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Ultimate Guide to (20) WordPress Membership Plugins To Build A Thriving Online Community in 2019

Do you want to build a membership site in WordPress? Are you trying to decide which of your options is the best...

Written by Kelly Madison · 8 min read >

Do you want to build a membership site in WordPress? Are you trying to decide which of your options is the best WordPress membership plugin available? Before you build a high converting, ecommerce conversion funnel, you need the right tools to automate your work flow.

This guide that you are about to read is the ONE guide you need to read through if you are thinking about starting a membership website. Whether you are deciding between MemberMouse vs MemberPress, continue reading this membership plugin decision guide.

But before you choose the right platform and technical stack to grow your business and make more money, you need to first identify your offer and features you NEED. You may realize you need a checkout software that plugs into your membership website. Checkout our the SamCart vs ThriveCart review if you have not yet.

And this guide will first help with a needs assessment of what you need and then identify which plugin is right for you.

Choosing the right membership plugin for your WordPress website is important because a better platform means you’ll have more opportunity to grow. Below are various WordPress membership plugins that enable you to create paid membership websites easily.

Why You Should Be Running A Membership Website

If you already have a product or thinking about selling online, a membership website enables you grow and scale your business by gating content such as digital downloads, forum access, support, video, and more to those who sign up as a registered user.
A membership website allows you extract a long life time value of a customer and reducing charge backs, and control the flow of information.

Instead of selling low ticket items once, a membership site will allow you to stack multiple value adds that increases the value of your offer, and build a community around your paid subscribers.

Here are some of the benefits you need to think about when starting a membership website:

  • Steady Income: Mentioned earlier, a membership website not only allows you to stack up value adds, but offers a steady, monthly recurring income. Unlike e-commerce where you sell a single item once, a membership website allows you to collect recurring revenue.
  • Multiple Tiers/Levels Offer:With the right WordPress membership plugin, you can offer different tiers or levels that increases the value of the product. Instead of offering everything and trying to fit it into one price, you an offer different products and/or content in different tiers to increase your average order value (AOV)
  • Evergreen: Since the content is gated and hosted on your site, you have the power to refresh your content and update each year. Imagine if you worked on putting together a valuable course in 2019, and in 2020, you decide to refresh the outdated bits and instantly offer it to existing paid members and new members.
  • Automation:A powerful WordPress membership plugin can automate the work so you by taking orders, processing the orders, upselling/downselling in the checkout, follow up on cart abandonment, unlock content weekly and drip not to overwhelm the user in a pace that is comfortable, and more.

A membership website puts you as the authority figure in your domain as the “teacher” who knows the topics in depth, and thus, the value you offer from your experience.

What is a Membership Plugin?

A membership plugin allows you to create unlimited levels of membership. This is just what a standard membership plugin does. But you have options, and there are other significant things you need to take into consideration. For instance:

  • What is the level of your authority when the membership of an individual user perishes?
  • Is it possible for a user to possess more than one membership roles?
  • Do you show or intend to display any elasticity for the trail days?

What Should You Look for in a WordPress Membership Plugin?

There are plenty of WordPress membership plugins available, but not all of them are created equal. Some will have features you don’t need, while others will lack what you do need, even if you opt for a pro version.

Some options are great for selling subscriptions on a single level while others offer diverse membership levels and management of subscriptions. Others provide drip content features which allow you to release new content little by little to users.

Another consideration are the payment gateways. Do you want users to pay by credit card, or should you allow them to use Paypal, as well? The best option is to accept multiple forms of payment, but this isn’t offered with every plugin. A payment gateway usually requires a registration form that is secure and has a safe connection to payment processors, while still being able to integrate into your WordPress website’s design.

Before you begin looking for the “RIGHT” WordPress Membership Plugin, you need to know what you are planning to offer.

First, make a list of membership sites that you are a part of.

Think about their offer. And then think what content you plan to produce and offer to your paid members.

