Podcast Episode

446 – WordPress Membership Plugin Options

Full Transcript

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On today’s episode, we are going to talk about the different options when it comes to creating on online membership site, right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, episode No. 446.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler. I’m excited to be here with you this week because we are going to be answering a question that came in via email. And this came from Matthew, and his question was: I’d be interested in a comparison of payment, or restricted access, or membership plugins. What’s the best free and the best pro options? So, thank you Matthew for your question, and I was just going to go through some of these are part of my summer sabbatical and talk about the different plugins. But, there are so many different plugins that are out there that are made for memberships. So, it would take forever to do a full review of each one of them.

So, today we’re just going to break down the differences. There’s about four or five of them we’ll talk about. And which ones are good, and which ones are bad, and what kinds of features are involved with the different membership plugins.

Now, why would you want to have a membership plugin? I guess that’s one of the first questions that you hear a lot. Or people want to make money online, and they want to have this reoccurring monthly revenue. They wanna make money without having to do anything. You know, that’s not really what a membership website is. A membership site is a site that’s filled with a wealth of information, and that could either be, maybe you build out an entire course, and then they get access to all of the content right there. Or, maybe you have some sort of monthly, or weekly, or daily, more information coming, and you continue to post that.

One of the membership sites that I can think of is Level Up Tutorials, and that’s one that focuses on code, but each month there’s a new course that’s related. So, it’s a monthly reoccurring membership, or you can pay yearly, and then every month you get a brand new course, and brand new topics for things to learn.

Other ones that are out there, that I can think of, are maybe some sort of community, or a mastermind, or some sort of – basically, it’s a website that creates value, or gives value, to members as they’re a part of it. And they’re more than willing to pay $10 per month, or $100 per month, whatever that cost may be.

And so, once you come up with that idea, then it’s a matter of trying to figure out what kind of technology you can use to make sure that you’re getting those payments regularly. That you are able to collect payments. You can only give access to your content to the people that have paid you for that content.

So, that’s a little bit about building a membership site, or what a membership site is. And I’ve had a couple in the past, and they are really hard. Let’s not beat around the bush that it is a very difficult process to have a good running membership site that’s has lots of value that you’re giving and providing each week, or each month, or whenever you say, that has a community behind the scenes, and whatnot. I know that a lot of membership sites these days, now also, have a Facebook community page, or a private Facebook group, and that allows you to pay for a membership somehow, and will talk about the plugins that you can use for WordPress, but then once you’ve paid, then you have to manually get added to a Facebook page, and then you can have that community online there, with the Facebook page.

So, that’s one thing to think about. Not all of these has membership pieces built in. Most of these plugins just have the core membership part, so when somebody will log into their account on your site, they get access to the materials that they have paid for. Usually, you would need some sort of plugin to create a membership forum inside. A lot of people are finding these days, that it is so much easier to keep people where they already are. So, people already have a Facebook account. You don’t want them to create another forums page, and then have to log into your forums and whatnot. So, it makes it a little bit tricky because there’s a couple different moving parts, but that’s what I’ve found when it comes to a membership plugins.

Now, let’s go ahead and talk about the different plugins. There are a few things that you want to think about when selecting and choosing a WordPress membership plugin for your site. You want it to be easy to use. Obviously, you don’t want to have to pay a developer all the time to just make simple changes throughout your membership site.

You want it to be easy to use. It’s gotta have a lot of features. You want it to be compatible with your WordPress them. You don’t want to have to reconstruct your entire website just because you’ve added this membership site. And you want to be able to create different pricing structures, and features, and maybe have some features built in, so those – what are they called? The three column layout, or the five column, when you have the different price points, the price ladders, where you can see those different price points, and they can sign up for the package that they want, or whatnot. You want those kinds of things built in as well. So, those are some things to think about when choosing a membership plugin.

The first one we’ll talk about is WooCommerce Memberships. This is the one that I have the most experience with. Obviously, because I work for WooCommerce, and I am on the WooCommerce support team, and I’m always getting questions about people with memberships. And one of the things to think about for WooCommerce Memberships, and it starts at $150 per year for the license, is that it is the engine that will allow you to restrict content on your website. So, if you already have a WooCommerce store, you’re selling products, or you’re selling digital packages, or whatever, WooCommerce Memberships makes a lot of sense to add because it will continue to use the same layout as WooCommerce, and it will use the same buttons to purchase, and whatnot.

