A membership site is one that has a portion of its content free to read and use and a portion locked to the public, and the only way to access it is to pay.
There are many benefits of owning a membership site, and here’s the 3 that are crucial to you as a business owner.
A) You Control Your Financial Goals
Yes, you do.
So, unlike with affiliate programs that can fizzle out at any moment and leave you without payouts. With a membership site, no, let me rephrase that; with a successful membership site, you have predictable revenue coming in.
And it’s all pretty much passive.
Membership sites with paying members have you in full control of your financial goals.
You have probably noticed that nowadays, anyone and their mom can build a site and pump out reams of content?
But not anyone can create a whole course and lock it so that only those who have money can see it.
It takes boldness, and it takes confidence to do such a thing.
Boldness and confidence that comes from intimate niche knowledge.
And folks recognize that.
C) You Get to Build a Tribe
A tribe is a group of people that are your true fans. They’re the ones that’ll support you even if your stellar career suddenly took a turn for the worse. And the easiest way to build a tribe is to get them all together at a tight place, and that tight space is a part of your site that is locked and open only to those who pay.
And they are paying for it because they are your true fans and trust you.
In this post, you will learn which WordPress membership plugins are my top pick.
Without any time, let’s get started!
- Paid Member Subscriptions
- Restricted Content Pro
- Magic Members
- (Special Mention): WP-Members
MemberPress is a very popular WordPress membership plugin, with extensive support documentation and a growing team and community behind it.
And it has a bunch of cool features too.
First, you can have unlimited membership levels with all types of different payment options and trial periods.
And you can even categorize your locked content’s different membership levels into “Membership Groups” On the surface, this seems it’s like complicating things further (and trust me, setting up a membership plugin to be just the way you want it is no easy task), but it’s actually a true boon to your bottom line.
Because with different membership groups, you can set different predefined upgrade paths.
And in case you’re wondering- an upgrade path is the most likely scenario that will lead to a customer upgrading, and you earn more money from them.
This is a compelling feature.
You can also restrict content in a whole slew of ways. You can go either granular and restrict only parts of a page or a post, or you can go extremely broad and restrict complete categories and sets of child pages.
And if you’re gonna offer downloadable files, you can also restrict access to individual files based on membership status.
MemberPress also allows content dripping on a predefined schedule. This helps to build positive equity and momentum over time and leads to increased conversions.
What about integrations?
As far as integrations go, you have nothing to worry about. MemberPress hooks up with all major email marketing services as well as with all major payment gateways like Stripe and PayPal.
MemberPress can also integrate with LearnDash, which is a popular LMS (learning management system) for creating online courses using WordPress.
What does Member Press cost?
MemberPress Basic plan starts at $149 and is best for newbies to WordPress Membership sites.
The other two plans are Plus and Pro.
Paid Member Subscriptions
Paid Member Subscriptions is a flexible and lightweight WordPress membership plugin that comes in two versions:
The free version gives you the ability to create a fully functioning, albeit pretty basic membership site (but again- it’s free).
With it, you’ll be able to
- Create multiple membership levels;
- build front-end member registration and login forms
- Restrict access to content based on a visitor’s membership level
- Charge money for different membership levels via PayPal standard (note- free version only works for one-time payments, so no monthly subscriptions)
With a paid version of Paid Member Subscriptions, you can have a lot more features:
For example, you’ll be able to create different content restriction rules for post types and taxonomies. And you’ll be able to drip content and thus get folks interested and deeper into your funnel
You also get a lot more options for payments.
- offer discount codes or use the “pay what you want” method,
- hook up to both Stripe and Pay Pal Express
- set up recurring payments
- get a bunch of new helpful integrations…
Overall Paid Member Subscription is a decent membership plugin in its free form and decent quickly turns into excellent when you shell out some dough.
What amount are we talking about?
Paid Member Subscription cost $0 for the free version and it has two paid plans:
- Hobbyist $69
- Pro $149
Restricted Content Pro
Restrict Content Pro comes from Pippin’s Plugins, and it is one of the biggest names when it comes to membership plugins.
