Are you thinking about starting an online business? Do you need a flexibility of working on your laptop while earning some income? Owning a membership website is one of the most efficient ways to own an online business.A membership website is a closed part of your online business where only subscribed members can have access to contents behind this door. The door is a barrier which is built usually through the use of WordPress along with its plugins like MemberPress, s2 member, MemberMouse, and many more. Once these doors are put in place, members would have to log in to have access to the exclusive contents, special offers, and they also get to be part of your business community.
When talking about contents, it can be of different forms. Contents are digital products like webinars, eBooks, podcasts, or online courses. If your business offers physical goods, you can also create digital contents for them. You could offer webinars on “how to” topics which helps to answer some of your client’s most asked questions.
The plugins used to achieve this is known as membership plugins.
So, what are membership plugins?
Membership plugins give you the ability to control user’s access to the contents on your WordPress website, providing access to registered members only. Aside from this feature, membership plugins also provides other features.
There are a lot of membership plugins available to control user access in your wordpress website. Each membership plugin has their distinctive ways of functioning and they all have a feature or more that differentiates them from each other. However, they all have some features and functionalities in common.
Below are some of the most important features a membership plugin must have to help you find the right tool for your project and to build the best membership site possible.
Control user access to your website content
This is the most important feature of a membership plugin. A good membership plugin should make it easier to restrict access to your website, individual contents on each page, including some portions of your posts or pages.
If you really want to own a successful membership website, you should be on the lookout for plugins that gives you full control over who has access to what. Membership plugins should also give you access to be able to provide access to contents for a defined period of time.
Collect Payment: Another feature of a good membership plugin is the ability to collect monetize contents and collect payment from members. The more payment tasks your plugin can handle, the lesser the time you spend on daily admin tasks.
By getting an efficient membership plugin that integrates perfectly with your payment processor of choice and automates the collection of subscription payments, you’ll have more time to focus on creating quality content that keeps existing subscribers happy.
The most common payment processor supported by most WordPress membership plugins is the PayPal Payment Processor. However, you should lookout for plugins that also supports other advanced payment processors like stripe.
Create Multiple Levels of Membership
In some projects, you might want to offer different packages like Free package, Advanced Package or Premium packages. This helps to create a sales funnel, allowing you to upsell products and allowing you sell some exclusive products to only the highest-paying members.
A good membership plugin should allow you to create multiple levels or products. This is because the more options you can offer your prospective members, the greater the chance they’ll want to find something that matches their requirements.
Support Discount Coupons
One of the best ways to make people come back for more is to offer coupons. However, if not well managed, coupons can be abused.
Luckily, the best membership plugins provide full control over every coupon you create, giving you the ability to define how many times they can be used, give them an expiration date, stating which membership levels or products they can be used against, and whether they reduce the price by a fixed amount or percentage.
Owning and managing a membership site can be very frustrating as you have to ensure all members are well catered for. There are a whole lot of activities going on in a membership website including new member accounts to create; subscriptions to pause, resume, and cancel; forgotten passwords to reset; membership upgrades to take care of; email reminders to send out; and a whole list of things. Keeping up with these tasks can be time consuming and cause health related issues.
With most good membership plugins, they come with a self-service feature built it- meaning new members can sign up and manage their own accounts and subscriptions while also sending out reminders that cover credit card expiration dates and such.
What do you need to run a membership website?
Having a functional membership website can be resource intensive and making a wrong choice on the preferred host can be detrimental to your efforts. This is why choosing the best WordPress hosting you can afford is the most important move when creating these websites.
You should lookout for websites that provides SSL Certificate which is needed to securely collect payments, dedicated IP, and a dedicated support line.
You would also need some essential business plugins like OptinMonster which helps you capture leads and boost subscriptions.
Now that we have all the recommended resources to start your membership website, let’s talk about the most important part- Membership plugins.
Membership plugins are of different types and from different brands. Making a choice on the best one that meets your needs can be complicated. With this in mind, we have come up with the top WordPress membership plugins with their pros and cons to help you make a wiser decision.
