Why SEO is Important for Subscription & Paywall Sites and How Transcripts & Captions Can Help Monetize

April 24, 2013 BY SHANNON K. MURPHY
Updated: June 3, 2019

SEO for video paywall subscription sites
In last week’s video SEO blog post, we discussed SEO strategies for video publishers whose goal is to maximize viewership. These strategies position your video and transcripts for the greatest exposure to search engines, expanding brand presence and customer base.

But what if your video content is behind a paywall, being sold through a subscription site? Did you know your paid content can be leveraged to increase SEO while still protecting your video? In this blog post, we will discuss paywall subscription sites and how to utilize video transcripts to increase SEO. You will learn four simple strategies that will dramatically increase site traffic and page rank, all without giving away your video product.

Understanding Paywall Subscription Sites

The question of how to monetize online content has undergone critical examination for the past 15 years. This debate began among traditional media producers – newspapers and magazines fighting to stay afloat as subscriptions declined. To sustain the digital product, newspapers implemented what is called a “paywall” on their news sites to prevent visitors from accessing their core web content without a paid subscription. The Wall Street Journal implemented a paywall in 1997 with much success. Other publications have opted to keep access free, relying mostly on advertising to generate revenue. Knowing when or how to monetize is based on knowing your audience intimately and delivering on their concept of value.

Video monetization strategies can be categorized based on whether the video 1) is used as a marketing tool to sell a product (e.g. merchandise or a service) or 2) is the product itself (e.g. movies or e-learning videos). In the latter case, a paywall or subscription business model is often employed to generate revenue for the publisher. Netflix is a prime example of a subscription-based product, with users paying a monthly premium for access to their video. Netflix uses a digital rights management scheme that restricts how users can interact with the content to protect the rights of the license holder.

Some content producers implement a soft paywall, where instead of directly blocking users who are not subscribers, they allow access to a limited amount of content for free. For example, a few videos may be watched before a user is blocked for the rest of the month and must subscribe to watch more content. Hard paywalls only allow access with payment, no freebies. Hulu is a little bit of both, creating a “freemium” video subscription model. Most of the content on their site is free, but a subscription may be purchased for access to premium TV and movie content.

4 SEO Strategies for Paywall Subscription Sites

SEO Benefits of Transcripts,
According to Google

According to Google Webmaster Tools, text-based content is the food hungry search bots devour, creating issues for video content producers:

“Search engines are text based. This doesn’t mean that you can’t include rich media or videos on your site; it just means that any content you embed in these files should also be available in text format or it won’t be accessible to search engines.”

1. Expose Video Landing Pages & Supporting Text Content

Just because you run a subscription-based site doesn’t mean you can’t give prospective customers a little peek. By making the text of your landing page and supporting video description public-facing, search engines can now index your content for target keywords. Embed your video on the landing page, but prompt a sign-in when the user clicks play. This tactic enhances your discoverability while keeping your product private.

2. Expose the Video Transcripts

Since Google cannot watch a video, transcripts give the text-based bots a broader understanding of what type of content exists on the site. In a paywall site where video landing pages are not exposed, Google cannot even read a page title or summary paragraph of the video. The keyword density of the site is severely diminished.

By linking your video to a transcript on a separate, public-facing page, you give search engines more information on your valuable subject matter. We also suggest you paginate long transcripts (i.e. longer than 5 minutes or 700 words), breaking content up by relevant subject matter. It is important to link text to relevant pages within your site, as well. We cover this comprehensively in the blog post, How to Optimize Long-Form Video Transcripts for SEO: The Wrong Way and the Right Way.

When Google can find your video transcript and index it, you are also giving searchers a better chance of finding your site for specific services or products. This is particularly important if your brand name is not well known, or you do not rank on the first page of Google. Creating additional pages that fit into your existing long-tail keyword strategy will augment your site size, presence, and domain authority.

Isn’t this like giving away my product? Will I see diminished sales?
It’s unlikely that a transcript would cannibalize your sales. Video adds layers to the storytelling not apparent through transcript alone, and visitors want to watch the video to get the full picture. This method is simply trying to attract more attention from search engines and isn’t designed to be the primary mode of consumption for your prospective visitor. Adding more keywords and pages to your total site benefits your placement in the search engine results pages. Use the transcript to draw organic traffic into your sales funnel.

