your content to their specific needs and interests. This will help reduce churn and increase conversions.
You’ll Be Able to Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Since only your best stuff will be behind a paywall or newsletter sign-up form, you’ll be able to focus on creating truly great content, rather than churning out subpar blog posts just to hit some arbitrary publish date. When you have to worry about attracting attention from casual readers, it can be tempting to sacrifice quality for quantity.
But when you gate your content, you can focus on making each and every piece as exceptional as possible.
You Can Make Some Serious Cash
If you’ve got really great content, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get paid for it! By gating your content, you can open up a whole new revenue stream for your blog. If you charge for access to your best articles or create a paid newsletter with exclusive content, you can bring in some serious cash—money that can be used to grow your blog or fund other projects.
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The Dark Side of Gated Content
If you’re a blogger, there’s a good chance you’ve considered making some of your content behind a paywall. After all, it’s a great way to monetize your blog and earn some extra income. But before you go ahead and make all of your content exclusive to paying members, you should know that there are some serious downsides to gating your content. We’ll take a look at some of the cons of gated content and why you might want to think twice before putting all of your eggs in the paid membership basket.
You might alienate your readership
The first downside of gated content is that it can alienate your readership. Sure, you might be able to entice a few people into paying for access to your blog posts, but for every person who pays, there are probably several more who will be turned off by the paywall and go elsewhere for their information.
In addition, once you’ve got people behind a paywall, it can be tough to get them to leave and come back to your site— which means you could end up losing potential readers (and customers) down the line.
It might hurt your SEO
Another con of gated content is that it can negatively impact your search engine optimization (SEO). When your content is behind a paywall, it’s not likely to be shared as much on social media or other websites.
This lack of sharing can make it harder for new readers to find your blog, which could eventually lead to a decline in traffic. Even if you do get people to pay for access to your content, it’s not worth it if they’re the only ones reading it!
Gated content poses challenges for search engine optimization (SEO). Because of its restricted accessibility, search engines typically can’t see it, nor can they crawl it. Search engines, of course, can only rank content that they can see and crawl. Therefore, your website’s ungated content may rank in the search results, whereas its ungated content won’t rank.
Search engines crawl content from the perspective of an ordinary visitor. Each search engine has its own bots, such as Googlebot, Bingbot, and Yandex Bot. When these bots crawl your website, they’ll only see content that’s available for all visitors to see. They won’t be able to see gated content. Gated content is behind a metaphorical wall, so it’s hidden from search engines and ordinary visitors.
It might be difficult, logistically
Finally, gated content can be difficult to manage from a logistics standpoint. If you have multiple types of content on your site (e.g., blog posts, videos, podcasts), you’ll need to figure out a way to keep track of who has access to what. This can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you have a large number of subscribers.
In addition, if you ever want to change the format or release schedule of your paid content, you’ll need to communicate this clearly to your subscribers or risk confusing them (and potentially losing their business).
As you can see, there are some definite downsides to making your content available only to paying members. So before you put up that paywall, think carefully about whether or not it’s the right move for your blog.
Consider the pros and cons carefully and weigh them against each other— only then will you be able to make an informed decision about what’s best for your blog (and your readers).
Create Summarized Landing Pages
One solution to overcome the SEO challenges of gated content is to create summarized landing pages. A summarized landing page is essentially an entry page for a piece of gated content. You can create a summarized landing page for each piece of gated content on your website.
These summarized landing pages can include an overview of a piece of gated content. Alternatively, they can include an excerpt of a piece of gated content. As long as the summarized landing pages are ungated, they’ll be able to rank in the search results.
Search engines can crawl the summarized landing pages, and visitors can view them to learn more about your website’s gated content.
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Use Flexible Sampling
While accessible to search engines, summarized landing pages may not rank high as their corresponding pieces of gated content. Summarized landing pages are shorter than gated content. A typical summarized landing page may contain just one-quarter the number of words of its gated content. Some of them may be even shorter. Regardless, the short length of summarized landing pages may prevent them from ranking as high or for as many keywords as their gated content.
Fortunately, Flexible Sampling offers a solution. Released in 2017, Flexible Sampling is a paywall framework developed by Google. It allows visitors to sample gated content without signing up for a subscription. At the same time, Flexible Sampling allows Google to see gated content for crawling and ranking purposes.
Google offers two types of Flexible Sampling:
1. Metering: Visitors are allowed to access to access a specific number of gated content pieces before signing up for a subscription. With metering, you can specify the maximum number of gated content pieces unsubscribed visitors can access.
2. Lead-in: Visitors are allowed to access a portion or excerpt of gated content pieces. With lead-in, visitors can only view a small section of above-the-fold content.
To implement Flexible Sampling, you’ll need to mark up your website’s gated content with tags. Flexible Sampling uses JSON-LD markup. You’ll need to use JSON-LD to tell Google where your website’s gated content is located. For more information on how to implement Flexible Sample, visit developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/appearance/flexible-sampling.
Use First Click Free
Bing offers a paywall framework as well. Known as First Click Free, it’s similar to Google’s Flexible Sampling. First Click Free will allow visitors to access a limited number of gated content pieces on your website before signing up for a subscription.
There are a few things you should know before implementing First Click Free. For starters, you must allow access to at least five gated content pieces per day. You can allow visitors to access more gated content pieces, but the daily minimum required by Bing is five. Secondly, First Click Free only affects visitors who discovered your website through Bing. Visitors who discovered your website through a different search engine — or by clicking a link to your website on another site — aren’t affected by it.
Like with Flexible Sampling, First Click Free can help your website’s gated content to rank. It will provide Bing with access to your website’s gated content. Visitors who’ve viewed the daily maximum number of gated content pieces will have to sign up for a subscription to view additional pieces. Nonetheless, Bing will always have access to your website’s gated content
What About Cloaking?
Some webmasters use cloaking to get their gated content ranked in the search results. Cloaking is a technical process that involves the use of a script to serve different versions of a page to different audiences. For their website’s gated content, some webmasters serve to search engines the ungated versions and visitors the gated versions. But rather than cloaking, you should stick with summarized landing pages or Flexible Sampling and First Click Free.
The problem with cloaking is that search engines may misinterpret it as ranking manipulation. Google’s SEO guidelines state that webmasters should avoid cloaking because it creates unexpected results for visitors. Google will see a different version of a cloaked page, so it may rank that page for irrelevant keywords while using the wrong meta tags.
By default, gated content can’t rank in the search results. It’s only accessible to visitors who’ve signed up for a subscription. Other visitors, including search engines, can’t access it.
You can optimize your website’s gated content for search engine traffic, however, by creating summarized landing pages or implementing Flexible Sampling and First Click Free. Summarized landing pages are short entry pages that describe and point to a piece of gated content, whereas Flexible Sampling and First Click Free are paywall frameworks developed by Google and Bing.