MemberPress (read review)
This is one of the most popular WordPress membership plugins which provides simplicity, lots of useful features and is easy to set up.
Content Access Control: MemberPress gives you a full access control over your website, meaning you have the power to restrict user’s access to any content within your site including posts, pages, categories, tags, files, etc.
Easy to Setup: MemberPress setup is just a few clicks away, making it easy for even a newbie to create a membership website. With automatically setup for pricing, login, account, and thank you pages for your users, it makes adding different membership plans a breeze.
Content Dripping: Content dripping gives you the ability to show restricted content to members over a given time frame. This feature can become useful when trying to provide a snippet for an online course you intend to sell.
Integrations: MemberPress works perfectly with a variety of mailing services including AWeber, MailChimp, GetResponse, and MadMimi email services. It is also easy to integrate Amazon Web Services and BluBrry to your website for podcast hosting.
Payment Gateways: With built-in support for PayPal and Stripe, MemberPress has a few built-in payment options to choose from. However, there are plans to add Authorize.net support in the future.
Limited Payment Options: Like we said above, it only has in-built support for three payment systems which is a major problem for site owners who live in countries unsupported by these payment gateways. Ensure to check your country’s support for each payment method before making a choice.
Limited Integrations: Although compatible with most services needed to run a smooth membership website, the plugin lacks full integration with some other services.
Pricing: Its pricing might be outrageous for someone who is just starting out and with a low budget. Its Business Edition is priced at $99/Year, while the Developer Edition is $199/Year
MemberPress is the easiest membership plugin to use for your WordPress website especially with its easy setup and tons of useful features.
This is also a popular WordPress membership plugin which can give MemberPress a run for its money.
Free Version – This WordPress membership plugin gives you a test version by providing a basic free version for download. Although this has very basic features, it gives you an idea of what you are going to get for the premium version and can help with your decision-making.
More Payment Gateways: Unlike the MemberPress which supports only PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net, this plugin supports more payment processors like Braintree, 2Checkout, and Cyber Source; giving both you and your website visitors more options for making and receiving payments respectively.
More Integrations: The paid membership pro provides both free and paid extension plugins that lets the application to integrate with many other third-party services like email marketing tools and many other WP plugin.
Extension Add-ons – Paid Membership Pro comes with a wide range of extensions as add-ons for your WordPress website, giving you more options to customise your membership website. These add-ons leverage support for many advanced features that may be added to your membership website. These add-ons may include affiliate program, content dripping, link tracking, variable pricing, etc.
Ease of Use – Paid Memberships Pro is a very good plugin, but it can be very hard for a beginner to understand. For most users, it takes longer to setup.
No Extra Add-ons on Pro Plans: If you would like to use the Extra add-ons, then you need to purchase the PMPro Plus plan. The PMPro plan only provides extended support and some extra features, but with the PMPro Plus plan, you gain access to an extra 42+ addons.
Pricing: The PMPro is priced at $97, while the PMPro Plus is $197.
Paid Memberships Pro is a wonderful WordPress plugin with some nice features. It has a full set of extensions, add-ons, and features which make it the complete solution for a premium membership website.
Restrict Content Pro was developed by the same developer who crafted an extremely powerful plugin the Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP. In true words restrict content pro is a worthy contender for the best membership plugin.
Easy to Use: Restrict Content Pro creates its own dedicated dashboard in admin panel. WordPress interface, providing a pleasant user interface which makes it easier for you to understand it’s functions.
Built-in Integrations: Most of the membership plugin sell extensions as paid addons for different kind of functionality. But RC Pro is not the case. This plugin comes packed with several addons like functionality. You don’t need to buy PayPal, MailChimp, MailPoet and Stripe like functionality separately.
Payment Gateways: With supported payment gateways like 2Checkout, PayPal Website Payments Pro, PayPal Express, and Stripe Checkout all built in, Restrict Content Pro makes payment integration very easy.
Excellent Support: On download, you get a free documentation and a prompt email support and quick response.
Lesser Integrations: This plugin is limited when it comes to integration with third party services like email service providers.
