Why Membership Site SEO is a Waste of Time + What To Do Instead

Today I’m sharing my controversial view on a topic that might never have crossed your mind before…

Membership site search engine optimization.

What is it exactly?

It’s when you optimize the pages of your “members only” content to be found and indexed by the search engines.

Sly marketers everywhere are doing it! (Haven’t you heard?)

In theory, it would make sense to have more of your site’s pages in the search engines for potential clients to find you…

What’s worse than being denied entry at a cool party?

Being the person who inadvertently pushes people away in their business…

But here’s why I think membership site SEO is a load of stinky baloney

  1. Most people’s membership sites have a lot of video content, which is not going to be indexed by Google or other search engines anyway. Making this type of SEO worthless.
  2. If you do have written content on your membership site, then you need to decide how much of a jerk you’ll be when someone lands on a page…Are you gonna say “no entry, buddy!” or give them a peek? If you give them a peek, do you risk them searching for all of your pages to access your paid content without paying?Besides, the chances of someone becoming a paid customer on their first visit to your site are slim to none. When they click around, they won’t be able to read more free content and build up trust…They’ll hit the back button, never to be seen again.
  3. Focusing on optimizing pages for the search engines can make the user experience suffer… and even cost you in refunds or member cancellations.

I could go on, but I want to talk about why I think membership site SEO is even a thing… and what you should do instead.

Why Membership Site SEO Is Touted As The Key to More Recurring Revenue

Let’s take a look at why you might have heard that you should optimize your membership site to help you get more paying customers and members.

Many of the people who created membership sites back in the day were creating text-only content.

These days we’ve embraced video courses for learning, interactive quizzes, and other full-fledged membership site experiences.

These don’t translate well into the search engines.

But here’s the real reason membership site SEO is still being touted as a must: because the membership site platforms built the feature, and they need to convince you to use it.

Plain and simple.

It’s a marketing angle, and membership plugins are going to bang the “membership site SEO” drum until they sell you, or convince you that you need it too.

I truly believe that there are better ways to build your membership base of happily paying customers.

So let’s dive into what to do instead of spending your days optimizing thin-content pages on your membership platform.

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How to Get More Paying Customers (Without SEOing Your Members-Only Content)

Don’t waste your time with membership site SEO, here are my top tips for getting more traffic, conversions, and returning customers.

1. Optimize Your Public-Facing Blog with Strong Content

Instead of diluting your SEO juice between two websites (your membership site and main blog/site), focus all of your optimization efforts on your main blog.

Most people build their membership site on a separate domain, subdomain, or WordPress install.

As such, the search engines see these are two separate entities and they’re actually competing with each other for rankings.

On the other hand, when you place all of your best content on your main blog you’ll be ranking in a more cohesive way.

All of your efforts will help each other!

Now you might be thinking: what kind of content should I post on my blog to help me get more paying members?

That’s where reverse engineering your paid content into free blog content comes in!

Think about what people might be looking for BEFORE they’re ready to sign up for your paid membership site or online course…

That’s the type of blog content you’ll want to be focusing on.

Up next, you’ll include a call to action to sign up for a free course or membership level throughout your blog or main website.

Screenshot of AccesAlly Membership sites and courses

2. Offer a Free Membership Level with The Login Optin™ Strategy

We’ve been pioneering a method of turning cold traffic into warm leads through a free course or membership level for years.

We call this method The Login Optin™ Strategy, and it’s really easy to do with our AccessAlly plugin.

How it works is simple:

  1. You offer a bundled mini-course or free membership experience that ties into the topic that your paid membership site focuses on… preferably the step “before” or a first bite of the whole thing.
  2. Ask your blog readers and website visitors to give you their name and email, and you automatically generate a login to access this freebie.
  3. They get a welcome email with an auto-login link (they don’t even have to know they’re logging into your membership site if you don’t want them to!) to access your free course.
  4. From there you can gently upsell them into the paid experience. This becomes much easier when you’ve welcomed these strangers into your inner sanctum…
  5. You can also use a Cross-Selling Dashboard to show all of the different courses or pieces of content they get when they upgrade to a paid level or buy a particular course.

It’s a more straightforward way of making a sale.

3. Create a Compelling Sign Up Offer and Follow-Up Via Email

Now the benefit to getting your blog readers and cold traffic to sign up for a free course or membership level is that they can get to know you more before they sign up.

The latest statistics are showing that people need 13+ touchpoints before they buy. (If you aren’t tracking metrics like these in your business, then you might be missing out!)

That’s where nurturing and following up with onboarding emails come in!

Despite all of the hype around messenger bots and ads, email marketing is still extremely effective today. (And more in your control than many of the social platforms, that are constantly switching the rules on us.)

With a free course, you can continue to follow up based on how much people are interacting inside your membership site…

If someone is a hyper-engaged free member, they’re more likely to be interested in your paid offer.

If you see that a member hasn’t logged in for a while, you can send a re-engagement email and ask them what they need help with.

You’ll see your sales increase, and not because of some flash-in-the-pan SEO trick, either.

Now that Membership Site SEO is Off Your To-Do List…

It’s time to look at your blog’s editorial calendar for the next few weeks.

Take a few minutes to map out your next blog post, the keyword you’ll optimize for, and how it naturally leads into your free membership course.

Nathalie Lussier

I’m a writer, technologist, and regenerative farmer. I founded AccessAlly with my husband in one frantic weekend to solve my immediate course platform issues. Over a decade later the company has grown, and our product has evolved to serve millions of learners across the globe.

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