Adult Site Faux Pas: A Look at Common Paysite Mistakes

Looking at paysites I’m surprised that a lot of them are still operational and that they’re selling at all. It has nothing to do with the economy or the tubes or piracy. Most sites could and should be selling more but they’re doing a lot of things wrong. In a lot of cases they’re doing the exact opposite of what they need to be doing to make sales.

Why people end up in this position boils down to cause and effect. There are a couple of cause scenarios. The most common scenario is that when paysite is first built, it’s modern and up with current trends at that point in time. The site might sell decently for a while and then it stagnates. Often aside from content updates, few (if any) changes or enhancements are made for at least a couple of years. At this point the site has become outdated and performance declines consistently from there until sales become difficult to obtain and eventually the site is dead.

Even with tubes, piracy, the economy and all the other reasons and excuses we have for adult content being more difficult to sell, well-built sites are still pulling in a lot of sales.

Almost as common is that a new site imitates or emulates what the biggest sites are doing. The problem is that what works for a huge established site or a big company doesn’t translate to all sites, especially those that are a lot smaller or are just starting out. It’s not bad to look at what leading sites are doing and get ideas and inspiration but keep in mind that a big site is more likely to be amidst development or transition as they never stagnate. You may be copying a new or partial site setup they’ve yet to fully test and may later abandon, leaving you stuck with an imitation of a poor performing site.

The effects are numerous. I’ll be writing articles in the coming months that focus on specific aspects of modern site building and tour optimization but here’s a short list of some of the biggest violators:


No consistent theme.

All sites have a name, domain, a logo of some kind and fit at least one general niche. You would assume that when building a site, the site owner, webmaster or designer would stay consistent but more often than not, they diverge either from the very start or over time as the site grows. This is really bad for sales on multiple levels.

If you’re confused as to what I’m referring to, an example of this would be a solo model site that has a tour showing 10 updates of the model and just as many updates featuring other models. If the site is about “Jane” it should show updates featuring Jane. If the site is really about Jane and her friends, the site theme should be changed to be accurate based on the content being sold. Another example of this would be a cock-tease and orgasm denial fetish site with a tour that out of nowhere shows a lesbian domination scene. Believe it or not, I come across this on a lot of sites. The site’s copy and overall sales message is often just a convoluted and inconsistent. A studio site should be as much about the studio as the movies. A model site should be just as much about the model as it is her photo and video content. Smart selection of content along with good use of text will create and reinforce your theme.

Pick images that reflect your site’s theme in the best possible way. If it’s about sex, make sure the people look like they’re enjoying it. If it’s a site about feet, make sure it shows plenty of foot related action. If it’s about masturbation, don’t show models who look so miserable they’re about to cry. Try to show people who are enjoying themselves. If you have questionable content, trash it.

Remember that the goal of your marketing material and your site tour is the same – to make people want to see more. If you focus on this goal, sales will close themselves.


Poor selections of photos used on tours and marketing material.

Since I started Elevated X’s new Pay Site Optimizer site analysis service a couple of months ago, these are some of the actual questions I’ve found myself asking about people’s paysite tours:

  • Why are the models in your site header tinted red or blue? Are you going for a horror/sci-fi feel? Why are the models pouting or frowning? Is this a site about unhappy people?
  • I’m confused, what’s happening in this photo?
  • Are you trying to look crazy or scary in that photo?
  • What is the tiny prop or toy or device in that photo?

The answers might surprise you:

  • I thought tinting the images would make the header look cool.
  • The model isn’t pouting, that’s his/her sexy or flirtatious pose.
  • That’s an extreme closeup shot of a sex toy insertion.
  • That’s not scary, it’s a pic of me being wild and fun.
  • The prop is a small toy army man.

My responses go something like this: Tinted images are appealing when you’re creating a brochure or an art exhibit but chances are they’re not helping you sell porn. There’s nothing sexy about pouting or frowning. Few people fantasize about having sex with an unhappy partner who looks bored and unhappy. You don’t look wild and fun in that picture, your facial expression makes you appear psychotic or scary to a potential customer. If someone can’t tell what’s happening in a photo it will confuse them, not arouse them.

Something you will never see is an ad talking about how nice it would be to drink a cold, crisp, refreshing Coca- Cola ... alongside a picture of a model enjoying a gallon of milk. This is what many paysites are doing. Consistency is important.

Unless you run a sub-niche site about asses that do not belong to a body or a person with a face it will always serve you better to show people’s faces. And unless you run a high-art glamour site or you’re working with Vogue Magazine, avoid use of models frowning or pouting. Tests have shown that people are more likely to pay attention to or click ads where the model is looking at the camera and either looks happy or is engaged and looking at something.


Use of too little text or no text at all.

I see sites that claim to be the biggest and best source of “XYZ” but that single line in their header or welcome sentence is the only mention of “XYZ” on their entire tour. Take note of the content you’re showing as well as the text (or lack thereof) on your tour pages. You don’t need to be a professional writer to write effective copy that reinforces your sites’ theme. All it takes are couple of lines of text here and there peppered throughout your pages and in your content titles and descriptions.

If you have a foot fetish site this can be as simple as changing your join link from “Join now and access all our videos” to “Join now to access our collection of exclusive foot fetish videos – the best online — updated daily!”

Search engines love text and believe it or not, so do potential customers.

When you’re creating marketing materials – tell people what they can expect to see when they click through to your site. Don’t just invite them to see more videos, tell them a bit more about your site, your content and why they should come see the site and not just keep looking at the free stuff. Don’t make them think, don’t leave them guessing and most of all, don’t make them work to learn about your site. Text is your way to communicate with your customers. Continue to communicate with them on your tour, your join page and inside your member’s area too.


Use of too much text.

While there’s no hard rule on just how much text to use based on every type of site, there is a delicate balance between having too little and too much text. Some sites greet visitors with huge walls of text that none but the most diehard fan would every read and are fat too wordy on the tour but the biggest source of problems with this is a paysite’s join page. The join page should make it as easy as possible for someone to sign up. Text on tours and join pages should be used wisely and sparingly and only text that’s absolutely necessary or that reinforces why someone would want to pay to see more should be included.


Being out of date and failing to keep up with current trends.

This is probably the single biggest sales obstacle that paysite owners face because it’s the most costly and time consuming to correct. I see lots of sites with designs still at 800x600 resolution despite this not being the standard for several years. I also see lots of sites advertising video formats in WMV, MOV or Flash, all of which at this point are obsolete. Sites have download links with no option to watch the videos online. Others have huge files with no streaming technology in place so you’re forced to sit while a movie buffers for a minute or more before anything plays, even on a good connection. A lot of sites look like a big dump of videos from 2003.

For a lot of these sites, their content isn’t the problem. Often the owner of the site feels defeated ad believes the content is too old and that even if the site was repackaged in a modern format it would fail to sell but this is entirely untrue. Usually the content is still quite good and there are still plenty of customers out there that range in age and not all of them love today’s canned shooting style.

Even with tubes, piracy, the economy and all the other reasons and excuses we have for adult content being more difficult to sell, well-built sites are still pulling in a lot of sales. Whether you’re a customer of mine or not, the best advice I can give anyone when it comes to sales is this: Take a good look at your site with a critical eye and pay equal attention to what you’re doing to turn people on and what you might be doing that’s turning them off. It’s often the turning-off of the customer that’s killing the sale.

AJ Hall is a 12-year adult industry veteran and the co-founder and chief executive officer of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult CMS software for the online adult entertainment industry. Elevated X powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for industry awards 11 times and won the 2012 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.