Can Paysites Compete With Tube Sites?

Before tubes dominated search results for nearly every popular search term, paysites enjoyed top rankings across major search engines. The free targeted traffic this exposure delivered helped paysites to establish traffic diversity while maintaining low ratios, despite the higher ratios affiliates commonly produced. Many niche sites were able to make a business from targeted search traffic alone. The search landscape changed however with the popularization of tubes.

Tubes rank well because they’re precisely the kind of websites search engines like to rank. They’re popular, they provide the content search users are looking for, they support social interaction, they’re generally free of affiliate links and they’re frequently updated with new user generated content.

There are still many opportunities for paysites to make a comeback in search, where the payoff will be long-term free targeted traffic that converts. But changes must be made before they can compete with the tubes that have already charmed Google and surfers alike.

Paysites struggle to rank well because they lack a lot of the factors that search users have now come to expect. Paysites offer limited content on tour pages, the content is intended to convert affiliate traffic rather than appeal to search users, tour pages aren’t social and most tour updates do not increase the depth of available content. Paysites also have additional unique challenges that include content duplication created by affiliate URLs as well as a loss of link value created by the internal redirects used by most tracking URLs.

Despite personal opinions of the tube business model, tubes provide the content and experience that search users are looking for and until paysites begin to evolve they will continue to be outranked for the foreseeable future.

I’ve been actively working in the adult industry for over 12 years and have been responsible for marketing, monetizing and ranking paysites throughout my career. I now utilize my years of experience working with some of the larger programs in the industry to train webmasters, program owners and affiliate managers to do their own in-house SEO at Adult SEO Training. In addition to teaching SEO, I also help a number of large clients to rank paysites, cam sites, dating sites and yes, even tubes. My years of full-time experience working to rank a wide variety of adult websites has helped me to develop a unique perspective into the process which I hope to convey here.

Google ranks what surfers want.

Search engines work tirelessly to consistently deliver the most relevant and highest quality websites for every search query. They’re all in competition to deliver search results that recommend websites that will provide the best experience for their users. Google needs to provide the most relevant results to maintain their market share and Bing needs to as well to grow theirs. Ultimately, the search engine that indexes, analyzes and returns the most quality search results wins. What this means to us in adult is, when a user searches for something such as “amateur porn” search engines know that a tube is going to provide them with exactly what they’re looking for. This is evidenced by the fact that all 10 sites ranked in the top ten for this popular keyword phrase is a tube.

For most paysite owners, the most common question following this realization is “Why are paysites considered to be less relevant than tubes?”

It’s a fair question considering that tours only show a preview of a significantly larger volume of content available to members. And the content is often far higher quality, offered in multiple formats, is intended to be exclusive and is organized to be as user-friendly as possible. Why isn’t any of this taken into consideration when determining the value of paysites to search users?

1. Tour pages are the only pages that can be indexed and returned in search results, so from a search marketing perspective paysite member areas simply don’t count.

2. The volume of content available on tour pages is limited, in comparison, and payment is required to access more.

3. Paysites are often plagued with duplicate content which can dampen user experience and lower the quality of search results pages, were they all to rank. Because of this, paysites are often working against algorithms intended to prevent duplicate pages from ranking well.

4. Paysites are often considered to reside in “bad neighborhoods”, which is a term assigned to websites that are associated with clusters of low quality websites participating in webspam, manipulative linking schemes and malware. The consequence of this is lower rankings due to the association with the kinds of sites no search engine wants to recommend to its users. The reason for this association is often caused by affiliates linking to the paysites. As I’m sure paysite owners can attest to, affiliates tend to link from some of the lowest quality pages in the industry.

5. The link popularity of paysites is often dwarfed by tubes who invest heavily into link building. And this is significant when you consider that the website with the most quality links usually wins.

Five ways for paysites to reclaim search traffic.

1. Because tour pages are the only pages that matter to search engines, make an effort to always build new tour pages with great content.

2. Try to highlight videos on new tour pages and take advantage of microformatting techniques to increase your exposure on search results pages.

3. Fix all duplicate content issues with a combination of canonicalization, redirects and sitemaps.

4. Start monthly link building campaigns to increase your volume of links and to offset the negative effects of low quality affiliate links.

5. Optimize all tour pages properly to target not only your paysite name or your brand, but a number of high traffic keyword phrases as well.

What factors define quality and relevancy?

1. Quality content. Most paysites already provide this in the form of large videos and high resolution photos. Paysites can take this further however by also displaying quality textual content that helps to establish relevancy while giving surfers more reasons to join.

2. Relative content. Make sure the content displayed on your page matches the primary keywords you’re targeting. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to stuff too many keywords onto a page resulting in an overall lack of relevance.

3. Site depth. Small sites struggle to rank well because they’re seen as having less to offer users. It’s because of this that it’s important to build as many tour pages into your paysite as possible.

4. Social interaction. Social metrics have become an integral part of current ranking factors. Because of this it’s important to offer some form of social interaction, if and when possible.

5. Easy navigation. The usability of your paysite tour pages is very important, not only for user experience but also for maximizing your available crawl budget. Crawl budget is the number of pages a search engine will crawl during a single visit. The more trusted your website is the more pages will be crawled resulting in more pages likely to be indexed. If your paysite isn’t ranking well than it’s likely you have a limited crawl budget and linking all of your most important pages together efficiently will make the most use of your available budget.

6. Fast load times. Milliseconds matter. Use Google’s speed test tool to make sure your paysite is scoring at least as high as the other sites in your target top 10.

Paysites must evolve to compete.

Paysites are generally still being built in the same way they were over a decade ago when I first started working in this industry. Sure, there’s several different styles of tours but the concepts are the same. And for every successful tour style there are thousands of copies. The result of this is a degree of blindness surfers naturally develop toward paysites. Just as surfers develop banner blindness after an over-exposure to banner advertisements, I believe they also develop website blindness.

By this I mean surfers can now instantly recognize the kind of site they’re looking at and immediately know how to surf it. Experienced surfers arrive at a paysite and quickly scroll through a couple of tour pages before leaving.

Just as when they arrive at a blog many simply scroll through the posts on the homepage, ignore all of the clutter in the sidebar and then leave. There’s little incentive for surfers to stick around if they already know exactly what to expect. Contrast this with tubes in that, even though they all typically look the same, surfers actually expect to see new and different content on every page and on any given day. Paysites can use this new surfer mentality to their advantage by using it to evolve their paysite tour model.

There are still many opportunities for paysites to make a comeback in search, where the payoff will be long-term free targeted traffic that converts. But changes must be made before they can compete with the tubes that have already charmed Google and surfers alike.

Adrian DeGus is a 12-year adult industry veteran and founder of Adult SEO Training, a popular service that helps webmasters, program operators and affiliate managers to learn in-house SEO. Adrian also personally provides complete SEO services. He can be reached at


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