Archiv für den Monat: August 2019

Where paywall content stands with SEO: A focus on user experience

example of paywall free content on BetterHelp Advice blog

Publishers are increasingly adopting the paywalled content approach as a monetization strategy. If there’s anything, paywalled content has helped publishers generate more revenue online. But user experience may have suffered as a result.

Paying for content may sound arcane on the Internet, but it’s not a new thing. Newspapers thrived on subscription plans. And high subscription numbers are how publishers justify their ad rates. But with the way the internet has democratized access to knowledge, hardly does anyone pay for content anymore. But that is changing.

Adopting the content subscription strategy is on the rise. And it is being endorsed by decision-makers at major media outlets. However, both from an SEO perspective and a user experience angle, paywalls may create concerns.

How do paywalls work and are they sustainable?

“Can publishers sustain their paywalls?”, this is the question to ask. It’s understandable that introducing sudden changes to a platform may cause user apathy. But is that the case with publishers who use paywalls? Or rather, should content marketers begin to adopt this approach?

Interestingly enough, some major publishers report seeing their ad revenues improve once they added a subscription service. Why this is the case is still not clear.

Let’s breakdown the different types of paywall strategies and how they function

  • Freemium: This approach is popular with media outlets with a fairly sizable audience. Here free content is separated from premium content, allowing the free content to be available to everyone while premium content such as in-depth analysis is reserved for subscribers.
  • Metered paywall: Metered paywall is the most adopted approach and is the type used by major outlets such as Medium and The Times. Users are allowed to access a limited amount of content in a given month until they are required to become subscribers to continue to enjoy more content.
  • Hard paywall: The hard paywall blocks the entire website’s content for non-subscribers. Typically, readers will only get to see the headline and nothing beyond the infamous “read more” link. Users can still use the search feature of the website but cannot access any of its content or comments unless they become subscribers.


Over at Betterhelp, where I oversee content creation we’ve only tried the “Freemium” approach and will continue to split-test between free content and putting back paywalls. So far, from professional experience, putting content behind paywalls has not helped our users, who rely heavily on our advice blog. While our experiment with a paywall is yet to be concluded, we can draw from other media outlets to see what works.

Why publishers adopt paywalls

Example of paywall content on WSJ

Source: The Wall Street Journal

If you’re on the homepage of The Wall Street Journal website, you’re immediately prompted to register to start reading an article. Of course, to register means to pay to gain access to the content. On a website like, it’s easy to justify paying to read an article. They employ professional journalists who must keep producing high-quality content round the clock to meet the standard the newspaper is known for. Readers that enjoy it will not budge at the idea of paying to keep their subscription to The Journal. However, to understand why mainstream publications put their content behind paywalls, we need to look at how their business model works.

Revenue driven decisions

It’s obvious, monetization is the chief factor in why publishers adopt paywalls.

In print, established outlets like The New York Times, WSJ, and The Post rely on advertisers and subscribers to keep their business running. On the internet, however, advertisement is not a sustainable revenue model for large publishers as users are trained to seek fast bloggy content that is difficult to monetize. Further crippled by the wave of Adblockers, digital advertising generates less than the revenue that similar ads will generate in print. With this, publishers are willing to throw UX under the bus for revenue.

Should content marketers also put up paywalls?

Defiance and reports of success after implementing paywalls may tempt marketers to adopt the approach. As in our case, we had to shelve the idea after a brief experiment with the freemium approach.

AdWeek on content paywall

Source: Twitter

Most publications have reported success after adopting the paywall program. The Wall Street Journal, for instance, has over 1,550,000 paying registered online subscribers that have opted to pay to read their content. In 2018, The New York Times also reported hitting 3,000,000 registered subscribers, with digital contributing the most to its revenue source.

Results may not be typical

Now, you need to understand that The Time and WSJ’s approach involves a lot of testing and engineering. WSJ, for instance, scores readers based on an average of 60 data points to judge their readers. This pool of data is then used to determine when the paywall is introduced. Data helps WSJ to determine whether to nudge a reader into subscribing, offer them a “Freemium”, or even put up a “Hard Paywall”.

