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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 a community.

To create your own membership site, you’ll need a platform that has features for managing users, memberships, payments, and more. Luckily, there are some really great membership plugins for WordPress that make it super easy.

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

Ultimate guide to creating a WordPress membership site

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 super easy 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 get started:

  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. This 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. To learn more, see our 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.

We highly recommend using Bluehost since they’re an officially recommended WordPress hosting provider and one of the biggest hosting companies in the world.

Bluehost

They have agreed to offer our readers a free domain name, free SSL certificate, and a 69% discount on web hosting.

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

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 and set up your domain name, it’s time to install WordPress. With Bluehost, WordPress comes pre-installed.

Most other WordPress hosting companies offer a 1-click WordPress installation option. If you’re using a different hosting provider, then see our guide on how to install WordPress which covers every major hosting provider.

After that, you need to finish building your blog. For detailed instructions, see step by step guide on how to start a WordPress blog, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

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. To learn more, see our full comparison of the best WordPress membership plugins.

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

If you just want to allow user registration on your WordPress site, then you can use WPForms.

WPForms

It’s one of the best WordPress user registration plugins and contact form plugins for WordPress used by over 5 million websites.

You can easily create user registration and login forms and even allow users to submit articles without accessing the WordPress admin area.

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

MemberPress

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

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 go to MemberPress » Settings and click on the ‘License’ menu option to enter your license key. You can find this information under your account on the MemberPress website.

Enter MemberPress license key

Simply copy and paste your license key, and then click on the ‘Activate License Key’ button.

On this screen, you will also configure the plugin settings.

Step 4. Add a Payment Method

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 selecting the ‘Payments’ tab and then clicking the ‘Add Payment Method’ button.

Add payment method

This brings up a drop down where you can choose a payment method and connect different payment processors.

MemberPress supports popular payment gateways like PayPal (Standard, Express, and Pro), Stripe, and Authorize.net out of the box. You need to select a payment method from the ‘Gateway’ drop down and provide the required credentials.

Select payment method

You can also add multiple payment methods by clicking on the ‘Add Payment Method’ 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 new membership

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.

Enter membership plan information

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 and permissions

Next, click the ‘Price Box’ menu tab.

Here, you can add information that will appear on the pricing page, like a headline, and plan benefits.

Customize price box for plan

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 as you need.

Step 6. Restrict Access for Membership Plans

The next step is to select which content will 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 membership rule

The rules 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.

In this example, we’ve made content with the ‘Premium’ category available to all paid membership plans.

Set membership rules

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 drip content 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.

To learn more, see our guide on how to automatically drip content on your WordPress site.

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 in the ‘Premium’ category. Now, all we need to do is to create our paid content and add it to the ‘Premium’ category.

Add members only content

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

MemberPress unauthorized access section

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 click the ‘Publish’ or ‘Update’ button.

Now, only users who have the right membership level will be able to view your 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.

Add new membership 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’ meta box and add memberships that you want to display on the page. Simply click the ‘Plus’ button to add multiple memberships.

Add membership levels to group

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

Simply select a template from the ‘Pricing Page Theme’ drop down.

Select pricing page template

You can also add custom CSS to completely customize your membership pricing table.

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 example

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.

Copy pricing page URL

After that, go to MemberPress » Settings and click on the ‘Pages’ menu tab.

MemberPress page settings

Then, 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.

Enter pricing page URL for unauthorized access

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.

To do this, go to Appearance » Widgets and then click the ‘Plus’ add block icon.

Add new block for widget

Then, search for ‘MemberPress login’ and then click the block.

This will automatically add the membership login form to your sidebar.

Add MemberPress login block

Make sure to click ‘Update’ to save your changes and make your login form live.

Save new login widget

You can add the login widget to any widgetized area of your site. For more details, see our guide on how to add and use widgets in WordPress.

Next, we’ll 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 ‘Custom Links’ tab to expand it.

Then, enter the URL for your pricing page and enter text into the ‘Link Text’ box.

Next, click on the ‘Add to menu’ button.

Add pricing page to menu

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.

Save navigation menu

Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save Menu’ button to store your changes.

To learn more about menus, see our guide on how to add a navigation menu in WordPress.

You can now log out of the WordPress admin area and visit your website to see your login form and registration link in action.

View login form and registration link

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 » Settings page and click on the ‘Emails’ tab. From here you can manage email notifications sent by 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.

MemberPress email settings

You can use a simple text editor to edit the email message with basic formatting options.

There are also smart tags you can use to insert dynamic items like names, username, membership level, and more.

Edit MemberPress email

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.

View 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 best analytics solution for WordPress, offers a complete MemberPress integration that makes it easy to track your user and member engagement.

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

Taking Your Membership Website to The Next Level

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

You can also use it alongside BuddyPress and bbPress to add social networking and forum capabilities to your membership site.

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

We hope this article helped you learn how to setup your WordPress membership website. You may also want to see our guide on how to create an email newsletter the right way and our expert picks of the best business phone services for small businesses.

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

58 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Thank you for your resource. In Step 9 about 1/2 way down, it says, ‘enter URL for the pricing page’. Where would I find this please? Also do you have instructions for a Free Membership? I am doing one for a sample to help promote my main Membership. Thank you.

    • You would want to take a look at step 8 for creating the pricing page and finding its URL. For a free membership option, you can see the price for a membership to $0 on your site :)

      Admin

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

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

  4. 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

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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

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

  12. 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

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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?

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

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

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