A WordPress membership plugin is one of the first things to choose once you’ve made the decision to launch a membership website.
You know how important your website is to you, so now how do you possibly choose the right plugin? You may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the membership plugins to choose from. We’re here to help.
Every website is unique. That’s why it’s important to review the factors that matter most to you. With all the membership plugin choices out there it’s important to get it right from the start as changing plugins further down the line creates major issues.
On this membership plugin journey, be prepared to sacrifice some of the things you want and receive more of the things you will need down the road. For the sake of this article, we’re tailoring all information to be WordPress-related, including features and recommendations.
We’re going to review all the questions you need to ask to get the right plugin for your membership site. Let’s dig in.
1. Where Are You On The Membership Journey?
Before we begin, it’s important to understand where you’re coming from. To clarify, we are starting at the point of you knowing you either need or have a membership site to earn recurring income.
Perhaps you already have a membership website and you are looking to upgrade. Either way, we have all the questions and answers here.
Be sure to answer these questions prior to searching for the right WordPress membership plugin for your website:
- How tech-savvy are you?
- What is your budget?
- How many membership levels do you need?
- What integrations will you need?
- Will your content be available all at once, regularly added or automated?
- What other features do you need (LMS, payment or affiliate)?
Based on the answers to these questions, you can then begin to understand what you’ll need to run a membership site. If you need more tips on how to
2. What Do You Need To Run A Membership Site?
Depending on where you are in your membership journey, you’ll need to decide where to begin. No matter what, the first thing you need to do is choose a website host.
A website host is considered the house your website lives in (on the internet). Choosing a host can be a daunting process as there are hundreds to choose from. Start narrowing down your options starting with a budget and basic features.
Hosting will allow your membership site to stay “up” on the net, be searchable by your audience and be ranked by the search engines. It needs to be a credible host.
Here are our top favorites hosts to choose from:
- Liquid Web: Managed hosting and custom WordPress solutions
- WPEngine: Small and large website hosting plans
- Bluehost: Web hosting, domains, and SSL certificates
There are many different WordPress hosts to choose from, it just depends on what you’re looking for. Be sure to do your research and find the best one for you—especially if it’s membership-based.
If the host is the house of your website, the domain is the address where your house lives.
A domain at its simplest is just a series of numbers, but you get to choose the “name” of your website for the whole world to see.
We recommend choosing a .com as they are the most common and easy for your audience to remember. Keep it short, sweet and include your keywords if you can — your name is even better.
Here is a whole slew of information about domains, so you can get your questions answered and find the right WordPress membership plugin for you.
Plugins will be your best friends. If you don’t know already, a plugin is what helps your website do what you need it to do outside of what’s included in any basic website plan. You’ll need to choose essential WordPress business plugins that will help your website grow.
The types of plugins to think about are:
- Lead generation
- Security and payment collection
- Form collection
- Design and function
- Marketing automation
Visit the WordPress plugin database to find out which business plugins are right for you.
Now that you’ve got the basics to start your membership site down, it’s time to dig into the features needed to make it happen.
3. What Features Should You Consider When Choosing A Membership Plugin?
These basic WordPress membership plugin features are essential to your website. Depending on the level of content or complexity of the site, consider these in your decision:
With any membership site, the content should not be available to passerby users. You have to pay to play. That means if you’re going to sell access to content, then the first thing you have to do is make sure to put it behind a paywall.
This will protect content pages, posts, and categories for members only and you won’t have to do this for each post individually (which can be tedious). As your content database grows, this will become increasingly important.
Cross-content offerings: membership and courses
If you’re going to offer multiple style content options, like courses or classes, you will need different options on your website.
Some of your members will have access to the whole database, and some will take one-off courses. The plugin capabilities need to be able to accommodate that.
An additional challenge is that each membership plugin presents content differently. A good plugin will support multiple content styles.
One time offers
During the course of your membership offerings, you may want to offer unique content to your members.
When you’ve earned the trust of your member, they may opt to pay for premium content like paid newsletters or white papers. Your plugin should have the capability to be integrated with a one-time purchase.
You’ll want your plugin to have the ability to allow customers access to content that’s created after a specific sign-up date. Content created before that may be accessible, but for an additional fee. This will be different from the typical gated content in the membership plan.
Your membership payment options are perhaps the most important feature to consider.
The most popular payment platforms are currently PayPal and Stripe. But more important is how flexible your payment options are, including one-time payments, recurring payments, and discounted payments when members choose to change mid-plan.
