WordPress Membership Plugins

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:

Payment Processing

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.

Affiliate Marketing.

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.

wpdude.com/?aff=bob

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/

Protecting Content

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.

Membership Levels

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
  • WP-Member
  • WishList Member

Here is a matrix of how they stacked up using my critera above:

Your Member Wp-Member Wishlist Member
Price $50 $44.99 $97
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
Protect Pages Yes Yes Yes
Protecdt Posts Yes Yes Yes
Particl Protection Yes Yes Yes
Pay per post Yes Yes No
Download protection Yes Yes Yes
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
URL newmedias.co.uk wp-member.com member.wishlistproducts.com
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.

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23 Responses to “WordPress Membership Plugins”

  1. Alex Newell August 20, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Thanks for the review – I’m looking for a way of using a wp site in clickbank at present.

    • Neil Matthews August 20, 2009 at 9:51 am #

      both wp-wishlist and your members has built in support for recurring payments with clickbanks It is fairly easy to configure. Plus you have a built in aff network just looking for new stuff to promote, let me know how it goes

  2. Tracey August 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    One thing I found out by doing a little more legwork: Wp-member is a yearly licence fee. So you’ll keep having to buy it every year. It was at the top of my list for my purposes until I found that out!

    • Neil Matthews August 25, 2009 at 8:55 am #

      I just double checked the prices and it says $44 for a one off payment for one site. That’s very misleading if it is an annual fee. Buyers Beware

  3. samantha December 21, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    the url for wishlist member is incorrect, it should be http://member.wishlistproducts.com/
    cheers

    • Neil Matthews December 21, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

      Hi Samantha,

      Thanks for the heads up

  4. Daniel December 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    Nice comparison. I am trying out Your Member right now, but can’t get it working so that a membership is automatically activated after a clickbank payment. Support is slow and blames it on clickbank. I will try wishlist next, have wasted enough time with your member.

    • Tracey December 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

      Daniel, support on Your Member can be slow, but I’ve found it to be thorough. And consider: they’re real guys, not faceless huge office staff, and given the season, people are rather busy over the holidays. *Everything* is slow the last couple of weeks of the year. It may very well be that Clickbank is understaffed at the moment to respond to problems.

      Case in point: I had a member cancel, and it took over a week for the refund to hit. Wasn’t YM: it was Paypal in this case.

  5. Todd January 7, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    I am new to WP and have been reviewing several options. I’m really glad you put this review together, I was convinced that WishList was the way to go, but just needed 1 more review to push me over the edge. Thanks for helping me make my decision. I also appreciate the offer to help in the future; I like options.

  6. Doogie January 15, 2010 at 12:27 am #

    Have you tried MemberWing plugin for WP (http://www.memberwing {dot} com/)? I think it pretty much does about everything that Your Member and Wishlist do. Just curious…

    • Neil Matthews January 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

      Hi Doogie

      I’ve not tried MemberWing (or heard of it) I think I will check out the free version and add it to the review. In particular I like that it is integrated out of the box with the affiliate sofyware, something a bit light on other membership plugins

      Neil

  7. David Alexander February 15, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    Hi Neil, I would also love to hear your thoughts and review on Memberwing. I have installed the free version and had a look, it seems well put together, and is good for SEO as well though the professional version and professional unlimited versions do seem pricey. Wondering whether its worth making the splash. I think their dashboard could be prettier and better organized maybe.

    I dont plan on charging for my membership I simply want to give my clients access to clients.mywebsite.com to view additional content to improve after sales support and service etc. A knowledge base if you will, with some exclusivity.

    Thanks for the post great work and useful to read while I compare to memberwing.

    • Neil Matthews February 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

      I still haven’t had a chance to check out memberwing yet. It is on my to-do list I will update you once it is done

      Neil

  8. Neil Matthews May 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Hi Maria

    The marjority of these systems are plugins, and will not work with the free version of wordpress, you will have to setup a self hosted install. This is not the premium domain version but wordpress where you install it on your own hosting account with a company such as godaddy or bluehost.

    Wishlist can be added to an existing blog, and the post can be protected retrospectively.

    I have not seen digitalaccesspass

    These are relatively easy to install, no coding is required. Wishlist member is configured to work with 1shopping cart

    Have you checked out SocialSAM.com, this may be a better way forward if you don’t want to code up a membership site

    Beil

  9. Cortney Wanca July 11, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    You mention the importance of Payment Processors handling cancellations, but that was left out of your matrix. How do each of these handle cancellations or just as important a failed billing? From all I have seen, it seems that most solutions handle automatic account creation but they don’t seem to handle cancellations, expirations or failed billings automatically.

    • Tim Nash August 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      Hi Cortney, while I know your comment was a while ago, just wanted to follow it up with cancellations/fails etc with payments often down to the Payment Gateway and what it tells the software. For example PayPal sends IPN notifications on cancel, fails and pendings but quite a few don’t. If the gateway doesn’t offer a method to tell the site, then not a lot the software can do.

      I can tell you I think all the payment gateways used in Your Members automates the handling of cancels and failed billings and I suspect and hope it’s the same for the other ones mentioned here.

      Just to quickly add that we the northern lads at Your Members got bought earlier this year by another northern UK company Coding Futures and I think the support response time has improved. Also worth mentioning we are now on YM10 and the mail management and auto responder bits are built in with no need for any code.

  10. Pashmina September 29, 2011 at 5:24 am #

    I’m so confused by all the reviews. Everyone picks something different. I’m checking out Digital Access Pass. Has anyone heard anything about that particular plugin?

  11. Ravi Jayagopal December 3, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Hi Neil,

    Would love to see you add DigitalAccessPass.com (DAP) to your list. We sincerely believe that anyone’s research on premium wordpress membership plugins, would be sorely incomplete without at least considering DAP as part of their search.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment here :-)

    Cheers!

    - Ravi Jayagopal
    Founder & Co-Developer, DAP

    PS: If you wish to promote DAP as an affiliate, you’re most welcome to join our affiliate program. Just ping us via email and we’ll take care of the rest.

    • Neil Matthews December 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

      I’ve not used DAP but many people are talking about it, I can look into that

      Neil

  12. todd May 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    I’m curious if you used any of the widgets from wild apricot that can be plugged into word press .

    wild apricot is a membership site that offers diff . erent levels of pricing

    Our non profit is looking into them

    • Neil Matthews May 3, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      I’ve not heard of or used Wild Apricot that’s why it was not included in my list

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