Paywalls and Building a Healthcare Content Hub

I helped a partner build a healthcare content hub for their Functional Medicine practice in Charlotte. It was built to be this immensely gratifying platform where our audience would consume educational content, get healthier, and in the process, we would learn more about our content consumers. The idea was brilliant and it’s something any practice from San Diego to Cleveland can do too!

While building this platform my partner and I went back and forth on the idea of using a paywall with this valuable content. Meaning, giving it away, but require them to sign up to access it. I recommended that they should not use a paywall. Most notably, they are a small practice and rely on content marketing to boost their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. I was concerned that by putting this content behind a wall it would not index, thus hurting us when search engines scrape their site for revisions.

What happened?

We received an almost immediate boost in traffic increasing roughly 30% month to month. It was great, at one point we were almost beating a local tv station in unique user traffic. But within 60 days, our audience started to dip. At this point, it was almost expected the massive boost was in large part due to curiosity and an overhaul of the website, and I expected a dip in traffic.

Fast Forward 90 days

The doctors googled themselves along with some common keywords and guess what? The practice is off the first page of a search. I kept a calm front but immediately begin asking my SEO team what happened and how can we fix this? They give me many ideas, build landing pages, reengineer headers and meta-tags, reindex the page, you name it we tried it.

Then it hit me, the (free) paywall is killing our SEO efforts.

After discussing my theory with the practice manager, he decided we should pull down the (free) paywall and see what happens with SEO. Within 2 weeks we were back on page 1 of a Google Search. Next, we freshened up our content and H1 tags, and just like that, we were back on top, where we belong.

What did I take away from this?

It’s great to experiment, you’ll only learn and grow from experience; but lean on experts, talk it through your team, track results, and be nimble enough to call an audible when needed.

Leave a Comment