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Ultimate Guide to Creating a WordPress Membership Site

Do you want to build a membership website? For a long time, website owners relied solely on advertising and affiliate revenue to monetize their content.

A membership website allows you to make money online by allowing users to pay for premium content, features, and access to the community.

You will need a platform that has features for managing users, memberships, payments, etc. Luckily, there are some really great membership plugins for WordPress that make it super easy.

In this step by step guide, we will show you how to easily create a WordPress membership site without any coding knowledge.

Creating a WordPress membership website

What Do You Need to Start a WordPress Membership Website?

Unlike 10 years ago, it’s quite easy to make a website these days. Out of all the platforms and website builders, WordPress makes it the easiest for anyone to build their own membership website and start selling with little to no technical skills.

You’ll need the following three things to start:

  1. A domain name. This will be your website’s address (Example, wpbeginner.com).
  2. A web hosting account. This is where your website files are stored.
  3. A membership addon (It will convert your regular website into a membership platform).

You can set up a fully functional membership website with WordPress in less than 30 minutes, and we’ll walk you through every step of the process.

Below are the steps that we will cover to help you make a powerful membership website with WordPress.

  1. Getting started with a membership site
  2. Choosing a WordPress membership plugin
  3. Setting up your membership website
  4. Adding payment methods
  5. Adding membership levels
  6. Restricting access based on membership plans
  7. Creating members only content
  8. Creating a pricing page
  9. Adding sign up and login forms
  10. Customizing email templates
  11. Viewing reports to grow your website
  12. Extending your membership website

Ready? Let’s get started.

Step 1. Getting Started with a WordPress Membership Site

To create a membership site, you must make sure that you are using the right WordPress platform. Yes, there are two types of WordPress.

We recommend using the self-hosted WordPress.org version because it gives you unrestricted access to all features and tools that you need (see the full comparison of WordPress.com vs WordPress.org).

For a self hosted WordPress site, you’ll need a WordPress hosting account, domain name, and a SSL certificate.

Typically, a domain name costs around $14.99 / year, web hosting around $7.99 / month, and SSL certificate costs around $69.99 / year.

If you are just starting out, then these startup costs can add up quickly.

Thankfully, we have a way to fix that.

Bluehost, an official WordPress recommended hosting provider, has agreed to offer our users a free domain name, free SSL certificate, and a discount on web hosting.

Basically, you can get all of the above for $2.75 per month.

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Note: At WPBeginner we believe in full transparency. If you sign up with Bluehost using our referral link, then we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you (in fact, you will save money and get a free domain + SSL certificate). We would get this commission for recommending just about any WordPress hosting service, but we only recommend products that we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.

Once you have signed up for hosting, the next step is to install WordPress. Follow the instructions in our step by step guide on how to start a WordPress blog, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

Since Bluehost already comes with WordPress pre-installed, you can move on to setting up your WordPress membership site.

Step 2. Choosing a WordPress Membership Plugin

There are plenty of free and paid WordPress membership plugins that you can use. However, each one of them has its own pros and cons. We have a full comparison of the best WordPress membership plugins.

To choose the right WordPress membership plugin, you need to decide what kind of membership website do you want to build and what features will you need?

If you just want to allow user registration on your WordPress site, then you can use WPForms. It is a WordPress form builder plugin that allows you to easily create user login and registration forms. You can even allow users to submit articles without accessing the WordPress admin area.

On the other hand, if you want to sell subscriptions, paid content, or digital downloads, then you’ll need a more robust WordPress membership plugin, like MemberPress.

MemberPress comes with advanced membership features that allow you to accept payments, create membership levels, restrict access based on levels, and more.

Selling online courses can be another possible scenario. In this case, you’ll need LearnDash, a complete WordPress LMS plugin with all the learning management features.

You can also integrate LearnDash into MemberPress to create a powerful website with online courses as well as membership subscriptions.

That being said, let’s start setting up your WordPress membership website.

Step 3. Setting up Your WordPress Membership Website

We are choosing MemberPress as our go-to plugin because it has all the features we mentioned above, and it works perfectly with third-party plugins necessary for the growth of your business.

