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I am wondering what everyone thinks about the pros and cons of keeping just the homepage visible for prospective members. My primary target right now is membership registrations and I do not know if it is better to keep the network closed so that people will have to sign in to discover more or keep it open so that many more pages get indexed in Google, thus bringing in more traffic and potential new members. What do you think?Also, I am thinking of starting a regular series of Owner blog posts only and wonder if there is a way to have this blog content be open and available to the world even if the rest of the network is not.Comments and advice much appreciated!

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  • I think you want people to browse to encourage them to sign up. Plus I post links to blogs, videos, groups, etc. on Facebook and Twitter--if I kept them private, no one would be able to check them out.....Give em a reason to sign up.....my approach is the networking capabilities with others in their profession--my site is for a specific group of professionals.
  • I agree with Russell. Keep the home page open and lock the rest down! The main page is the teaser and you aren't charging them to join. This way you capture their email addresses and can send them all a broadcast message or use some type of e-newsletter like Constant Contact to keep them coming back. It has really worked for us. This also helps keep out the SPAMMERs.
    • Hi Bill,
      How do you capture their email addresses if you keep the main page open? If the page is open they can access it without logging in or submitting any details, right?
      I'm obviously not understanding something here.

      I also don't understand Russell's comment, above: "When we did this (kept the homepage open, presumably) we were receiving 500-1,000 signups per day... When we opened it back up that dwindled..." What do you mean "opened it back up", if it was open??

      Bill,
      I originally ran a mailing list on Constant Contact. The software itself is excellent, but almost three quarters of the mails I sent out never reached the person they were sent to. The rest were blocked as spam. The final newsletter was sent to over 2,000 people, and reached only 300. When you subtracted non-opens and non-click-throughs from that, it ended up that I was only reaching and getting a response from 100-200 or so people with each mail out.
      On a related point - do you think it's still worth maintaining a Constant Contact newsletter when you can now achieve much the same thing with the improved Ning Announcement feature?
      • Kate--

        Somewhat simplified, there are at least three settings: network completely private (login screen shown instead of any content), home page open and the rest of the network private (login screen when clicking on any link from the home page), all areas open (login screen only shown when the "Login" link is clicked).

        What Russell was comparing, I believe, is "all areas open" to "home page open and the rest of the network private". Therefore, when he went from just the home page open to all areas open, registrations fell because no one had to register to see anything. Returning it to home page only being open increased registrations because people coming in to the network could see a teaser, but were required to sign up to see anything else. This is also how Bill is collecting email addresses-- they have to sign up to see anything past the first page, thus providing him with access to their email.

        As an aside, I find your Constant Contact experience odd. We have over 113,000 active contacts in ours and get a less than 5% bounce rate and a greater than 70% open rate for any random mailing we do (I have literally seen 100% open rates before). Maybe your target group is one that often changes mail providers/employers and therefore the email addresses were going "stale"? For us, though, we couldn't just use the Ning Announcement feature because only around 10% of our contacts have signed up for the social network-- the vast majority are over 35 and prefer the more conventional methods of communication.

        BTW, to answer the OP's question, I have had great sucess with home page open and the rest protected. :)
        • I get most of your explanation, except for:

          "This is also how Bill is collecting email addresses-- they have to sign up to see anything past the first page, thus providing him with access to their email."

          Why would he want to collect their email addresses if they've already joined his network?

          ****

          These messages need a "quote" option.
          • I'm just assuming here, but I'd guess its so he can add them to a list to send newsletters or other emails via something like Constant Contact, where he can generate a better set of stats on who is reading them, what exactly they are reading, whether they shared the newsletter with others, etc-- all important aspects if you have someone sponsoring the newsletter or if you want to approach sponsors. It also keeps your members engaged with you in ways outside of your network.

            EDIT: It looks like he actually explained why here. Turns out I was pretty close. :)

            (That said, we don't currently do that, and with the new HTML broadcast messages, combined with a link tracking service, there is a lot less compelling need to use external mail software to do this sort of thing...)
            • Ah! Thanks. I missed that explanation. It's becoming so busy in here I'm starting to find it hard to keep up. I think I'm in the early stages of information overload!
      • Hi Kate,

        I will say that Constant Contact is not cheap. I mix it up a bit. A constant contact e-newsletter with a bunch of links that get the readers back to the site and some new info and commentary that I don't provide on my ning network.

        I will send out an announcement directly from Ning, but it has no HTML so I can't see who opens the emails and it also isn't very pretty. However,it is much easier to put together that Constant Contact.

        I get about 900 of the 3,000 members opening up the e-newsletter from Constant Contact.

        Travis is right about my settings. You can view our main page, but if you want to dig into the discussions or see videos or anything else then you have to register. I also approve all members. That has kept the SPAMMERs down a bit, but has not eliminated them. It seems to be working.

        Now I have to figure out how to make some money with my site.
  • It depends on your network.

    I can say this.. If you have a lot of blogs, foum and page content that google can index, being open can really improve your traffic.

    Open and closed aren't your only options here. You can make a lot of your special page content "members only" by hiding the tabs in the tab manager, then advertise the fact on the front page with a button to join. More fine-grained control over this would be better... but that's where we are at the present
    • On my dating/flirting network, I keep the front page only open to protect the members personal information from being indexed, so people dont have to lock down their profiles.

      That type of situation, and one where you have specific premium content that you can clearly articulate on the front page (like dozens of streaming radio stations on russel's site) are the best reasons to keep the site closed. It would have to be something that will motivate people to sign up.

      If it's not, open it up.
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