How to set up a membership website with MemberPress?

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Have you ever wondered how to start generating revenue from your WordPress site? You can be an entrepreneur selling physical or digital products, an edupreneur selling courses online – and the fastest way to generate revenue is to create a membership website. 

You can drip feed content to your audience, have them sign up for content, or offer discounts for being part of a subscription plan on your website. A membership website lets you charge users for premium content, features, discounts, courses, and anything under the sun as per your brand’s requirements. This guide will show you step by step how to set up a membership site with zero coding knowledge.

Before setting up the membership website/Must-haves before starting the setup of your membership site

More than a decade ago, creating a website needed the skills of a coder who knew his way around HTML and CSS. Thanks to WordPress, now anyone can set up a website at the click of a button. You are probably wondering what do I need before I actually start setting up my membership site. Here’s what you need:

  1. A domain name – This is your digital address on the world wide web (for example, wpleak.com)
  2. A web hosting account – This is where all your website files are stored.
  3. A membership plugin – This is what will convert your regular website into a membership platform.

No matter if you are completely new to WordPress or a pro at it, you can set up a kickass membership website within 30-45 minutes, this guide will help you set up a membership site step by step.

Below are the steps in the process of setting up the membership website:

  1. Getting started with your membership site
  2. Choosing the right WordPress membership plugin 
  3. Setting up the membership plugin for your site
  4. Adding a payment method for the memberships
  5. Creating membership levels
  6. Restrict access to content for membership plans/ Adding rules for membership plans to restrict access to content
  7. Adding members-only content 
  8. Creating a pricing page 
  9. Adding sign up and user login forms 
  10. Customizing membership email templates
  11. Viewing reports and tinkering your membership site for growth
  12. Stepping up your membership site game

Let’s jump right into the process.

Step 1. Getting started with your membership site

Before you setup your membership website, you will have to choose where your website’s files will be stored. Basically, you will choose a hosting provider that caters to your business need and the ease of use and administering your WordPress website. We personally recommend Cloudways and Kinsta. Each hosting provider has its pros and cons. Every hosting provider will offer a domain name for free if you purchase a plan. Typically, a domain name costs around $10 – $20 per year, web hosting costs around $7 – $30, and since we are building a membership site you will need an SSL certificate which starts around $15 per year.

Remember these are just the starting prices. If you are buying themes and plugins; these costs tend to shoot up quickly!

Web hosting providers we recommend

Kinsta plans include a number of monthly visitors starting from 25,000 visits per month. Imagine 25,000 visitors land on your site the same day, there’s no guarantee that every one of those visitors will be served a super-fast website. Cloudways plans don’t impose caps like this. 

Cloudways also lets you signup for a free trial where you can test it out for your brand’s requirements and visitor traffic. It offers easy-to-install free SSL certificates and has stellar support available 24/7/365. Also, websites hosted on Cloudways have been known to load faster on Pingdom and GTmetrix as compared to websites hosted on Kinsta.

Kinsta plans start at $30 per month – $1500 per month. Cloudways plans start at $30 per month – $80 per month.

Step 2. Choosing the right WordPress membership plugin 

There are a plethora of membership plugins to choose from in the WordPress marketplace. It all comes down to what meets the needs and purpose of your brand. You’d choose membership for either of the two scenarios:

  1. Registration only

If you want users to only register for an account on your website to access content, courses, and products, you can use a WordPress form builder plugin such as WPForms. This would allow users to access your posts and pages and submit posts without accessing the admin area.

  1. Registration & subscriptions

If you want to take your website up a notch and provide members-only content, sell subscriptions, unlock exclusive discounts or courses, you’d like to choose a robust membership plugin such as MemberPress.

MemberPress bundles advanced features such as creating membership levels, payment gateway integration, restrict access to content based on membership levels, tags, categories, posts, taxonomies and much more.

You can also integrate LearnDash and Elementor into MemberPress to create a powerful and stunning online courses website with membership subscriptions. 

MemberPress pricing start for $249 per year for the Basic plan, $399 for the Plus plan and $549 for the Pro plan.

Now that you have the basics covered let’s start with setting up your membership site.

Step 3. Setting up the membership plugin for your site

We will be using MemberPress as our go-to WordPress membership plugin since it covers all the features we discussed above. Also, MemberPress plays very well with third-party plugins to take your membership site to a whole different level.