But WooCommerce Memberships is only there to limit the content to registered members on your site. And there’s no feature built in for actually taking reoccurring payments. That’s kind of the bummer part is that membership restricts the content, and then the other plugin WooCommerce Subscriptions is the one that actually can take that reoccurring payment month after month, or year after year, or every week, or however you set up your membership site.

And so, the main benefit of using WooCommerce Memberships is it just works really well. You can restrict certain products. You can restrict certain content pieces. So, maybe you want paid posts on your website. You can mark those as “You must log in to read the rest of the content.” Or you can put a button that say, “Sign up now for a membership,” if people want to read the full thing, or whatnot. And with all of WooCommerce plugins there’s a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can give this a try on your website.

But it works well. It’s a little bit more of a pricey solution because it’s $149 per year, and then you also have to pay for Subscriptions, which I believe is $199 per year. So, you’re in for about $250. Now, you have to remember, if you are running a successful membership site, you will be making money regularly, either monthly or yearly, whichever way you’ve set that up. And a $250 investment for making maybe $2000 a month, so that’s $24,000 a year, to spend $250 per year. So, you’re spending 250 to make 24,000. That’s a no-brainer. That makes a lot of sense. So, that’s WooCommerce Memberships.

The other one that I really like, and have used in the past, is called Restrict Content Pro. And it’s a super lightweight WordPress membership plugin, and it allows you to create that full featured membership site. It doesn’t have a lot of features that you need for membership sites, but they do have add-ons. And so, it’s made by the team at Easy Digital Downloads. It is a paid plugin. It starts at $99 per year, for a single site.

But you can use it a few different ways. So, you can use it like a club membership. So, you can create premium content library and provide access to members only. So, maybe you have a backlog of two year’s worth of content. A club membership would be, somebody signs up, and they get access to everything. They have a magazine subscription. So, that generates reoccurring payments by selling online magazines. And so, you only get the new magazines, you don’t get access to the old stuff. You can create private forums, and you can limit access to private communities. You can do member blogging, so on a multisite network you can allow paid subscribers to create their own blogs. And you can do a lot more.

There is a light version that can be downloaded from the WordPress repository. It comes with the ability to create custom user registration and log in forms, and limits access to content with a shortcut. And so, you can get a good sneak peek of what it does, and how it works. But I think it’s worth it to upgrade to the pro version. They have a payment systems built in for Stripe, Braintree, 2Checkout, Authorize.Net, and PayPal, are all built within.

And, like I said, they do have the add-ons. So, there are add-ons that you can add to Restrict Content Pro if you wanted to add extra functionality, and you didn’t get quite the membership settings that you need, then that’s what the add-ons are for in Restrict Content Pro.

Another one that is a very highly popular one is called MemberPress. And it allows you to create the most complete WordPress membership plugin. It’s got all the features you need to create that powerful membership site with ease. It allows you to transform your existing website into a fully featured membership site without any hassle. I think most of them can say this, but this is what they’re saying in their description. All you have to do is install MemberPress plugin onto your existing site, enter your payment gateway details, setup your products, and start inviting visitors to join your membership site.

You can restrict access to specific posts or pages, or a complete custom post type, or any existing files for your visitors. You can actually, also integrate with some of the popular email marketing services like, AWeber, Mailchimp, GetResponse, etc. The MemberPress offers support for payment gateways like PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.Net. And you can also create dynamic pricing pages quickly and easily. It comes with different pricing page templates, and you can create your customized look with that.

The price starts at $129 per year for a site license. And so, it’s a little bit less than WooCommerce Memberships and Subscriptions, but it’s all built into one thing, and it is a great plugin that you could use to create a membership site on your website. So, that’s MemberPress.

Another one that’s on my list here, we want to talk about, is S2Member. And I think this one of the ones that’s been around the longest. I can remember using S2Member way back when I was trying to restrict some content for a client of mine. This had to have been, I don’t know, seven, eight, nine years ago. The plugin actually has got a lot of features. It’s maybe a little on the bloated side. The interface for S2Member is not quite as simple as some of these other membership plugins that are more modern, some of the newer ones.

