Blog | 15 September 2022

12 SEO tips to help get your WordPress membership website found in Google

When it comes to SEO, membership sites have a somewhat unique challenge. If much of your valuable content is behind a paywall or members login, how can you let Google know about it and rank you in the results?

In this article, we’ll give you 12 SEO tips that will help you get found in Google for the keywords your potential members are actively searching for. With a few tweaks and some patience, you can improve your membership website SEO, get more traffic, more members, and higher revenue for your site.

Needle in a haystack
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Membership website SEO tips – why do you need them?

The way Google ranks websites is a mystery to most, but we do know a lot about what the search giant’s algorithm is looking for and what it wants to find. One of the single strongest ranking factors is the quantity, quality, and freshness of content on a site – and here, membership websites have a bit of a problem – a lot of it sits behind a login.

Your membership portal might have access to a huge library of excellent content, but if it’s members-only, there’s a strong chance Google can’t find it. You might have a vast library of content hidden behind your paywall or login, but if Google can’t see it, it won’t benefit you in the search results.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is vital for all websites, but for membership sites, it’s even more important. So how do you make your material count? And how do you tell Google about all your highly helpful content? Check out our SEO tips for membership sites to find out!

SEO basics

1) Make sure your website is fast

The speed and responsiveness of a membership platform have always been important in delivering a good user experience. Since the spring 2021 Core Web Vitals update, Google has made it a major ranking factor. You need to improve anything that slows your site down, ensure that buttons, video players and forms are responsive, and make sure the page doesn’t shift about as it loads in.

2) Target the right keywords

SEO needs to start with keyword research. You might think you know what people are looking for, but without collecting data to establish what they are really looking for, you’ll be relying on guesswork. Create content for the most popular searches around your topics and be mindful that what your existing members love might not be what drives new traffic to your site. Focus too much on the former, and you might miss out on new audiences.

There are loads of tools you can use to plan the content on your membership portal – we recommend that you try starting with the Google Keyword Planner.

3) Produce the right content!

This point ties in with the previous one. If you’re running a successful membership website, you’re obviously giving your existing members what they want. But do you have the content you’ll need to attract and win over new subscribers?

Your keyword research may throw up topics, angles, or ideas you haven’t previously uncovered through member feedback or analytics. Create the content people are looking for, and Google will help them find it – and you.

4) Backlinks are still the backbone

Google still pays a lot of attention to the number and authority of the sites linking to your content. Backlinks act as recommendations for your membership site in the eyes of the search engines. If they come from trustworthy, authoritative sites, Google sees this as a suggestion that you might be too.

Concentrate on creating content that people want to link to. Think about anything unique you can offer – expert insight, explainers, research, data, exclusives, and industry thought leadership are all great ways to attract links. Don’t buy links – instead, build relationships with other websites or groups in your niche and offer to write or provide insights for them.

5) Link out, too!

Link out where appropriate to authoritative third-party sites and to your original sources. This is great for users who want to find out more detail or do more reading about a subject. As a bonus, you may attract links back to your own article from the sites you’re linking to.

6) Short and descriptive URLs

As with any site, it can be beneficial if your URLs contain one or more of your top search keywords. It also helps if all your URLs are short – they’re easier for people and Google to read. Try to make them descriptive, for example,

If you can include your keywords for the content, even better. Remember to use hyphens, not underscores, and ideally, don’t use capital letters.

7) Use ‘www’, or don’t, but pick one

For example, you can have or, but don’t use both at once – Google may see it as two sites, which will dilute your SEO efforts. Use your analytics to pick the best performing one, then add a 301 redirect the deprecated subdomain to the active one.

8) Write unique page titles and meta descriptions (snippets)

Page titles are a great way to tell Google what the page content is about. They’re also extremely important for the user when they’re reviewing a page of search results trying to decide which page might give them what they need. Try to use your top keyword as early in the title as possible and stay below 65 characters.

Meta descriptions or snippets also appear with results. In 155 characters or less, try to entice users to click through to your content. You can use a plugin like Yoast to manage your meta descriptions and titles and make it easier on yourself.

9) Act on analytics

Once you’ve defined your SEO goals, make sure you measure how you’re performing against them. Google Analytics is almost essential to track the performance of your membership platform.

Membership website specifics

10) Decide how to handle free and premium content

You might keep a lot of your content behind a paywall or login, but allowing some free access can have usability, sentiment, and SEO benefits. Users like good quality, free content, and so does Google. The question is, what works for you?

Membership sites can follow Google’s flexible sampling model to get the free part of their content crawled and into search results. It’s a good way to boost your site’s search performance without the need to have most of your content ungated.

11) Decide which content to provide free

There’s an art to picking what to give away for free, and it may be counterintuitive. Providing some of your best content shows people what they’re missing and might encourage sign-ups. Anything highly timely or shareable should definitely be free – you want as many people as possible to see it while it’s still relevant.

Conversely, it’s best to keep truly unique content back behind the paywall. If people can’t find it elsewhere, they’re more likely to consider paying for access. As always, use metrics to show what people are looking for and produce more of it.

12) Let Google in!

Finally, you’ll get a big membership website SEO boost if you let Google access your paywalled content. To appear in Google search listings, gated content must follow Google’s subscription and paywalled content guidelines which, among other things, require you to add appropriate markup.

If you want Google to crawl and index your member’s content, including the paywalled sections, make sure Googlebot and Googlebot-News if applicable, can access your page.

Our SEO tips should help you see a serious search uplift, helping drive site visits and conversions. Use analytics to keep an eye on how you’re doing and remember to be patient: it can take time for Google to crawl and react to changes.

Stick with it, make tweaks, and over time you will start to enjoy the fruits of your labour! Good luck!

Worried that your membership site is underperforming? Need some help with your SEO? Why not get in touch to book a free membership website expert review?

Membership Website Expert Review

Membership platform development

Discover how we delivered three major projects for the British Ecological Society

Two membership platforms in one site with several integrations

Membership platform supporting the work of over 6,500 ecologists globally.

Full Story