First and foremost, you need to buy, install and activate the MemberPress plugin. To do that:

  1. Buy and download the MemberPress plugin from the link below https://memberpress.com/plans/pricing/
  2. Extract the downloaded memberpress-basic.zip (or memberpress-pro-version.zip) file to the WordPress plugins folder yourhostname/wordpress/wp-content/plugins OR
    Go to your WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Add New. Click the Upload Plugin button. Browse to the download file location, select the memberpress-basic.zip & install the plugin.
  3. Click the Activate Plugin button to activate the MemberPress plugin on your website. OR
    To activate the plugin on your website site, go to WordPress Dashboard > Plugins and then click the Activate button for MemberPress Basic.

After activating the plugin, you’d need to configure the options for MemberPress via WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Settings. 

MemberPress - Configuring the settings
MemberPress – Configuring the settings

Configure the landing pages for your membership site, then click the Update Options button to apply and save the settings.

Step 4. Adding a payment method for the memberships

When you are creating membership levels, you’d also need to set up a payment gateway for your membership site. The most popular options for payments are Stripe (for credit cards) and PayPal. 

MemberPress supports Stripe, PayPal (Standard, Express, and Pro), and Authorize.net out of the box. Head over to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Settings > Payments. In the Gateway dropdown, select the preferred payment gateway option and configure it. You can add multiple payment gateway options for memberships on your website.

MemberPress - Configuring the payment settings
MemberPress – Configuring the payment settings

Make sure you click the Update Options button to apply and save the payments settings.

Step 5. Creating membership levels

Now that we’ve added the payment gateway, time to create membership levels. These would be the subscriptions your users will pay to access the content of your website. You can tweak each membership level to have different plans, access, pricing, and perks. 

To create a membership level, go to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Memberships and then click the Add New button.

Add a title for the membership level, select the price and billing type for the plan. In the example below, we have created a lifetime membership plan. In the Membership Options meta box, customize the permissions and other options of this particular plan. Once you are happy with the membership plan settings, click the Publish button.

MemberPress - Creating a membership level
MemberPress – Creating a membership level

Repeat the above process to create more membership plans. We created Platinum, Gold and Silver membership plans for our example.

MemberPress - Membership levels preview
MemberPress – Membership levels preview

Step 6. Restrict access to content for membership plans/Adding rules for membership plans to restrict access to content

Now that you have the membership levels created, you will need to select which content is available to the different membership plans. MemberPress steps in with ‘Rules’ to easily control access for the content.

To set up rules for membership levels, go to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Rules and then click the Add New button.

You can select different conditions and associate them to a membership plan when creating a new rule. For example, you can select all content that matches a particular tag or category to be available only to members with the gold and platinum subscription plan.

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

MemberPress - Creating a rule for membership levels
MemberPress – Creating a rule for membership levels

In the Drip/Expiration meta box, you can choose the content drip, and expiration options – drip content allows you to gradually release content to users (like a teaser) instead of giving it all away at once. The expiration option makes the content unavailable after a defined time.

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

Step 7. Adding members-only content 

In the above step, we created a rule that restricted all content tagged as premium-members to be restricted. Now, all we need to do is create our members-only content and add the premium-members tag to it. 

MemberPress - Creating content for membership rules
MemberPress – Creating content for membership rules

After adding the tag for the members-only content, go ahead and publish the content. 

MemberPress adds a MemberPress Unauthorized Access meta box to the post editor where you can control what logged out users (non-members) will see when they reach this content. You can choose to use the global default settings or show excerpts, a custom message, or a login form. 

MemberPress - MemberPress Unauthorized Access meta box
MemberPress – MemberPress Unauthorized Access meta box

A confirmation meta box is displayed for the protected content with the details of the access rules as seen in the screenshot below after you publish the content.

MemberPress - Protected content meta box for membership rules
MemberPress – Protected content meta box for membership rules

Step 8. Creating a pricing page 

After creating the membership levels, rules, and members-only content, we will create a landing page where your users will sign up for a membership plan on your website. Users will select the preferred plan and then move to a payment page. Users who try to access restricted or members-only content will also be redirected automatically to this page.

To configure the pricing plan page, go to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Groups and then click the Add New button.

Add a title for the group plan page. This will also be the title of the page your users will see.

In the Group Options meta box, add the membership plans we created earlier to display them on the pricing page. Optionally, you can select a theme for the pricing table. MemberPress offers few ready-made templates for it. 