For content marketers, especially those whose existence relies on educating their audience through content as we do at Betterhelp, putting valuable content behind a paywall may be risky. Paywalled content could become a hindrance in the decision maker’s ability to consider your brand for opportunities. Decision-makers may even think your brand is not serious when content that is meant to educate your customers is put behind a paywall.

How does paywall affect SEO and UX?

Google tried to rein in on paywalled content practice by forcing publishers to follow their “first-click-free” policy. Basically, readers coming from a Google search result must be allowed to get the first premium content for free, or you lose your rankings. Of course, this rule gave room for misuse by some users and placed publishers in a tight spot, forcing many to ignore the controversial policy at the risk of losing their search rankings. In 2017, Google dropped the first click free policy and allowed publishers to decide how their content is seen.

Poor user experience is the bane of paywalls

It’s important to note that the way search engine crawlers interact with content is not the same way humans interact with content. This means publishers must carefully consider user experience in making content strategy decisions. Should an article that is crucial to the free content you’re allowed to read from search be put behind a paywall? How does that affect the experience? Ultimately, user experience is critical to SEO performance.

Side doors may mitigate poor UX

Studying the pattern of the largest online newspapers that have prioritized subscription services, it’s noticeable that they understand the negative impact of this approach on UX. For instance, there is hardly any publisher that has employed the “Hard Paywall” approach without leaving room for numerous “side doors” for non-subscribers to still access their content.

The downside of poor user experience for an online brand is so significant, it goes beyond the website alone. It can as much as hurt the brand itself. This is where the impact could be felt in search rankings. Google predominantly favors higher organic click-through rates (CTRs) in ranking search results. And once users have been trained to ignore a brand’s links in the search result pages, it’s only a matter of time before Google starts dropping the website for others with higher CTRs.

Whether publishers are aware of the several “side doors” non-subscribers are actively taking advantage of, or perhaps are they intentionally leaving room for content leaks is not clear. The upside to this “loophole” is near parity with what Google expects from publishers versus what they get.

How do content creators factor in their users‘ experience while still accounting for revenue generated from their content? The key is this – when deciding which content to put behind a paywall, think about its primary purpose first.

Marie Miguel has been a contributor and a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Some of her write-ups can be found on

The post Where paywall content stands with SEO: A focus on user experience appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


TopRank Marketing’s Ashley Zeckman Shares How to Build Consumer Trust with Influencers #DSMPLS

Ashley Zeckman Speaking at Digital Summit

Ashley Zeckman Speaking at Digital Summit

In a world of consumer distrust, especially when it comes to marketing messages, it can sometimes feel like you’re living in the „Upside Down.“ Everything that you thought was true about marketing and how you engage with customers and buyers is now different. In fact, sometimes nothing seems to make sense anymore.

In fact, Edelman found that less than 50% of U.S. consumers trust brands. In her Stranger Things-themed presentation at Digital Summit Minneapolis, TopRank Marketing’s Ashley Zeckman addressed the current state of marketing affairs and offered insight into ways that brands can improve trust and connect with their buying audience.

What’s her advice on changing the narrative and winning back the hearts and minds of customers? Partner with influencers to create credible content that can change the day and save the world. Stranger Things have happened, right?

Enter the Age of Influencer Marketing

Even though trust in brands is falling, there’s still hope. Demand Gen Report discovered that 68% of buyers prefer credible content from industry influencers. And yet, only 24% of marketers are partnering with others to expand their reach (MarketingProfs & CMI). This means that NOW is the time to find your influencer partners to better reach your audience. How? Here are some key considerations.

Defining Topical Focus

In every industry, there will be recognizable experts who are sought after by many. But there are two questions that you should ask yourself before digging into who you want to partner with:

  • What topics are most important to my buying audience?
  • Which of these topics align best with the expertise of my organization?

Ultimately, you’ll want to partner with influencers whose expertise and published content aligns with your answers to the questions above.

