Content lockers are a popular tool for increasing social shares and this is exactly what they’re marketed with. However, there’re certain considerations you should make before deciding to use – or how to use – them.
Concern 1: Do content lockers increase the number of social actions on my site?
The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might hope. As GothSEO reports, it all depends on how you use content lockers.
If you manage to intrigue your readers enough with your freely accessible content, there is a chance that they might click to unlock whatever is hidden. However, you should provide them with a real incentive, for example, some research results on the topic they are reading about, some video revealing a secret, download of a full guide to whatever they’re trying to achieve, etc.
Remember though that people don’t like to be pushed and usually share content they think will be useful or fun for others. For you this means that a lot of people that might have liked to check out your hidden content, won’t bother to unlock it.
Even though this is true on all levels, DigitalReadyMarketing and GrowTraffic report the same as GothSEO: social shares skyrocket after introducing a content locker (keep though in mind that all these sites had almost none social shares in the beginning of their experiments).
So if you solely look to increase social shares, it might be smart to implement a content locker (look at the end of the post for advice on proper implementation). Don’t underestimate the warnings below though!
Concern 2: Can search engines access pages hidden behind content lockers?
This shouldn’t worry you too much. There’s a slight possibility that a poorly coded content locker messes up with the ability of search engines to crawl and index your content. However, most professional ones are designed to allow crawling.
If you’re in doubt whether there’s an issue with content readability, you can check the Crawl Errors report in your Google Search Console.
What you should be worried about is that other important SEO factors as page load speed, user experience, and bounce rate will be affected negatively.
Concern 3: Can I expect more traffic?
You’d hope so. After all, you got all those social shares, right? However, none of the experiments carried out by the sites mentioned above ended with a boost in traffic.
Even though nobody can be 100% sure why (as this wasn’t a part of their experiments), there’re basically 3 possibilities – and neither of them is good for you.
The first possibility is that the content locker doesn’t work well and doesn’t actually post on social media – or does it in a poor format that doesn’t attract attention.
The second possibility is that social media filters have “learned” to filter out notifications from the content locker you’re using. This is actually quite likely as social media, especially Facebook, work constantly to improve the relevance of posts users see and that kind of involuntary sharing is a prime candidate for removal.
The third possibility isn’t better than the first two. It’s that people see your shared links but simply don’t find them worth to click on.
Concern 4: What happens with user engagement and bounce rate?
This is a simple one. The sites in the experiments experienced a persisting bounce rate of around 90 %, which fell a bit (down to around 80 %) when a timeout (allowing access without sharing after 60 sec.) for the content locker was implemented.
A bounce rate of 90 % is a horrible thing. The average bounce rate for content websites is around 50-60 %.
Without going deeper into it, the warning here is pretty straightforward: content lockers lead to high bounce rate and high bounce rate leads to serious damage for your SEO score.
All in all, a content locker gives you more social shares but no boost in traffic, results in possible troubles with indexing content, and hurts your SEO score with extremely high bounce rate.
If you, however, still think, this might be something for you, here’s the advice on how to implement it and do the least damage.
Using Content Lockers – And Minimizing The Damages
- Don’t lock all content. If people can’t get a taste of what you can give them, they won’t bother to share just to take a look.
- If locking your main content, only lock a small part of it, such as a conclusion or tips & tricks section. If you lock too much, you risk to annoy people as they’ll feel they wasted their time. It’s only a very small portion of internet users who will share your content. If you, however, lock some non-essential extras, that might limit the damage.
- Locking valuable supplementing content is the best practice. Remember that you should promise – and deliver – something exceptional in order to not alienate site users.
- Give a good incentive to click. This might be in the form of valuable information, permission to download a document, etc.
- Make it possible to bypass the locker. As the experiments, carried out by the sites mentioned above, showed, allowing users to bypass the content locker resulted in instant drop in bounces.
- Check whether all your URLs are readable by search engines and indexed properly.
- As always, after installing a new plugin, you must check for plugin incompatibility.
- There’s a more advanced option for locking content: introducing memberships. Consider whether memberships aren’t more valuable than shares.