Creating a Premium Membership Site with Restrict Content Pro

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.

Restrict Content Pro Settings Page

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.

A meta box, allowing you to restrict all, or certain portions of your content on each post or page

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.

Restrict Content Pro

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.

Affiliates System

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.

Just one of the many professional email templates available through WYSIJA.

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.

Sending email with WordPress

Conclusion

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.

28 thoughts on “Creating a Premium Membership Site with Restrict Content Pro”

  1. ace says:

    Can the Restrict Content Pro you mentioned be used to create a Forum based site on WordPress platform. I’ve been thinking of trying my luck on Forums and was hoping to find a plugin for members access. Thanks

    1. What you want is bbPress and Restrict Content Pro working in unison. See this plugin to join the two: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/restrict-content-pro-bbpress/

  2. Misty Foster says:

    I use WPmember, and it’s pretty good for small membership sites. Do you think that Restrict Content Pro will be great for a site with about 1,000 members? I’m looking for something that handles all the payments/billing automatically.

    1. Yes, Restrict Content Pro is very scalable and handles everything automatically. I’ve used it on a number of sites now and I love it.

  3. Sam says:

    Is there a feature or add-on for additional registration fields for RCP plugin? I know that you can customize with PHP but an add-on or feature upgrade to handle this function would be a plus. Thanks,
    Sam

    1. There’s not an add-on, but Pippin provided a great post for how to achieve that here.

  4. Janet Marie says:

    I am just getting started from a seed idea and your page is a terrific help. I did have another question that maybe you or another kind person could answer. Would you be able to have mobile apps for phones and tablets for a premium site using WordPress? If so, which plugin or process would you recommend?

    1. The best way to achieve this is to not really make any changes: the website can still be accessed using Restrict Content Pro through whatever browser mobile users choose. You can perhaps make a white-label mobile app and essentially wrap a browser in it, allowing access to your website only. That’s got to be very easy to do (though I’ve never tried it).

  5. Antonio says:

    When I looked at creating a members only site I was actually thinking of using Wishlist. How is this any different from Wishlist?

    Mahalo,
    Antonio

    1. Options like Wishlist, Digital Access Pass and Amember aren’t built with WordPress in mind. It’s like WordPress was an after-thought: as such, they usually have issues like maintaining separate user databases from WordPress, and it can be very frustrating to work with these other products. I’ve had lots of experience with Amember and Digital Access Pass (not Wishlist yet), and I can safely say that given the choice, I’ll never work with them again.

  6. John says:

    Hi Dave. I am assuming that part of the content on the site could be members only, and the rest of the site available to all. Is that right? Thanks

    1. Absolutely, you can either specify whole posts or pages to be protected, or even better than that, using shortcodes, you can specify that certain parts of a post or page are protected. You have very granular control over what is protected, and not.

  7. Greg says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’m enjoying Restrict Content Pro, but I’m puzzled about how to set up an upgrade page for members. Say someone signs up for a free membership, but I convince them that they should try the next level up. The Registration Page hides once folks are loggin in, so how can I direct them to a page where they can review, and sign up for, another membership level. Thanks for your help!

    Greg

    1. I think that what has to happen is that the member has to essentially cancel their current membership, and then start a new membership at the upgraded level, which I agree is far from ideal, but I’ll have the plugin author speak to this issue – maybe we’re missing something!

    2. Pippin replied here and here. In short you can go from a free account to a paid account, but not a paid account to a “higher paid” account.

  8. Lilly says:

    Hi Dave,

    thank you for this great info.
    You mentioned two Autoresponders, MailChimp and WYSIJA.
    How do I manage both?
    When someone subscribes in MailChimp how do I transfer customers to WYSIJA?

    Thanks in Advance
    Lilly

    1. I don’t know why you’d want to use both at the same time: they’re similar services, but one is third-party (MailChimp) and one is self-hosted (WYSIJA). However, if you do want to export from MailChimp to WYSIJA, MailChimp has an export feature.

  9. Muhammadibn says:

    Hi, Wysija is a really good plugin. Is it possible to add a checkbox to Restrict Content Pro member sign up to let new members sign up whilst they are registering?

    Thanks

  10. Rachel Goldstein says:

    What if the site is mainly about membership in an association, where the focus is not on restricting content, but on mailing out a print magazine, events that are open to members only, etc? Is Restrict Content Pro a good way to manage a membership database that isn’t so much about having a members-only section of the site?

    1. I’d say that’s a good way of managing that site, yes. For example, you can restrict the registration form for the event. The print magazine part gets a little trickier and would require some manual tasks when users are added/deleted from the site. You might also want to consider something like WP-CRM.

      1. Thanks for your response. Are there any others that you can suggest, that might allow mailing labels to be printed, for example?

        1. I can’t say that I’m aware of anything like that. Sounds like you need more of a real CRM (like Salesforce) than a WordPress installation.

  11. Mark says:

    I’m totally stuck on something that seems obvious, but I can’t find it on Pippins Plugins site or elsewhere … I am using Pippin’s login shortcode [login_form], which is nice because it bypasses wp-login.php. But I can’t figure out how to have a log out link – preferably in my custom menu – which actually logs people out of WordPress, destroys the session, without having the WordPress error page show up that says “are you sure you want to log out?” I’ve seen Login/Logout plugins, code tricks to place in the functions.php file, but none of them seem to have a clean custom logout that stops the viewer from going back to a protected page. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. I just wrote a little tutorial for you:

  12. Mark says:

    Thanks, Dave – where can I find it?

      1. Mark says:

        Thanks so much! It works perfectly, just what I was looking for! I really appreciate it!

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