Identifying the Best Influencer Fit

But what types of influencers does it make the most sense to collaborate with to achieve your goals? Below are examples of five main influencer archetypes. As Ashley explained, each influencer category represents a different benefit or need to map to your content objectives:

  • Brandividual: A recognizable individual with a large reach
  • Up-and-comer: An individual gaining momentum as a recognized industry expert and someone who is very motivated to collaborate
  • Niche Expert: A knowledgeable expert on the topic with good relevant content for the audience
  • Internal Expert: An internal thought leader within your brand or company
  • Customer: Someone who fits the ideal customer profile and can help both themselves and brands in the content

Influencer Alignment

The next step is to determine what qualities you are looking for most in influencer partners. Every brand will have slightly different influencer qualities that matter most, based on what they’re looking to achieve. Some of the common qualities that we find our customers look for most include:

  • Real-life experience
  • Reputable
  • Knowledgeable
  • Network size
  • Good on camera
  • Practical advice

Matching the Objective

The objective of your campaign drives the types of influencers you will most want to engage. For example, if your campaign is looking to attract new prospects, brandividuals and internal experts often fit the bill.

For engagement-based objectives, a mix of types of influencers will be your best option to bring in the audience, but then dive deeper into the content than an attraction campaign.

A conversion campaign or program demands more expertise, so the niche expert and the customer will be able to speak to the audience and engage them to consider action.

The Influencer Experience

Being thoughtful about how you want to interact and nurture influencers is key, Ashley said. She reminded the audience that a series of ongoing touchpoints designed to offer value to the influencer. An ongoing approach to influencer nurturing will build a solid foundation over time that provides both the brand and the influencer with a meaningful reward.

Examples of Influencer Marketing in Action

But what does successful influencer marketing look like in real life? Below are a couple of examples Ashley shared in her presentation featuring a couple of the programs our team has developed for clients.

Co-Creating Content Based on Customer Demand

For our client Prophix, the TopRank Marketing team conducted extensive keyword research to identify the biggest need in the marketplace. What this research showed was that finance executives are searching for ways to looking for ways to up the value of their presentations create more compelling experiences using real-time data.

This campaign included a tactical mix of long-form blog content, an SEO-driven anchor landing page, social media promotion and influencer activation.

Explore the experience here:

High-Level Program Results

  • 54% above industry video views benchmark
  • 150% above conversion benchmark
  • 261,000 reach from influencers

Connecting with a Niche Audience

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) not only wanted to build brand awareness within the IT network and IT communications space, but also nurture relationships with new and potential prospects. This led to the development of the IT Vanguard Awards, aimed at highlighting the amazing work that IT leaders were doing to improve business outcomes and the customer experience.

This was designed as a two-phase campaign. Phase 1 began with architecting the awards program and launching the nominations window. This phase featured an expert judges panel, who helped to promote the awards. Additionally, there was a paid social effort and internal ALE champions promoted the awards and nominated IT professionals.

For Phase 2, after judges review, 11 honorees were announced within an interactive experience, highlighting their contributions, lessons learned, and advice to other IT pros. The experience was supported with additional blog content, and was coupled with an off-line experience in which honorees were hand-delivered awards certificates.

ALE IT Vanguard Award Results:

  • 446% above pageview benchmark
  • 15 conversions to learn more
  • $3 million in estimated pipeline

So, What Would Eleven Do?

When you are faced with content hurdles, how can you turn them upside down to become influencer opportunities? Consider the impact you could have on your content and overall brand campaigns.

Influencer marketing can elevate your campaigns to a completely new level. You might think the cost would be too much, but consider the cost of not utilizing influencers? That’s a true Upside Down world.

For more marketing tricks and tips, stay tuned here for updates from Digital Summit Minneapolis (#DSMPLS).

The post TopRank Marketing’s Ashley Zeckman Shares How to Build Consumer Trust with Influencers #DSMPLS appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Der Digital Workplace von Daimler

Mehr Bilder…

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Pantheon’s Roland Smart Details the Secret to Agile Marketing Transformation #DSMPLS

Roland Smart at Digital Summit Minneapolis

Roland Smart at Digital Summit MinneapolisRun a Google search for “agile marketing” today and you’ll see 144 million results. It’s an insanely hot topic, which has steadily grown more applicable and desired from it’s “Scrum” beginnings.

Why are marketers today so obsessed with agility? Roland Smart, podcaster, author of “The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage” and Vice President of Marketing for Pantheon*, shared his insight on the subject at Digital Summit Minneapolis this week.

For starters, the average marketer’s tenure is just 18 months. After all, we need to get results—and we need them fast. Second, while our strategies and tactics have been artfully crafted with insight and data, once we put everything into the wild, we need to be able to act fast to monitor, measure, and optimize performance—while also navigating budget and “waterfall” resourcing limitations and challenges. And finally, today’s marketers are often managing a growing tech stack, making an agile approach a match made in heaven.