First thing you need to do is install and activate the MemberPress plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit the MemberPress » Options page to configure the plugin settings.

MemberPress options page

Step 4. Add a Payment Method

The options page is divided into different tabs. The first thing you need to set up is a payment gateway because it allows you to accept payments on your membership site.

You can do this by switching to the ‘Payments’ tab and then selecting your payment gateway.

MemberPress payments

MemberPress supports PayPal (Standard, Express, and Pro), Stripe, and Authorize.net out of the box. You need to select the payment method you want to setup and provide the required credentials.

You can also add multiple payment methods by clicking on the add button to add another payment method.

We typically use two options: Stripe for credit cards and PayPal as a secondary option because some users prefer PayPal over giving out credit card details.

Don’t forget to click on the ‘Update Options’ button at the bottom of the page to save your settings.

Step 5. Creating Membership Levels

The next step is to create membership levels that your users can purchase. Each membership level can have different pricing plans, perks, and access. You can even have a free membership plan.

To create a membership level, you need to go to MemberPress » Memberships page and click on the ‘Add New’ button at the top.

Add membership level

On the next page, enter a title for this particular membership plan and then provide the plan details in the post editor.

You will need to set the pricing and expiration for this plan under the membership terms section.

Membership plan

In the example above, we have created a yearly membership plan.

After that, you need to scroll down to the membership options meta box below the post editor. This is where you can customize permissions and membership options for this particular plan.

Membership options

Once you are satisfied with the membership plan, you can click on the publish button to make it available.

Go ahead and repeat this process to create as many membership plans that you need.

Step 6. Restrict Access for Membership Plans

The next step is to select which content would be available to different membership plans on your website. MemberPress makes it very easy to control access using ‘Rules’.

You can setup rules by visiting the MemberPress » Rules page and clicking on the Add New button at the top.

Add new rules

The rule edit page allows you to select different conditions and associate them to a membership plan.

For example, you can select all content that matches a particular tag or category to be available only to members with the silver subscription plan.

Add a rules set to MemberPress

You can also create more specific rules. For example, a single post or page, child pages, or a specific URL.

Below the rules editor, you’ll see the content drip and expiration options.

Drip content allows you to gradually release content to users instead of giving it all away at once. The expiration option makes the content unavailable after a defined period of time.

If you are not sure, then you should leave them unchecked.

Once you are satisfied, go ahead and click on the ‘Save Rule’ button to save your rule settings.

Repeat the process to create more rules as needed for your membership site.

Step 7. Adding Members Only Content

MemberPress makes it super easy to create members-only content using Rules.

In the above example, we created a rule that restricted all content tagged as paid to be restricted. Now all we need to do is to create our paid content and add the paid tag to it.

Adding members only content

MemberPress also adds ‘MemberPress Unauthorized Access’ metabox below the post editor. This allows you to select what logged out users (non-members) will see when they reach this content.

Restricted content options

You can use the global default settings, or you can show excerpts, login form, or a custom message.

Once you have added members-only content, you can go ahead and publish it. As the page reloads, you will see a success message that this content is protected.

Protected content

Step 8. Create a Pricing Page

This is the page your users will see when they want to sign up for a membership plan. On this page, users will be able to select a membership plan and then move to the payment page.

Users who try to access the restricted or paid areas of your website will also be redirected to this page.

You can configure this by going to MemberPress » Groups page and clicking on the Add New button at the top.

Creating a group

First, enter a title for the group plan page. This will also be the title for the plans page that users will see.

Next, go down to ‘Group options’ metabox and add memberships that you want to display on the page.

Pricing group options

You can also select a theme for the pricing table. MemberPress comes with few ready-made templates for that.

Once satisfied, click on the ‘Publish’ button to make your plan publicly visible.

To preview your pricing page, click on the ‘View Group’ link after publishing it.

Pricing page

Redirect users to pricing page

Now that we have the pricing page ready, the next step is to redirect unauthorized users to the pricing page.

To do that, first you need to visit MemberPress » Groups page and copy the URL next to the group you created in the previous step.

