If you’ve read my past articles you know I do my best to write objectively and avoid product promotion. Rather than mention it throughout the article, I’m going to address paysite management (CMS) software only once in the beginning. The Elevated X CMS software system I provide to my customers makes all the things I mention in this article extremely quick and simple. Regardless of what methods and what tools you choose to use for site management, if you plan to test and analyze the performance of changes you should be using a platform that allows you to control a wide variety of site configurations and settings, preferably on the fly. Without this capability, tweaking and testing things is going to be far more difficult.
With that said, I was building and optimizing paysites long before Elevated X and before the availability of commercial adult site CMS software. If you must make changes to your site manually, although it’s not ideal, it’s better than the alternative of not making changes at all and having a site that’s not performing to its full sales potential.
Don't be afraid to change things, just be prepared to revert to a previous version if results aren’t to your liking and know that with everything you test you’re moving one step closer to having the best performing paysite possible.
A professional level site builder or marketer generally understands a lot about websites, not just how to build and manage them. This usually includes knowledge of analytics and user behavior. You may have heard cool sounding buzzwords or talk about heat-map tools and other fancy gadgets. While useful, some methods prove only minimally useful due to methodology.
When it comes to testing, there are those who test things that appear reasonable and those who test everything they can think of. Long term, there’s some benefit to being among the latter group that tests everything. If you go so far as to test the same page with changes as minimal as a join button or text link being orange, blue or green, you may be surprised by the results. I suggest starting with more general changes and get as much performance increase out of a page before getting into that kind of granular testing.
There is no perfect setup and what works for a well-known, high-sales site may not work as well for your site. That’s why testing is so important.
Here are some paysite tour areas a pro might start with:
1) The number of updates that show on a tour page. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more is less. For some sites, the tease factor converts more sales and it’s better to show a dozen of the most exciting or most interesting updates than hundreds of them. Some of the best converting tours I’ve worked on over the years have been single page or short tours showing far less updates than most paysites.
2) Trailer length and the number of free video trailers. It’s always wise to experiment with trailer lengths as again, this is something that will vary per site and there is no “magic” length despite what you might see people posting on forums. Much of it depends on your content. Some sites benefit more from short trailers with more of a teaser approach and a handful of fast cuts over a 20- to 30-second video.
Others benefit from revealing longer segments in trailers up to a minute or more in length. Experimenting with this should help you find the happy medium that will work best for you site.
Some sites do best with just one montage trailer at the top of the page showing teasers from a variety of site updates while others do best when each update has its own trailer. The strategy of the single trailer is to showcase the content along with the video production quality and the playback quality and leave the viewer wanting more.
Some sites do better to show a limited number of trailers and/or limit the number of trailers a visitor can watch per visit or per length of time. For example, a site might show 50 of the latest updates but only show trailers for the newest 5 or 10 updates.
With the Elevated X CMS we do it another way and a site can show trailers for every update but limit each visitor to only watching a certain number of free previews before the trailer links go away. I feel this method is less misleading to surfers and has an added benefit of not making your tour to join page click stats useless due to blind trailer links pointing to a join page.
3) Blind join links. If you go to most of the big program sites you’ll notice that they have tons of blind links to the join page from everything from clickable thumbnails to trailer links to what appear to be site sections linked to from top level navigation. This is a tricky one because on one hand, the goal of a tour is to get people to the join page, but on the other hand you want to do this without pissing them off in the process. When you see big sites doing this, it’s somewhat safe to assume that they concluded that getting more people to the join page by any reasonable means is resulting in more sales.
Logically you might think it’s bad to take a person to the join page when they clicked a link and were expecting to see a video preview or view a list of DVDs or models inside a site. Oddly enough, sometimes this can be more effective at closing sales than showing the person the intended page.
A heavily branded site or one with massive amounts of traffic will have an easier time with this than a smaller site such as a niche site or a solo site. Due to this, my advice is to start without blind links and pay close attention to your web stats for the ratio of first page unique visitors and join page clicks. If a high percentage of your visitors are clicking (with intention) and reaching your join page by way of join links or calls to action, don’t employ the use of blind links.
4) More or less text. If you were to take the time to visit several hundred paysites you would notice a big difference in the amount of text people use. On some sites the only text you see is the titles of updates being shown. On others you’ll see thoughtfully written intro and welcome paragraphs and professionally written descriptions of updates.
It’s a good idea to experiment with text while keeping in mind that less is usually more and it’s better to have a limited amount of very well written text than a lot of bad text. When I review a site owned by one of my CMS customers I almost always suggest the use of more text than what they have currently. I find long text descriptions of updates a bit redundant if there are visuals in the form of thumbnail previews and/or video trailers but some sites benefit from short descriptions that allow for buzzwords or niche specific phrases that might catch a surfer’s attention as well as allow for some SEO opportunity. When making site edit suggestions to my customers I urge them to consider experimenting with text that communicates with surfers such as asking questions, teasing or piquing curiosity in addition to making statements.
5) Different graphics and image selection. Similar to the amount of text on sites, if you visit several hundred sites you’ll see lots of different headers, image placement and image sizes. Some sites do better with a great big header that has a fancy scroller or slider showing big pictures while some sites barely have a header at all and do best just with a logo and navigation menu. When I first look at a site I pay close attention to where my eyes go first. Ultimately I want the tour to “pop” which to me means it grabs my attention instantly and my eyes go to the intended focal point. This leads to a lower bounce rate or at bare minimum, a higher average of time spent on a page prior to exit.
I suggest trying a variety of slim headers, static headers combining bullet point text of the main benefits of joining with a really enticing picture and animated headers to see what performs best. Also experiment with heights to see of capturing people’s attention with a big image is more effective than showing them more of the actual content or an obvious way to view an embedded video without requiring them to scroll.
It’s also beneficial to test different images. This can be as basic as testing a tour with softcore or less revealing previews or as extreme as carefully choosing images where the model is only looking in a certain direction be it left, right, down or directly at the camera.
If you run a niche site, it’s sometimes worthwhile to go as far as experimenting with image quality. For some sites, showing more raw or grainy amateur looking content yields better results than showing content that looks professionally produced.
Remember, this is an ongoing experiment to get the most out of your website. There’s no right or wrong and there are no strict rules. What works best for someone else may not work best for you. What you find works best on one of your own sites may not work best on the next site you build.
Have fun with it, keep track of your changes and their results and try something new every two to four weeks until you reach a point where you’re happy with sales or feel you’ve done the best you can to get more out of your site. Above all, don’t be afraid to change things, just be prepared to revert to a previous version if results aren’t to your liking and know that with everything you test you’re moving one step closer to having the best performing paysite possible.
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 is a contributing writer 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 and 2014 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.