  • Will you be offering video courses?
  • Will there be downloadable digital content such as PDF or spreadsheets?
  • Will you have gated pages of content
  • Do you want a manage solution (software hosted else where) or on your server?
  • Will you offer an online community such as forums or live chats to your paid members that is not offered to unregistered/guest users?
  • Will you be shipping any physical products?
  • Will you be offering a trial offer?
  • Will you be locking content for fixed time periods meaning, paid content will be only available for month or year?
  • Will you need a drip model that unlocks content daily, weekly, or monthly?
  • What types of payment will you want to offer? For example, do you want to offer credit card, Paypal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay?
  • Do you need a checkout feature or will payment be collected by a third party checkout tool such as WooCommerce, SamCart, ThriveCart, Shopify, etc.
  • Do you need to be able bump offers to unlock special access to unique content?
  • Do you want to be offer opportunities to upgrade (upsell) to higher ticket offers after the initial purchase, and/or downsell.
  • What payment gateways such as Stripe, Authorize.net, etc do you need the plugin to integrate with?
  • Do you need a SSL certificate?

Once you figured the answers to those questions, some other considerations when choosing a wordpress membership plugin includes:

User Experience

There are many plugins out there. Some free, some paid, some powerful, some weak. In the end, you may not need all the features offer and simply need a plugin to be simple, and easy to use.

If you are just starting out, you should consider starting with a basic membership plugin that can address 90% of your needs, and later, as you start to offer more offerings, upgrade into more powerful solutions.

There’s no right or wrong. It comes down to you, and how much time you want to spend managing your paid users and content.

WordPress Compatibility

When it comes to choosing a membership plugin, you also need to identify the ease of integration if you have an existing WordPress website. Will it fit into your existing theme and WordPress installation?

Most solid plugins will offer a free trial or free plugin. Install those, and test if they will work with your site, doesn’t break any page layouts.

Support

Many free membership WordPress plugins are standalone, meaning it’s NOT a done for you solution.

You install the plugin yourself, you configure it, and you manage everything on your server.

The drawback to this design and implementation is when there is a security bug or data corruption, or incompatibility with another plugin, it’s all up to you to fix it.

You will also want to check if their Knowledge Base and FAQ are up-to-date, and during the trial, send an email and see how long they take to respond.

Features

There are many WordPress membership plugins, both free and paid solutions. And they all come with different set of “core” features to start your membership website.

Along with the questions earlier about what do you plan to offer in your membership, consider the following set of features to look out for:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM), or sometimes called member management. Do you need to able to manually upgrade members into different tier? Update their contact information?
  • Integrates into forums and/or live chats
  • Integrates into email marketing tools such as ConvertKit or Aweber
  • Member tagging
  • Supports digital downloads
  • Checkout funnel creation
  • Drip content
  • Coupons and discounts
  • Recurring subscriptions
  • Multi-tier levels
  • Physical products
  • Bump offers
  • Countdown timer

Free vs Paid

Now that you know what type of content you plan to produce and features to look for, the next step is to identify what membership plugins are out there and price.

The old saying goes, you get what you paid for. And when you starting a business, it’s important to outline the costs of what you will need.

Some membership plugins may not offer checkout capabilities so you need to pay another piece of software for check out and integrate with.

Or if you need to sync memberships with the checkout software, when someone signs up, cancels, the membership plugin should automate and safely sync up and deny access during the money back guarantee period or turn off access after the billing cycle has completed.

Other considerations you may have is if you plan or have email marketing in place, will the plugin integrate into your email software so it correctly flags an email subscriber as paid so they go through another on-boarding email drip sequence or another lists when they cancel.

Ideally, you want to be able to segment your buyer’s list vs subscriber’s list so you can send updates as needed.

For many serious people who want to get into running and operating a membership website, the customer journey generally starts with the blog, who then signs up on an email list, then takes to a sales page, enters a checkout funnels, and finally enters the paid area of membership site.

