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4 Best Membership Plugins for WordPress Compared

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WordPress-Membership-Plugins

Looking to monetize your website and manage traffic, or build a solid customer base with a fixed income? Turning your website into a membership site may be the solution you’re looking for!

Memberships are a brilliant but underutilized method for sites to provide a more personalized and dedicated service to their members and ensure repeat visitors.

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Memberships can be used by different websites for different functions:

  • Content-based sites can restrict non-members from accessing blog posts or pages, or prevent them from downloading the content without paying for it.
  • Commercial websites, could create exclusive purchasing clubs and offer membership discounts, coupon codes, first dibs on sales and newly released products.
  • If you’re hosting a fan site, club or a team website, you have to restrict access to only members.

In my opinion, what a membership structure mainly does is function as specialized CMS (no, not a content management system :-p )- Customer Management System.

WordPress has a number of membership extensions you can download and integrate seamlessly into your website.

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Now, this post may or may not succeed in answering your question about which membership plugin is best for you, as there is no one size fits all solution. But what it aims to do, is explain to you the pros and cons on different options you have.

The plugin you choose will depend on what kind of website you own, what are your requirements and expectations. Even then you may have to customize with add-ons and tailor the features to get what you’re looking for exactly.

I’ve picked the extensions mentioned below as I believe they have something for everyone i.e. each one of them have unique features of their own. You can go through them and settle for the one that is perfectly suited to your website. So here are four of my favorite WordPress Membership Plugins that should be great for any website, from setup to support.

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#1 Paid Memberships Pro

Paid-Memberships-Pro-wordpress-membership-pluginThis is a neat lightweight extension that is (despite the misleading label) actually FREE!!

Easy to setup, this membership plugin is great if you’re a newbie WordPress user or a non-developer. Simply activate the plugin to restrict content and turn your website into a simple member-only site.

You can create unlimited membership levels, specify pricing and billing cycles for each level.

The plugin creates membership levels outside of the WordPress user roles, giving you the ability to upgrade user roles without affecting their membership rights.

PMPro integrates flawlessly with popular payment gateways like Stripe, Braintree, PayPal, Authorize.Net and 2Checkout.

This extension does not bloat its code by forcing useless features on its users but rather lets users pick customized features of their choice in the form of add-ons. Hence, the core code remains light-weight, providing only basic membership abilities to users and giving them a choice over which additional features they wish to incorporate.

There’s a lot to like about PMPro. For example, if you wish to give non-members a taste of your post, Paid Memberships Pro lets you create ‘excerpts’. Excerpts are also used by search engines to categorize and index your post.

For those of you looking for support and documentation, Paid Memberships Pro has two premium packages- Paid Memberships Core($97) and Paid Membership Pro Plus ($197). The Plus version gives you access to add-ons with features like Content Dripping (life-saver to sites with downloadable content), MailChimp Integration, custom themes and much more.

For the undecided, here’s a detailed review of the plugin.

All in all, Paid Memberships Pro is a great option for newbie users, layered enough to keep up with the demands of their growing business and  something that appeals to both coders as well as non-coders!!

Pros:

  • Free lightweight and easy to use
  • Customizable with add-ons
  • Easily restrict posts and pages
  • Export and Import CSV members List
  • Great for newbie users

  Cons:

  • Support and forums are only available to premium members

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#2 Restrict Content Pro

restrict-content-pro-wordpress-membership-pluginAnother innovative and lightweight plugin that does much more than its name suggests is Restrict Content Pro.

The developers have kept the design and features of this extension relatively simple. You can define the membership levels, payments, and pricing for each member individually or as a group.

Even schedule an expiry date, like if you’re looking to give a non-member a free 10-day trial, or set a definite period after which the subscription will expire. You can even set a fixed expiry date for subscriptions of all the members of a level.

The member management attributes are detailed and give power over accounts to the owner as well as the member. A complete member dashboard is included to let members edit their profile, change membership status and cancel their account.

Discount codes, that are a smart way to incentivise people to buy your products, can be applied to predefined membership levels. Payment integrations include Stripe, BrainTree and all of the PayPal versions.

Some minor features this plugin lacks is multi-level access option, content dripping, and activity based discounts. Again, a person subscribed to one level can upgrade/downgrade himself to another but cannot hold subscriptions to multiple groups. This lack of flexibility is a drawback for course content based sites.

Despite all of this, the best feature of the plugin is that it lives up to its name i.e. restricting content, which can either be easily done using the [restrict] [/restrict] shortcode or by clicking on the ‘Paid Only’ button for a page or post.

This plugin also has a help page that gives you pointers on how to modify the plugin to incorporate more features that you may need. It also documents everything from account registrations to transactions and generates reports on demand.

Restrict Content Pro comes in 4 subscription packages ranging from $49 to $449, and you can choose one depending on how much support, add-ons and sites you wish to incorporate it into.

Restrict Content Pro is really simple to use and does well-restricting content on posts and pages. This along with the options on the purchasable version make it a viable option.

Pros:

  • Simple and clean and easy to use
  • Great for content based websites
  • Help page, shortcodes and tutorials available to customise plugin

Cons:

  • No content dripping
  • Member cannot access multiple levels
  • Free version is severely limited
  • Lacks out of the box integration

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#3 WP-Members

wp-members-plugin-wordpress-membershipIntroduced in 2006, WP-Members was the first membership plugin created for WordPress. WP-Members is considered to be more of a ‘Membership Framework’ than an actual all-in-one solution.

