Paysite Power: It All Starts With the First Impression

A.J. Hall

I’m excited to share that this is my first Paysite Power article since becoming a back to back XBIZ Award winner.

Aside from winning our third Software Company of the Year award in four years for Elevated X, the XBIZ 360 show was successful on multiple levels.

The safest way to come up with an overall site plan and a design and sales strategy is to look at a number of leading sites in your niche, say a dozen of them. Make notes on what they all have in common.

First, the attendees this year were serious. There were very few lost souls meandering about. The general consensus is that the adult industry is at the start of an uptick and the energy about the Andaz Hotel in Hollywood was overwhelmingly positive.

This was the first year in the last several where I heard not one single complaint from anyone about slow sales, tube sites, piracy or the economy. The focus was on business and primarily on how to do more of it.

I did a workshop titled, “Paysite Building: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” and in it I spoke for an hour while presenting a slideshow of the very best and the very worst of paysites. I’m going to recap the key points here.

If you’re not a professional site builder I strongly recommend buying the book, “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug.

A paysite sale creates a customer relationship. And like any relationship, it all starts with a first impression.

Member’s areas are easy: Quality content + modern media formats and delivery options + useful features and site interaction + clear navigation = A good site. A good CMS software product does all of this for you.

The paysite tour is the part people screw up the most. If you don’t have a good tour, your site won’t make sales.

Let’s start with what some sites do wrong:

• They make things confusing. Confusion is bad for sales. A site that’s hard to read and difficult to enter makes our heads hurt.

• They get too creative with their splash page design.

• They make you scroll through a huge wall of text before you can even see the enter link or make you pass a test just to get inside. One site in particular which incidentally is an Elevated X CMS user and an XBIZ award winner has a splash page requiring two mouse clicks and one checkbox click just to enter. Playing hard to get doesn’t always make people want it more. Another I showed tried to be creative by having the words over and under above and below the number 18 as in “Under 18” and “Over 18.” It was clever, but not the best time to make someone play a cute mental puzzle.

• They’re a work in progress. There’s nothing worse (almost) than going to a site that’s missing pages or sections or has empty space where something is supposed to be. It’s much harder to sell something that isn’t finished.

• They draw attention to negatives without realizing it. This is probably the most common faux pas I see on paysites. It’s good to show how much content you have, how many models, etc. but if you have a small amount, this works against you and you’re better off not saying. The same goes for things like blogs, news sections, diaries, calendars and anything dated. Having a link to a blog that hasn’t been updated in a year is worse than not having one at all. Don’t leave people questioning too many things that lead to no answers.

• They display a code error, page code or server side error message is showing either on the join page or during some portion of the join process. A weird warning or code kills boners. Obviously shit happens and sometimes stuff breaks or someone makes a mistake and it results in something not working or code showing. It’s a good idea to conduct a cursory visual audit once a week and click a site’s key pages and make sure they’re on the up and up.

• They present too many join options or display purchase options in a confusing manner. If it’s too much work, surfers will bail on the join page and just go to PornHub. Another thing I see a lot of is a manifesto of text on the join page. Someone shouldn’t have to holster their hard-on and phone a friend to figure out how to pay. Another one I personally can’t stand is titles and menu items that use the same graphics or colors. When it’s not obvious what’s clickable and what’s not it creates more work for the user.

• They show text no one can read. People do read. Don’t waste space with text that’s unreadable. A lot of sites have text that’s either way to small or a color that doesn’t provide enough background contrast to be easily readable e.g. red text on a black page or light grey text on a white page.

• They take raw and personal a step too far. A paysite isn’t usually the best time for a DIY project. Raw and personal is good but a site design or execution of a tour that looks questionable quality and trust is not. Sometimes it’s better to enlist the help of a professional.

• They waste space. Massive graphical site headers and giant headers on join pages are common. If you’re going to fill a large space on a page, do it wisely. Make sure it’s not just nice to look at but that what’s in the space contributes to closing the sale.

Now let’s look at what some sites do right:

• They have a splash/welcome page that’s simple, friendly and makes the site appear trustworthy. This stuff makes us feel good about going inside.

• They have an entry page that makes it easy to go inside. This is good because it doesn’t make us think. A man can’t be deep in thought and maintain an erection at the same time. More thinking = less sales. Making it easy to tell which button to click to enter doesn’t make us think. Too much thinking is bad.

• They’re clean, clear and captivating. A successful web site builder understands that presentation is key and will carefully select images and showcases large, high quality images when possible.

• They create a brand feel even if they’re not a big brand site. This means building somewhat of an identity for a site. Solid sites use content quality, boasting and other tactics to convey trust. Successful sites do a good job of standing out among their competition.

• They use text brilliantly. People do read. Good site builders know this and they use copy wisely. Text is powerful. It engages, it teases, it convinces. Good text sells.

• They offer something of value. Above all else, value is the reason someone pays for a web site membership. Successful sites demonstrate value visually, and they deliver value functionally. This is done with text to tell a surfer why the site is great, not just “the biggest collection of boobs online” but real reasons why the site is a good purchase. One example I showed was and that they repeatedly make sure you can’t miss the fact that it’s a site for women by women. That makes it stand out as something special.

• They present their strengths. The best selling sites offer many reasons to join and make them obvious. Content volume, high quality, access options and good deals help sales. They don’t show anything that might lead a surfer to say no to joining.

• They start selling right away. The best selling sites start selling the moment the first page loads. They reinforce why you’re there and what they offer, and they do it well. They do this with text and images beginning with a site header that lists the most important reasons to join, any special offers or incentive gimmicks, etc.

• They focus on simplicity and make navigation easy. Some sites use a sales funnel, which is often a tour button or a series of next page or continue buttons but can also be strategic top level navigation links in order to help lead a visitor down the path.

• They make it easy to join. Call to action links and buttons are obvious and prominent but not overwhelming. It’s quick and easy to click a join link regardless of where you are in the site or what you’re doing be it looking at a list of updates or watching a video trailer. Once you click, the join page makes it easy to figure out how to pay and to do so quickly.

I suggest every paysite owner new or old spend time surfing other sites on regular basis.

Something I see a lot of people do is copy one site. They’ll decide they like a certain site or have a competitor they know does well or will say, “If it works on Brazzers, it will work for me.”

What they neglect to consider is that they may be copying a setup that the company is about to change or is in the midst of testing. It’s quite possible that the new join page you just copied is part of a split test and it may be a page the company abandons two weeks later.

The safest way to come up with an overall site plan and a design and sales strategy is to look at a number of leading sites in your niche, say a dozen of them. Make notes on what they all have in common. For example, if we look at join pages of several top companies it’s obvious that they all go with a similar method of condensing and simplifying, no giant headers, etc. That’s often a safe starting point for optimizing a site and turning it into a sales machine.

AJ Hall is a 14-year adult industry veteran and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult site CMS software. Hall has spoken at industry trade shows and written for several trade publications. Elevated X software powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for more than a dozen industry awards and won the 2012, 2014 and 2015 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.

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