Professional bloggers often come up with different strategies to make money through their blogs. One of the most popular ways is selling of services and products. Offering premium content to paying customers also comes under this category. If you've never done this before but plan to do so, this guide will help you in hosting premium content on your WordPress blog. All you need is few plugins and custom content pages. So let's get started and see what it takes to build a premium content subscription service that is secure, reliable and easy to configure.
Before you launch such kind of service, you must consider several important factors that may directly affect your offering. Creating premium content is a time-consuming task which is further supported by development of secure and subscription-based access system. Putting all the time and money in creating such kind of subscription system is only justified when you're sure about the availability of the audience. There's no point putting so much effort when there's little or no scope of any sale. Needless to say, when you're preparing premium content, you must give away your best kept secrets and strategies.
Note: I'm assuming you're offering simple text content to your subscribers. This guide does not include configuration of digital downloads available through a payment gateway.
Content Creation StrategyPremium content is quite different from the general content posted regularly on a typical blog. While writing such kind of content, you must take care of certain important things so that you may never experience high unsubscribe rate. These precautions will help you in creating a solid foundation on which you can build a popular and successful content subscription service.
- Divide logically - Premium content must be carefully divided into chapters, sections and paragraphs beforehand. This ensures that you're creating logical boundaries between related content that can be easily consumed by the reader.
- Arrange in correct order - The division alone doesn't do the full job. Arranging the entire content collection in correct order is the second most important step. One mistake in the placement of chapters, sections or paragraphs can ruin your entire effort.
- Supplement with illustrations - No matter how great a writer is, online users simply repel long text paragraphs devoid of images or illustrations. Wherever required, supplement your content with helpful graphics, charts and images to make the entire reading experience better and memorable.
- Credit and cite external sources - Whether you're selling your content or syndicating it for free, always ensure you're citing and giving credit to the respective owners wherever you're using their content as examples. This not only makes your content clean, credible and trustworthy, but also avoids any kind of dispute at a later stage.
- Check & filter out trademarks - Bloggers often use taglines and phrases to market their premium content. You have to very careful while creating these taglines. Check for any trademark violation that may arise due to inadvertent inclusion of the same. You can Google your key marketing taglines and phrases to easily check for trademark violations.
- Prepare index - Subscribers often navigate and browse around the content to find the relevant information. Creating an index enables quick access to chapters and must be included with your content bundle.
Page Creation FundamentalsNow that you've written and prepared your premium content, it's time to upload it to your web server. Since it is not going to be a regular blog post publishing exercise you must take care of the way you're creating your premium content pages. Here's a checklist to avoid any kind of disaster while designing these pages.
- Use custom template - Regular post template often includes additional elements like advertisements, author box, social bookmarking buttons, tags and various other elements. Creating a custom post template ensures that all these elements are excluded from the page which are not required at all.
- Trim/remove regular header, footer & sidebar - Premium content layout is generally minimalistic without fancy footers, sidebars and headers. These elements not only distract the subscribers, but may also give accidental access to unauthorized parts of your blog. You must remove these elements from premium content pages.
- Include link to index - Your every single page should include a link to index. As I mentioned earlier, subscribers frequently try to jump on different sections of the content bundle and index is the best place to do so.
- Include previous/next links - Although this is quite obvious, but still it's worth mentioning. These handy links helps in hopping to the next or previous chapters quickly. The best place to embed these links is at the end of content on every page.
- Include summary at the end - In each chapter, you must create a summary box at the end of chapter that prominently highlights the main points of the entire text. This greatly helps in grasping the details of each chapter. You can create a box with unordered list to highlight these points.
- Weed out extra links (if any) - Although most of the unwanted links are removed by hiding the default header, footer and sidebar, but you must keep an eye on any unwanted link as the page renders in the web browser. You must also look at the web page source to look for any unwanted link that may be injected by the CMS while generating the page.
- Create an exclusive category - You must create a separate category for all your related content pages and must assign this exclusive category to all these pages. This greatly helps in configuring the whole setup in an easy way. This is a technical requirement as some of the plugins may use this category to properly adjust the access level for these premium pages.
