Not every membership website has to be the next Washington Post.
Thanks to a host of easy-to-use plugins, you don't need to have thousands of high-paying subscribers to have WordPress membership website.
In fact, in just a few hours you can have a fully functional site that offers users the chance to sign up to any and all of your premium content subscription websites.
All you need to do is follow the steps below - this is how to create a WordPress membership website:
- Start a WordPress site
- Choose a WordPress membership plugin
- Install your plugin
- Configure your membership settings
- Add Membership Levels
- Create Content Restriction Rules
Step 1. Start a WordPress Site
Of course, before you can create a WordPress membership site you need to have a WordPress site. If you already have one, skip straight to step two!
Setting up a WordPress site is straightforward. You'll need two things: a hosting contract with a WordPress compatible host (like Hostinger, shown below), and a registered domain.
Plenty of web hosts include domain registration in their monthly hosting fees (it's available in some Hostinger plans). If you don't pick an all-inclusive host, use a separate registration service to get a domain.
Once you've signed up to a hosting plan, it's time to install WordPress.
The installation process will depend slightly on the hosting provider you choose. In some cases, you will be offered to install WordPress immediately after purchase.
Sometimes, WordPress installation will be available in your hosting control panel - often in a folder called something like "Auto Installer".
Then, begin with the installation, if you were following the steps, you should be all done!
Step 2. Choose a WordPress Membership Plugin
Out of the box, WordPress allows you to create multiple accounts for different users and set up different access levels.
However, without a plugin, that all has to be done by you manually.
If you've used a membership website before, you'll know that readers should be able to create their own accounts and subscribe for access.
Therefore, you'll need to choose a membership plugin to automate the sign-up process. I carefully reviewed the most popular WordPress membership plugins, and recommend you pick one of these:
Thanks to its ability to integrate with LearnDash, it's an ideal membership tool for an educational membership website.
But it's no one trick pony. MemberPress is a very user-friendly tool and will allow you to create an unlimited number of membership levels and custom trial periods.
MemberPress is also compatible with common payment formats such as Paypal and Stripe.
Those premium features do come at a cost though, with prices begin at $129/year.
s2Member allows you to create premium access posts and hide portions of public posts from non-members. That makes it a great tool for upping subscription numbers as readers will be drawn in with a taste of member-only content.
s2Member's free version is only compatible with four tiers of membership access which should be enough for most WordPress membership sites. However, if you want the ability to create unlimited membership levels, you can upgrade to the $89 (one off payment) Pro edition.
For the easiest route to a membership website, Paid Memberships Pro is a solid choice because it comes with a WordPress theme specifically designed for membership sites.
Integrating a membership plugin with a theme already installed on your server is one of the most complicated parts of setting up a membership WordPress site.
And that's why a pre-configured theme is a welcome addition.
Like s2Member, Paid Memberships Pro has can be installed for free.
However, the free version doesn't include any technical support.
It's therefore worth considering the $297/year 'Plus' package, which will also give you access to 24/7 support and 64 premium add-ons.
Step 3. Install your Plugin
If you've opted for a free plugin, you'll be able to add it from the inbuilt WordPress plugin directory.
Do that by clicking on 'Plugin' in the WordPress sidebar, then 'Add New' and searching by the name of the plugin.
However, if you've gone for a paid plugin, you'll need to sign up on the website of the plugin developer, download the plugin files and then upload them to your WordPress account manually.
To do that, instead of searching by plugin name, click 'Upload Plugin':
Step 4. Configure your Membership Settings
From now on, the exact process you should follow will depend on the plugin you've chosen, but the order and intention of the steps will not. Because I found it the most user-friendly, I'll demonstrate the remaining steps with MemberPress.
To begin customizing your membership settings, click the MemberPress name (in the WordPress sidebar) and select 'Options'.
This will bring up the settings window shown below. You need to run through each tab, filling out every field with your organization's information.
The Pages and Payments sections are the two most important.
'Pages' lets you set up the most vital parts your membership site– the account management and login screens. In the 'Payments' section, you can decide which payment methods members will be able to use to purchase subscriptions.
Step 5. Add Membership Levels
Now it's time to add different membership levels. In the MemberPress section of the sidebar, click 'Memberships' and then 'Add New':
This will take you to a screen where you can input key bits of info about your new membership plans such as their names and prices:
Step 6. Create Content Restriction Rules
The final step is to actually create membership perks. This is done by creating a rule that restricts content so that it's only visible to members who have signed up to a plan.
In MemberPress, you can do this by clicking the 'Rules' button in the sidebar and then 'Add New'.
In the next screen, you will be able to create a tag to differentiate premium from public-access posts.
Pick a phrase to use, then highlight the name of the membership that users must have purchased to see posts tagged with it.
Now, whenever you want to create a premium WordPress members-only post, you just need to tag it with the phrase you picked.
And that's it! Your WordPress membership site is good to go!
Final Tip: Advertise Your Premium Content Clearly
The meaning of the phrase 'membership site' may vary, so make it clear from the first sight what you are offering and, of course, what exactly your potential users will get with the membership.
The list that follows offers some examples of various types of membership sites:
- Websites where users can sign up to some form of a subscription newsletter
- Educational sites where members are taught new skills
- News sites where only premium members can access every story
You probably already have a good idea of what kind of membership-only content you'll create, but make sure you advertise it accurately. If readers have a clear picture of what a premium content membership includes, they'll be more likely to sign up.