Wall and Search engine marketing, unattainable marriage?

Paywall, cookie wall, registration wall… All this can be a source of problems for natural referencing. The SEOs of two major French media outlets and an expert give their point of view.

The walls are flourishing in the media. According to a study by Poool, a startup that offers a wall solution, 80% of journalists in the United States use it. But why ? “If you put a wall on your website, it’s because you want to encourage the visitor to perform the action you defined,” explains Maxime Moné, CEO of Poole. If walls respond to the problem of Internet user engagement, they raise others to the level of natural referencing. Elle.fr and Le Parisien share their feedback after putting up a wall on their website.

Front or server block?

There are different types of walls (paywall, registration wall and cookie wall) as well as different blocking methods, and not all are the same in terms of SEO. The two main methods used are front-end blocking and server-side blocking. According to Maxime Moné, “front blocking is easier to make and more SEO-friendly.” This is the solution that Elle.fr has chosen to make its paywall from 2020, making it the first French women’s media to try the experiment. “Let’s make a blocking on the user’s side in Javascript. The content is visible and accessible from the engine “, explains Alexy Souciet, front end webperf manager at Elle.fr. A logical choice because 90% of Elle.fr content is free or, “if Google doesn’t see all the content in the source code, it won’t display it in Serps.” For its part, Le Parisien had two walls before the redesign in June 2021. They could have been easily bypassed and that is what motivated us to develop our own paywall, ”explains Elisa Girard, Product Manager at Le Parisien.

Different results

In addition to the ease of bypassing the first walls, SEO problems also prompted Le Parisien to develop his solution at the company: “It took time for the wall to load next to the page, which generated important one-page visit rates,” explains Elisa Girard. . Switching from two walls (canvas wall and measurement wall that blocked reading after 3 articles read) to only one was useful for Le Parisien: “We made an initial assessment after 3 months: we have a better paywall click rate, better technical performance, better indexing than this redesign due to better compliance with Google’s guidelines “, specifies the product manager. Possible results thanks to work on UX and on the wall that is easier for developers to manage: “We have chosen a technical solution that allows us to have a harmonized paywall on the desktop and mobile device.”

For Elle.fr, the image is more nuanced on the SEO page. Blame it on a UX that suffers from a set wall: “UX plays a big role in ranking. We see that it’s much harder to position yourself with an article behind a paywall than with a classic article. We have a paywall, we have user behavior different from free content, great some visitors don’t keep reading on it and come back, “explains Alexy Souciet.” by paying, we have a feeling that he no longer plays on equal terms. At the moment we tend to avoid playing big cards in a premium audience, “explains the front end webperf manager.

Despite this brake on certain content, Elle.fr still finds advantages in setting up this paywall: “We have shifted to UX and the quality of our content. And another advantage is that we ‘gain additional audiences by having a long tail on which we wouldn’t necessarily work before, ‘explains Alexy Souciet.To reduce the impact of the wall on free content, women’s media rely on the internal link between free content and premium content:’ Premium content must not remain in their silo. They need to be visible, so we put them on the home page, we make sure they don’t end up too deep in the page tree structure. ”

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