Image: “Members Only” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by healthserviceglasses
It’s important to give value to people who visit your website. But should you really give all your best knowledge and insights away for free?
Of course not!
Starting a membership site ensures you get paid for the good stuff. It’s also a great way to take control of your revenue stream, and not have to rely on pesky affiliates.
Thankfully, with WordPress it’s easier than ever to set up a private, members-only area on your site. The simplest way to do this is by using a membership plugin.
If you’ve looked in to membership plugins, you’ll know that there are quite a few on the market. So which one should you choose?
Partially, it will depend on your goals, your budget, and your technical expertise. That said, some plugins are definitely better than others.
Before you pick your plugin however, there are few basics you should consider…
What You Need to Know Before You Start a Membership Site
The whole point of starting a membership site is to get paid. That means you need an SSL certificate to ensure all payments are secure.
You’re also going to need to make a decision on how you accept payments. Would your customers prefer to pay via Paypal, or via a credit card processing platform like Stripe?
Next, think about how you will attract and retain members. Do you have an email list on an existing platform that needs to be integrated, or are you going to need lead magnets to generate subscriptions?
Also, what kind of content are you planning to deliver? Will you be running an online course with tests and assessments? Will it be text based, or use video? Do you want some kind of forum where members can discuss problems and ask questions?
Once you’ve worked out the basics, you’ll be better equipped to make a decision about which plugin will work best for you. Below, I’ve listed five plugins that represent the best solution for the most common types of membership sites…
Price: free (add-ons are $125 per year)
If you’re running a small membership site or are concerned about your budget, then WP Members is the best free option out there. The plugin works by restricting all posts on your site by default. Then, the site admin can choose which content should be publicly available.
For non-technical users, it’s relatively easy to set up a membership area and create registration pages, login forms, and landing pages. If you’re a developer, you’ll be pleased to know that WP Members is very customizable.
Another benefit of WP Members is that it is highly scalable if your site grows, and if need be you can purchase more advanced add-ons for an additional fee.
Price: from $99 per year
Restrict Content Pro is widely regarded as one of the best WordPress membership plugins on the market—and for good reason. It has an array of powerful features, is highly flexible, and comes at a reasonable price.
Restrict Content Pro’s main advantage is the ability to create unlimited subscription levels. For those looking to create highly tailored packages or sophisticated pricing structures, this is ideal Each level can be assigned a price, sign up fee, frequency, and user role.
Other useful features include unlimited discount codes, Paypal integration, WooCommerce integration, and automated member emails.
Best of all, setup and installation are simple, and can be done in a few steps, even by non-technical users. Once set up, Restrict Content Pro gives you the option to make each post public or members-only. You can also use shortcodes to restrict sections of public posts, which is a handy feature for attracting new members.
Price: from $19.95 per month
MemberMouse claims that their plugin will allow you to set up a membership site “in minutes.” While it may take a little longer than that, MemberMouse certainly is one of the best options if you’re looking for something that works straight out of the box.
One unique feature that MemberMouse offers is the ability to create “bundles” as well as membership levels. This allows you to sell a package of content as a one off for people who may not want to commit to a subscription.
Like many other plugins, MemberMouse also contains a feature that allows you to “drip” out restricted content, which is perfect if you’re offering an online course. In addition, members can also see how much content they have completed, and how much further they have to go.
MemberMouse has so many cool features, I can’t list them all here, but some of the most useful include upsells, smart tags, ability to split test prices, third party email marketing and payment integrations… and that’s just a few of them!
While the plugin is simple to set up for non-technical users, developers may be frustrated by the fact that it is not very customizable. However, this is the only major drawback.
Price: free ($149 per year with WooCommerce Subscriptions add-on)
WooCommerce Memberships isn’t a standalone memberships plugin, but if you’re looking for an integrated memberships and ecommerce platform, or you already use WooCommerce on your site, then it is a good option.
The integration between the two features means it really does have some unique benefits, for example the ability to tie memberships to your online store, including adding memberships or member perks to your product sales, selling memberships individually, or even creating products that only members can buy.
The plugin also has a “drip” feature for online courses or timed content.
While both WooCommerce and WooCommerce Memberships are free, the recurring billing feature is only available through WooCommerce Subscriptions, which is a paid add-on.
Price: from $129 per year
Memberpress is another great out-of-the-box plugin that is relatively quick and easy to set up. It also has amazing flexibility when it comes to creating different membership levels and payment periods. Like Restrict Content Pro you can create unlimited membership levels, and even create “membership groups” with predefined upgrade paths.
If you’re looking to create an online course, however, Memberpress has one feature that will really stand out: it integrates with LearnDash, the leading WordPress learning management system. While the “drip” content feature of most membership plugins works well for creating basic courses, by integrating Learndash, you will have access to more advanced features including the ability to deliver multi-tier courses, offer assessments, test students, and award certificates.
Memberpress also integrates with many popular email marketing, affiliate, and payment platforms, including Paypal, Mailchimp, Stripe and Affiliate Royale.
Price: from $47 per month
If you already use Infusionsoft to manage your forms, landing pages, email marketing and sales funnels, then you probably want a membership plugin that will easily integrate with your existing setup. Memberium not only integrates well with Infusionsoft, but helps you have to avoid paying for extra features that you don’t need.
Memberium also supports a ton of other popular plugins, including Gravity Forms, LearnDash, Yoast, and WooCommerce. When it comes to managing members, there are plenty of useful features, including unlimited membership levels and users, handy shortcodes, ability to “drip” content, easy setup, and plenty of payment platform integrations including Stripe and PayPal.
For more great WordPress tips, check out my interview with Joost de Valk on the Marketing Speak podcast.
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