There are countless examples across the internet of membership sites that are helping their owners earn a substantial recurring income. In this post I’ll show you some of the best membership plugins on the market and give you a rundown of all of their features. An important thing to consider is that membership plugins offer a huge range of functionality so paid versions are at a higher price point than most other plugins.
It’s worth considering what functionality you really need but the feature lists below will give you an idea of the kind of features you can expect.
What I like in particular is that upon installing the plugin, a number of default pages that you will need to use your membership. MemberMouse is designed to make things easy, not just in the install stage but also with supporting your customers.
There are also helpful reporting & analytics reports that will give you a variety of helpful insights. The only downside to this membership plugin is that the price is a recurring monthly amount that varies based on features and how many members you have. If you have searched for membership plugins in the past then I’m sure that you’ve probably seen S2 Members mentioned a number of times. For a free plugin S2 Members has a great feature set and a bunch of different customisable options – you can change things like email templates, login welcome page, high level security and the ability to choose exactly what content you’re protecting along with protecting your file downloads. There are some limitations because membership levels are limited to 4, you can’t use free registrations and the payment methods do come with limitations too – but it’s free, which is a bonus. DAP has been around since 2008 and has shown that it can stand the test of time – the creators continue to push out updates to keep the plugin current and includes the following features (amongst a lot more). If you’re looking to get more “bang for your buck”, then this is the membership plugin for you. OptimizePress 2.0 is a plugin designed for creating high converting sales pages, landing pages, webinar pages, membership sites and more. From what I can tell, it seems that the plugin is very similar to S2 member, but with some changes. Magic Members has been a popular favorite for a while now and comes with some great features. You only get updates for the next year and while this sometimes puts people off, it’s important to remember that it would be difficult for any company to continue to provide continuous updates and ensure the long term viability of the plugin. Magic Members also comes with 3 bonuses, some social icons (these aren’t that amazing) but you do get the Magic Kicker plugin and a 20% discount on the Magic affiliate plugin. Magic Kicker stops multiple people from logging into a single account which is an essential security feature and Magic Affiliate will turn your membership area into an affiliate power house that will allow your site to be promoted by other people. All in all, a very powerful plugin, but a few of the important things seems to be missing from the core plugin.
WishList has been a long-time favourite within the internet marketing community because it’s a solid plugin with a great feature set. Similar to Magic Members, you get 1 year of unlimited updates and some great support guides and tutorials to help you build out your membership site. WishList Member also has a customer centre packed with resources and tips to help you in addition to the regular support guides for the plugin. For those who purchase the multi-site license, you will get access to two custom built WordPress themes designed specifically for use with WishList Member along with some additional resources.
Integrates with popular email providers including AWeber, iContact, GetResponse, Mail Chimp and Infusionsoft. WP Members is a free plugin that makes it really easy to restrict access to particular pieces of content or just create a straight forward membership site. One of the things that I like about this plugin is that the login and registration options can easily be added to the sidebar with a widget and they also appear in line with the content, as opposed to on the usual WP login page which opens up some extra possibilities. Overall this is a straight forward plugin to use that makes it really easy to just restrict your content. You won’t get the same level of functionality as other membership plugins, but it provides a straight forward option to protect your content. Shortcodes support enables you to create special pages like user profiles, registration pages and login pages.
You’ve seen some of the plugins available and all of them have the ability to help you create a membership site. Now it’s a case of understanding exactly what features you want – this will help immensely when making a decision.
Adam, thanks for this posting this list, only the other day someone was asking for suggestions on membership plugins. MembershipMouse is on my list to look at more in depth although what puts me off is the monthly cost and limitations that other platforms don’t have. You cannot use Optimize Member with another membership plugin, but the Optimize Press plugin and theme both support certain external membership plugins. It’s possible that they may have added this option but to be sure you would need to ask the Optimize Press support team. Most platforms support PayPal payment gateway, fortunately it’s one of the most popular integrations. As for the partial page protection, off the top of my head this can be done by Magic Members, Wishlist Member and the membership plugin bundled with Optimize Press (e.g. The best thing for you to do would be to list all of the other features that you want to be in the plugin and start there. I’m going to update this list with more in the future when I get some time, some good suggestions from you to include there and Cart66 sounds very interesting.
Usually membership plugins will work best when you have clearly segmented free content and members only content. Do you know of any Member plugins that can assign download credits to member levels and issue new credits each payment period? I decided on Membermouse as they had some extra features and in particular the one click up sell option which is great. So far I’ve been very happy with the combination of Optimsepress for the website and membermouse for the membership. In your experience using OP, would I be able to build a content library similar to Copyblogger’s with the OptimizeMember functionality?
