What Every Great Membership Website Has in Common

Membership website publishers must recognize the value in their products.

The commonality that all great membership websites have is an affinity (free) subscription website, which could be a portal or a blog. This is a place where content can be written and published to attract users, because their minimum information unit, their MIU, is a user profile.

An affinity subscription website is the most important accompanying part of the premium subscription website model. It’s this free part of the website which helps attract new users through great content and strong SEO. For the website itself, having a free subscription blog helps build the audience, potentially developing a larger base of paying customers, too.

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Examples of great membership websites

The Ladders

Two examples of membership websites that follow our recommended model are match.com and theladders.com. These websites don’t have portals, but they do have blogs that could be turned into portals.

Job seekers visit The Ladders to find better jobs, propelling them up the corporate ladder in the process. What kind of content would you expect The Ladders to share through its free content blog? If you guessed content that helps job seekers hone their skills, learn about different industries, and get a great job, then your guess is correct.

For instance, one article on The Ladders is entitled, “5 ways your thank-you note could cost you the job”. Another article in the Expert Career Advice section of the website is entitled, “How to work remotely, and successfully”.

The article “Why you should incorporate video into your marketing strategy” helps users build their skillset, making them more employable. Users have the chance to recognize how much assistance The Ladders attempts to give, which is reason enough to become a premium member of the site.

Some of the articles on The Ladders are written by the CEO while others are written by staff members and guest contributors. The content is informative and brings value to readers. And so, job seekers arrive through search to their blog, and turn into new members of The Ladders. In an ideal world anyway. That’s the goal.


The goal of match.com is to help single people find relationships. Users sign up so they can view profiles of potential matches. Because of this, it makes complete sense for Match to share dating and relationship advice through its free blog.

Match’s blog is called Up To Date, and it involves numerous content categories, including Dating Trends, Success Stories, Stir Events, and Singles in America.

Posts in “Success Stories” talk about couples who met on Match and how their relationships have progressed. Some talk about how they never thought they’d meet someone else after their first marriage failed, like the article “#FeelGoodFriday: Janet and Alex”. This article serves as an example of the possible results from being a member of match.com. This content is attractive to potential users, and has likely led to new registrations.

The “Singles in America” section shares statistics on users, which can lead to connections between potential users and registered users. Potential users may see some of these stats, like one posted on how singles want to be perceived, and feel a connection to the site, leading to a registration.

Other articles dive deeper into content and share opinions from dating expert celebrities, like Matthew Hussey. The article “9 Texting Secrets Men Can’t Resist” is actually a promotion for an event, but it drew me in based on the title and could be the final hard-sell for users on the fence about registering for the event, or for match.com

Affinity Subscription Website Going Forward

Even though Match and The Ladders have different audiences, they share the commonality of sharing great free content. It’s this content that users can read and ruminate on before deciding to pay. The free content develops a reason to subscribe to the paid content. Additionally, this free content can be accessed by Google and potentially listed in the search engine, making it another traffic-driving tool.

If you’re upgrading or launching a premium subscription website, make sure you have a free component to work with as your audience builds. Without it, your premium subscription website will have a hard time building the audience your content deserves.


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