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 220.127.116.11
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!
Ok, much easier...
You will need to get hosting for your Godaddy/Wordpress install. Dreamhost has reasonable rates.You can ditch Yahoo because most hosting lets you have 100 databases, add-on domains, storage...etc.
From there, install a NEW Wordpress installation. Then from your Yahoo site, go into the Wordpress Admin:
On your fresh copy of WP,
Tools--->Import--->Wordpress and make sure to click to download all the files.
Then add any widgets and your theme.
This way, you have a clean database and won't have to worry about images not showing up. You may have to adjust some is they have an absolute path (www.site.com/wp-content/images instead of just /wp-content/images.
Now, once you have this all in place, follow the directions for setting up Ning on a subdomainby creating one in the Godaddy admin panel. Your main (www.site.com) can then be pointed to your Wordpress install.