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View Poll Results: Should I test my forum to be private?

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  1. #1
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    Opinions wanted about permissions

    I have a Forum which is a pretty good niche (the only dedicated forum about the 2nd most popular mp3 player brand) And its been up for about 2 months, and has about 1800 posts and 175 users. Sure the forum is building well.
    The question is that i want to do an experiment. I just want to see what happens if I made the forums private, meaning only registered users can read it. I was thinking that sure, it may turn away a good portion of visitors, but in reality, only about 1% of visitors register and post. If people are looking for something (like a theme for the player) they are likely to register just to get it. And if they logged in, it is more likely they will post.

    I know that this will probably make me lose a few good number of "guests", but if I do this, I might get a few portion of new users. I am only intending to do this is a period of a couple of days.

    Has anybody had any experience with this? was it a bad mistake? Is it a good little tactic? Opinions please !

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    How are people going to know what is there if they can't read it to begin with? They won't find it via search engines since you'll be keeping the spiders out as well.

    If you have ads, guest users are your target audience. Registered users exist to produce more content for the guest users to read while they are clicking on ads. All registered users were guest users before they registered. As they register you have to find new guests to keep the food chain alive. Above all this means that there has to be a way for people to find out that the content on your site exists in the first place. This won't happen if you close it.

    I'm not clear on what would you hope to gain by doing this other than killing your board.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    As VelvetElvis said, you should remember that keeping out guests means keeping out search engines. I think you said in another thread that you site gets 30% of its traffic from Google--that traffic will disappear if you lock out Google's spiders! If you must experiment with it, I would suggest only making a portion of your site private--that might encourage people to join to see what they're missing... but keeping everyone out doesn't usually work for most communities--especially not new ones.
    Josh is an anomaly
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  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard
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    I suppose doing this could be beneficial, but could also be damaging as well (with regards to the issue of blocking out search engine spiders).

    Ever heard of the saying "curiosity killed the cat"? Some people could potentially be so curious about your site that they would register simply to see what they are missing. Locking out guests could potentially get you the results that you're looking for.

    If you have many threads on the site, you could partially lock out guests. Allow them to be able to view the thread listings but not to be able to view the actual thread content. So, visitors to that site would be able to see all the different discussions as well as other data (number of replies, views, etc) but must register to see posted messages. Search engine spiders would still be able to effectively spider your thread listing pages - so there would still be some benefit there.

    You may also be able to setup a way where google and other search spiders can spider your content without allowing real guest visitors to access. Webmasterworld has thousands & thousands of threads indexed by google and they show for searches that the threads are relevant for (I've seen them in google results countless times). Every single thread that I've ever seen listed in Google for that site leads to a "members only" type page with an advertisement for a 6 month paid membership. I don't see any problem with that website only being available to paid members (it's their prerogative to fund their business that way), although I do not quite understand why Google permits that site to serve one thing to the spiders and something else to real visitors. As far as I know Google frowns on that type of thing. In any case, I believe it is a VERY successful SEO tactic for wmw by allowing spiders to access threads and deny guest access to those threads at the same time.
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  5. #5
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    I have definatly pondered this experiment. I have decided against it, but I am very interested about allowing only spiders in and normal guests out. I believe the new phpbb3 olympus can do this. This also would probably explain why webmaster world is doing so well... but then again, webmaster world is massive.

    Visitors would definatly know what they are missing out on, for example, If i were to upload a theme for the mp3 player, the user would definatly want to at least see the theme, and therefore have to signup. more often or not, the user will just shrug and look elsewhere.

    I will think about allowing spiders in with the new phpbb3, but for now, I think traditional tactics are probably best for now

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy Bleys's Avatar
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    I don't think Webmaster World was always subscription only (at least, not just to view the forum). As I said earlier, this isn't something I would recommend new forums trying unless you already have a massive installed user base to cater to (i.e., via a popular content site or blog).
    Josh is an anomaly
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  7. #7
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    but I am very interested about allowing only spiders in and normal guests out.
    This is probably against most search engine's guidelines, it definately is against Google's.

    I suggest having both an open and a closed section. A completely locked forum will turn away guests, but a forum with only some sections locked might encourage more guests to register.
    "Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Enthusiast LSC-Rob's Avatar
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    Otherwise you could use a mod (they're available for most common forum programs) that would show only the first 1, 2, 3, etc posts, but no replies after said number - giving guests a taste of your content, and more of a reason to register...
    Rob G.
    ShopManager - Sales & Repair Business Management Software


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