Developers have built the extension to be tweaked and modified by people who are using it. You could either install add-ons or utilise the filter and action hooks to load required features into your membership site.

Unlike other registration plugins, it puts the registration process inline with your content and replaces the native WP login page with your own login page.

WP-Members is created mainly for content based sites because it has precise content restriction features. It is designed to cater to standalone websites and not multisite networks.

On installation, it immediately restricts access to posts. It also includes a feature that blocks page access from non-members and shows them ‘excerpts’ of posts instead. It cannot hide the content fully. If you have set posts to be blocked by default, then setting up content to be blocked is nothing more than adding the ‘Read More’ tag to the post content.

This extension also enables you to manage and edit fields on the member registration page and customize text for automated dialogues and error messages. You can also configure automated emails sent by the plugin. The themes too are easily customizable and detailed instructions are available to customize the CSS file without disrupting the core CSS.

WP-Members is a free plugin but you can subscribe to the main plugin site for private members forum, premium code snippets and tutorials, member exclusive extensions, as well as a priority support contact form.

The plugin is comprehensively documented on the support page with tips & tricks for those you wish to modify the look and feel and are looking for a scalable extension that grows with the website.

For more information about this plugin, here’s a comprehensive review of all its features.

Pros:

  • Scalable and customizable
  • Restricts content to show excerpts
  • Comprehensively documented
  • Can be modified using add-ons

Cons:

  • Does not work on multisite networks
  • Does not support popular payment gateways
  • Does not have many useful features of its own

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#4 WooCommerce Memberships

WooCommerce-Memberships-PluginA recent player in the Memberships market, WooCommerce Memberships is carefully and systematically developed to be a ‘one-stop solution for all membership needs’. It caters to a broad audience and gives members control over their own membership accounts.

WooCommerce Memberships includes the usual membership functions you use to protect posts and pages, create unlimited membership levels and  integrate with all the popular payment gateways that WooCommerce supports. All this with relative ease.

User memberships can be unlimited, or you can set an expiration length in terms of days, weeks, months, or years. Useful when providing complimentary and discounted memberships to non-members.

Apart from the standard paid membership, the extension includes useful features to restrict products to a membership plan, combine membership and product purchase, and also provide discount membership packages to customers who purchase products from the store.

WooCommerce Memberships was created to work in tandem with many of the WooCommerce plugins, especially WooCommerce Subscriptions. Integration between Memberships and Subscriptions means you can sell membership plans with recurring billing plans. You can also determine the length of memberships and generate a bill at the end of each cycle and let members upgrade/downgrade their own membership levels.

Discounts are provided based on member levels in many of the plugins but WooCommerce Memberships also gives discounts for any reward-based activity users may have participated in.

WooCommerce Memberships is one of the best membership plugins available in the market and seamlessly integrable into WooCommerce stores and comes with a Support Documentation. The plugin is priced from $149 per site.

For any further doubts and queries you may have, here’s an excellent review of this plugin that’ll walk you through all of its features.

Pros:

  • Supports recurring subscriptions
  • Supports time period for membership plans
  • Lets users control their own membership accounts (upgrade, downgrade, deletion)

Cons:

  • Is an extension to WooCommerce
  • Works better with Subscriptions and other needs other add-ons to optimise it completely.

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Endnote

The above plugins may have some unique features to offer in some areas and be lacking in others, therefore choosing the perfect membership plugin completely depends your discretion. Apart from these, there are several other WordPress membership plugins you can learn about before picking one for your site. Hope this article clarified a few things for you, you could also check out our 5-Point Guide to Choose the Best Membership Plugin on WordPress to help you make an informed decision.

Got any comments or feedback for us? Any other membership plugin you’d like us to mention ?? Let us know!!

 

Vinita Lobo

Vinita Lobo

2 Responses

  1. Nice post Vinita! Have you looked at any of the membership plugins that offer a micropayment option (CoinTent, Bitwall, etc.)?

    1. Hey Henry, thanks for the feedback 🙂
      I did look into a few micropayment plugins (including the ones mentioned above) and although they are more subscription based than membership based, they too are a great way to monetize websites.
      Here’s a bit of information on three plugins I liked:
      Cointent
      Simple and integrable
      Accepts micropayments for restricted content
      Accepts paid subscriptions
      Lets users set up virtual wallet
      Comes with inbuilt analytics

      CM MicroPayment
      One of the more popular MP plugins
      Integrable with both EDD and WooCommerce
      Creates virtual wallets for users
      Offers discounts and bonus points for transactions
      Generates transaction reports

      Bitwall
      Great way to market content
      Accepts micropayment to access content
      Lets users tweet to access content
      Lets users watch an ad to access content
      Creates day pass for access to site

      Subscriptions give users more flexibility when it comes picking content of their choice whereas memberships lack this kind of flexibility since they usually come in predefined packages.
      On the other hand, memberships have more conversion rates as compared to subscriptions.
      If you notice a clear trend among users, i.e. preference to the same set of content, it is better to setup membership packages with access to their preferred content. This will eliminate the users hassle of subscribing to each post individually.
      In the end, it all comes down to site owner’s vision about monetizing his website.

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