Many websites keep certain content locked behind a paywall that only members can access. You can do this in WordPress as long as you install a membership plugin, and there is no shortage of options when it comes to them.
Over the years, these plugins have evolved beyond just locking content behind a membership. For instance, if you think about online courses, they utilize these types of plugins. Some even exist for member-specific coupons.
As you can imagine, it’s all about finding the right plugin to fit your website’s needs.
Today, I will share the best membership plugins for WordPress you should use in 2023.
What Is A Membership Plugin?
In its most basic form, a membership plugin is one that allows a website to deliver exclusive content to certain visitors. For most cases today, this is referred to as pay-to-click, but it doesn’t always need to cost the user anything.
In many cases, some websites just require a user to sign up for a free account, but it really depends on the site and the tool you use.
So, what kind of content can you make exclusive? Well, just about anything. This includes blog posts, video content, or access to a members-only store. You really don’t have any limits.
Of course, as these plugins have become more advanced over the years, they do far more than just restrict access to content. Instead, many nowadays provide you with additional creator tools to help create content worthy of that membership.
For instance, a tool that may focus on online courses will typically include an online course builder.
Thus, you’ll need to find the best membership plugin to fit your WordPress website.
When it comes to building a membership website, there is no better plugin than MemberPress. It is by far the easiest plugin you can use to build a membership site and is accessible to all skill levels.
Most importantly, it’s an all-in-one plugin. So, regardless of what kind of website you run, it will have tools to help.
In terms of restricting users from accessing content, you have complete control and can set up multiple membership levels. It’s also not just for content as you can actually restrict users from accessing specific tags or categories entirely.
It also gives you a variety of options when it comes to monetizing your website. With it, you can set up one-time payments, subscriptions, and other options. You’ll have control over every aspect and can customize it as you see fit.
Benefits of Using MemberPress
- Includes a course builder to create custom courses for members
- Includes drip content control to help make your content feel exclusive
- Has a variety of templates for pricing pages that work on any theme
- Create an unlimited number of coupons that can be sent to members
- Accepts most major payments gateways with options for cash and check
2. WooCommerce Memberships
Are you looking to build a members-only store? If so, you probably are already using WooCommerce, so you might as well take advantage of the WooCommerce Memberships add-on plugin.
It allows you to build a membership system that is tied directly to your WooCommerce store seamlessly.
Membership plans are created separately from products, but you’ll have no trouble with it if you are familiar with WooCommerce already. You’ll be able to limit access to products or set up recurring payments with ease.
You’ll also gain a variety of options and perks you can grant members. This includes special shipping options, discounts, further emailing options, and much more.
If you plan on using WooCommerse, no plugin can do a better job.
Benefits of Using WooCommerce Memberships
- Allows members to invite others to become members to help the site grow faster
- Create different membership levels to fit your store needs
- Generate expiration and renewal emails for all member levels
- Makes it easy to directly communicate with members
- Drip content based on how long a visitor has been a member
3. Ultimate Member
The Ultimate Member plugin makes it incredibly easy to set up a membership for your website, and it is completely free to use. And while it may be a free plugin, it is not lacking when it comes to features.
In fact, it even includes a free drag-and-drop form builder that you can utilize to build sign-up forms.
With the base plugin, you’ll be able to restrict user access to content, create membership directories, and even create conditional navigation menus. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Now, while the plugin is free to use, it has a variety of premium extensions that you purchase. For instance, you can use the Private Messages add-on to add a private message system for members to take advantage of.
Benefits of Using Ultimate Member
- Premium add-on support to work with WooCommerce
- Integrates with the ForumWP plugin for free
- Protects your website from bots with reCAPTCHA-protected forms
- Create a front-end user login area for your website
- Includes a variety of blocks for the Gutenberg editor
4. Restrict Content Pro
Keeping track of your membership content can become a real hassle as your website grows in size. That’s where the Restrict Content Pro plugin comes into play. It can help you manage and track what members are doing with that exclusive content.
Just to be clear, you can create memberships for your website and modify them using bulk selection tools.
The end result is a seamless experience that gives you an amazing amount of control over your memberships and gives you access to detailed information on how those memberships are being used.
You’ll also gain access to multiple payment gateways like PayPal or Stripe to accept payments for the memberships. Then, Restrict Content Pro gives you access to automated emails for new members and reminders to existing ones.
Benefits of Using Restrict Content Pro
- Offers a variety of plans for your website to choose from including a limited free plan
- Create discount codes for your members with no limits
- Create multiple membership levels and restrict content based on them
- Integrates with a wide range of plugins and tools like MailChimp or WooCommerce
- Includes a variety of template forms that you can use to save time
5. Members – Membership & User Role Editor Plugin
Are you a fan of the user roles in WordPress? If so, you might have been inclined to think you could use them to create a membership for your website. And you can do just that with the Members plugin.
This plugin is created and maintained by the MemberPress team but is a separate plugin that is free to use.
With this installed, you are able to assign users multiple user roles and restrict viewable content for those specific roles. This is all done by adding a shortcode to the content in question, which makes it very beginner friendly.
To be clear, you can achieve the same features of this plugin by modifying the code of your WordPress install. However, that might be beyond many users’ capabilities, which is exactly why this plugin was created.
Benefits of Using Members
- The interface is extremely simple and utilizes the user role system in WordPress
- Works well with other plugins that create unique user roles
- Gain access to a long list of free add-ons to expand the capabilities of the base plugin
- Supports a multisite environment, but only the Super Admin can edit the roles
- Integrates with WooCommerce stores
If you plan on offering online courses as part of your main business, there’s no better plugin than LearnDash. Not only does it provide you with some of the best course creation tools, but it also handles everything you’ll need in terms of memberships and subscriptions.
