Membership sites are becoming more and more popular these days. Essentially, if you want to create a money-making site on WordPress, you have a couple of main solutions.
You can either create a popular site (like that’s something you can just do, right?) and rely on advertising income (or affiliate income), create a site that’s desired to sell your products (no matter if digital or physical products), or you can go with a membership site.
The main idea of a membership site is very simple. People can sign up, preferably after throwing some money at you, and then they get access to some premium content … whatever it might be.
There are no rules regarding the content you can provide inside the membership area. You can go with traditional articles, audio, video, PDFs, or whatever else makes sense.
But the marketing side of things is not the topic here. So how to launch a membership site on WordPress?
At first, WordPress doesn’t seem like a very membership site-friendly platform. After all, WordPress was meant to run blogs, right? These days, however, WordPress is used to run a variety of different sites (something you can see by looking at the kinds of themes available in our store, for example).
There are photo blogs, video blogs, micro blogs, traditional blogs, corporate sites, product sites, and many more. So at this point, the fact that you can launch a membership site on WordPress shouldn’t be a surprise.
As always, there are a couple of ways of doing this. Actually, there are two ways: the wrong way, and the right way.
Let’s start with the wrong way.
Unfortunately, this is also the easiest way around this issue. If you want to have just a basic membership site, you can do it by setting a password to protect your premium content. Then you can use email to notify your premium subscribers about the password so they can access the content.
There’s one really big problem with this, though. It’s by no means professional. Especially if your membership site is targeted towards some more technology savvy audience.
If you do this like that, you’re sending a direct message to your subscribers that you don’t care.
Another approach at launching a membership site will require a lot more work, but it’s still just as wrong as the previous approach.
This is about creating a membership site solution from the ground up. Actually, this only concerns programmers and web developers because creating a membership site yourself will require a lot of programming skill.
However, even if you are knowledgeable enough to be able to do it, don’t. There’s no point. That’s because there’s one more way, the right way.
Using one of the top 3 membership site plugins.
I’m sure this isn’t a surprise for you, but bear with me. There’s one really good reason why I’m listing some plugins as “the best solution to something” in almost every post of mine. That’s because in most cases they really are the best solution. High quality plugins were created by teams of professionals focused around one single goal of providing the best product possible. Do you really think that you can do a better job at it on your own?
Right, so here are the plugins. Let’s start from the most expensive one and then switch to the more affordable.
Starts at $97 for single site license (multisite for $297), comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. But despite the high price this is the most popular membership site plugin out there. There’s one really good reason for this … it’s also the best.
First of all, it’s easy to install. Just a couple of minutes and you’re done (it follows the trend set by WordPress itself, one could say).
Also, it provides a range of features like:
- Unlimited membership levels. This lets you sell different types of access, like: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and so on.
- Free trials and paid memberships. You can create free memberships, free trials to give people a little sample of your content, and of course full-blown premium memberships.
- Easy management. You can view your members, their levels, change their status, and so on.
- Shopping cart integration. You can bill your customers through services like PayPal, Clickbank and others.
- Secure RSS feeds. People can access their content through an RSS reader.
- Teasers. You can display just a part of your content to tease your visitors into subscribing for full membership.
- Email newsletter services integration. You can deliver your content through AWeber, MailChimp, and others.
In a word: great plugin.
This one you can get for $29.99 (single site), or $149.25 (developer license).
Essentially, this plugin provides a similar functionality to WishList Member, but it’s slightly less popular.
Things you get:
- Shopping cart integration. PayPal, Authorize.net, and Google Checkout.
- Unlimited membership levels.
- Free, trial, and paid accounts available.
- Content teasers.
- Encryption for improved security.
The price of this one is free.
The plugin was created by the WPMU team, so the fact that it’s free doesn’t take anything from its quality.
Features you’ll find:
- Share various content types, such as: articles, support, downloads, videos, BuddyPress groups and forums, and more.
- PayPal integration.
- Drag-and-drop support for creating your membership area.
- Unlimited membership levels.
- Free and paid memberships available.
- API for developers (!).
In the end, there are two main sensible paths you can take when creating a membership site on WordPress. Either go with the WishList Member plugin or the Membership plugin.
However, bear in mind that switching plugins later on can be very difficult, so your decision right now will most likely be final.
Of course, if you don’t have any additional budget, you’ll probably choose Membership. But if you’re a developer I would advise investing in the multisite license of WishList Member. That way you can offer a top quality membership site to your future clients as well.
Anyway, it’s always your call, but please, don’t use the simple password protection feature for this. And feel free to let me know what you think about this whole membership site idea. Do you know of any other ways of launching a professional such site on WordPress?