Payment Options: AVS Part 1
In this installment of my ongoing Payment Options series, I am going to begin looking at a tried and true method for accepting membership fees without owning a merchant account, or using a traditional 3d party payment processor: Age Verification Services (AVS).
If you are still unfamiliar with them, AVS sites are simply adult web sites that make use of one of the increasing number of Age Verification Services such as CyberAge.com or SexKey. The logical ‘next step’ for newbies and traditional ‘free site’ Webmasters, they have been my standard, recommended vehicle for adult site profit and protection since as far back as 1996. Functioning as a ‘miniature pay site’ with many of the benefits and few of the drawbacks of their full-blown brethren, AVS sites provide a learning ground for aspiring professional Webmasters.
Benefits of using an AVS on your site include being able to 'sometimes' charge for admission while receiving a certain degree of legal protection. In addition, you can 'sometimes' get high-quality traffic from the AVS link list, while the number of sites that the surfer can choose from is a major selling point. On the other hand, that 'sometimes' admission charge is coupled with the 'number of sites' selling point; so now if your prospect ALREADY has a membership purchased from a competing site, he gets into YOURS for FREE! With some popular AVS’ claiming to be approaching the ‘million site mark,’ you have to ask yourself if you really want to have a million competitors providing FREE access to YOUR site? While this is something that many AVS site detractors will frequently cite, most of these detractors are ‘free site’ Webmasters who provide everyone with free access to their content, so the logic of their argument escapes me.
This is my usual ‘canned’ explanation of the fundamental aspects of AVS sites, minus the technical details of ‘gateway scripts’ or the myriad intricacies and nuances of profitable AVS site marketing and traffic building. While most of you heard this spiel before, I’m about to launch on a new conceptual detour: rather than just looking at AVS sites as a precursor to pay sites, why not see them as a ‘fall back’ strategy for avoiding the new VISA fees and regulations? Sure, an easy argument could be made that if you need to go ‘backwards’ from having a pay site to having an AVS site, then you had no business running a pay site in the first place – an argument which I have to say that I agree with, but my goal here is to help you, rather than chastise you.
So, how can we best use AVS systems to ‘rescue’ what would otherwise be a ‘failed’ pay site? Or in another scenario, how can we best use AVS systems to boost the profitability of a new or established AVS site, with hopes of building it into a viable pay site? There is of course no one ‘right’ answer to this question, but let’s explore a few of the more intriguing possibilities by examining several of the main strengths and weaknesses of ‘traditional’ AVS implementations.
The first area that I want to talk about is traffic: Historically, one of my main motivators for building AVS sites was to garner traffic from the AVS’ own link list. This is where surfers who had already purchased a membership would go to find sites that they could now access for free. Rather than trying to sell ‘standard’ level memberships to an audience that already had them, I focused on up-selling to a ‘premium’ level AVS membership status – as well as up-selling to my sponsors.
The bad news was that with the exception of sweet Search Engine traffic, finding other sources was fairly difficult, since many popular link lists (and other traffic sources), either did not accept AVS sites, or they relegated them to a sub-section that produced far fewer ‘hits.’ Plus the AVS services themselves further compounded the problem by limiting the number of outbound links that they would allow you to place on your site, even going as far as disallowing ‘links’ pages, which, when everyone wants a front page link trade, were of questionable value anyway.
The ‘punishment’ for violating the AVS’ site standards was removal from their links list – the main benefit to their use (besides the degree of legal protection) that drove many of us to start building AVS sites in the first place; so the trade-off was not a worthwhile one. Until now, that is.
You know, the more I think about this, the sweeter it gets! Stay tuned for Part 2 ~ Stephen