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Boost Your Business with Content Lockers (and how to add them to WordPress)

Last Updated on October 29th, 2019

Published on June 23rd, 2016


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Want to get more social shares, build an email list, or even generate revenue from your best content?

It’s all possible using smartly placed content lockers.

Like push notifications, content lockers can be abused and have developed a bad reputation in some circles. I want to state early and often that you need to strategically use them, rather than indiscriminately locking up your whole site. But when used correctly, content lockers can provide a huge boost to social shares, generate revenue, or build your email list.

Don’t believe me? Back in 2014, Oli used a social content locker on a free theme post to generate 1,500 Twitter shares for WPLift. That’s pretty impressive, right?

If you want those same results for your own website; keep reading.

What is a content locker?

In general terms, a content locker blocks access to a specific piece of content until the user completes a specified action. You can choose to lock an entire page or just specific content displayed on the page.

For example, here’s what the content blocker Oli used looked like:


Types of content lockers

Theoretically, you could require users to complete any action in order to unlock your content. But, in practice, these are the three most common types of content lockers:

  • Social content locker: Social lockers block access to content until the user shares or likes your site on one of your chosen networks. You could require them to Tweet, like a Facebook page, interact on LinkedIn, or anything else you want to emphasize.
  • Paywall content locker: Paywall content lockers are a pretty simple concept – they block access until a user pays money. The amount could be something very small, like $1-2, or larger. Even huge newspapers like the New York Times utilize paywalls for their content.
  • Email list content locker: Email list lockers block access until the user signs up to your list or otherwise provides contact information.

Benefits of content lockers

Social Media: Content lockers can boost your likes and shares on social media. I already told you how Oli got 1,500 tweets from one social locker, but there are plenty of other examples. You can also use them to emphasize the specific social network you value the most.

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Revenue: If you have something that’s especially valuable to users, you may be able to convince them to pay real money for access. If your content is good enough, you can generate real revenue from locking your content.

Mark Manson has used paywall lockers very successfully for his blog. You can read a limited number of articles for free, but after you pass a certain threshold the content gets locked unless you pay to support the site. People love Mark’s articles so much that many of them are willing to pay to unlock more.

Email list: You can grow your list by requiring people to enter their email to get access to a post or resource. Many people use a similar concept called lead magnets. But you could also lock an entire post if your content is valuable enough to readers.

When to use content lockers

  • You’re providing a resource that’s especially valuable. E.g. an eBook, a tutorial video, a super in-depth post, etc.
  • You request them to complete an action after they’ve viewed a certain number of your posts. E.g. after they’ve read 5 posts, you ask them to complete an action before they can read more.
  • You’re just locking up a specific part of a post – if people enjoyed the first part of the post, they’ll be more likely to complete an action to keep reading.

When not to use content lockers

For 99% of sites, you should never lock up your whole site. Visitors need to know your content is valuable enough for them to jump through hoops. If you lock everything up, they’ll just go somewhere else.

Also, if your content is just plain low-value, people won’t be willing to pay to unlock it. E.g. if you lock up a YouTube video that’s available from lots of other sources. Very few people will be willing to complete an action to unlock it – they’ll just go somewhere else.

Use content lockers as a scalpel – not a sledgehammer. Limit their use to where they will be effective and not destroy your users’ experiences.

How to add content lockers to WordPress

This post isn’t intended to be a plugin roundup, so I’m just going to list one of the best plugins for each of the three types of content lockers I discussed. You can use them to add your chosen blocker to your website.

Best social locker plugin


With 10,000+ active installs and regular updates, OnePress Social Locker is one of the best social locker plugins out there. It lets you:

  • Require a share on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. More networks are available in the premium version
  • Analyze your lockers. See if they’re effective or hurting your efforts. Keep the good ones, kill the ones where the negatives outweigh the positives.
  • Style your locker to match your site.
  • Keep your locked content visible to search engines so it can still rank. You can also turn this feature off if you’re worried about a cloaking penalty.
  • Easily lock specific portions of your post with shortcodes.
  • Much, much more. Especially in the premium version.

Best paywall locker plugin


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Leaky Paywall helps you set up a metered paywall similar to the New York Times and other popular newspapers. It lets you:

  • Allow people to read X number of articles before they’re required to pay. Great for giving readers a taste of your content before asking them to open their wallets.
  • Keep your content readable/indexable by Google.
  • Require emails instead of payment for free users
  • And more…

Best email list locker plugin


From the same guys who created the social locker, OnePress Opt-In Panda allows you to lock up content behind an email subscribe box.

  • Works with most major mailing services like MailChimp, Aweber, and more.
  • Built-in analytics to see how things are working.
  • Works on mobile.
  • Google can still see your content.
  • And more…

Final thoughts

Content lockers get a bad rap sometimes because they’re so easy to abuse. But if you use them responsibly, you can get some great results without, most importantly, annoying your users too much.

Your turn…

Do you feel strongly about content lockers as a reader? Have you used content lockers? How were your results?

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Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.