How to Create and Manage a WordPress Membership Site

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screenshot showing how you can create and manage a wordpress membership site

What is WordPress Membership?

WordPress Membership is a popular term used to represent an automated process run by WordPress where a user can sign up for a membership account to access restricted content.

Importance of Using a WordPress Membership System?

Everyday more and more web users are migrating to WordPress. It means more WordPress sites for the search engine crawler to index and higher competitions among the websites. No matter how compelling content you create it’s still going to be pretty hard for you to rank well in the search engine or to keep up the existing ranking.

What can you do to survive in this?

You can offer premium content to your existing/new visitors on a recurring basis. This helps you maintain your blog earnings without relying on lots of new traffic from the search engines. It also gives you a significant amount of time before search engines start to consider your website as a source of good content (Trust me! It can take even years).

How to Set up a WordPress Membership Site

There are two ways to set up a WordPress membership site and accept subscription payment: 1. Directly integrate the membership plugin with an external payment gateway (example. PayPal) 2. Integrate the membership plugin with a shopping cart plugin. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how you can implement the first option.

WordPress Membership Plugin Installation

First, you need to get a copy of the WP eMember plugin from here. Once you have the plugin you can directly upload and install it from your WordPress Dashboard. Here is how:

1. Go to Plugins->Add New

screenshot showing how to add a new plugin from the wordpress dashboard

2. Switch to the Upload option. There is a Choose File button which allows you to browse to the plugin file (.zip) on your computer. Select the plugin and hit Install Now.

screenshot showing how to upload a wordpress plugin

3. Once the plugin is installed click on the Activate Plugin option.

screenshot showing how to activate the wordpress plugin

How to Create New Membership Levels

After you install the plugin you may start creating membership levels. Go to WP eMember->Membership Level to create a new membership level.

screenshot showing how to create new membership levels with wp eMember plugin

As you can see there are two tabs. The Manage Levels tab will show all of your pre-configured membership levels whereas the Manage Content Protection tab allows you to select the posts/pages you wish to protect from anonymous users.

screenshot showing the create membership level settings page

Click on the Add New button. This will bring up the options you need to configure to create a new membership level. Let’s create a free membership level first.

screenshot showing how to create a free membership level with wp emember plugin

Free membership will only allow registered users to access your website content. However, you can choose which content your registered/anonymous users will have access to. You can choose to protect an entire post/page or a specific section of a post/page (example. teaser content). We are coming into that a bit later.

You can also create a premium membership level in the same way. Each membership level is created with a unique ID which you can access from the Manage Levels tab.

screenshot showing how to manage each wordpress membership level

WordPress Membership Plugin Settings Configuration

Let’s move on to the plugin settings now. You can access the WP eMember settings page by navigating to WP eMember->Settings.

There are various options (both simple and advanced) that you can configure in the general settings. The default options are fine. However, you will need to select a checkbox to enable  Free Membership on your site (make sure to also include the membership level ID so the plugin knows which level will be used as the free membership).

screenshot showing the general settings menu of wp emember plugin

Now switch to the Pages/Forms Settings tab.

screenshot showing the pages/forms settings section of wp emember plugin

This is where you can configure the login page, registration page and most importantly the payment page for your members. As you can see the plugin automatically created these pages for you. All you need to do is just customize the Membership Payment page to accept payment for your premium membership.

WordPress Membership Plugin Integration with PayPal

Go to WP eMember->Settings->Gateway Settings tab.

screenshot showing the gateway settings tab of wp emember plugin

There is a Direct PayPal Integration section. Enter your Premium membership level ID here and hit the Generate Code button.

screenshot showing the direct paypal integration option of wp emember plugin

The plugin will generate a piece of code based on your membership details. Copy this code to a notepad for later use.

Log in to your PayPal account and search for Subscription button in the search box. Follow the search result to the PayPal Button Wizard.

screenshot showing how to create a membership subscription button using paypal

Click on the Create your button now link. Select a type of button and enter a name for it.

screenshot showing the paypal button options

Enter the billing amount (example: $5.00) and the cycle (how often it will be charged. example: 1 month)

screenshot showing the paypal subscription button details

There are various options that you can customize. One important thing that you need to configure is the Advanced Variables. Copy the piece of code from your notepad and paste it here.

screenshot showing the advanced variable options of paypal subscription button

Click on the Create Button.

Copy the code that PayPal generates for you. Now go to the Membership Payment Page (which the plugin already created for you) and embed  the button code.

You can see the page in action:

wordpress membership payment page screenshot

How to Protect the Content of a Post/Page

Go to WP eMember->Membership Levels->Manage Content Protection.

content protection using wp emember plugin

First, select the content you want to protect from anonymous users. Click on the Set Protection button.

screenshot showing how to protect a post or page using wp emember plugin

Now select a membership level you want to allow access to the protected content (example: premium). Select the content and click on the Grant Access button. This will make it so the selected page/post can only be viewed by a registered member whose membership level is Premium.

If someone tries to access your protect content, they will be give an option to either log in or sign up for a Premium Membership.

screenshot showing a protected page using wp emember

That’s it! Your WordPress site is now ready to accept PayPal subscription payment using the WP eMember plugin.

I would love to hear your thoughts about setting up a WordPress membership site. Please feel free to share it in the comment section below.

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