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How to develop an SEO strategy for paywalled content

Using a paywall does not necessarily mothball your SEO efforts as people will only pay for content that is discoverable and you can very well continue doing SEO for content that is behind a paywall.

One needs to find a perfect balance between traffic and revenue as a publisher or creative. If ad revenues are not hitting the revenue targets set by you, setting up a paywall or subscription for your content may turn out to be a lucrative option that will help you increase the revenue from your content.

Using a paywall does not necessarily mothball your SEO efforts as people will only pay for content that is discoverable and you can very well continue doing SEO for content that is behind a paywall.

What is a Paywall?

A Paywall is a method of restricting access to online content via a paid subscription. Website visitors can access content behind a paywall only after paying a fee or buying a subscription. (financial times) is a good example of paywalled content like news stories from can be accessed through Google news after filling out a user survey, but the user would have to buy a subscription to read other articles on the site.

Paywall can be soft, hard, or use a freemium model. Hard paywall refers to instances where almost all the content on a website is behind a paywall, whereas a soft paywall essentially means that users can access some part of the content for free but will have to subscribe to read the full article. The Freemium model is quite common in Germany and France and refers to instances where a large amount of content is usually provided free of cost with only premium content behind a paywall. This model is not quite popular in the US and UK where only 5.5% of the publishers use the freemium model.

Why would you use a Paywall?

Putting up a paywall is considered among the best methods to monetize the content that you have on a website and it can also lead to recurring revenue in the form of monthly or annual subscriptions. This method is of particular importance to news publishers that may have relied on newspaper or magazine sales before most of their readers started accessing their news online.

While the paywall model is quite attractive, not all publishers use it as some also rely on ad revenue and other methods of monetizing content. It’s also true that this model is also not restricted to news or content publishers as online course providers also use it by providing some of the course content for free while putting up the bulk of the content behind a paywall.

SEO for paywalled content?

While doing SEO for your website, you need to ensure that the search engine crawlers are able to crawl and index the content that you have behind a paywall. This can be done using structured data. You can use JSON-LD, to indicate all the paywalled content on your site with creative properties. Google has detailed instructions about how to do this on their search console website.

It’s important to follow this step as without it Google can wrongfully interpret the practice of putting content behind a paywall as cloaking which is forbidden by them and may lead to a website penalty.


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