One of my very first clients was an internet marketer, and he had been building premium membership sites in WordPress for a number of years with a different developer. Since he had always been using Digital Access Pass and Amember to build his sites, he requested that I continue to do so. Since I didn’t know any better, I proceeded as he asked. However, after a few years of trying to mess around with ugly systems not really designed with WordPress in mind and certainly not integrating with WordPress in the correct way, I finally broke down and asked if he would consider taking a different approach that would use well-built tools that do the job the way they’re supposed to, reducing the need for me to fix issues and the need for him to apologise to his clients for the site not working as it should on a regular basis.
Fortunately, he took the request well and proposed building his next site using such tools as a trial run. So I built it, and he was so happy with how easy it was, that he has vowed never to use Digital Access Pass or Amember again and even to go back and convert all his existing sites to the new system.
Here’s what I proposed to him and why:
The membership plugin
The bulk of the work is down to a plugin called Restrict Content Pro by WordPress plugin genius, Pippin Williamson. It makes creating a premium content site a breeze. It has everything you need to create free trials, paid memberships, free content and paid content.
Once you purchase ($30 at the time of writing) and install the plugin, you will want to edit the Settings so that the plugin performs in the manner intended. As part of this, you might need to create some new pages, such as for your sign-up form, login page, and member information pages. As has become the hallmark of Pippin’s work, the settings aren’t overwhelming and there’s only as many as are actually needed for the core functionality.
Then you’ll want to build the plans that your subscribers will be able to purchase in order to view the premium content. You can create free trials, by setting plans that have no price, but have a set duration; you can set free memberships, which only have access to limited content; and you can set your premium memberships, which provide access to your premium content. It should be noted that you can create different “plans” that provide access to different sets of premium content, so that you can also create a tiered membership system, where low-payers only get access to some content and the highest payers get access to everything.
Once all your membership levels are set up, you can start entering and protecting the content on your site. There are different ways to protect your content; you can either protect entire posts/pages/custom post types by using the Restrict Content Pro dialogue box on each entry, or you can protect portions of the content, by using shortcodes to hide the premium content, which is great for providing a “tickler” to non-subscribers who might then be enticed to sign-up.
Managing members is a very simple and intuitive process under the Restrict Content Pro menu in the dashboard. The plugin however, also allows you to add forms to the front end of your site, to allow users to change their password for example.
There’s also other handy functions, like discount codes for providing an incentive to people to sign up, and many add-ons for extending the functionality of the system, like a PayPal Pro add-on, and a Mailchimp add-on, allowing users to subscribe to your mailing lists during sign-up.
Adding an affiliates program
My client, being an internet marketer, was insistent that whatever system I propose have the ability to include an affiliates system, which is good for increasing sign-ups.
Fortunately, Pippin had worked with itthinx.com to create a tie-in between their Affiliates (and Affiliates Pro) plugin and Restrict Content Pro, enabling the Affiliates plugin to track sign-ups to the site through the Restrict Content Pro system.
Once you have installed the Affiliates plugin, you can go ahead and install the Affiliates Add-on for Restrict Content Pro. And that’s all there is to it – there’s no settings for the add-on, so once you’ve set up the Affiliates plugin the way you want, you’re all set and your members can start grabbing their affiliate links and promoting your site memberships/products.
Sending email broadcasts to your members
My client’s last requirement was the ability to send out email broadcasts to his subscribers to keep them informed of updates to the products that his members had subscribed to.
I proposed that he use the WYSIJA plugin, which I covered more extensively in a previous article, to perform this function. WYSIJA is the best email solution for WordPress in my opinion, allowing you to set up different lists, autoresponders and create genuinely gorgeous emails with ease. For him, it meant he was able to stop having to use Aweber to perform these tasks (and save himself the monthly bill).
And that did it – my client was ecstatic that he was now able to run his sites on tools that were built by people WordPress users for WordPress users.
I think my client’s happiness with the system that I put in place is proof enough that such a system can be built with little effort. Beyond that though, the system is built by people who use WordPress for a living and so the way they are built and the way that they work will both be familiar to WordPress users and will continue to work well into the future. It’s the best way to start building a Premium Content site.