You’ll even be able to create quizzes with eight unique question types (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc.).
In terms of memberships, you’ll be able to enlist students into courses and group them accordingly. Each course can be priced on its own and you can even bundle them. Thus, you’ll have full control over the monetization.
One of the most unique features that your members can take advantage of is Focus Mode. This is a learning portal that you can utilize and customize to create a distraction-free course. It’s great for helping your members and students focus on the material.
Benefits of Using LearnDash
- Supports over 300 payment gateways when utilizing WooCommerce
- Send out automated reminders when membership is running out
- Give users unique badges for completing courses
- Integrates with many plugins in the WordPress directory and other third-party tools like Slack
- Helps gamify your course content to encourage users to keep going
7. s2Member – Membership Plugin for All Kinds of Memberships
Are you looking for a membership plugin that can grow with your website? If so, look no further than S2Member. This plugin offers a great free plugin that is perfect for new membership sites.
However, as your site grows, the premium version will be able to keep up and provide the support and features you need.
You’ll be able to restrict access to your content or restrict access to file downloads with this plugin. At the same time, you’ll be able to utilize a variety of payment gateways like PayPal with secure checkout.
In terms of usability, the plugin utilizes shortcodes to make setup easy. The plugin provides all of the shortcodes itself, so it really comes down to copying and pasting them into the desired location, which makes it easy for beginners.
Benefits of Using S2Member
- You’ll be able to manually create an account for your users if needed (works well with physical locations)
- Includes a variety of email templates that you can customize to welcome or alert members
- Create coupons or discount codes for members
- Create multiple membership levels to fit the needs of your website
- Supports a multisite network
8. Simple Membership
Closing out this list is the Simple Membership plugin. While the name implies it is easy to use, it’s actually targeted at more advanced users by offering a large number of filters and hooks for developers to utilize.
That said, if you are just after basic content restriction, the process is quite simple at any skill level.
With it, you’ll be able to create a front-end login for users, create profiles for each member, and choose which membership levels get access to what content. It’s quite simple, but that’s to be expected from a free plugin.
In terms of content restriction, you can utilize it on any kind of content from blogs to photo galleries. More advanced users can utilize the customizable hooks to really make the plugin work for them.
Benefits of Using Simple Membership
- All membership payments are logged in the dashboard for easy viewing
- Apply content restrictions in bulk across pages and posts
- Supports a large number of languages
- Lets you use reCAPTCHA to protect your membership sign-up forms
- Setup login redirections for members when they access a members-only page
Even with the right plugin in hand, you may still have some lingering questions. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions related to membership websites.
How Long Does It Take For A Membership Website to Grow?
Unfortunately, there is no exact answer.
While membership websites can be extremely profitable as they grow in size, it could take months or even years for websites to grow that large. It takes a dedicated marketing team to reach the right audience.
One of the best ways to speed up growth is to incentivize your existing members to spread the word and recruit their friends and family. This can be accomplished by providing a referral program that rewards those users.
It’s also important to consider the type of content your website is producing and the competition you may face.
All of these factors can dramatically change how fast your website grows.
Is It Possible to Build A Membership Website Without a Plugin?
Absolutely, but you will need to know your way around HTML, PHP, and CSS code.
If you remember, the Members plugin that we highlighted above uses the built-in user role system in WordPress. That can be accomplished by re-coding the system for your own use and could take hundreds of lines to achieve.
While you can do it without a plugin, most WordPress membership sites do use a plugin because they reduce the amount of setup time and provide helpful tools to enhance member-specific content.
Should A Membership Site Include Free Content?
Absolutely, after all, you need to get people to sign up in the first place.
There are multiple ways to go about this, but the most popular option is usually a free trial. It will allow users to sign-up for an account and view some or all the content to see if it is worth the money.
This has the advantage of having the individual already enter all of their information, including billing, into your system. Of course, you’ll also need to be sure to create pages anyone can access to highlight what’s included on your site.
Obviously, it’s pretty hard to even sell a free trial if they have no idea what the website is about, so make sure you show off what’s included.
Videos samples really work well in these situations.
Should I Include Ads on My Membership Website?
While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, generally speaking, you should not include ads.
The user has already paid to access the content and most likely does not want to see intrusive ads on the side of that premium content. And in general, most membership websites do not include ads, so that expectation is already an expected mindset.
In fact, many websites are beginning to include a low-cost membership for users that do not like ads. This allows them to view the content in an ad-free environment while allowing the website to earn money.
That said, there are exceptions, and some websites do choose to run limited ads on a membership site. They will generally refrain from putting ads on the premium content but will include them on the forms when signing up.
Some sites will instead opt to utilize affiliate marketing for additional revenue as it can be done in a less intrusive way that can add value to some content. Overall, the user is already paying for the content, so it’s a bit redundant to run ads.
Build Your Membership Website Today
Membership plugins are a great way to build a strong community around premium content. However, it must be properly marketed to your target audience.
After all, a membership website isn’t going to do well without members.
Since a user is being charged to access the content, they are already expecting it to be better than the free options, which is getting more challenging to do.
Especially when you consider the millions of quality blogs and free resources that exist online.
The quicker you set up your membership site with a great plugin, the faster you can start focusing on growing your members and delivering excellent content to them.
Which membership plugin did you install in WordPress? How long did it take for your website to become profitable?