This premium plugin lets you create unlimited subscription levels.
You can pick between
- and premium subscriptions
It also offers a somewhat unique functionality- the ability to let users move between plans, meaning they can easily downgrade or upgrade and have the amount they already paid prorated to their new plan.
Restricted content Pro also lets you get creative with payment options.
For example, you can choose to charge a certain fee for a set period (for example, six months), as well as set an optional one-time fee. This combination allows for some interesting pricing structures.
For example, your course costs $280. So instead of your potential customers paying it all right away, which might turn some of them away, you could instead have a one-time signup fee of $100, followed by six months of $30 fees.
The net result is the same for you, but your customers feel like they got a great deal.
With Restrict Content Pro, you can also create coupon codes, and you can restrict those coupons to work on specific membership levels only. This opens up a whole slew of easy promotions for you to serve to folks.
What about integrations?
Restrict Content Pro works with:
- Easy Digital Downloads,
- and nearly all major payment gateways and email marketing services
Take a look at the image below, the cheapest plan is Personal, and it starts at $99 per year.
MemberMouse is one of the most feature-rich membership plugins out there.
First, MemberMouse lets you create both:
- membership levels
Membership levels are what you get from any decent WordPress membership plugin, but bundles let you sell individual posts and pages on a one-off basis. That’s a lot of new options and new earning potential open for you.
For example, you could sell a one-time special offer to people who are already your premium members and love your course.
I call this gentle up-selling because you’re not trying to catch them off guard. Instead, they’ve enjoyed your excellent course and now you have something new, just for them.
It makes them feel unique and exclusive so they’re more likely to buy.
MemberMouse also allows restricted content drip.
This is a cool feature because it lets non-premium members experience what owning the course would be like. It’s a real seller magnet because just like a car salesman who tries his best to get you to try out the car (because you’re more likely to buy that way), so can this be a powerful psychological lever for you to pull.
Trying out something feels to the brain feels as if you own the thing and as if it’s yours, and that’s why it becomes so hard later to part from it.
As for restricting content, MemberMouse lets you restrict by:
- and custom post types
MemberMouse also includes a ton of neat tools for optimization and split testing. You can also offer tons of different coupon codes, and you can integrate with a bunch of third-party payment gateways and email marketing services, And you even get an API.
Indeed, the MemberMouse feature list seems to be never-ending.
However, all these extra features come at a price
MemberMouse is not developer-friendly, i.e., it is not GPL.
So if you’re the type of person that likes to make little code tweaks here and there to make an excellent plugin even better, with Member Mouse, you won’t be able to do that.
Whereas with other plugins on this list, you can.
What does MemberMouse cost?
Price: Take a look at the image below, but MemberMouse starts at $19.95 per month for up to 1,000 members
Magic Members lets you create unlimited membership levels with different pricing and trial options. And all can be managed from a beautifully intuitive WordPress dashboard. As for restricting content, you can limit either whole categories or individual posts/pages. You can also use shortcodes to restrict parts of content on a single post or a page.
You can also drip-feed content, which is a standard feature that other plugins have too.
One interesting thing about Magic Members is its “pay per post” feature.
So instead of going through the painful process of creating a full-fledged course that you can then lock and try to get buyers, you can instead whip up a quick (but valuable) post, put a price on it and sell it.
Magic Members lets you do that and it’s quite easy to make a quick buck like that,
Plus, you build the air of exclusivity that will make people wonder, “what else does he sell”?
Magic Members also have one VERY useful feature.
A download manager.
With it, you can prevent file theft on your site. And you can also prevent multiple people from logging into the same account (thus limiting fraud and saving your hard work from piracy).
What about integrations?
Magic Members integrates with several email marketing services and all major and smaller payment gateways.
So, you’re guaranteed to be satisfied in this regard.
Pricing starts at $97 for a single-site license, but you do get a 7-day trial so that you can try it with no strings attached.
