Do you want to turn your WordPress blog into a membership site? Businesses around the globe use this model to sell their physical products or offer exclusive digital content, and many of them are super successful.
CopyBlogger, a site with content marketing lessons, offers premium courses to members and they’re currently an eight-figure business. Meanwhile, the owner of the razor and grooming product company Dollar Shave Club sold his business in 2016 for a staggering one billion dollars.
So, it’s evident that membership sites have the potential to generate a ton of recurring revenue.
Before we start looking at the best membership plugins, let’s talk about some of the specific benefits of adding membership features to your website.
Advantages of a Membership Site
The first benefit of turning your website into a membership site is that you’re more self-reliant. In other words, you don’t have to worry about a big affiliate partner leaving. When you rely heavily on one or two businesses sponsoring your content to stay afloat, things can get stressful. But, with a membership site, where members pay a monthly or yearly fee for access, you can generate recurring revenue, which puts you in control of the cash flow.
Additionally, groups with members tend to build a strong sense of brand loyalty through forums and email updates. If you’re looking to build more social proof and get more people invested in your brand, a membership option can help you reach your goals.
If you have a popular blog, your audience is already built-in! You’ll generate new leads along the way, but you’ll have a core audience ready to check out the membership changes on day one. This factor alone could help jump start your revenue stream.
You don’t have to use a membership plugin to charge your audience money. There are ways to set up a free membership for everyone, providing they sign up with their email address. As a result, you’ll start growing your email list and seeing more audience engagement.
We want to show you how to get started with your own member-based platform. The first step is finding a powerful and easy-to-use membership plugin for your website. There are plenty of options available, but we wanted to narrow it down to our top seven favorite membership plugins and add-ons for WordPress.
Let’s dive in!
(Psst, if you don’t have a website yet, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build a WordPress website!)
MemberPress is by far the most diverse membership plugin on this list. This plugin is easy to install and even easier to use. Once you have your license key, simply install the plugin on your website and start the setup process.
All of your favorite payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe are included with the plugin and ready to use. After you’ve added payment information for your gateways, you can add some products or subscription plans to your website, and you’re all set.
Where MemberPress thrives is in the features department. You can restrict specific sections of your website and put them behind tier-based plans such as bronze, silver, and gold. Of course, due to the flexible design, you can name your tiers anything you want.
MemberPress also comes with a built-in report system that gives you an in-depth analysis of your website from a membership perspective. It’s possible to track all of the important metrics needed for success. You can see how many people navigated to your sales page, what percentage converted, and how they interacted with your website if they didn’t buy a plan. Understanding consumer behavior is an essential part of growing your business, and this plugin makes learning about your audience a breeze.
Couple all of these eye-catching details with the ability to work with any WordPress theme, the option to create custom drip campaigns, and access to your own coupon creator, it’s easy to see why they really are an “all in one” membership plugin.
2. Restrict Content Pro
Believe it or not, Restrict Content Pro was released in 2010, which seems like an eternity on the internet. They have upgraded and improved their plugin tremendously since it was first published and is now one of the best membership plugins on the market.
One of the nice features of this plugin is it comes with the ability to create unlimited subscription tiers. Users on your website can sign up for a free account, which helps build your email list and gives you more sales opportunities. Eventually, you can upsell a paid subscription-based on their needs from your platform.
Restrict Content Pro takes it a step further by allowing you to offer discounts to consumers, depending on their tier. For instance, if a bronze member wanted to upgrade to silver, they can do so at a prorated cost. This option is perfect for people that want to offer flexible membership options for their customers.
Their basic plan comes with access to add-ons that include some of the more popular payment gateways like Authorize.net. If you’re looking for a membership plugin that offers plenty of cool features at a fair price, Restrict Content Pro is an excellent choice.
s2Member currently has almost 1.3 million downloads across all WordPress websites. This plugin is also the first on our list that offers a free version for new users. If you’re not sure if a membership site is right for your business, you may want to consider giving this plugin a try before you invest in a premium plugin.
