WordPress membership plugins and the sites they help you to build are the new hip way to make money as a blogger. This is largely thanks to the hugely successful programs from Yaro Starak Membership Site Mastermind and Brian Clark Teaching Sells.
In this post I want to talk about what WordPress membership plugins do, the criteria I use when selecting a plugin and lastly I stack three popular plugins up against each other using my criteria to see how they perform.
What Is A WordPress Membership Plugin?
A WordPress membership plugin is an extension of your existing blog which allows you to protect certain areas of your blog and only let registered users read or download content. You can then charge for that content, whilst giving away other posts for free. This is also know as the freemium business model. This is great as you can prove your authority over time with quality free blogs posts and then create a premium section. Your existing readers are already sold on your knowledge and are likely to take up the premium section.
Why is this good for bloggers? Well you can create your own products to monetise your site rather than relying on adsense or other peoples affiliate programs. This creates an income and increases the value of your blog if you want to sell it on in the future as a going concern.
The plugin will deal with the complex process of signing up new users, integrating with a payment processor such as Paypal, granting access to content and protecting content if someone leaves your membership site.
These plugins are inevitably premium and you should expect to pay in the region of $50-$100 for your membership site config.
What To Look For In A WordPress Membership Plugin
I have worked with quiet a few membership site plugins, here is my shopping list of features you should look for:
You want to look for a plugin which can handle the major payment gateways, by that I mean Paypal,1Shopping Cart, Clickbank etc. Your plugin developer should already have done the hard work integrating with a credit card processor, you should only need to supply your credentials so money is deposited to your account.
You should also look for a membership site plugin which will deal with cancellations of the recurring payment on you site and automatically remove premium content from users who do this. An example of this is Paypal IPN integration. If a user creates a subscription and then cancells it, there should be a system in place for paypal IPN to contact you site and mark a user as unsubscribed and be removed from access to your system.
Ideally the plugin you choose should allow you to record affiliate sales. Affiliate sales are when you partner with other site owners to promote and sell your membership site. In return you will pay them a commission for each sale made.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most powerful way to market your site to a wide audience, and since a membership site is a write once, sell many model, you can quite happily sell in bulk and pay your affiliates a decent commission.
The way an affiliate marketing system works is that your partner will signup and be given a specific URL to direct people to your site e.g.
Your affiliate software will pickup that the visitor is from Bob’s site and setup a cookie, if a sale is made, another script is run, if the cookie is set then a sale is attributed to bob.
The thing to look out for in your membership plugin is the ability to run that second script which records the sale. There is an alternative to this, and that is to use a payment processor which has an inbuilt affiliate system such as Clickbanks or 1shoppingcart
For more details on affiliate marketing, I suggets you read Darren Rowse’ category on affiliate programs http://www.problogger.net/archives/category/affiliate-programs/
Your membership site must have the ability to protect content from none paying site visitors, this is an obvious thing, but content can be protected in a number of ways.
Protection of pages – restrict if a visitor can see a particular page
protection of posts – have the ability to mark a particular post as premium content
Partial protection of posts – Does you plugin have the ability to provider a teaser of a page or posts content and have the rest password protected.
Categories – Other things you may want are to protect whole categories
Downloads - If you site has multimedia content, you may want to protect what can be downloaded from your site, check to see of your plugin of choice can protect a link to a file on yoru system.
You may want various levels of content protection in your program for example there may be some free basic protected content and then a gold level membership.
Another area to consider are free trials, does your plugin give you x days free before locking down asking for payment?
Integration with email autoresponders
Conventional internet marketing wisdom says get someone onto your email list and you can convert that users much more easily, so is there the ability to integrate your membership site with an autoresponder?
Sequential content delivery
Membership sites attempt to retain members for as long as possible and recharge them with a recurring subscription fee. I like a membership site config which allows me to drip feed users with content allowing a controlled delivery of content rather than informaiton overload which can cause people to drop off your membership site.
After sales support
These types of plugins are complex. You need to have confidence in the after sales support of the team who developed the plugin. You are fundamentally changing the way your site works when you install a membership site plugin, can you be confident that there is support at the end of an email to help you out of your site goes phutt once the plugin has been installed.
The Plugins I have used And How they stack up
I have worked with three of the top wordpress membership plugins, they are:
- Your Member
- WishList Member
Here is a matrix of how they stacked up using my critera above:
|Your Member||Wp-Member||Wishlist Member|
|Payment processing||all main suppliers covered||all main suppliers covered||all main suppliers covered|
|Affilaite Marketing||You can run scripts on payment completion||You can run scripts on payment completion||You can redirect to a specific page which can contain your
code upon payment completion
|Pay per post||Yes||Yes||No|
|Autoresponder support||need to code or use their premium autoresponder plugin||No||Yes – aweber and autoresponse plus|
|Sequential content delivery||Yes,||No||Yes|
|Multiple levels of membership||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Support||Not the fastest, but answers were there after a couple of
prompting emails.The support forums are a bit cumbersome
|I have not used their customer support||Excellent customer support, my query was answered quickly
and the resolution was excellent
|Misc. Notes||Stouts lads from the north of England just like me.||Caused me problems creating a page with the same name as a
deleted protected page, Annoying nvaligation nosises on their site:)
My Recommended Plugin
I recommend wish list members, it is a very close call with Your Members, but the after sales support is more slick. It is the most expensive, but the native Aweber support makes up for that cost.
Need Help Building A WordPress Membership Site?
If you need help integrating your blog with a membership site plugin, I would be happy to give you a quote, please visit my service page and let me know your requirement.