Is SEO value only for members or gated content?

Ask an SEO question today came from Carrickus, North Carolina. Carikos asks:

We only have B2B member websites. Some of the content on our site is available to visitors / not logged in, but most of our content is for members who are logged in to the site. Does content that is member only (visible after login) help the site’s SEO ranking?

Great question, and that’s what I get from customers all the time.

For the purposes of this question, we can forget the B2B aspect – the answer is the same no matter what kind of content your website focuses on.

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Although there are some subtleties, so let’s dive into it.

Is SEO value only in members’ content?

The short answer is: if it’s behind the login, it’s not really offering you any value for SEO.

The reason is simple.

Googlebot is not one of your paid users, so it is not possible to log in to view your content.

There are many technical approaches around this, and I will briefly try to mention some strategies for dealing with member content only and provide some helpful links here.

It is important to start by checking the need for a gate or lockup material behind the login.

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Need to gate your content?

I remember a client who wanted to do this with all his videos and asked us for an SEO strategy to help.

The first thing we did was look at their analytics, and found that the average user (logged in or paid) watched an average of one to two videos in just one month.

It raises a question about the whole business model – would anyone really be willing to pay a monthly fee to watch one or two videos? maybe not.

We felt that by not hiding the content behind the login, we would get more traffic (and possibly more customers).

I tell this story because not often, I go to customers who have gated content that doesn’t really need to be gated.

If you decide that locking up content makes sense to a business (and there are many good reasons why this might happen) then there are ways to go about it.

Use Google’s first click-free program.

Google has long offered a first-click-free program where you can display content to Google Search users before they need to login to their next page view.

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There are some tips that dedicated people can use to view all of your content for free, but this can be a worth considering option.

Use schema to tell Google what PayVald is.

If you decide to let the crawler pass through the login or paywall (such as NYT and Quora and other sites) then there is even a schema markup that you can use to tell Google bot who Some content is free vs. paywall.

If you must paywall, I’m a big fan of the approach used by The Washington Post or Athletic (both sites for which I actually pay).

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Offer free content on a limited basis.

These sites allow you to read the first paragraph of any article for free, then you are hit with a login to continue reading.

This can be useful for both users and search crawlers, especially if you are adding more important information (and keywords) to articles.

In general, though, if you’re letting search engines see the content, it will help you rank higher.

If they can’t see it, it won’t help you.

This trick ensures that you let the engines see what you need them while they do not apply it to the users while maintaining their functionality as if it appears to be a sheet. Or something shady.

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More resources:


Editor’s note: Ask SEO. Is a weekly SEO consultation column written by some of the top SEO experts in the industry, hand picked by Search Engine Journal. Have a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You can see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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Featured Image: Saxarenka / Shutterstock.

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