Running a paid membership site is one of the best ways to create a passive, recurring revenue stream for your business. To be profitable, though, you need to get enough members to sign up.

Running a paid membership site is one of the best ways to create a passive, recurring revenue stream for your business. To be profitable, though, you need to get enough members to sign up.

It’s important to be strategic about how you’re going to drive traffic to the site. Converting traffic into customers is really a numbers game: the more high-quality traffic you drive to your site, the more paying subscribers you’re going to get.

There are a few great sources of free traffic that you’ll want to leverage right away, including your email list, social media and SEO. Once you’ve got the basics of free traffic covered, you’ll be ready to move on to paid traffic — from digital advertising and other sources. Here are five sources of traffic to keep on your radar:

1. Your email list

If you’ve been building your list for a while, email is a great place to start generating traffic for a new membership site — now and in the future as you release new content.

When writing an email to your list, many of the same copywriting strategies that you’ve learned for writing web page copy still apply, though there are some unique considerations for email that you’ll want to pay attention to.

Below are some email copy checklist items to cross off before you send an email to your contact list:

  1. Audience: Clearly define the audience and focus your message around them. Try to identify their pain points and needs: What do they want more than anything? Address these pain points in your message.
  2. Subject line: Write a strong subject line that will entice your audience to open your email.
  3. Tone: Write your message in a personal tone to appeal to your audience’s trust. Think of the way you would address a friend.
  4. Length: Keep it to the point. Communicate your message saying no more and no less than you need to.
  5. Rapport: Build a relationship with your audience and be empathetic.
  6. Call to action: Define the single thing you want your audience to do, and tell them to do it.

Take each of these six steps, and your message will be ready to go.

Use content marketing

When planning emails to send to your list, consider teasing prospects with the kind of information they’ll be getting from your site. By providing them with value through your content up front, they’ll be more inclined to opt in for the full package and subscribe to your membership site.

This content doesn’t have to be brand new. You can take parts of your existing membership site and present them in the form of a blog article or ebook.

2. Social media

By building an audience and sharing content on your social media profiles, you can drive a high volume of clicks without paying for advertising. You can also encourage customers to share your non-gated or teaser content with friends directly on your lead capture page or thank you page.

To encourage shares of content on your membership site, create social sharing links within the text that allow users to share your content on their profiles and link back to your page.

Tip: Avoid confusing these social calls to action with the main calls to action on your membership site. Social calls to action are for marketing purposes, while your main ones are to create sales.

3. Search engine optimization

Why is it so important to rank highly on Google search results page? According to Smart Insights, the first five organic results from a search account for around 67.60% of all clicks, with 71.33% going to the top website. The remaining six to ten results receive only about 3.73% of clicks.

Search engines use programs called “spiders” that constantly search the internet, analyze content and archive websites. Using website links to constantly “crawl” from page to page, spiders categorize and organize information into an index. When someone enters a search, the search engine quickly scans the archives to find the best and most relevant websites to display.

Here’s how you can boost your content so search engines find and display it effectively:

  • Use accurate and descriptive title tags and meta descriptions. These help both customers and search engines figure out if your page is what they’re looking for.
  • Optimize for keywords that are specific to your business. Focus on long-tail keywords to get visitors who are more interested in your page’s niche content.
  • Consider at what point in the funnel customers may be when they use different search terms. You can create multiple sales landing pages for your membership site focused on different places in the customer journey, and optimize them to rank for different keywords.

For more tips on improving your SEO strategy to drive more traffic to your membership site, check out: The 5 Best Ecommerce SEO Strategies to Boost Sales.

4. Paid advertising

Once you’ve mastered the basics of free traffic, you’re ready to venture into the world of digital advertising to promote your membership site. There are two main methods to launching an ad campaign: contextual advertising and search advertising.

Contextual advertising

On contextual advertising platforms, ads are embedded in the consumer’s content. These ads work because they use interest-based, behavior-based and demographic targeting to get in front of the right audience. Some contextual advertising platforms include:

Search advertising

With search advertising, rather than displaying ads to customers as they are scrolling through content, ads are actually suggested based on their previously searched terms. Search-based advertising is focused on keywords – it’s essential to zero in on the terms that people use to search for the content or information you’re offering, and bid on those keywords to show up in the sponsored results. These are some common search advertising platforms:

  • Google AdWords
  • Bing Ads
  • YouTube Search Ads
  • Yahoo Search Ads

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re launching ads for your membership site:

  • Keep ad copy consistent with your page. The last thing you want is for your customers to show up at your membership site confused, so make sure they immediately know that they’re getting what they came for.
  • Target your ads to your buyer personas. Write your ads as though you’re speaking directly to each of your customer types. Use their language, focus on their pain points.
  • Sell the click. Create ads that drive traffic and get people to click — you don’t need to completely sell them on your product all from one ad. The ad’s job is to get leads to your membership site — so keep it simple and focus on one benefit.
  • Pay attention to your cost per conversion. In advertising, you typically have the option to pay per click or to pay per conversion. Although pay-per-click tends to get you cheaper traffic, if it’s not actually resulting in visitors completing your conversion goal, it’s not worth it. Achieving a lower cost per conversion tells you that you’re getting quality traffic.

5. Affiliates/partners

Creating an affiliate/partner program is an effective way to have other people do the marketing for you. Even better, you get to choose who you partner with, and you don’t have to pay them a commission until they’re successful.

Once you set up a strategic partner program, you’ll have a steady stream of traffic coming to your membership site from word-of-mouth referrals. Here are a few tips on how to incentivize your partners to keep that traffic coming:

  • Prepare promo tools and training so your partners can promote you effectively.
  • Set up milestone bonuses to give your referrers something to strive for.
  • Give creative rewards to provide them a unique experience they’ll value.
  • Gamify with badges and leaderboards to bring out a bit of friendly competition amongst partners.
  • Keep your referral partner community engaged with a Facebook group, newsletter or milestone shoutouts.
  • Present them with the opportunity to guest blog to create mutually beneficial opportunities.

Where to send traffic: Sales pages

Now that you’re familiar with the top sources of traffic for your membership site, you know where you should be sending those leads. By linking them to your sales page, you’re enticing leads to subscribe to your membership site. Here’s what the page should focus on:

  • Feature-benefit statements, where you tell the lead how the features on the site will make their life better
  • Countering objections that your leads may have about subscribing to your membership site
  • Opportunities to order in the form of buttons and links leading to your membership site order form

You can use your email list, social media, SEO and paid advertising to drive traffic to your sales page.

About Megan Monroe
Associate Editor Megan Monroe is a graduate of Santa Barbara’s Westmont College where she studied Philosophy and Communications. After working for several local small businesses (where she gained firsthand experience with the frustration of manual segmentation and follow-up), Megan joined the Ontraport Growth Team. When she isn’t writing marketing copy, social media posts or educational guides for entrepreneurs, she enjoys taking advantage of the Central Coast's amazing wineries and cooking without following a recipe.