MemberPress - Creating a new pricing group for membership plans
MemberPress – Creating a new pricing group for membership plans

Once you are done with the Group Options settings, click the Publish button.

MemberPress - Pricing plans page preview
MemberPress – Pricing plans page preview

After creating this pricing plan page, we would want unauthorized users (non-members) to be redirected to this so that they can buy a subscription to your site. To do that, copy the URL of this pricing plan page from the MemberPress > Groups list.

MemberPress - Pricing plans page URL
MemberPress – Pricing plans page URL

Go to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Settings > Pages. In the Unauthorized Access section, mark the checkbox for ‘Redirect unauthorized visitors to a specific URL’ and paste the copied URL in the ‘URL to direct unauthorized visitors to:’ textbox. Click the Update Options button to save the changes.

MemberPress - Redirecting unauthorized users to the pricing page
MemberPress – Redirecting unauthorized users to the pricing page

Step 9. Adding sign up and user login forms 

Now that we have everything ready let’s add signup/login forms so that your users can find their way around your website.

Let’s start with adding a user login form first for your existing users: 

  1. Go to WordPess Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets
  2. Drag and drop the MemberPress Login widget in the Sidebar meta box.
  3. Click the Save button.
MemberPress - Adding the MemberPress Login widget to the sidebar
MemberPress – Adding the MemberPress Login widget to the sidebar

Now let’s add the pricing plan page to the menu.

  1. Go to WordPess Dashboard > Appearance > Menus
  2. Select the menu you want to edit.
  3. Click the Custom Links menu item add the copied URL for the group pricing plan. 
  4. Add a link text for the menu item.
  5. Click the Add to Menu button. 
  6. Drag-and-drop the menu item at the desired position in the menu and then click the Save Menu button.
MemberPress - Adding the Pricing Plans page to the menu
MemberPress – Adding the Pricing Plans page to the menu

Step 10. Customizing membership email templates

After setting up the mechanism for selling memberships, your membership website will send out email notifications to members based on the actions they take – such as an welcome email when they first signup for a membership plan, make a payment for a plan, etc. MemberPress offers templates for member notifications and admin notification emails. MemberPress lets you customize the emails with basic formatting options and smart tags to insert dynamic items like username, names, membership level, transaction date, transaction status and more.

To customize the emails, go to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Settings > Emails

MemberPress - Settings - Emails
MemberPress > Settings > Emails

You can click the Edit button to open the email template editor, make the necessary changes and click the Send Test button to send out an test email and make sure that MemberPress is sending emails from your website.. 

Remember – always make sure you that test the email notifications are being sent properly before you push them to your customers!

MemberPress - Customizing email templates
MemberPress – Customizing email templates

Customizing email templates can add a personal touch to your membership site. Your members feel more connected when they receive a personalized email with your brand logo in their inbox. More brownie points for you!

Step 11. Viewing reports and tinkering your membership site for growth

Your go-to method for growing your business will always need to be studying the reports of your membership site. MemberPress automatically generates reports for your membership site and presents them as easy to read charts. You can view reports Monthly, Yearly and All Time to break down the reports for transactions and amounts received for your memberships.  

To view the reports, go to WordPress Dashboard > MemberPress > Reports

MemberPress - Viewing reports
MemberPress – Viewing reports

MemberPress lets you export reports as a .CSV file which you can share with your marketing and sales team to grow your business and understand your audience better.

Step 12. Stepping up your membership site game

A vital aspect of any membership site is its ability to change, adapt, and grow as the demand curve starts climbing up. MmeberPress lets you achieve this vital aspect with its seamless integrations with the most popular WordPress plugins and services such as Elementor, LearnDash, bbPress, Affiliate Royale, AWeber, MailChimp, and many more.

If you have no prior experience of creating a website, the Elementor integration can turn you into a uber-cool designer without touching a single line of code and you’ll end up with a stunning membership site without taking a hit on your wallet for a website designer (sorry designers!)

You can stand out from the crowd by integrating your membership site with LearnDash and build a sense of authority and expertise for your brand by created courses for a niche. Or build a community website by integrating BuddyPress & bbPress into MemberPress and shake things up by gamifying member activities with GamiPress.

Wasn’t that easy-peasy? Are you ready to create your membership website with MemberPress yet! Let us know in the comments below. Share your stunning membership websites with us.

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