Why premium content is imperative for a successful membership site

Why premium content is imperative for a successful membership site

Building a thriving membership site isn’t easy, and you want to crack the code to success. But first, you must consider the incentives for your potential customers to join your membership site – and stick around.

Enter premium content.

Premium content is considered by some as content that is exchanged for leads and contact information (for example: a free PDF guide in exchange for signing up to your mailing list), but that isn’t what I mean in this context.

Real premium content is most commonly used to refer to longer form, higher quality, locked-down, or full featured content that you restrict to members who pay a subscription fee. It’s not your regular or free content wrapped up in a product, like an eBook. It’s the gold stuff… the career-boosting, life-changing, mind-blowing goodness that only paying or top-tier members get access to.

This kind of super-exclusive content opens the door to a cascade of benefits, from generating interest in your site, monetization, and building revenue, to enhancing brand perception and reinforcing your content authority. Understanding these key concepts shows you why premium content is absolutely essential for success, and how to take advantage of this to ensure that your membership site not only survives, but thrives!

High value is hard to beat

One of the most attractive things about premium content is the high value it offers your customers in comparison to most freely available content on the internet. People have specific tastes and needs – whether they’re looking for information, entertainment, or solutions to their concerns – and premium content gives you the edge you need to provide the useful and relevant value they’re looking for, while cultivating a profitable website at the same time.

If your members already find a lot of value in your free content, they’re going to have the baseline confidence they need to try out your paid content as well. Taking advantage of this not only increases revenue; it also strengthens your relationship with your members.

Competition and overabundance

With more and more digital businesses shifting toward content marketing and subscription models, the demand for quality content is higher than ever. Of course, giving away free content is a great way to direct traffic to your site and build a mailing list, but you want to figure out how to retain your audience while generating sustainable revenue.

This is where premium content saves the day, enabling you to convert free or basic members into loyal (paying) supporters by offering them something special that they can’t get elsewhere. This makes them feel valued and also establishes your site as a wellspring of the curated content they need, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. In an era when people can easily find a sea of free content in all directions, it’s increasingly important to nurture these relationships.

Instant gratification

Flourishing companies like Amazon and Snapchat have it down: instant gratification is the new name of the game, and heightened expectations make it harder than ever to compete without delivering immediately accessible content. Of course, this has varying implications if you’re running a membership site.

On one hand, with such a high volume of content available on the internet, as well as rapidly changing trends and technology, you must constantly refresh and replenish your content in order to keep your site relevant and interesting. But you don’t want to give it all away; if your customers get everything they need from your free content, what incentive do they have to buy your premium content?

Fortunately, digital content is (by nature) immediately accessible, which explains its increasing appeal to the modern consumer. Premium content only amplifies this effect by delivering even more value in the same easily consumable format.

Keeping it simple

Concepts like analysis paralysis and the paradox of choice highlight the pervasive anxiety and dissatisfaction people experience when presented with too many choices in the marketplace. Presenting excessive options can cause customers to feel confused, hesitant, or even make them give up altogether. Keeping things simple can make a huge difference in improving the overall user experience on your membership site, including making the purchase decision a lot more pleasant!

Membership pricing simplifies things for everyone. You get recurring revenue, streamlining your income and making it easy to predict exactly what you’re receiving each month, while your customers enjoy flat rates that are easy to understand and compare in relation to their budget, as well as the convenience of automatically renewing memberships. Premium content is the bread and butter of this tiered system, allowing you to define your membership levels and entice customers to “level up” in a way that is straightforward – and caters to their needs.

Ads, Ads, Ads

One of the reasons premium content has become a necessity is that ads themselves are becoming less relevant over time. With the increasing use of ad blockers and the contemporary aesthetic of clean and ad-free websites, digital culture is shifting significantly toward premium content as a primary source of revenue. Now is the perfect time to embrace this model!

What’s behind the curtain?

