Saturday, April 11, 2009

Traffic + Search engine juice - MEMBERSHIP SITE

Ok, that's a big one too!

Right now, lots of traffic coming from serach engines is directed to free content on the site.

These are visits, internal linking, traffic and page views.

Creating restricted areas would kill that traffic or part of it.

This means that a shift to a membership only access would destroy probably 20%-50% (vague estimation as there is lots of traffic going to sales pages, SEO pages and, forum and blogs that could still be maintained)

What wuld be restricted would be access to:
  • Articles
  • Topics areas
  • videos

90% of that is in free access right now.

So, that's abig dilemma.

yes! There are ways around that and a lot of this access would stay active through backdoors.

Yes! That can work but I would need to be subtle and smart with that.

The traffic on the site would take serious hit most probably.

The pages views numbers too.

Yes! That's an essential factor to consider and one that I have no clear answer to yet.

Yes! There are possible solutions and all of them can be implemented.

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  • Solution 1 - get traffic from other sources

That's something that is already happening now!

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Again, the traffic to free content respresents only a small fraction of what arrives on the site. Right now, two major programs that include video and much more are:

  • Dating for women
  • wake up your power

The dating for women videos + SEO pages represent a huge part of that traffic.

Now, the internal articles are a small fraction of that.

I won't break it down exactly here but SEO pages represent probably 40% of this traffic 40% for video pages and the rest goes to gateway pages or topic pages.

So, the traffic would still be there but the internal traffic and navigation once people access the site would be interupted by a request to signup to the membership.

Is this a serious option? Or are the consequences too hard to take for the site?

Well, last time I made major update to the site and cleared up old pages, link pages and updated the content, traffic dropped by 20%.

Small changes! Big impact on traffic!

Since then, the traffic has been stable but does not seem to go back up to where it was before.

In other terms, I hit now and sealing and most of the traffic building strategies that did work 2 years ago for instance give now little results.

Conclusion:

New ides need to be implemented all the time.

A SEO strategy that gives good results a year ago, might not work today.

That's an essential factor to keep in mind.

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Next question:

Would the traffic to this free content actually purchase the membership?

Of course, it can work.

Anything is possible.

This is a major shift in the site strategy though.

In the last 4 years, I experimented A LOT with free or fee content and shift many programs a few times between free and fee.

two programs that I shifted systematically back to free are Dating for women + Wake up your power.

In a way, this free content is my good will contribution and I do get a sense of internal reward from doing it.

Even if I was restricting all access to this material, it might actually hurt my traffic so much that all benefits coming from new extr sales would not actually match the loss.

Why?

well, right now this tarffic gives me a few things:

  • exposure
  • trust
  • credibility
  • new clients

In other terms, this traffic to free content works well for many reasons.

So, to be coherent with the vital membership that's the next big shift that should take place on the site.

Yes, this content can stay free but then the membership loses its coherence and we go back to the situation I have to day where the memebrship is not being pused or reinforced.

So, once there is a sales strategy in place, the technicalities are covered, thsi is the next big open question mark.

At this stage, the site did reach a ceratin balance and this is a crossroad.

I can maintain all this free content and get the type of succes I am getting now.

Or shift to a stronger membership structure and persevere in that direction.

Again, in the past, when restricting the access to these free areas, I shifted back within a few weeks.

In that period where the membership was reinforced, here is what happened:

  • Sales to the membership multiplied - 100% increase
  • Coaching signups - 80% decrease

The membership sign ups number is too small to make it a real statistical measure - Not enough data.

But the drop in coaching signups was spectacular!

The months I implemented a strong membership, the drop in coaching signups was sudden and VERY significant.

As soon as I opened the access again, clients started flowing back in.

This is what I called then the trust bridge.

In fact, it is an energy bridge.

Everything is energy!

There is what we can see and measure and then there all these exchanges going on which have nothing to do with what we see.

That's the invisible part and I use terms like coaching spirit, sponsoring forces, energy dynamics to describe these things.

These are energy principles and I work with them all the time.

So... Back to the membership idea.

I say, it again:

Every time I restricted access to these two particular areas of the site + A few other trageted programs, I shifted back to free access within a few weeks!

Why?

Because the benefits of restricting access were non-existent!

In that short period here is what happened with the traffic:

  • APRIL - before restricting acces - visits 19705 - pageviews 55841 - 2.83 pages/visit - time on site 2:28
  • MAY - restricted access to members only - visits 18458 - page views 50658 - 2.74 pages/visit - time on site 2:25
  • JUNE - shifted back to free access - visits 18050 - pageviews 51217 - 2.84 pages/visit - time on site 2:27

See that?

No change in traffic actually!

Why? because the access to the actual pages was still open.

In other terms, when visitors access the SEO pages and clicked on a video link, it worked.

What was restricted was the access via the main program page which was directing to buying the rpogram.

I realize something else!

It is that the actual product sold at that time was NOT the membership!

It was an individual program for that specific topic.

-----UPDATE--------------------

I actually double checked that one and it was the membership I was selling on these procuct pages, not individual products

-----UPDATE--------------------

So, the big hit or the big drop was not even the traffic impact, it was the drop in coaching clients that was REALLY significant!

And Yes! Absolutely! I believe that restricting access and drop in coaching clients are linked even though the shift is an energy shift - i don't see a real reason to explain that instant shift except through the trust bridge concept I talked about earlier.

The reason why I am analysing all that in detail is because I already did run in depth tests on the site concerning free and fee content and at athis stage I did reach a balance that worked relatively well so far.

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One possible option to keep the traffic open is to limit access via the main topic page but keep the back doors open and not restrict access to the folders wher the vids are located for instance.

That way, the search engine juice can still be maintained and the back doors stay open while the front door does direct visitors to the sign up page.

For coherence, this would be the solution for now that would hurt less the traffic.

As I experienced last year, by using this method there was little to no change in traffic.

All the SEO juice was maintained by doing so, even though the membership was not being reinforced at 100%

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So, the next quetion is really coherence with vitalcoaching.com' intentions and purpose...

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