It’s basically, a free plugin to install and use, and with the basic plan you can protect your content and accept payments through PayPal. And if you want the pro version of the plugin, it’s available for a download at a one-time fee of $89. And then that unlocks some of those other payment gateways like Stripe, and actually, Bitcoin, Authorize.Net, Click Bank. You can do all of those things.

So, the S2Member works really well with community plugins like bbPress and BuddyPress. So, those were kind of built around the same time, and they integrate well together. So, if you wanted to run a membership site with an online community, all within your own WordPress site, then S2Member is going to be the plugin to check out because those work really, really well.

I think some of the other options would be better off for that Facebook page and the membership side of things. And then people can talk in the Facebook group, and then they consume all the content in your online site.

Another one here, on my list, is called aMemberPro. And it is another full-fledged membership plugin. It’s been around for more than a decade. aMemberPro is not a native WordPress plugin, it’s a membership site built with php, and it allows you to integrate with WordPress. So, it’s not specifically created for WordPress sites, so there may be some compatibility issues with other WordPress plugins. But it comes with a bunch of stuff out of the box. It’s $150 for the plugin. You can use it on an unlimited number of sites. That’s why I wanted to share that here because it’s a pretty decent price point. And you can use if for as many sites as you want.

It comes with unlimited membership levels, full featured membership management, and more than 200 payment gateways. And that includes PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.Net. And so, it comes with all of those features. And so, aMemberPro is another one that’s out there. You get that subscription piece built in automatically. You can integrate with your blog, or your forum, or whatnot. And so, aMemberPro is another one to think about.

So, I found that a lot of people will either use a memberships by WooCommerce or Restrict Content Pro. Restrict Content Pro, just doesn’t get a lot of love lately. It’s a great plugin, it’s really lightweight, it’s very simple, and I think the team over at Easy Digital Downloads and Sandhills Developments do a phenomenal job. And it’s just one of those plugins. It’s not their top end plugin. Easy Digital Downloads is their flagship plugin, but Restrict Content Pro does a lot of things. It’s a very simple plug in to use, and I think it would work well for a lot of folks that are just wanting to get into the membership space.

And I should probably say that this is a thing where you don’t have to stick with one system all the time. It’s going to be easier, especially when you start to get 10s of 1000s, or 10s of 100s, you know, how many people may be signing up. It is a lot easier to not have to worry about switching to another platform. But, since it’s WordPress, since its database driven, all of that data and content can be moved from one plugin to another. And I’m sure there are import plugins to go from WooCommerce memberships to Restrict Content Pro, and back and forth the other way as well.

And so, that’s what I want to share with you this week. All about membership plugins. Next week what I’m going to talk about is diving into a plugin, or an online SaaS service OptinMonster. And this is something that is going to be really cool. I’ve used OptinMonster in the past. I let my subscription go, and then they reached out to me and wanted to know if I wanted to hold a contest to give away a few licenses of OptinMonster. And they gave one to me to do a full review. And that’s what I’m going to be setting up and doing this upcoming week. So, be sure to tune into that episode. There’ll be some information going out there on how you can win a free license. I’ve gotta couple to give away, and I will get to that next week, in next week’s episode.

But until then, spend some time thinking about different ways you can monetize your business in membership ways. Back in the day, the one that I did was a – I created a community for WordPress developers. And that was kind of a membership type site. They paid a one-time fee, so it wasn’t really a membership site, but I had to restrict all their content to a one-time – so, they had to log in to see it. So, it was behind a paywall, if you will. So, they paid for the content, and then they had this thing behind scenes. I would have loved to come up with some sort of membership model where $20 per month, and you had a couple hundred people, and that’s really could reoccurring revenue. Makes a lot of sense when you’re running a business, to have that reoccurring revenue so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to eat next month, or how much money you’re going to make as a company.

So, if you have some content that you wanna hide behind a paywall, or you want to start getting reoccurring payments from folks that are a part of your community, membership plugins are the way to go, and I recommend checking out the ones that we talked about today.