3. Use Video Transcripts to Write Blog Posts

Savvy businesses know that a blog is essential to inbound marketing and SEO. Many struggle, however, to find something to write about. Product announcements aren’t shared heavily on social media, but blog posts that inform and delight are. Furthermore, video transcripts give content authors structure and ensure a continuity of your brand messaging.

For example, an instructional video like, “A Crash Course in Photoshop” could lend itself to a blog article called “5 Things to Remember before Starting Your First Photoshop Project.” This piece would cover preparation tips that are discussed in the introductory minutes of your how-to video. In this way you are creating content that is very interesting to your target market, keyword heavy, and shareable while still protecting the main product. Blog posts drive traffic to your video landing page and subsequent subscription sign-up page.

Best Practices for
YouTube Video Previews

Create a Keyword-Rich Title: Use YouTube analytics to pinpoint a keyword title that differentiates you from your competition. As a rule, don’t lead with a brand name.

Craft a Unique YouTube Video Description: Entice searchers to click through to your clip by answering the following questions in your description: What exactly is this video about, and why do I care?

Upload Captions: Uploading captions to YouTube is the most efficient way to get the spoken text indexed by both YouTube and Google.

4. Drive YouTube’s Audience to Your Site

Everyone knows YouTube. The video giant is the second most utilized search engine.
A good way to use YouTube in conjunction with a subscription site is to create supplementary video content to bring YouTube’s audience to your site.

Give YouTube’s audience a sneak peek: video teasers, behind-the-scenes clips, blooper reels, and in-depth expert interviews.

One way to drive traffic from YouTube to your site is through YouTube annotations, which allow you to place relevant information in text boxes that overlay on the video. Consider including links to related video content, product offers, or both! When you get creative, you can use YouTube as a gateway to gain more viewers on your primary site. If you have an online shop, you can also link a video to an ecommerce site with merchant annotations.

How to Optimize Video Transcripts for Search

Consider the following elements when building out your video transcript page:

On-Page Elements: On-page SEO basics, such as page title, meta description, h1 and h2 headers, need to be crafted to fit your transcript’s focus. Make sure they are keyword rich in a natural way. Read more: On-Page SEO Basics & Your Video Keyword Strategy.

Off-Page SEO & Linking Strategies: It is important to never maroon a page on your site, but integrate it into a web of related material. Cross-link to relevant pages—most importantly, a link to buy and watch the video. Curb inbound links however; your transcript pages should be a source to attract new traffic, but not a destination for existing traffic. Read more: Best Practices for Linking to Your Video Transcript.

Transcript Pagination: Any transcript over 700 words should be paginated to keep the keyword potency of each page intact. This also allows you to diversify you keyword themes and mimic your presentation outline. Read more: How to Optimize Long-Form Video Transcripts for SEO: The Wrong Way and the Right Way.

Direct Traffic to the Paywall: The last, but most important element for transcripts working in conjunction with paywall sites is the vital call to action. Should a prospect find your transcript, lead the way to a point of sale. A sidebar next to your transcript with the advantages and benefits to watching the video can be a powerful driver. Know your customer and highlight how this video can help them or make their life easier. Then place a link to your paywall.

Improve User Experience with Interactive Transcripts

SEO is tied intimately to user experience, which boils down to whether your site visitors can successfully retrieve the information they’re looking for. Even though your videos are not public facing, a great user experience enhancement is an interactive transcript. A rolling, time-synced transcript enhances learning and increases engagement by giving information in two formats: written and spoken. Interactive transcripts allow users to search a video and accelerate the pace of learning by skimming the transcript in advance and then clicking the text to advance to the exact moment a concept is reviewed.

A good user experience creates happy users and subscribers that become evangelists, recommenders and 5-star reviewers. Put more into your user experience and watch your social signals grow—an increasingly important indicator of relevance and trust to search engines.

The internet marketing issues faced by paywall and subscription sites are unique. Very often, new subscription sites rely on branding campaigns, outbound advertising, trials, and superior value propositions. The strategies provided in this post demonstrate how transcripts and captions can drive search traffic for video content behind a paywall. Subscription and other video products can now take advantage of SEO tactics without compromising monetization. Start using these practices to reap rewards from Google now.

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