One of the easiest ways to sell content online is with a membership site using WordPress as a CMS with WishList Member as the membership plugin.
A membership site is where visitors have to register or pay to access information in a password protected area. Paid for content has long been a lucrative revenue model (over 2 billion dollars spent last year on online content in the US), however even if you take away the paying side, a membership site is still a great way to develop a community.
Using WishList Member with WordPress
I spent a couple of weeks researching WordPress membership plugins before I decided to use WishList Member plugin. I purchased the Single Site Licence for $97 and overall I was very happy with the product.
The reasons I chose WishList Member were:
- the documentation (or videos) were laid out simply and setup is straightforward
- there is an active forum for support (I always like a forum because users give better answers about a product than the people who have created it!)
- it is used by David Risley, something of a membership site expert
- they are a well-established company and well-respected within the WordPress community
Set up a membership site in a few minutes with WishList Member plugin
After you’ve purchased the licence from WishList Member they will give you a download link for the plugin. This plugin should then be unzipped and the resulting folder called
"wishlist-member" (1.9MB) should be uploaded to the
/wp-content/plugins/ folder in your WordPress installation using an FTP client such as Filezilla.
Setting up membership levels
Once you’ve activated the plugin through the Plugins panel of the WordPress administration area the first thing you must do it is to create your membership levels. Further down the line you may want to create different membership levels (bronze, silver, gold membership levels, for example) but let’s say you just want to start with one.
Go to WL Member > Manage Membership Levels > Membership Levels and create a new level, let’s call it “Subscriber”.
Setting up registration/error pages
The next thing you must do it is to create your error pages. To do this go to Pages > Add New in the WordPress area. You may also see a new page created called “WishList Member” – ignore this page and do not delete it! I called the new page “Registration” and this is what was written in the text area of the page:
Thank you for your interest. Please register in order to proceed.
Please click the activation link in our email to receive email updates of our latest deals.
As you can see there is some shortcode in there – [register_Subscriber] puts in a registration form for the “Subscriber” membership level we just set up. This is the page where your visitors sign up so it’s good to also include reasons why registering will be beneficial.
Once you have saved this page set it to become the Non-Member error page in WL Member > Settings > Configuration.
Setting up the sidebar registration form
Now, all membership sites usually have a sidebar element that either tells you that you are signed up (usually with a “Welcome, Username”) or a message that says “You are not logged in”. WishList does this all for you with a widget.
The widget even gives you the option to register and a lost password link. Setting it up is easy, just go to Appearance > Widgets and drag the WishList widget into the area of the site you want it to go and fill it out:
Creating members only content
Of course, you’re going to have to create some content that only your members can view, otherwise there’s not much reason to register! There are two main ways you can do this. You either have whole pages or posts that are members only or you can have areas of pages and post that are members only.
If you scroll down whilst editing a page or post in the WordPress administration area, you can click a radio button to protect a whole page or post from a non-member:
If a visitor tries to access a protected page they will be taken to the registration page.
Alternatively you can protect an area of a page, usually the second half, by using shortcode in the WordPress text editor:
Content available for everyone (usually an introduction)
Quality content that you want people to sign up for
You would need to register as the “Subscriber” membership level as per our example in order to view the content within the shortcode. Visitors will see a “Content protected for subscribers only” message where the protected content is.
Congratulations, you’ve set up a membership site in 5 minutes!
That is it! You have now set up a site with unlimited membership levels, a registration form, a sidebar sign-up form, a lost password link, content protection, secure RSS feeds … there is, however, more you can do. You can get members to pay for the content!
Monetize your membership site
There are many ways to get members to pay for the content with the WishList Member plugin. The most popular is through integration with you PayPal business account.
To do this go to WL Member > Integration > Shopping Cart in the backend and select PayPal from the drop-down menu. Follow the PayPal and WishList integration in this tutorial video. This is a pretty painless process that should take you 5 to 10 minutes.
Integrate with MailChimp and AWeber
It is also essential that you get your members onto a MailChimp or AWeber mailing list so that you can easily communicate with your community. This works very well with WishList. You will have to get API keys and other information from the email management service and enter them at the WishList backend. There are excellent tutorials available for AWeber and MailChimp integration.
Once this is set up the registration and email opt-in processes are merged so that members get an activation email on registration which, when clicked, will put members on the MailChimp or AWeber email lists. I was very impressed with the integration with MailChimp.
Creating a membership site
I was delighted to get a chance to set up this frontier market investing membership site as I was interested to see how WishList Member plugin would work. Overall it is a robust and excellently supported plugin.
On the downside, the forms it creates are slightly inflexible. For example I was unable to modify the sidebar sign-up form and main registration form to be anything other than Username / First Name / Last Name / Email / Password – it is not possible to take any of these away.
If you wish to create a free membership site the best way of handling signups through the sidebar, however, is by using the WishList Registration Widget which allows visitors to sign up after only entering two fields – username and email. Their password is then emailed to them. I have tried this out and it works a treat. Coupled with an integration with MailChimp and Aweber this must be one of the best ways to increase registrations and build lists on the web!
Just about every aspect of the membership functionality is incredibly easy to modify with WishList Member plugin. If you want a simple membership site, free or paid, I would recommend this plugin.
Have you ever created a membership site or used WishList Member plugin for WordPress? What are your thoughts?
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