The free version comes with Paypal standard integration, which is great for brands that see most of their customers using this payment method. You’ll also get access to content and download locks, which can be lifted by becoming a member. Also, s2Member features added protection against brute force attackers that may try to steal sensitive customer data.
This plugin comes with the ability to customize homepages for members. When someone lands on your page and decides to join your group, they’ll see the page you envisioned when you started your membership site.
s2Member has a premium option available for those who want to upgrade and continue to use the same plugin. The paid plugin has more payment gateway integrations, spam protection, the ability to make unlimited member levels, and more.
MemberMouse is another excellent WordPress membership plugin. This tool comes with plenty of exciting features that make it worthy of our list. The best thing about MemberMouse is you can use their software to upsell and downsell to your customers.
Let’s say someone lands on your page and decides to become a bronze member. If you’re not using a popup plugin like OptinMonster, now you can trigger a popup after the payment form that asks the user if they would like to upgrade to silver or gold for a couple of dollars more. This kind of upselling is how you generate more sales and increase your customer engagement.
Additionally, if someone comes back to your website to cancel their gold subscription, this plugin can downsell that customer to the bronze plan. If a refund is needed, you can issue it automatically from the included customer management system.
We also love the ability to split test prices on membership plans. One advantage of testing your pricing is you might learn a little bit more about your target audience. For instance, consumers that are coming from a similar membership site might be willing to make the switch if your website saves them money.
5. Paid Memberships Pro
Paid Memberships Pro is a WordPress plugin that has a free and premium version. The free version comes with 19 free add-ons, including Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, and more. In addition to the add-ons, you’ll get access to six payment gateways you can use to process customer transactions.
But, their Plus and Unlimited subscriptions have plenty of extra features for you to try out. Specifically, they include a whopping 65 add-ons you can use to fine-tune your membership site. According to the Paid Memberships Pro page, this alone is a $3,000 value.
The deciding factor between the free plugin, Plus, or Unlimited subscription plan is the number of sites you plan on converting to a membership-based business. You can use the free plugin on one site, the Plus plan covers one to five websites, while Unlimited subscribers can make any number of sites a membership-only platform.
LearnDash is a bit niche-specific, but it works great if you’re thinking about starting a website with an LMS (Learning Management System). Basically, LearnDash should be your go-to tool if you want to design paid courses for your subscribers.
When you start using this plugin, you’ll see a comprehensive dashboard that lets you create courses page by page, and you can add quizzes where appropriate. You can even create certificates for your students when they have completed your course. The option to download and share their online diploma is great for professional profiles and resumes. As a bonus, you’ll likely generate additional leads when people see the name of your LMS on the digital paperwork.
LearnDash comes with the option to accept PayPal right out of the box. You can add new payment gateways depending on the needs and setup of your business.
Finally, LearnDash is easy to integrate with your website without slowing your performance down to a crawl. Poor performance can lead to a high bounce rate, dissatisfied customers, and an overall poor UX for your audience. We like this plugin because of the smooth design, pre-loaded features, and overall lightweight attributes when added to a new website.
7. WooCommerce Memberships
Finally, if you operate an eCommerce website, you’re likely familiar with WooCommerce. If not, here is a starter WooCommerce guide to help get you caught up. WooCommerce offers its own membership add-on, appropriately named WooCommerce Memberships.
The great thing about this plugin is that, while it is connected to your WooCommerce store, the revenue and membership stream are separated from your in-store products. However, you can integrate your membership plan into your online store if that’s something you would like to do.
For instance, if you’re operating a SaaS business, you might want to consider automatically inviting customers to become members of your exclusive forum.
It’s also possible to create specific memberships for certain products, making this add-on an asset for business owners that offer a variety of different products and services.
Of course, you have the option to create membership tiers disconnected from your store that thrive on your blog content. If you wanted, you could create locked content for specific segments of your audience and drip the posts out over time. This tactic is great for keeping customers coming back to your website after they sign up.
Back to You
There you have it, the best membership plugins and add-ons available on WordPress. You’ll have to sit down and think about your business and long-term goals before you commit to a brand. We suggest that you carefully look over these plugin websites for yourself. They each offer a host of exciting and unique features that can help you start a successful membership site that generates recurring revenue.