Pricing page URL

After that, go to MemberPress » Options page and scroll down to the ‘Unauthorized Access’ section.

You need to check the box next to ‘Redirect unauthorized visitors to a specific URL’ option and then paste the group URL you copied earlier.

Redirect unauthorized users to pricing page

Click on the ‘Update Options’ button to save your settings.

Now unauthorized users will be redirected to the pricing plans page when they try to access a members only area.

Step 9. Add Sign up and User Login Forms

Now that you have everything set up, it is time to allow your users to easily find their way around your website.

First, you need to add a user login form so that members can sign in to their accounts.

Go to Appearance » Widgets and add ‘MemberPress login’ widget to a sidebar.

MemberPress login widget

Next, we will be adding the pricing page link to the navigation menu, so that new users can select a plan and register.

You can do this by visiting the Appearance » Menus page in your WordPress admin. From the left column, you need to click on the Groups tab to expand it. It will show the pricing plan group you created earlier.

Add pricing plans to the menu

Check the box next to your pricing page and then click on the ‘Add to menu’ button.

The pricing plan page will now appear in the right column. You can drag and drop to rearrange its position in the menu. You can also edit it and change the link text.

Edit menu item

Don’t forget to click on the save menu button to store your changes.

You can now log out of the WordPress admin area and visit your website to see everything in action.

Membership website preview

Step 10. Customizing Membership Email Templates

Your WordPress membership plugin will send several email notifications to members. MemberPress allows you to easily edit those emails and make changes to include your own branding.

Simply go to MemberPress » Options page and click on the ‘Emails’ tab. From here you can manage email notifications sent by MemberPress.

Editing email notifications in MemberPress

You will see all the email notifications sent by MemberPress to members as well as Administrators. You can click on the edit button to customize any of these notices.

Edit email notices

You can use a simple text editor to edit the email message with basic formatting options and smart tags to insert dynamic items like names, username, membership level, and more.

Make sure that you click on ‘Send Test’ button to send yourself a couple of test notifications. This will ensure that MemberPress can send email notifications.

If you are having trouble receiving email notifications, then see our guide on how to fix WordPress not sending email issue.

Step 11. Viewing Reports to Grow your Membership Website

To grow any business, you need data to make informed decisions. MemberPress comes with built-in reports to see how your membership website is doing.

Simply go to the MemberPress » Reports page. From here, you can sort reports by monthly, yearly, or all time data.

MemberPress reports

It will show you number of active, inactive, free, paid, and total members. It will also show you average member lifetime value and other data. You can scroll below to see more charts and click on a date to view transactions.

However, the most important metric of judging a membership website’s success is user engagement.

This is where you’ll need Google Analytics. It allows you to see where your users are coming from and what they do when they are on your website.

MonsterInsights, the most popular Google Analytics plugin for WordPress, offers a complete MemberPress integration that makes it easy to enable Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking for MemberPress.

For detailed instructions, see our guide on how to track user engagement using Google Analytics in WordPress.

Taking Your Membership Website to The Next Level

MemberPress is a powerful WordPress membership plugin. It allows you to easily grow your membership website.

It works beautifully with LearnDash, which allows you to easily create courses and leave the selling part to MemberPress.

You can also use it alongside BuddyPress and bbPress.

Here are some other useful resources to help you grow your WordPress membership site.

That’s all, we hope this article helped you setup your WordPress membership website. You may also want to see our step by step WordPress SEO guide for beginners.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Reader Interactions

56 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Great read,
    A question, is there an option for users to contact each other once they pay the membership?

  2. Thanks this but I want to ask can I add any other payment gateway apart from the one’s you listed above?

  3. Amazing article. I would like to ask if it is possible to have your custom database connected to the membership plugins.

    • You would need to reach out to the support for the membership plugin you are planning to use for what connection options are available.

      Admin

    • You would want to reach out to the plugin’s support for their current integrations or if they have plans to add an integration.

      Admin

  4. What if I don’t want to make the whole of my site a membership site but I want to sell a course as just a part of what I do?

