Membership sites and SEO – what you don’t know may kill you[r organic rankings]

There is plenty of information about websites and SEO but very little of value written about Membership Site SEO issues specifically. Particularly about problems that most membership sites have with their Search Engine Optimization.

Keyphrase Number of results
on Google
web site SEO 371,000,000
membership site SEO 867,000

web site SEO = 371,000,000 results on Google
membership site SEO = 867,000 results on Google

So besides the fact that there is not enough information on the subject – many facts are just not disclosed by members+hip software creators. Because if people would knew what they are getting – these vendors and developers would see their sales plummeting.

First and most unpopular fact about membership site softwares – is that once you convert your site to membership site – your SEO ranking goes down the drain. See, plenty of fresh content is a necessity for good SEO and consistently growing organic rankings. For higher organic ranking and good, deep indexing – your site needs to have frequently updated unique content.
Membership sites by definition are designed to hide content. To hide content from non-members. And from Google as well.

So once you put a lock on your portal and price tag as an entry fee – poor Google cannot get inside either. If Google cannot see your premium, unique and just exceptionally great content – your pages are not going to be indexed and your site is not going to get any organic visibility on search engines. In other words – people who are searching Google for keyphrases relevant to your business – will seldom find your membership site.

You maybe working hard creating new stuff or paying someone in cash to generate valuable new content – it’s no use for your visibility on search engines. You maybe creating new movies, podcasts, ebooks, articles – but all this good stuff is going to be locked out of Google reach. You may or may not care about it. Perhaps your business strategy is to lure new members via some email list promotions or word of mouth exclusively. Then organic rankings might not be important for you.

But for membership site webmasters who wouldn’t mind to get a regular stream of new subscribers right from Google – organic SEO ranking is a life line.  Many actually rely on it exclusively – they invested time and money to realize their business vision and built their own membership site.
Only to find out a bit later that no one joins.

“Why I do not get any subscribers?”.

For me it was a the sole reason I created MemberWing. About 2 years ago I was looking for membership site software that would allow me to maintain and grow organic presence of my future membership site. There were plenty of offerings on the market proudly explaining how “safely” they could lock out everyone from your site and hide your information from visitors. And from Google obviously.

I didn’t see it as an attractive strategy. Without finding any SEO friendly membership site solution whatsover – I decided to build MemberWing.

Free Teasers. Bow to them.

My first concept for SEO friendly websites was simplicity and free teasers. It is very popular and successful marketing strategy – show part of your good stuff to get people excited to want to buy the rest. So I did it just this way: MemberWing allows you create your premium article and then “mark” free teaser in it. You do it via simple premium marker:  {+++}

Write your article, insert premium marker inside of it and voila! Anything above it is free teaser, anything below it is premium content visible to Premium Members only. Suddenly you gained double benefits:

  • Google will see your free teaser as a separate page, it will index it, analyze it and rank it. Here comes your SEO benefit! It doesn’t matter how many “premium” pages you have – Google will index all of them (albeit free teaser part only). It’s up to you how big or how small your want your free teaser to be. But the light is here – with each premium page – Google adds more pages to it’s index and your organic ranking will grow.
  • New visitors and non members will be able to find your premium membership website on search engines. They’ll come – read your free teasers content, presumably it is appealing to them, and it will help them to make decision to join your membership site. Free teasers helps your organic ranking and helps you to convert prospects to customers. As simple as that.
  • Simplicity. You don’t need to struggle with intricate settings or watch plethora of video tutorials struggling to make sense of software that supposed to make your life easier.
    Once you upload and activated MemberWing – go ahead – start writing premium content. The only tutorial to it: insert premium marker: {+++} where you want your free teaser to end and premium content to begin.

First Click Free (by Google. Free for everyone)

Membership site popularity “wave” did not pass unnoticed by the Google. Google is struggling to offer valuable content on it’s organic listing pages. Naturally – indexing pages with the sole content such as: “Click Here to join my membership site” wouldn’t do any good for Google’s visitors. Hence after working deals with major news agencies and online publishers Google introduced the concept of First Click Free for WEB Search pages.

This concept allows membership site owner to gain more visibility, deeper indexing and higher rankings for their online portals. To comply with it webmaster must agree to let any visitor coming directly from Google to see full content of any page. That is when visitor is arriving directly from Google.com. Once on your site – if visitor subsequently clicks on another premium page – it’s up to you whether to show or to hide next page. Idea is to let Google index *everything* and let any visitor *from Google* to see full content of first page. After that – he is yours.

Google First Click Free concept was implemented in MemberWing to enhance it’s SEO offerings and give you potential to boost your website SEO even more. This option is “OFF” by default as some webmasters might not see it as suitable for their business strategy. But it’s here for you as soon as you need it.

Premium Digital Content. Your ticket to hearts, minds and pocketbooks of your customers
Guard it with your … MemberWing

Last but not least – lets talk about digital downloads and digital content protection in general.

Part of your membership site business strategy may be selling and/or giving people access to downloadable materials or rich media. These could be ebooks, movies, podcasts, software tools, images, ZIP or RAR achives, etc…
Best stuff that people would pay you money to access.

In fact *majority* of membership site owners have some or more downloadable non-text materials that they would like to present as “premium” content to members. The problem with downloadable stuff is that URL links to them are rather easy to share. 
And as it is often happens overly excited members send links to your “best stuff” to their buddies. And you lose – people can have direct access to your digital materials without becoming a paid members. If I can download good stuff for free – my interest to pay for it would be close to zero. There are products on the market that offer you special download guard features. I decided to make life easy for MemberWing customers and make Download Guard and direct linking protection feature integrated directly into MemberWing.
So problem of link sharing by members is solved: Free visitors cannot download good stuff without being logged on as a premium members.

But remembering my passion for perfect, cutting edge SEO I decided to make an extra step…

…You can have anything you want if you help enough other people to get what they want.
(Zig Ziglar)

What this famous quote by Zig Ziglar has to do with SEO? Let me explain it.
When person (free visitor == non-member == prospect) clicks on direct link to your premium materials – he expects to see good stuff.  Other “protection” softwares would show them ugly “access denied” or 404 error. Result: the guy left for good. You lost customer. Your smarter competitor took money that you left on the table.

Solution?  PromoFusion!

PromoFusion is a MemberWing-only system that allows you to automatically substitute premium content with promotional materials if non-member tries to access them. In other words if your valuable prospect tries to access/click/download your premium stuff – you don’t kick his butt out. Instead, your portal politely gives him “shorter” version of your great eBook, “trailer” version of your best movie or trial version of your downloadable software. In other words – people are getting what they are asking for. Almost. “Conversation” stays active. Visitor engagement grows up. Visitor is getting extra exposure to good quality stuff. You are able to deliver extra dose of promotional materials to another pair of valuable eyeballs. Visitor is happy and closer to making decision about becoming a paid member.

Benefits:

  1. SEO. SEO. SEO:
    – Higher visitor engagement.
    – Lower bounce rate.
    – Better “stickiness”.
    – More rich media materials available on your site for Google to index.
    Google sees it all and rewards your portal with higher rankings.
  2. More paid members for you. Less errors, less “access denied”s, more rich content. It means more customers, more subscribers down the line for your business.

Conclusion

If you are concerned about (or just plainly love) SEO – stay in the know – SEO was one of the primary guiding force for me to create MemberWing. Everything that was possible to incorporate that would help to make your membership site SEO-friendly – was done.

And the work is ongoing. This stuff just gets better and better.

Enjoy!



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