Want to use WordPress to create a members-only area on your site? With the right WordPress plugins, it's easier than you might think. Let's learn how!
Looking to use WordPress for a members-only area on your site? Lucky for you, a WordPress membership site is not very difficult to build! This is because there are a few different solutions you can use to make creating a membership site a lot easier.
In this post, we're going to show you a step-by-step approach to create a members-only area in WordPress. Long story short, you'll need a plugin unless you are a programming wizard.
Let's get started with the basics about members-only areas:
- What is a membership site?
- Why create a membership site?
- Do you need a membership plugin?
What is a membership site?
Let's be clear on some terms. A members-only area is an area on your site that is only accessible by members. Usually, these are paid members. And typically if a site has a members-only area, the entire site is referred to as a membership site.
The idea is that the membership content you are offering in the most enticing content on your site. Of course, that's not always the case. But for our purposes today, we're going to assume you want to create a significant members-only area on your site.
Membership sites consist of a few major components. These are:
- Restricted content
- User/member registration
- Online forms
- Payment methods
This is the most important part of a membership website. The idea is that you restrict access to content based on a user's membership level. The more premium the content, the most expensive the access.
The premise is simple. You create a paywall and put your content behind it. Sometimes a paywall is called a "gate", and thus, sometimes the content is called "gated content". However you slice it, users pay a fee of some kind to access the content.
As for what kind of content, the sky is the limit! You could create digital downloads (for example, podcasts are a popular choice) or even content within a WordPress post or page. You could even create and sell online courses using a membership model.
Alternatively, you can use a more basic route and just require email to download files.
In order to give people access to the content they want, you need a user registration system. WordPress does have one of those built-in, but it doesn't have enough power by itself to be useful for member-only content. Unfortunately, it's a bit more complex than creating a registration form.
Many membership sites have a variety of access levels. Sometimes they offer free trials. Sometimes they offer free content in exchange for an email address. No matter what the arrangement, you'll need a membership system to make it work.
Naturally, you'll need a way for members to register on your site. This is why forms are so important for a membership site. Some WordPress form builders have the power to create a membership site all by themselves.
On the flip side, some membership plugins (like our favorite, MemberPress) has great forms built-in. And for those of you who want to craft the ultimate membership experience for your users? Combine a great form builder with a great membership plugin!
Forms are one thing, but depending on the scope of your membership area, you'll need to consider payment methods. There two angles to think about:
- Payment gateways
- Payment structure
Payment gateways are the technology that allows you and your online forms to collect payments. A few common examples are PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net. Sometimes PayPal will work fine, but not everyone has a PayPal account in the same way that most people have a credit card.
Payment structure refers to the way you will ask users to pay for access to your restricted content. Sometimes you'll offer a free trial and then switch to a paid membership. Sometimes you can charge users a flat fee for all-access.
Or, maybe you'll set up recurring payments? There are many choices when it comes to the payment structure.
Ultimately, you want to maximize earnings. Plan to use a gateway your customers are comfortable with and a payment structure that provides value for money spent.
How do you create a membership website?
The simplest way to create a membership site is to use one of the best WordPress membership plugins. Of course, a quick search of the WordPress.org plugin directory will reveal many options. So which one is best?
Well, it kind of depends on your goals... but...
If we had to give our vote to one plugin, it would have to be MemberPress. Over the last few years, they have emerged as the clear leader for WordPress membership sites. Their plugin is easy to use and comes highly recommended by many.
Wait... do you really need a WordPress membership plugin?
Before we go any further, let's figure out if you really need a membership plugin. We actually wrote a dedicated article just about this topic. Truth be told, you could build a pretty good members-only area with protected content by using a form builder like ours, Formidable Forms.
So before investing in a costly membership solution, give this article a look! It could be that what you are imagining is easily handled without a membership plugin.
Learn more: How to Know When You Need a Membership Plugin
How to set up a members-only area on WordPress websites
With all that in mind, here's how to go about setting up a members-only area on WordPress websites.
1. Start a WordPress site
This should be the obvious place to start! If you haven't created a WordPress site or figured out hosting yet, consider the following tips:
- Be sure to choose a URL that has SEO potential and resonates with your potential members
- Search for a WordPress-centric host. Many hosts will install WordPress for you automatically!
- Learn more about the best WordPress hosting.
2. Choose a membership plugin
As we alluded to earlier, you'll probably want a plugin to help build your members-only area. Unless you have the ability to program a login form or registration pages, that is! A top-tier membership plugin like MemberPress can help you set up your site the easy way. Set things up in the options page of the plugin and you are good to go.
And if you just want a simple members-only area, you could get away with using a solid WordPress forms plugin like Formidable Forms.
3. Create your restricted members-only content
Whether you are making posts, pages, courses, audio, or video... you'll need to get started on the content. Truth be told, this will be the most difficult part of your membership site.
You may want to consider adding a membership directory on your site as well. This adds value an helps retain members.
4. Build your audience
If you build it, they will come. This may have worked for Kevin Costner and the gang, but it sure won't work online! Building your audience will also take some time and experimentation. Many membership sites offer free content to get people hooked, as one method of promotion.
Others create blog articles with SEO potential to pull members in. You could even try advertising. Don't expect the audience to come to you overnight.
With all those tips, you should be thinking a bit more clearly about your members-only area online. With the right tools and the right approach, it's not too difficult to get started. At any rate, thanks for stopping by the Formidable blog! Check back often for more WordPress tips.
Read more of our membership posts
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