  5. I’d never have thought, when I tasked myself with building a website, that I would fall in love with it.
    I had a vague idea of how “Memberships” could be useful. But I had no formed concept (nor indeed how to begin expressing aforesaid vague concept) until I stumbled into WPBeginners.
    This article has really helped.
    Thank you.

  6. Hello,
    I was wondering if when using a website builder in WordPress, is one able to use any other WordPress plugin?

  7. I have used this article in many different ways and it has been very helpful. I am making decent income and an really pleased with the results. Thank You WPbeginner.

  8. Please with this plugin can I have in each members account a rewarding section that anytime dey click a news that will be rewarded with some amount or points?

  9. I just purchased a hosting package through your affiliate link with BlueHost. I had already purchased my domain through GoDaddy a day or two ago. I am completely unable to find a way to map that domain over to my WordPress site – any help?? The tutorial on WordPress doesn’t work because there’s no option for “domain” under the “manage” tab on the left…any help??

    • You would want to reach out to GoDaddy for their current methods to change your nameservers

      Admin

  10. Should I build my website on wordpress.org first, before adding these plugins and going through the membership process?

  11. Hi there.
    How can I add other methods of payment in this plugin. I want add some Iranian payment to it?

    • You would want to reach out to the plugin’s support and they will let you know if there is a built-in method or the way to add a custom method.

      Admin

  12. Thanks for your support sir, really it’s a helpful article for me.great job and best team.thankyou sir.

  13. Great article. I am interested in migrating to a WP membership site from another subscription based web platform, and I would like to know what I can use for a temporary domain name until the WP site is all done and ready. Also, what is the easiest way to migrate all the members and their recurring payments to the WP platform. I use Stripe with the other platform.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  14. im looking for membership plugin that will prevent non login/registered user to access the all site url and the source url of iframe. hope to get recommendation here. thank you

    • It would depend on what you mean, you may want to look into s2members for having multiple membership levels and you could prevent right clicks for hiding the url of your iframe.

      Admin

  15. Hello WPBeginner team, thanks a lot for this vivid description, everything has been highlighted to details. Awesome! Looking forward to setting up my membership website with a lot of ease. Regards.

  16. Hi, great article, thanks for sharing. Just wanted to know if these plugins allow the members to sell their own digital goods (ex: mp3 files) , like a small stores inside my website, with their own links and nice page, under my domain. Thanks!!

    • This is similar to my question.
      I want to make a membership site.
      The members should have the possibility to make their own presentation site at a special area of the external site.
      A bit like soundCloud.com

      What kind of plugin do I need to set this up in WordPress?

      Best wishes,
      Erik

  17. Thanks for the write-up.

    Please, how can I get a membership plugin that can accept payment gateways from Nigeria, since PayPal and other major payment gateways are not active in our country? I really need it urgently for my website.

    Thanks.

    • Hi Joseph,

      You will need to find a WordPress plugin that lets you accept payments using a payment service available in your country. You can then manually verify a payment, and invite a user to create a membership account.

      Admin

  18. Hey for the Pricing Plan part I was not able to get that page to work, it isn’t showing anything and I tried everything that you showed in this article is there anything that I was missing?

    Or could you go over that real quick with the just the written steps?

  19. Thank you for this wonderful information, I am glad to see this! My question is this : if I want the members of my site to each a referral link which they can use to bring in new members and they will get commission for that, how can I achieve this?

    I look forward to seeing your reply!

    Thanks Again.

  20. Thanks for this. I have learn a lot from this site.

    Just a question, if i want to add membership site on my existing blog, it will not affect my existing content if i installed the membership plugins?
    or much better if i purchase new domain and link to my current website?
    Thanks in advance and more power.

    • Hi Polunio,

      No, it will not affect your existing content. It is up to you to decide, depending on your business goals and how you want to manage your membership website.

      Admin

  21. It would be nice if you made a Vid of the ( membership Article ) above. Its much more easy when you can see it being done .
    Best of luck.

  22. Don’t You Have A Video Version For This Article? If You have, please link me to that.
    Thanks

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