4 Things the Best Membership Websites Have in Common

Four things top membership websites have in common

One of the more popular paid subscription website models Mequoda has identified is the paid membership website. Unlike some of the other models, it’s user-driven and content-based, and its unique minimum information unit (MIU) is content created by a member.

The MIU can be an individual’s profile on TheLadders.com, or an individual’s expertise on sites such as SSWUG.org. The goal of paid membership websites is to acquire and retain members, because it generates revenue from user-access fees; it accepts little or no advertising.

As we often say, most subscription website archetypes seem to work best in pairs. For the membership model, this usually means having a free blog and/or other content that converts visitors into subscribers.

That leads us to the first of our paid membership website traits that the most profitable websites of this type have in common.

Traits of the best membership websites #1: Blog

One thing the best membership websites have in common is that they stay in touch with members while building their own credibility as an expert within your niche. Your blog should be updated on a regular schedule because your readers will be expecting it. For example, Firehouse.com, a paid membership website for firefighters and emergency workers, offers not a blog, but 11 of them.

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Traits of the best membership websites #2: Community Building

Another way top membership websites keep random visitors engaged is to invite them to become involved with other members. Surveys and polls are a great way for members to instantly voice their opinions and feel involved. Discussion boards and chat rooms allow members to interact with peers. This creates a sense of community, which increases visits to your website.

Websites with frequent postings by users not only encourage repeat traffic, they usually generate a webpage for every topic posted. This creates thousands of new pages of content and drives search engine rankings.

Backstage.com, a paid membership website for people in the performing arts, has 16 moderated forums related to this field, allowing members to discuss everything from surviving auditions to working at outside jobs to make ends meet.

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Traits of the best membership websites #3: Fresh Content

The best way to get visitors to return regularly is to publish fresh content daily. The more consistently information is posted to a website, the more repeat traffic it will generate. At Dow Jones Private Equity & Venture Capital, financial news is a high priority for the investors who belong to this site.

dow jones blog

Traits of the best membership websites #4: Multimedia

Users can watch videos, listen to audio, play games or read tutorials on a wide array of topics. Top membership websites incorporate new advances in interactive and multimedia technology to give them an edge in customer satisfaction and improve the business-customer relationship.

To keep fees rolling in, you must continue to provide members with the information they want in an easily accessible manner. Having quality content or a usable website is not an option—both are required.

Not surprisingly, SSWUG.org, a paid membership website for people working in various areas of enterprise technology, gets the tech just right, delivering dozens of videos to help its members improve their job performance.

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Many top membership websites offer other features, such as links to other resources, training, bookstores, and software tools. But these four top membership website traits are the most critical for success.

Do you run a paid membership website? Are there any features you believe we should add to our mandatory list?


    Hi there, I wonder if you could please help me get started!
    Firstly I want to:
    (1) Create a website
    (2) Sell memberships via the website
    (3) Sell training videos & PDFs
    (4) Include a blog
    (5) Have separate member (password protected) and non-member sections
    (6) Download membership data (back-up) and manage membership statistics
    However, I can’t seem to find how to sell memberships as a built-in option on online web builders. I am not a programmer, so need a simple front end solution that works and is free to start with so that it can be tested. Any hints/guidance/advice would be most welcome.


    That’s a good question Julie, and the answer is that you want them on the site. More traffic to the site … more links to the site … more comments on the pages — it’s all good for your SEO. LinkedIn groups can make a nice feeder system but for maximum benefit you want the LI group to drive traffic to your site where you engage them with your own community website.


    Good advice to form a place where members can exchange advice and ideas. I wonder if a Linked In group would accomplish that, or should it be on the site, so they don’t leave it?


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