Hide Pages from Blog and Search EnginesNow that you have created all the pages (in draft form), it's time to publish them. Under normal circumstances, as soon as you publish posts' on your blog, they're available to general users as well as to the crawlers for indexing. But this is not we want for our premium content. Our first job is to make all these pages invisible from home page, single pages, archive pages, category pages, tag pages, author pages and from blog feed. The second important setting is to prevent bots from crawling these pages. If these bots manage to crawl these pages, your premium content will appear in search results. You can do both of these settings in one go through WP Hide Post plugin.
This plugin adds a box in the post editing screen as shown above. Open each draft and check all the boxes before pressing the publish button to make it completely invisible on your blog as well as to the crawlers. Remember, this doesn't make your post inaccessible to a person who knows the URL of each page. In simple words, if someone knows the URLs of each page he can still open these pages directly. We'll put restriction on that too in the next step.
Create Subscriber Access MatrixNext important step involves creating an access policy for subscribers and enforcing it on your premium content. After completion of this step, your premium content will not be accessible to anybody except the logged in subscribers. To implement these settings, install User Access Manager plugin for building a rock solid access management system.
Create a user group - The whole purpose of creating a user group is to segregate paid subscribers from normal blog visitors. Provide the group name, description, read/write access permission and the role affiliation. Choose 'Subscribers' while settings role affiliation because all paid subscribers will be subscriber by default. You can also provide IP range for selective users who never need to login to view your premium content. Make sure you separate each IP address with a dash symbol.
Fine-tune content access settings - Through settings menu, you can configure various other important settings related to files and illustrations used in your premium content. Although this plugin has in-built redirection facility, still it is not that much flexible. Depending on your requirement, you can either hide complete posts and simply can display teasers in the form of excerpts. You can also opt for displaying titles to users who've no access permissions for the premium content.
Hide Dashboard and Set Landing PageTill now, you've created an access matrix for subscribers as well as have restricted the visibility of your premium content. Now there are two important settings that need to be completed. By default, every logged in user is presented with a WordPress dashboard for maintaining his blog. But our premium subscribers don't need these extra options in the dashboard except their own profile editing options. To completely hide the dashboard from these subscribers, you can use WP Hide Dashboard plugin that only leaves the profile editing option open for logged in users.
The second important setting that must be completed is redirection of logged in users to the primary landing page. Whenever a premium subscriber logs in, you must redirect him automatically to the opening page of your premium content. You can do this easily through Peter's Login Redirect plugin. You can also configure the exit page very easily through this plugin that will redirect every subscriber to a specific page as soon as they log out and end their browsing session.
Create Custom Registration PageAnd last but not the least is the configuration of custom registration page for new subscribers. This will not only include their credential settings, but will also include profile details as well as a payment gateway for collecting subscription amount. To make such kind of custom registration page, you can use a powerful plugin called Pie Register. Here's a detailed step-by-step guide to creating a powerful custom registration page through this plugin. It also includes instructions for integrating a PayPal payment gateway with your custom registration page.
Although you can easily set up a custom registration page through this plugin, but there are some factors that must be considered while designing such kind of registration page. You must keep it minimal and obvious. Adding extra fields to this page is only going to deflate the subscription rate. Only collect the most important information from the subscribers and let them subscribe as quickly as possible through this page.
Miscellaneous Guidelines To Make Premium Content Hosting - A SuccessNow that you've configured all the settings and is ready to host premium content on your blog, you must cross check these guidelines to make sure everything is in place. These guidelines also optimize and improve your entire premium content hosting effort so that each and every paying customer gets the best experience.
- Always test the entire setup thoroughly before making it live.
- Create logos and promotion creatives beforehand to market your offering aggressively.
- Include discount coupons (via Pie Register plugin) to encourage more registrations.
- Create a dedicated Facebook page for the same.
- Track subscribers' activities through WP-Activity plugin to identify suspicious behavior.
- Showcase customer testimonials on your primary website or blog on a dedicated page.
- Include rating system on each page to improve your premium content.
- Revise and update your content at least once every year.
- Include a 30-day money back guarantee on your custom registration page.
- Use web analytics wisely to improve the entire system.