I figured I would write this for the people that have or are thinking about going to a paid-access only site. This may also benefit those that have restricted access. In both cases, SEO will be a problem.
Basically, I am using a website for the front end and Ning on a sub-domain. My site is closed to members only so I don't get any SEO from it.
Here is what I did and it has been working well:
I masked my Ning site as a sub-domain of my main site. For example, say my site was www.baseball.com, I made my Ning site www.scores.baseball.com. Sub-domains still get credit for SEO. It also makes it all look like one site.
To do this, all you need to do is change some settings in your registrar (The place you got your domain name from.) You will need the Ning domain mapping settings here.
scores CNAME baseball.ning.com
www.scores CNAME scores.baseball.com
The 2nd CNAME, with the www, has to be added so it redirects to scores.baseball.com when someone types in www.scores.baseball.com. Otherwise, you get the error "Page not found."
A Record- Same as the picture
baseball.ning.com A Record 18.104.22.168
In my Domain Mapping section under Tools in Ning admin panel add:
It may take a few minutes for the DNS to resolve.
Now that you have your Ning site as your subdomain, we need a website for the outside. In this case, we want a website for www.baseball.com to funnel them into the Ning site of scores.baseball.com. Here is where you will put your "Join Now!" that will take them to the registration of your Ning site.
The outside will be used for SEO. Here you will have articles, blogs...etc. Basically, anything to get into Google and get you up in the rankings that your restricted or closed site does not.
I highly recommend using a CMS. After years of working with Joomla, I switched to Wordpress, 2 months ago, and despite some short comings, I couldn't be happier. Both are free. One of the big reasons that I went with Wordpress was a particular theme that had built in SEO. There is also a widget that submits a site-map daily or when changes are made. Google picks up my stuff in a day.
Here are some pros and cons of both. They both have great strong points.
Easy to manipulate the menus and side-bar content.
Good support community
Easily put different menus and modules on different pages (Huge advantage)
Many design modifications require changes to core files. Every time you update, these changes are lost and must be added.
A database hog and can slow down the site.
Not as many quality addons or plugins as Wordpress
Comments are an addon
Most design changes happen in the template and not the core files so upgrading is simple.
Tons of addons and plugins
Tons of templates available
Excellent support community
Comments are integrated
Wordpress Cons -
Menu and side-bar content not easily manipulated
More .css and .php coding knowledge needed to customize.
More difficult to make your Wordpress site look different than all the others.
What ever you choose, I HIGHLY recommend buying a template or theme from a reputable company that has good support. I can't emphasize this enough. As the software changes, the templates need to be updated and the software changes a lot! Stay away from the free templates or you will be sorry as there is very little support.
Another option: If you don't want to do any coding then you can sign up at Wordpress.com for a website. They host your site and is pretty much drag and drop to design. Using the above example, you can mask your site to them. So, baseball.com will be a Wordpress.com site. It will cost you about $130 a year to mask you name, be ad free, upload video and have access to more templates. Your design options, however, are very limited.
Hosting: The basic rule of thumb for hosting is that you get what you pay for. I am not saying to go crazy but pay a little more for automatic backups and a company that you can call and talk to someone if you have problems.
Since I decided to use Wordpress, I went with a hosting company that specializes in hosting Wordpress sites. These companies usually have widgets (plugins) that are vetted or they have developed and they support them should something go wrong. My particular company also lets me take a snapshot of my current site as well as gives me a sandbox so I can make changes to my current site before going live. I pay more for it but it has already proven worth it.
IMPORTANT!!! Most hosting companies let you CNAME to them. If you change your nameservers this example will not work. If you do have to change your nameserver then you will have to do these steps in the hosting company's DNS.
Email: I use Google's free business email through Google Apps. You get up to 10 email accounts with your domain name. So I can have Tyler@baseball.com and 9 more. I use Google's mail for a number of reasons:
Great web interface
GMail integrates nicely into my Android.
Excellent Spam control
I have a control panel for all my email addresses and can easily switch between them.
If my server goes down, I still get email.
If I change servers, I still get email
Did I mention that it's FREE??
Google will supply you with the records that need to be added in your registrar's DNS. (Very easy!)
What you can do with all this?
Since Google can only access your front page or nothing at all (closed site) , this will give you a much better ranking in Google.
So, once you have this up:
Put up blogs and articles that use key words and good SEO. The more people you attract, the more will join.
