One great way to build a community around your site, and maybe generate some income as well, is to create a members only area. By restricting access to some, or all of your site, and then granting access in exchange for user registration, and perhaps payment, you can help foster a community around your website and brand.
While setting up a WordPress membership site might sound like a daunting prospect, it is in fact extremely easy, and if you choose a free plugin, it won’t cost you a penny. Even if your site is up and running, with regular visitors and a raft of content already online, converting the site, or parts of it into a membership website is still a straightforward process.
Benefits of a Membership Programme
Giving away access to your content is all well and good, but adding membership functionality to your site provides more benefits than simply generating a revenue stream. Publishing content that is only available to your members helps to increase their loyalty to you and your brand, as well as rewarding their decision to take an interest in your story or services.
Once the member only area is setup, you can offer private discussion forums where your members can discuss sensitive issues such as business ideas or personal problems. By giving your audience the shield of a membership area, your community can grow in terms of confidence and stature.
If you ask for an email address from your visitors when they sign up for the members area, you then have the option of communicating with them at a later date. This was you can entice them back to the site with notifications of new content that has recently been published.
Lastly, you can also generate income from creating a membership area for your WordPress site by charging either a one off fee for access, or opting for a recurring subscription model. If you are offering content of real value, this can be a lucrative source of income for your site.
Examples of Membership Sites
There are many different successful models for offering an attractive member’s only area to your site. Here are some examples of different types of membership sites:
Training Courses: using a membership site to offer a training course is a perfect example of how this function can work successfully. The training course could be on-going, or delivered over a set number of weeks, after which the users can sign up to the next level or keep access to the course materials. Here are some examples of membership training courses:
- Learn to play the guitar with Guitar Ingenuity
- Learn how to start a blog with Start a Blog that Matters
These websites give away free content as well as offering premium content to members who are willing to pay for it.
Premium Content: you can use a WordPress membership plugin to fence off some of the premium content on your site and make it available only to those who sign up to your subscription model. If your blog content is very popular and your audience are clamouring for more, then there is a good chance they will give you their personal details and perhaps their money in order to access more of your great content. Here are some examples of premium content membership sites:
- Finch sells access to premium posts on his blog at Finch Sells
- Quiet Speculation provides members only access to detailed guides on trading Magic the Gathering cards
By developing a reputation as someone who provides exceptional content, that can add value to people’s lives or business, could allow you to charge money for access to it.
User Community: by creating an ‘insiders club’ on your WordPress site, you could charge access to private discussion forums where you can answer questions from your audience and provide useful content to them. Examples of this type of site include:
- The Model Trains for Beginners Insiders Club
- Discuss which school to work for at the International Schools Review website.
If your content provides real value to people, whether it’s teaching them a new skill, helping them start a new project, or enabling them to save or make money, then your site could be the perfect candidate to become a successful membership site.
Not all membership sites charge their visitors for access. You can still benefit from setting up a membership area on your site and simply asking your audience to sign up for free and join your newsletter in order to be become a member. Being able to then communicate directly with your members has many options, including being able to send them promotional information about your site and services.
Offering access in exchange for a one-off payment can be a way to earn an income from your WordPress site. While a recurring model is preferable in terms of generating an income, a one-off payment is more suited to short instructional courses, and access to material that will only be used once or isn’t being regularly updated and added to.
If you can offer content or a service that is constantly updated and expanded upon over time, such as private user forums or continual notifications of product discounts and money saving opportunities, then your site might be suitable for a recurring membership model. By offering membership in exchange for regular weekly, monthly or yearly payments, you could be firmly on your way towards developing a recurring income steam that only grows over time as more members sign up; that is providing you are able to keep delivering premium content to retain your members over long periods.
How to Setup a WordPress Membership Site
Setting up membership functionality for your WordPress site is actually the easy part. Growing an audience and developing a product or service that people want to sign up for and perhaps pay for is the tricky part.
Creating a protected, members only area on your site is as simple as installing and configuring a suitable WordPress plugin and then designating which parts of the site access should be restricted to. But which is the best WordPress plugin for setting up a membership site?
