If you’re an expert in a niche subject and want to start a business to earn an income from your knowledge, then starting a membership website is the answer.
A membership website allows you to protect your exclusive content behind a paywall so access is only granted to subscribers.
This article will list the steps you need to take to start building your membership website.
1. Identify your target audience
Growing an audience of paying users requires creating content tailored to their needs.
It may seem counter-intuitive but by focusing on a specific niche subject you’ll be able to more effectively create content that appeals to your target audience.
Knowing the customer persona of your target audience, enables you to identify and create impactful content specific to their needs along with effective marketing strategies to reach and engage them.
A narrow audience allows you to craft targeted marketing messages that will resonate with potential members resulting in successful marketing campaigns.
2. Determine your membership model
Once you identify your audience, you need to decide the content that you plan to offer, how it will be delivered and the sales model. Employing multiple revenue streams will maximise your ability to monetise your content. For example, by providing a visitor, who doesn’t intend to sign-up to a membership, the opportunity to purchase a course, digital download or pay-per-view product means you still capture revenue. The SubHub platform gives you the ability to create multiple revenue streams.
Offering membership tiers which unlock more content and perks depending on the level is another upsell option to employ. But remember, too many choices can have a negative impact. According to Hick’s Law, the more choices you present to a user can prolong their decision making process. So limit the membership levels to no more than four.
Membership fees can be set up as a one-time payments or on a recurring basis. Recurring fees have the advantage of providing a steady and reliable income flow. For members that might need a nudge, including free trial days can entice them to sign up.
3. Choosing the best membership platform for your needs
These days there are a wealth of membership models to choose from. They include WordPress, where you can build your site’s functionality with plugins, to all-in-one SaaS solutions. Which you select will depend on your budget, tech skills, membership objectives and the content you want to sell.
WordPress offers the most flexibility when it comes to the design and functionality you can achieve with your website. However, those benefits also come with costs and disadvantages. Unless you have technical skills or the budget to hire a developer, a WordPress site can be out of your price range.
The other major downside with WordPress is plug-in maintenance. When you build a website based on the interaction of multiple plugins, you must insure they are all compatible. One incompatible plugin, can break your whole site. This often happens when a plugin needs to be updated. And when it does, you’ll need to hire a developer to fix it.
Alternatively, a SaaS solution (Software as a Service) is a complete service that provides you not only with the website but hosting, maintenance and customer support. Popular SaaS examples are Wix, Shopify, Teachable and SubHub. A SaaS solution reduces the stress of running an online knowledge business. If something breaks, you just need to submit a support ticket. And SaaS companies are always working to improve their product offerings.
You’ll want to select a platform you can grow with. The design, functionality, and scalability should be flexible enough to modify to meet your target audience’s changing needs.
Many SaaS solutions specialise in the delivery of specific types of content. If you plan to only sell online courses, you might select an eLearning platform like Teachable. If your focus is website membership, but also want the additional revenue stream of selling courses then the SubHub platform is the answer.
Lastly, choose a platform that provides dedicated customer support. When you run a membership website, there will be issues. Read client reviews support by people who really understand both technology and online publishing is vital.
4. Building your website
If you’ve selected a SaaS solution, you can start right away creating your site with that solution’s website builder. Most SaaS solutions are intended to be intuitive enough for a non-techie to easily use.
Your homepage will be the most important page on your site as it will influence whether or not a visitor becomes a member. Be sure to carefully craft the copy of your banner and body text so that it informs and engages with your potential members. Clearly define, the benefits of your membership proposition.
Your homepage must also be SEO optimised with keywords so that your site is found in search results.
Include a testimonial section as client reviews can have a persuasive impact by showing visitors that others value your product, it’s a vote of confidence in your product.
Pay attention to page speed as a slow loading page will cause visitors to bounce.
These are just a few tips to create a converting homepage.
5. Upload initial content
Before launching, you’ll need to have uploaded enough content to satisfy your first members. This could be in the form of blog posts, courses, downloads, videos etc. Then you’ll need to stay committed to a regular schedule of adding new content.
Make sure your content is meaningful and is of value to your audience.
6. Follow SEO best practices
Just launching a website isn’t enough to get found. From the start, be sure to follow SEO best practices when creating your site and adding content. This will improve your chance of getting found in search results. Using keywords, the proper heading format, internal links and requesting backlinks are all necessary to insure that when Google and other search engines index your site that they understand what your site is about, how content relates to each other.
- The same focus keyword needs to be present in your meta title, article headline, first sentence and a few times in the article body.
- Once you create an article, submit it to Google search so that it is indexed within 24 hours.
- Use the proper heading (H1, H2, H3…) format on your pages. H1 must only be used ONCE on any page. Proper headings inform search engines about the structure of your site and the hierarchy of your content.
- Internal links are created when you include links of similarly-themed content to each other. Again, this help search engines understand the content on your site and how it relates to each other.
- When a site links to your site, this is a backlink. It proves to search engines that your content is relevant and trustworthy.
7. Grow a community on social media
Drive traffic to your website using your social media channels. It’s best to select a single social media platform and then dedicate all your efforts to building an audience. Choose the platform where your prospective members will be hanging out.
Membership is one of the most exciting business opportunities on the internet today. It is established enough that you will not have to reinvent the wheel. Everything you need to be successful is available and accessible to novices and experts alike.