This generally entails about 3 pieces of software to consider in your expenses, the email mass mailing software, the checkout software, and the membership plugin

What’s Required to Run a WordPress Membership Site?

A WordPress website with a membership option provides plenty of resources, but some can be detrimental to your site’s overall performance. You should opt for the best one in your price range. You’ll need to have a website, a host, a domain name, and essential business plugins.

How Flexible are the Plug-in Options?

All plugins allow the restriction of the content.
Two important questions arise here: What is the level of flexibility of the restriction offered by each plugin and is it user-friendly?

Some important features listed below need to be considered:

  • Is it possible to restrict a tiny part of the post or is it mandatory to curtail the entire page?
  • Is it easy or difficult to restrict or permit the content of the page for different levels of membership?
  • Can an individual retain access to a particular post, or does it need to be dispensed to a specific membership plan?

You’ll also need to consider if drip content is an option with a given plugin. With the aid of drip content, you’re able to release content within a user’s membership gradually. If anyone wants to drop some content, it can be done with the aid of the plugin.

Coupons

Coupons are an important component in membership plugins. The majority of the plugins offers some types of coupons, but you should understand a few things.

For instance, some plugins allow you to send the coupons in bulk, while others just allow the for the tickets to be sent individually?

A wide variation of amenities like marketing through e-mail is integrated by most of the membership plugins. You need to check that the plugin that you have selected provides you with the integrations you require.

For example, there is the possibility that MailChimp might be supported by one plugin, but the same plugin might not support Campaign Monitor. If you only want one or the other, that makes your decision easier, but if you need both, you’ll have to find a platform that offers both.

Sometimes it’s necessary to change plugins. Before making the selection of the plugin, it is significant to scrutinize that the selected plugin supports the format that would enable the import or export of the list of members to another wp-members plugin. If it does not, it will leave you with a mess if you need to add or change plugins.

20 Best Membership Plug-ins WordPress

Listed below are the top 20 Membership Plugins WordPress.

1. Restrict Content Pro

Restrict Content Pro stands out as one of the best options available. It helps you create infinite levels of subscriptions, alternating between the regular membership website and a section that has premium content. You have two pricing options. You can either charge for a particular time or may opt for one time charges. The minimum amount for Restrict Content Pro is $99 per year.

2. Membermouse

MemberMouse is one of those membership plugins that offer you the maximum number of features. It provides a wide range of optimization tools along with the diversity of coupons. Plans start at under $20 per month.

3. Memberpress WordPress Plugin

MemberPress is another useful membership plugin. It incorporates all of the standard features along with agile techniques. It’s $99 per year.

4. Ithemes Exchange Membership Add-on

This is the add-on to the existing iTheme Exchange Membership. Pricing starts at $97.

5. Magic Members

The best thing about this plugin is that it offers a free trial of seven days so users can try it out without making a long-term commitment right away. If they opt in, the cost is $97.

6. Paid Memberships Pro

This plugin provides users with flexible payment options. It also permits some of the restricted content to be viewed by users who are not members which in turn increase the ranking of the site in SERP.

7. Woocommerce Memberships

Although this plugin suits certain specific situations, we don’t consider it a viable option for most sites. You should consider it only if you need specific features offered by it.

8. S2Member

This is a free plugin and offers a wide variety of features. Although these features are limited, you get them for free, so it’s worth a go if you’re budget-conscious and you want to try plugins.

9. WP Members

Another free plugin is WP-Members. In addition to the free option, you can later add extensions for a reasonable price.

10. aMember Pro

aMember Pro provides all the necessary features for running a membership site. It’s simple, straightforward, and a good option if you need something basic.

12. LearnDash

13. Teachable

14. Kanjabi

15. WooCommerce Memberships

16. Ultimate Member

17. Simple Membership

18. Memberful WP

19. WP-Members: Membership Framework

20. BuddyPress

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