Want to use WordPress to create a member-only area on your website? With the right WordPress plugins, it's easier than you might think. Let's learn how!
Looking to use WordPress for a member-only area? Luckily, a WordPress membership site is not very difficult to build! This is because you can use a few different solutions to make creating a membership site a lot easier.
This post will show you a step-by-step approach to creating a member-only area in WordPress. Long story short, you'll need a plugin unless you want to put in a LOT of extra time.
Let's get started with the basics about member-only areas:
What is a membership website?
Let's be clear on some terms. A member-only area is an area on a website accessible only by members. Usually, these are paid members. Typically, if a site has a member-only area, the entire site is referred to as a membership site.
The idea is that the membership content you offer is your site's most enticing content. Of course, that's not always the case. But for our purposes today, we will assume you want to create a significant member-only area.
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 to restrict content access based on a user's membership level. The more premium the content, the more 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 reserved for members only. You could even create and sell online courses using a membership model.
Luckily, it's simple to create gated content on WordPress with the right plugin.
You need a user registration system to give people access to the content they want. This is built into WordPress, but it doesn't have enough power by itself to be useful for a members-only website. Unfortunately, it's a bit more complex than creating a registration form.
Many membership sites have a variety of access levels. Some offer free trials, and others offer free content in exchange for an email address for email marketing. 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) have 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 the membership area, you'll need to consider payment methods. There are two angles to think about:
- Payment gateways
- Payment structure
Payment gateways are the service that allows online forms to collect payments. A few common examples are PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net. PayPal often works fine, but fewer people have a PayPal account than a credit card.
Payment structure refers to asking users to pay for access to restricted content. You can offer a free trial and then switch to a paid membership. Or you can charge users a flat fee for all access.
Ultimately, you want to maximize earnings. Plan to use a gateway that 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 depends on your goals... but...
If we had to vote on one plugin, it would have to be MemberPress. Over the last few years, they have emerged as the clear leader for WordPress membership sites. This 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. Truthfully, you could build a pretty good member-only area with protected content using a form builder like Formidable Forms.
So, before investing in a costly membership solution, look at this article! It could be that what you are imagining is easily handled without a membership plugin. If you want features like content dripping, scheduling, and other advanced membership features, we recommend a membership plugin like MemberPress or SureMembers.
Learn more: How to know when you need a membership plugin
How to set up a member-only area on WordPress websites
With all that in mind, here's how to set up a member-only area on WordPress websites.
1. Start a WordPress site
This should be the obvious place to start! If you don't have a WordPress site set up yet for this project or need to pick a web host, 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 the members-only area. Unless you have the time to program a login form or registration pages, that is! A top-tier membership plugin like MemberPress can help you easily set up a site. Set things up in the plugin's options page, and you are good to go.
And if you want a simple member-only area, you could get away with using a solid WordPress forms plugin like Formidable Forms.
3. Create restricted member-only content
Whether you are making members-only pages, posts, courses, audio, or video... you'll need to get started on the content. Truth be told, this will be the most difficult part of a membership site.
You may also want to consider adding a membership directory on the site. This adds value and helps retain members.
4. Build an audience
If you build it, they will come! This may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but it sure won't work online!
Building an audience will also take some time and experimentation. Many membership sites offer free content to get people hooked as one method of promotion.
Others publish blog articles with SEO potential to pull members in. You could even try advertising. Just don't expect an audience to show up overnight!
With all those tips, you should think more clearly about a member-only area online. With the right tools and the right approach, getting set up can be fast and easy.
Thanks for stopping by the Formidable blog! Check back often for more WordPress tips.
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