Read on to learn more about agile marketing and Roland’s secrets to making agile marketing a reality in your organization.

What is Agile Marketing?

There are several different things that marketers think of when it comes to agile marketing. (Scrum and Kanban are two of the concepts that are likely top of mind.) But a simple definition is: Agile marketing is a methodology that enables marketers to meet the rising tide of challenges of customer experience in the digital era.

At the most basic level, an agile marketing approach means tackling your highest priority task, assessing success, optimizing until solved, and then moving to your second priority task. As it relates to general agile practices: “Scrum and Kanban are simply a collection of underlying practices that your team is going to do day-in and day-out as a part of your agile practice,” Roland explained.

While each team will have its own subtle variations of their agile practices, a solid framework for marketers trying to get started is:

  • Maintain a Backlog
  • Iterate
  • Scrum
  • Demonstrate
  • Retrospective

Examples of Agile Marketing Practices

How Can Marketers Benefit From Agile?

According to Roland: “Agile is the shortest path to driving results.”

[bctt tweet=“#Agile is the shortest path to driving #marketing results. @rsmartly #DSMPLS“ username=“toprank“]

In a traditional waterfall methodology, the output is exactly what is planned. But by using an agile methodology, thanks to frequent feedback loop with stakeholders and customers plus subsequent direction refinement, the output is what is needed to drive results.

Agile Marketing is the Shortest Path to Success

The Secret to Agile Marketing Transformation

Test Before Advocating for a Transformation

Of course, completely transforming your marketing operations is a major undertaking. So, in the spirit of agile practices, marketers can dip a toe in the agile marketing waters, Roland said.

He suggested a simple exercise testing the “Growth Lever” for a “North Star Metric.”

First, identify a priority website metric like conversions; that’s your North Star Metric. In a waterfall method, you might dive in and optimize several of your form fields and your calls to action copy and design. But in this agile approach, you can select a single Growth Lever. This should be something on the website that you can change and measure that will ultimately impact your North Star Metric.

For example, you may simply change a single CTA copy. If you have the ability and traffic volume to set up the change as an A/B test, great. If not, you can reference your past performance as a benchmark.

Roland explained, “This [data from the] Growth Lever won’t move ‚the hour‘, but you’ll see the minute hand moving and can learn from that.”

The bottom line? This can help you learn before you’ve invested a massive amount of time and resources.

Get Buy-In & Break Down Silos By Leveraging Your ‘Secret Weapon‘

Getting buy-in and collaboration from stakeholders across the organization is key to the success of any initiative, and it’s no different for agile marketing. But while this is undoubtedly critical, it’s not always easy to achieve, especially when it comes to getting executives on-board.

But Roland has some advice on this front. He suggests activating your organization’s “secret weapon”: Your web team.

Why? “Your core digital experience is your website,” Roland said early in his presentation.

“Everything leads to your website,” he added later. “The web team is set up to integrate with every department. They are in a unique position to exert their influence when it comes to the way the rest of the organization works.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about collaboration, which is where WebOps comes into play—something Roland’s company is well-versed in. WebOps is DevOps (a culture that promotes collaboration between development and operations teams) for web teams.

“DevOps gives web teams agile superpowers,” he said.

[bctt tweet=“#DevOps gives web teams #agile superpowers. @rsmartly #DSMPLS“ username=“toprank“]

From helping create structured agile workflows to site management, there are a lot of things web teams can do to automate and streamline so your marketing team can focus on higher-value things, Roland explained.

“WebOps is at its core, is about streamlining the process of how work gets done through agile tools and processes,” he said.

Is Agile Marketing For Your Organization?

After reading this, you’re probably pondering: Is agile marketing a good fit for my organization?

Certainly, making the switch to an agile model needs deep consideration. But from Roland’s perspective, agile marketing is no longer a good practice. It’s best practice.

For more marketing tricks and tips, stay tuned here for updates from Digital Summit Minneapolis (#DSMPLS).

*Disclaimer: Pantheon is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Pantheon’s Roland Smart Details the Secret to Agile Marketing Transformation #DSMPLS appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.