Here are a few popular payment gateway questions and answers:
- Can you change payment providers? Yes, however, it’s quite extensive and cumbersome with integrations and previous installations.
- Can you have multiple payment gateways? Yes, however, it may cost additional money. Multiple payment gateways provide more options for your customers to use their preferred payment gateway.
- Are international payments available? Each plugin should allow international payments but the available options may be limited. Check the details.
Tiered payment plans
Like we mentioned earlier, there may be multiple styles of content that you will be offering your members. With each different style, there will be uniquely priced payment plans.
Make note, most membership plugins don’t support tiered membership level payments, so this is something to check out right upfront before getting too deep into the plugin.
As with any membership, there are options to upgrade or upsell content. If you want to be able to offer add-on features, upgrades, or one-time limited offers, it’s important to know if your plugin is equipped to do so.
As with tiered plans, you can also offer various different access levels to members. Instead of gating all of your content, you could offer a limited access log-in to basic members that only offers specific content. Multiple logins are available on most membership plugins, especially paid plans.
As your membership site grows, so does your team.
You’ll want your plugin to support umbrella accounts or team accounts that require multiple logins. When you have multiple accounts you have the ability to earn multiple revenue streams. The more the merrier!
Even if you’re not tech-savvy, your website needs to be. Even if your plugin is “plug and play”, you’ll inevitably need to add some custom code to your membership site.
And, if you choose a membership plugin with all the features you need, some customers will still want to customize it or change how something works. You’ll need to grant access to a developer to get in there and play with the code.
Marketing automation integration
Automation is critical in building membership sites and any online learning actually. Unfortunately, membership plugins don’t always have automation options.
There will be limited automated options available, but customers will often need more options. Look for plugins that offer options for fixed date access, milestone access, or individual content consumption.
Additionally, your membership plugin should support all the major players for sales CRM, email marketing, lead conversion, segmenting, and collaboration.
4. What Do You Need To Be Aware Of With Membership Plugins?
As you narrow down your membership plugin options, there are certain things that you need to be aware of to make sure that you pick a plugin that is suitable for your website’s needs.
When it comes to content, one of the most important is whether or not you want to be able to drip content to your members. That means do you want information scheduled to go out at certain times during the membership?
Another thing to consider is which email marketing service you will be using. Take note of plugin integrations, as they will vary and it would be best to have one that already works with your other tools.
Here are some additional features to review:
- create multiple logins or group accounts
- run free demos or trials
- integrate with e-commerce platforms or plugins
As we mentioned, all membership plugins are not created equally, so be sure to check out the fine print.
5. What Are The Recommended WordPress Membership Plugins?
If you’ve already decided to use WordPress for your membership site then you may have done some research into the membership plugins available.
If so, you’re probably aware that there are a lot to choose from, and it can be somewhat overwhelming trying to find the best one for you. There are in fact over 50 WordPress membership plugins out to choose from.
Let’s narrow those options down a bit though, to the most popular membership plugins in WordPress:
- Restrict Content Pro: The most extensible WordPress membership plugin, built with developers in mind. It’s flexible, easy to extend, and chock-full of action hooks and filters, making it easy to modify and tweak to your specific needs.
- PaidMembershipsPro: Restrict content, manage member subscriptions with recurring payments. User registration, custom profile fields, and robust member management.
- MemberPress: MemberPress will help you build astounding WordPress membership sites, accept credit cards securely, sell online courses, control who sees your content, and sell digital downloads… all without the difficult setup.
- MemberMouse: MemberMouse is built for everyone, from startups to enterprise.
- OptimizePress: Generate more leads and increase revenue using our landing page builder and sales page builder faster websites.
With these options to choose from, you’ll find varying features that will suit your needs. It’s important to look at the details because each plugin will offer a different value.
We hope that this article has helped you find the right membership website plugin that will grow your business.
The Right WordPress Membership Plugin For You
Finding the right membership plugin for you shouldn’t be hard. At Restrict Content Pro, we help hundreds of people find the right membership home for their website.
we covered what you need to begin your WordPress membership plugin journey, the features to consider, and the recommendations that we have evaluated over the years.
Your website is an investment in your future. We want to help you make the right choice for you. What features did you consider for your website? If you’d like to share them with us, reach out.
If you’d like to try a demo of Restrict Content Pro, see for yourself!