Pricing: Its price of $99 comes with 12 add-ons and single site license, while $149 is for 5 sites, and $249 for all add-ons and unlimited sites. There is also a $499 lifetime plan.
This is one of the easiest to use membership plugin and it comes with a great set of features that blends well with different types of membership websites.
Magic Members is a powerful membership plugin that gives a tough challenge to MemberPress and Paid Membership Pro. This plugin offers all advanced features to setup any kind of membership website.
Payement Options: More are payment gaterways, more is the opportunity to link to desired payment system. Magic Members supports a wide range of payment processors with support for PayPal Standard, PayPal Pro, 2CheckOut, CCBill, Authorize.net, ClickBank, WorldPay, MoneyBookers, iDeal, Epoch, AlertPay, Ogone, SagePay, eWay, PagSeguro and offline payment.
Integrations: This plugin allows full integration with AWeber, GetResponse, Constant Contact, iContact, AutoResponse Plus and MailChimp.
Content Control: Magic Members allow you set up pay-per-post where users can pay only for selected contents. You can also group several posts into a package which is a useful feature to offer your customer something like discounted bunch purchase.
When using Magic Members, you should note that there is no built-in affiliate management, so you need to use a separate plugin like Magic Affiliate for that. However, when you purchase the Magic Members 3-domain and unlimited domain license, you get a 20% off discount for Magic Affiliate.
Magic members is a nice WordPress membership plugin to use, but its lack of some built in features means you have to check to be sure it has all the features your membership website needs.
This is a well-known WordPress plugin that allows you to create and manage a multi-level exclusive access for your Users.
Feature Rich: This plugin is one of the most feature rich membership plugins out there. It allows you to create and manage coupons, multiple subscription levels, social logins, restrict pages and more.
Full Content Control: The Ultimate membership pro allows you to have full control over your contents, giving you the ability to restrict users access to different aspects of your website contents and allowing only some level of subscribers have access to certain contents, files or documents.
Payment Option: With a wide range of payment gateways, this plugin gives you more options on the payment option to make use of. It is fully integrated with PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout, BrainTree, Payza, and more.
Pricing: $34 for regular licence and $199 for extended licence and you have to still pay an extra $11.25 for extended support.
This is a popular WordPress membership plugin with both free and pro versions. It has been around for a while and is said to be quite reliable.
Free Base Plugin: This membership plugin is perfect for starters as its base plugin is free. But you should note that the free base plugin comes with limited features and support.
Content Dripping: It also spots content drip feature, allowing you to restrict user access to certain contents based on their subscription level.
Payment Gateways – The free version only supports PayPal while its Pro version supports other payment methods such as Stripe and Authorize.net.
Integrations – Works perfectly with MailChimp, bbPress and BuddyPress.
Documentation & Support – S2Member has an extensive documentation available to all users while Pro users also get email based support.
Not user-friendly: s2Member is a little more complicated to use than other membership plugins.
Free Version Limitations: With the free version, you are limited to one payment option (PayPal), only 4 membership levels, and no drip content feature.
Pricing: The base plugin is free, while Pro version for a single site license is available at $89 USD. For unlimited sites, pro version costs $189 USD.
This is a free membership plugin and can be very useful for a newbie, however, if you are looking for something more, then you might have to look for better plugins.
If you are looking for a combination of powerful features with easy to use interface, then MemberMouse is the one for you. It allows you to sell unlimited subscriptions and products with 1-click upsells and downsells.
Drip Content: This plugin allows you to easily limit user’s access to certain pages, posts, files, and entire categories based on their subscription.
Alert: Membermouse has a built-in alert function which can be dragged to your sidebar to display upcoming posts, events or discount sales and when they would come up.
Beautiful Payment Interface: Memberpress is fully integrated with different payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, Braintree and Clickbank. It also creates a beautiful checkout page which makes the payment process very easy.
It is quite hard to find cons for this plugin as it makes most features needed for membership websites available at an affordable price. However, there is one con though and that it’s the lack of built-in email feature.
The MemberMouse membership plugin provides you with a nearly perfect blend of cool features and an amazing UI. However, to make use of the email features, you have to go download your preferred mailing service’s plugin.