Why is premium content so sought-after? Well, people are naturally curious, and they tend to want what they don’t have. This means that when you restrict paid content, you’re creating a sense of exclusivity – something that’s very effective in driving sales. Exclusivity is a fundamental component of the scarcity principle, which equates rarity with value; when presented with something exclusive, the consumer experiences a sense of curiosity and urgency to obtain what they might otherwise miss out on. If it’s exclusive, it must be valuable! Just look at the volume of social media posts about “FOMO” – the fear of missing out – and you’ll understand why this is such a powerful concept.

Premium engagement

Want to attract a highly engaged audience? Want to separate the casual members from the loyal supporters? Premium content does just that. The reality is that paying customers are simply on another level when it comes to engagement; they want to be there, and it shows. If your members are willing to spend money on your content, that means that you must be offering them something they can’t get elsewhere and they are probably invested in making the most of it. Don’t forget – premium content also creates a higher-end user experience, and user experience is one of the most important factors that influences engagement and sales.

“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” —Warren Buffett

Brand perception

Brand perception and premium content go hand-in-hand. As a rule, customers are willing to pay a premium for content by a reputable brand that has a favorable image and reputation. In turn, your brand perception is enhanced by the healthy consumption of your premium content.

The way your brand is received by your members and potential customers is commonly shown through metrics like return visitors and visitor loyalty, which typically increase with the presence of premium content and its parallel rise in engagement.

Of course, brand perception encompasses a variety of factors (like customer service and social media reputation, for example), but premium content plays an important role in that it sets your quality standard, defines the product you’re selling, and attracts the kind of people who are looking for your content – and will return regularly to consume it.

Premium content ideas

If you think you’re missing premium content for your membership site, take a look at the list below and think how these potential content ideas could fit into your business model.

  • Premium downloads. If you’re already selling downloadable products, consider reserving the best of the best for premium, paid members only.
  • Private courses or one-on-one tuition. As a tutor, teacher, or expert in your field, you can save your most valuable course material for premium content use only.
  • An exclusive newsletter. Are you privy to the latest news and gossip within your industry? Offer an exclusive newsletter that only higher-tiered members can access.
  • Podcasts. Share more of yourself and your premium advice with your exclusive members.
  • A community. Build a community for your members. Grant access to forums or an online chat service as a premium offering. Allow your members to discuss your content and connect with you and/or your team, as well as other members.

What type of premium content can you offer to your members? And if you’re already using premium content, we’d love to hear what you’re doing! How has premium content impacted your membership site? Drop us a note in the comments and let us know! And if there are any article topics you’d like us to cover, feel free to share those with us too!

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  1. Hi
    I was wondering when can I add multiple membership level to one member account? just like “WP eMember”.

    It’s very inconvenient when you have 5~10 course to protect…

    (Last time I ask was October 2017)

  2. Can Restrict Content Pro automatically move public content to premium status after a set amount of time?

    I’d like to offer content that starts free for a membership tier but becomes inaccessible after a week unless the member has a higher membership tier. I am not sure how to natively get RCP to do that automatically, and don’t want to have to manually change the status of content all the time.


  3. Hi,

    Interesting points and time will tell if Ads and doomed. I agree and have taken the approach to rid quality pages of ads as most automated / programmatic ad servers usually ruin a nicely designed page with poorly designed or even ugly ads. They also tend to impact page performance sometimes dramatically.

    I wrote to you some time back, having purchased restrict content pro, about a commonly used mechanism on premium quality sites, notably magazines, newspapers etc. that gives people x number of free articles. Visitors are then forced to sign-up or subscribe to a premium version of the site, once they reach that limit.

    I’m not sure if this has changed and if so great. But given the above article I’m still confused as to why this key function for premium content sites is not available in restrict content pro.



    1. Hey John!

      We don’t have an add-on for that yet but it is still on our todo list.

  4. I’ve been thinking of adding a membership aspect to my site for some time. I’m still working to build an audience so I do worry about losing some of the SEO juice by having my best content gated. Any suggestions on that front?

    1. In general the answer to that is to simply produce a larger amount of content. So long as you produce a lot of open content that can be indexed and base your SEO off of that, your restricted content shouldn’t hurt you.

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