Highlight what is inside your membership site.
Describe why people would want to join your site.
Blog about anything related to your site.
The more information indexed by Google, the better chance you have of attracting members.
You will have to design a new site and make it look close to your Ning site.
It will cost to host it
If you have an existing site, your links will be bad and Google will ding you for it but you will recover. I am going through this right now. I had many front page rankings in certain search terms and they went back to the 3rd and 4 page but are quickly rebounding.
I LOVE paid-access with this setup and things are going well. I didn't provide my site name because of growing competition.
Anyway, I hope this helps someone!
Thanks for sharing. Question, which WordPress plug in do you use to submit a site-map daily?
What about links to the NING site? Did they all break when you redirected to a subdomain?
I didn't go with a sub-domain with my non-ning site that meshes with my ning site. I could very well be off base with this but I spent a lot of time researching sub-domain vs. masked (newname.com) for seo purposes. Everywhere I read said that masking will give you much better seo result over a sub-domain.
My site is open (with the exception of a few "Pages") so I'm not sure what you mean when you said your links became bad (in your last paragrahp). Perhaps, have you thought about using a 301 redirect so you don't trash your old links?... plus it helps with seo!
btw- If you can learn (& afford the software) for DW8, you can be limitless on what you can do with your website vs Joomla or Wordpress. Also DW8 is way quicker with adding or changing content and your site will be much faster too.
I love this...but I have a slightly different issue and I am hoping someone can help.
I have two domains with decent SEO for both. One is a wordpress site and the other is a ning. They both cover the same subject I just happened but I had wordpress first.
I dont want to lose seo or page links for either but love the idea of combining the two. I would use the ning for more of a community site and use wordpress for the blogging and main URL.
My question is how can I do what you did but continue to have my SEO for both sites and not get any url errors while combining the two. I know this is not easy so if anyone can help I would really appreciate it greatly.
You could use a 301 redirect, which means the URL moved permanently. This type of redirect is not supposed to hurt you SEO wise. If anyone comes in from the old URL it will send them to the new URL.
So if your new ning subdomain was members.aaa.com or whatever
You would find all your old URL's and do a 301 redirect to the new URL's
Then create one for each URL on your ning site.
Hi Tyler, hope youre well. I wanted to see if you'd be available for some support on this subject today. You posted it a while ago but today is my day to give it a go. I'm a little turned around with the masking, are you available to reply to this forum? I think I can get through it with just a little help. Thanks.
Sure, what are you turned around on?
Thanks Tyler. Regarding the CNAMES and A Record, my ning domain was purchased through Go Daddy and is already routed into my current Ning site. I have a second website outside of Ning that was purchased through Yahoo. Do I need to change the CNAMES and A Record on my Yahoo hosted site only which I opened in WordPress? And if so, would I put Ning's IP address in the Yahoo registrar's screen or also in Go Daddy? I feel like two crazy people over here. I know that it's got to be simpler than I'm making it. Any help would be awesome. Thank-you.
Ok, let me get this straight...
You have ONE domain name through GoDaddy that points to your Yahoo Wordpress instal?
Do you have TWO domain names...one that points to Yahoo and one that points to Ning?
The second option. My Ning site is registered through GoDaddy. My Wordpress site is registered through Yahoo.
Ok, the above example if for having one domain name with a sub domain pointing to Ning.
www.site.com ---> Points to Wordpress
www.site.subdomain.com --->Points to Ning
You will get SEO credit in the above example because it is one site with a subdomain.
The way you have it is:
www.site1.com --->Wordpress (Yahoo)
www.site2.com ---> Ning
You have TWO different websites so you will not get SEO credit when people land on your Wordpress site and then click to go to your Ning site because they are 2 different sites.
To do what the tutorial does:
I am not sure if Yahoo has this capability. You may be able to call/email them to set this up. If they do not, you can transfer your domain name to Godaddy then point your DNS to Yahoo. This is why I never register my domain with the hosting company.
To get your Ning on your subdomain, you would have to go into Yahoo's domain registration control panel and set up a subdomain for NING. From THERE you would point that subdomain's CName & A Record to Ning.
Does this make sense?
I see. I can definitely only use one domain, my Ning domain is the only of the two that's been active, so I can scrap the Yahoo hosted domain or use it later for file saving. If I use my one domain that currently is routed to Ning, purchased with GoDaddy, where would I start? That seems much easier.