S2Member is a popular free membership plugin. It has a surprising variety of features for a free plugin, though they are limited.
As is standard for pretty much all membership plugins, S2Member can restrict:
- posts and pages,
- custom post types,
But what makes S2Members stand out is that the plugin offers advanced restriction methods, some of which not found in most premium plugins.
So, you can also restrict :
- BuddyPress (an advanced plugin that brings a bunch of feature to native WordPress installation),
- specific URL fragments,
- as well as specific parts of content inside full posts and pages
- file downloads and streaming media
With S2Member you also get helpful tools like:
- Brute force protection,
- email templates,
- IP restrictions
- and custom login welcome pages,
These are all freebies and excellent stuff for newbies who never built a membership site before.
However, this is a free plugin, and free always comes with some restrictions.
S2Membrs free plugin doesn’t let you drip content and you also cannot create coupon codes. It is also limited to only 4 paid membership levels.
So if you’re serious about creating a membership site, you either need to purchase the premium version of this plugin, or one of the other six from the list.
There are two pro versions. The cheaper one is $89, a one-time fee.
(Special Mention): WP-Members
WP-Members is yet another free WordPress membership plugin.
This plugin works the opposite way to others on this list. Instead of restricting parts of your site, it restricts all of it.
So, install the plugin and don’t touch anything, and your site will drop off the Google map as Google won’t be able to access and index any of it.
Of course, you can change this and you control what gets indexed and what gets locked.
Unlike Mouse Member plugin, which is not customizable, WP-Members is, and very much so, and if you know how to write code or you have hired a developer, you can do some nifty things with it.
WP-Members also includes several premium add-ons you can purchase, to add things like:
- new email service integrations,
- new payment gateways,
- new membership levels…
Bottom line– WP-Members free version is not as powerful as the other plugins on this list.
However, it is highly customizable, and if you purchase premium add-ons, then it might be the right choice for you.
All add-ons are available as part of a $59/yearly membership at the plugin’s developer, Rocket Geek.
a) What are Membership Sites Exactly?
A membership site means gated content, clear and straightforward.
And despite what the name implies, a membership site is not (at least in most cases) a whole site that is barred from free entry, but usually “the premium” part if it.
You can achieve this either by having a coder create a website from scratch for you (unpractical, unwieldy, and stupid), or you can use one of the plugins I mentioned above.
b) What are WordPress Membership Plugins?
They’re plugins that help you gate parts of your site between regular visitors and members of a community you build using the plugin.
For instance, your regular readers are those who come to read your blog posts and members are those who join your forum, paid courses and so on.
Usually, the free version can be upgraded.
c) What Are Some Examples of Membership Sites?
Here are the two I like best:
From Ramit Sethi come to his courses. They are locked content that you have to pay to enter, and they’re all uber-successful courses.
On a side note, if you want to have a successful membership site learn to provide a tonne of value, and help your readers throughout the journey.
I recently listened to a CopyBlogger’s podcast where Ramit says the goal of his free content is to provide so much value that people say, “he’s giving this for free? I wonder what’s in his paid course”?
The second example is Jon Morrow’s Smart Blogger courses:
d) Is it Worth it to Create a Membership Site in 2020?
Yes, it is. If you have value to give for free, and even more of it for pay, then go for it.
But expect an uphill battle as any niche now is super competitive, so to succeed you will need to have “all hands on deck,” in other words- you need to be all in to succeed.
Because half-assed commitment will bring you half-assed results.
If you’re going to start a membership site, and if your goal is not to just play around, but create a successful online business and earn a tonne of money, then I sincerely ask you to consider going pro with your WordPress membership plugin.
It’s ok to start for free when you have to, but going pro from the get-go ensures you’ll be committed to the project.
Going pro from the start means putting yourself out there, as you won’t be just dipping your toes, but you’ll be going all in, come what may, because you know you’ll be able to handle it.
Your new WordPress membership website will be in good hands.
Tell me about your pick in the comment section below.