Here are our top WordPress Membership Plugins:
This is a free WordPress membership plugin that is packed with great features and is very simple to use. Converting parts of your WordPress site to a membership area can be done at individual page and post level, or by restricting access to all the posts in a particular category. Other great features include:
- Restrict access to individual posts or entire categories at the touch of a button
- Add multiple membership levels for different access levels
- Show excerpts of protected posts to non-members
- Create payment terms and plans, such as one off, recurring or free or offer a free trial
- Includes membership pages such as about, signup page, billing details, how to cancel, view invoices, etc
- Use SSL for secure transactions
- Collect payment using PayPal, Stripe or Authorize.net
- Add, import and export members
This is a very easy to use free membership plugin that has everything you need to get started adding restricted access content to your site. You can find out more about this plugin on the WordPress.org Paid Memberships Pro page.
This is an impressive plugin from WPMU that is not only free, but allows you to get up and running with a membership in minutes rather than hours. You can add membership functionality to standard WordPress sites as well as Multisite networks and BuddyPress sites.
To start using this plugin, search for ‘membership’ from the ‘Add New’ section of your site’s dashboard area and it should be the first plugin that is listed; alternatively download it from here. Then install and activate it and you are ready to go.
Some of the best features of the WPMU Membership plugin include:
- Create a standard or dripped content membership model
- Use shortcodes to hide chunks of content within posts
- Create multiple membership access levels
- Create multiple subscription plans
- Give and deny access to parts of the site for members using positive and negative rules
- Protect media uploaded to your WordPress site
- Create groups of URLs you want to restrict access to
- Ping other sites, such as forums, in order to automatically grant access when a user becomes a member
- Collect payments using PayPal
- Includes membership pages such as registration and account details pages
- Display all subscription options on one registration page
This free membership plugin really has everything you need and more, in order to allow you to offer a sophisticated membership service to your visitors. It is easy to use, clearly designed and can add restrict access to parts of your site in a matter of minutes.
There is also a premium version of this plugin available from wpmudev.org for those that are interested in extra features and support.
This is a premium plugin that allows you to create an advanced membership service for your WordPress site. As well as the standard features available with the popular free membership plugins, you can use the shopping cart integration to add a membership area to your ecommerce sites.
You can also integrate this plugin with email newsletter services such as Aweber, Mailchimp and Infusion so that you can then send newsletters to your members, notifying them of new content or attempting to upsell them to the next membership level.
Other great features of the WishList Member plugin include:
- Unlimited membership levels with different levels of access
- Sequential content delivery to move members from one list to another
- Use of a ‘hide’ button allows you to easily protect content with one button
- Create free, trial or paid memberships
- Expire members after a set period of days
- Partially protect content by hiding as little as one sentence of a post or page
As this is a premium plugin you also get one year of unlimited support as well as customer-only resources and materials.
To find out more and view the full list of features and pricing details visit the WishList Member site.
This is another popular premium WordPress plugin that brings membership functionality to your site. It also has an email autoresponder and broadcast feature so you can mailout to your members from within your WordPress site.
You can easily create affiliate programmes for your membership site, which can help increase new members as your affiliates work on your behalf to promote your site, in return for commission on any new members they generate.
Features of Digital Access Pass include:
- Restrict access to posts, pages, categories, media and other files such as PDFs and zip files
- Sell products from your WordPress site to members
- Create unlimited membership levels
- Drip unlimited amounts of content to your members to your own schedule
- Offer one-time and recurring subscriptions
- Provide access to live events and coaching programmes
- Schedule DAP to send out reminder and notification emails when new content has been made available to them
Digital Access Pass is a great choice for those who are really embracing the concept of offering membership content in all its many forms. By including an email autoresponder service, you can keep bring your members back to your site to check out its new content and features.
This is an excellent premium plugin that has everything you need to turn your WordPress site into a money making membership site.
To find out more of the things you can do with this plugin visit the Digital Access Pass site today.
What to Do Next
Now you know how easy it is to setup a protected membership area on your site, it’s a good idea to try out one of the plugins listed above and see exactly what you can do with them for yourself. Even if you just offer free membership access to some parts of your site, it can be a great way to start connecting with your visitors on a deeper level.