This post is part of a series, based on the ebook 'Top 21 marketing channels for membership sites', written by The Subscription Coach Amanda Northcutt.
1. Organic search traffic
Organic search traffic happens when someone finds you on a search engine, like Google. Their ability to find you is determined by your SEO (search engine optimization).
Your SEO strategy is a marathon, not a sprint, and all of your marketing efforts (especially content!) should be optimized to make your membership more discoverable over time. Here are a few suggestions you can do on your own – no agency or SEO guru required:
First, your overall approach to SEO should be along the lines of “how can I be most helpful to humans who are interested in the topic I publish about?”. If you focus 100% on the latest tricks to move up in the search results, you’ll be chasing a constantly-changing target – and you won’t be serving your audience well. Google (let’s be honest, that’s the only search engine that matters for most purposes) explicitly states that their goal is to surface the most helpful, informative content. Provide great content in a way that makes it easy for real people to find and consume, and you’ll have success long-term.
With that in mind, once someone gets to your site it should be easy for them to find what they’re looking for. So, link blog posts, podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos, etc. to related content. For example, if you've created 10 free pieces of content on the same (or closely linked) topic, each one of those content pieces should be linked to the other 9. Yes, this is tedious, but it works for the Google gods (and there are WordPress plugins that make this less painful). Consistently publishing content in front of the paywall is also key to improving your SEO. As a membership site, you're likely already creating an incredible amount of content for your paying members. It might seem overwhelming to have to produce even more content to release for free. Get a handle on your free vs. paid content strategy here to ease your burden.
Working key industry search terms into blog titles and throughout your content is certainly helpful as well. But, don't under any circumstances sound like a robot. This kind of phrasing can't be forced. You should sound like you're writing something meant for another human, and Google will shine favor on you :) Having long-form blog posts or articles that cover a topic comprehensively in front of the paywall helps as well. If you can create a few ebooks by combining and expanding on topic specific blog posts, more power to you.
At the very least you should be reviewing your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts once per month to track where your traffic is coming from, including organic search results. You can use paid advertising, like Facebook, to promote your most popular content pieces as well. But you can't make informed campaign decisions like that without first looking at the numbers.
Check out The Beginners Guide to SEO from Moz to learn more.
2. Content marketing
Simply put, content marketing is the process whereby you provide valuable content to prospects across various platforms, usually with a mixed media approach (audio, video, written content). This should be calculated, strategic, and measurable.
Content marketing can include any or all of the following: blog posts, articles, helpful guides, video tutorials, photos, graphics, webinars, your lead magnet, and more. All must include a call to action to get your super helpful lead magnet in exchange for their email address.
As I mentioned in the social section, having a free vs. paid content strategy is key. You'll suffer without a plan here. I also recommend batch producing content, regardless of the medium.
Your social media strategy ties in directly with your content marketing strategy. The social strategy should be informed by your content strategy, but should also include organic, unplanned interaction. Schedule those premeditated social interactions using Buffer or Edgar, as mentioned before.
Unless your membership is highly visual and your content sharing consists mainly of pictures and short videos, you need to decide which and how much written content you're going to put in front of the paywall. The easiest path to successfully producing free, ongoing written content is to strip down content from your paid membership and release it for free.
Callie Willows of The Membership Geeks recommends leaving in the "what" and the "why" parts of your content, while removing the "how." You want your prospective members to see you as the expert in your field, while yearning for more – which of course, is what's within your paid membership.
An alternative is to have a mix of things like helpful guides, short courses, video tutorials, evergreen webinars, and so on, that you promote on a fixed schedule through your social channels and to your email list. This content does not need to align with exactly what you're teaching behind the paywall at the time, but naturally needs to have a high relevance to the problem people come to your membership site to solve. The trick here is making sure that content doesn't get stale. You still need to update those shelf-stable content pieces a few times per year.
Shorter content, like blog posts, articles, and very short videos, should not be gated in any way (you should not require a site visitor's email address for access). These pieces should always include two things: links to other similar content you've produced and a call to action to download your lead magnet.
More complex, higher-value content, like courses, in-depth guides, and evergreen webinars should be gated – require an email address for access if you're offering them for free at all.
3. Guest blogging
Guest blogging ties in directly with your influencer and content marketing strategies. Offering to write a guest blog post for an influencer, again, after you've followed the influencer relationship steps outlined in the sections previous, while including some samples of your work, is an effective approach to begin audience sharing. The influencer likely feels the same constant content production burden as you. Having a trusted partner (you!) fill that need for a brief time can be very helpful.
If you're a decent writer and can provide clear value to the influencer's audience, you should be a shoe-in for a guest post. And if not now, in the future. You should guest blog on sites that your target audience frequently visits. When you do this, always include a CTA (call to action), like downloading your lead magnet – the contents of which are both desired by and valuable to the site’s readership.
You're highly unlikely to recognize any kind of measurable return on a guest blog post without a call to action. Your goal should be to get as many readers to your email list, and therefore into your sales funnel as possible as a direct result of your guest post. Writing a series of 3 posts on one topic that directly ties to your membership and is of high value to the influencer's audience will give you additional exposure to that audience and further ease the influencer's burden to produce content.
Make sure you promote your guest post to your audience and encourage your tribe to follow the influencer if they don't already. Small actions like this build social capital and as a membership site owner social capital comes in handy for all number of collaborations and favors. Get some!