October 11, 2016

One of the best ways to generate revenue from a WordPress site is to offer subscriptions for premium content. For general interest sites, offering subscriptions usually isn’t the best way to go, but if your site offers valuable information to an audience prepared to pay for it, then charging for access can offer better returns than advertising or affiliate marketing.

However, it’s not enough to just throw up a paywall and start charging. Audiences who have become used to getting content for free expect substantial added value for their payment. Bloggers who take this route should ensure they offer a premium service to go along with the premium price tag.

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment With New Types Of Content

Text is the heart of the blogging experience, but — with some exceptions — a successful premium membership site relies on a mix of content types that might include:

  • Video
  • Podcasts
  • Email newsletters
  • Ebooks
  • Courseware

Moving beyond blogging might be daunting, but most longer written content can be thought of as an extension of blogging. Podcasting and video production is more involved and time-consuming, but podcasts are relatively simple to create if you’re a decent public speaker. For many informational membership sites, video doesn’t have to mean expensive — some of the most successful membership sites focus primarily on screencasts, which can be made with a PC, a microphone, and inexpensive (or free) software.

Investing in new content types has the added advantage of exposing your content to new audiences. As a personal example, I find nothing more boring than reading Apple tech blogs, but I very much enjoy listening to podcasts like ATP.

Offer More Payment Options

This might seem like obvious advice, but many membership sites only offer PayPal as a payment option. Some people neither have nor want to use PayPal. By limiting the number of payment options, a membership site stops people who would happily pay becoming members. Fortunately, this problem is solved relatively easily with plugins like Restrict Content Pro, which offers numerous payment options.

Make It Fast

Performance is an important component of offering a premium experience for paying users. No-one enjoys waiting for slow web pages, and that goes double if they’re paying for the privilege. Out-of-the-box, WordPress is a speedy content management system, but there are several strategies site-owners can take to improve performance.

Choose The Right Hosting

If you opt for the cheapest hosting, it’s not going to provide the best experience. I’m not suggesting you opt for a dedicated server unless your traffic justifies it, but a specialist managed WordPress hosting company that cares about performance can make a massive difference.

Use Caching

Caching can consistently improve the speed at which content is made available to users. Historically, caching has been problematic for membership sites because the default is to bypass the cache for logged-in users. Plugins like WP Rocket allow for the caching of content sent to logged-in users, so be sure to activate that option if you want your members to have the best possible experience.

Take Advantage Of A CDN

Content distribution networks take your static content and distribute it to edge-nodes located closer to your members than the server your site is hosted on. CDNs enhance performance by reducing the latency caused by distance — with the added bonus that some of the load is lifted from your server.

Test Until You Get It Right

Nothing you do to improve the experience you offer members makes a bit of difference unless you have evidence that it really does make their experience better. A/B testing will allow you to make incremental changes to your site, while measuring the effect each change has. Testing helps you implement changes that have the desired effect, and stops you pursuing strategies that are good in theory, but offer no real benefit.

Always Look For The Next Improvement

Without mindful progress towards making the experience your site offers better, it is unlikely to flourish over the long-term. The best way to retain members is to keep things fresh and give them new reasons to renew their membership.


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