Does OptimizeMember allow for digital product sales (in addition to member’s area subscriptions)? OptimizeMember does allow you to sell digital products, but I’m not 100% sure if it will do everything you need. My recommendation would be to list out each individual feature you’re looking for then fit the plugin to the spec you need. I would also like to emphasize on testing the site properly before going live as it would cost you a ton if you find some issues while you turn the gates on. Hi Adam, Brilliant site, signed up to your newsletter which I look forward to following very much! The forum plugin I used hasn’t been updated in over 2 years but bbPress should work even better.
If you’re wanting the store look or to even have some of the same functionality as a store, it may be worth taking a slightly different approach.
Just had another look at the Exchange – digital downloads requires an add-on but it looks like you can set a download limit (picture on their sales page when you click on the digital tab). For years I’ve been wanting to see a more all encompassing system that was affordable, user-friendly, feature rich, and most importantly not overly marketing heavy or scammy feeling (there are a few of those services out there). Rainmaker is a new content management platform that was developed by the Copyblogger team (which I’ve referenced numerous times on this site). Rainmaker essentially takes all of the essential components of running various types of online businesses and puts them all under one roof. Often when you’re trying to create an all in one solution, you do so at the expense of quality and depth of features.
Because it would give me a more stable platform with which to continue growing the community and business, make the marketing side of things even more seamless and effective, and over the long term enhance the user experience within the site. You have no idea how many hours days weeks of my life I’ve spent dealing with membership site headaches.
So to have a powerful service where I don’t have to deal with any of this is enough to pique my interest. But not only does Rainmaker handle the tech side of things, it also has a solid interface for the front end that really makes you feel like you have control over what your site becomes. Now you can probably guess what is under each of those, but it can take a little while to figure out where everything is.
Once you spend a few hours with it however, you’re treated to an incredibly intuitive system that packs a hell of a lot of stuff into one robust, streamlined package. Since it’s built on WordPress, many of the pages you use will also already be pretty intuitive (like pages and posts for example). All of these variables will affect which landing page you choose and how the overall site is going to be created.
Let’s take a look at a few of these site components to show you just how powerful it is. After selecting my theme for the site, it took me all of about 5 minutes to get a the basics of my site going. There are a solid amount of themes to choose from, and you shouldn’t have trouble finding one that fits with the goal and vibe of your site. You’re also able to upload a child Genesis theme with a custom design if you want to really go the extra mile and customize the whole look and feel of your site. You can start with one of their pre-made templates or you can go even more bare and work from a blank template.
I won’t lie, it took me a little while to understand exactly how the landing page editor in Rainmaker worked. I’ve talked in the past about why I think all things being equal a membership site is better than a simple PDF guide. One of the things that I think is so interesting about Rainmaker is that it doesn’t matter if you have one flagship product, or a dozen different products, it helps you easily manage both.
And if you do have pdf product downloads (either free or paid) it lets you track who is actually downloading and opening them.
On my self-hosted Linode setup, I’m responsible for all security, updates, backups etc.
WP Engine fixed all of that for this site, however they can’t handle all of the extra services that Location Rebel runs. While you can upload Genesis child themes (essentially your own designs), that’s about the extent of the fully customizable stuff. As previously mentioned, for the vast majority of people this inside the box approach is a very good thing. Going along with the inside the box approach, there are some features that I would have liked to see that are missing. Whenever I move over Location Rebel to a new platform, I’m really looking to have more flexibility with my shopping cart and checkout process.
However, what it lacks is the ability to easily upsell and downsell new and existing customers to differnet products and services based on actions they take and needs they have.

The analytics is currently provides isn’t a replacement for Google Analytics, but it is very helpful to see the essentials at a glance. They’ve built Forum capabilities into the system using the WordPress forum software BBpress. This means you easily have control over the things you know will convert – or at least give you the tools to test to see if it will work! It allows you to have one or more podcasts each with their own settings, iTunes info, show art etc. So the idea of having an annual fee on my primary service is a little bit off putting to me. In the end, despite a few hang ups I listed before – I truly believe that the Rainmaker Platform is the best membership site option out there for 90% of people.
Rainmaker brings each of these powerful tools into a platform to give pros the tools they need to market effectively, and newbies access to tools they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I love the plans for expansion, and I like how they integrate content tools like blogging and podcasting seamlessly into the marketing tools and platform. To create a comparable system on your own will be expensive and full of road blocks and tech issues during setup and throughout the life of your site.
I really loved how much information you supplied about it and how open and truthful you were with the information you supplied. The fact that it’s made by the team over at copy blogger just makes things that much better.
I’ll definitely have to go through your link when I decide to create my membership course.
Rainmaker is a big leap forward for people that want to put out high value content, build communities and make a good living in the process. Can anyone here give a steer on how the annual cost of all the parallel Wordpress plugins necessary to create the same Rainmaker functionality compares to the annual cost of Rainmaker? Annual cost of actual Wordpress plugins is probably less, as many of the plugins are one time fees.
Holy crap, this is literally the most helpful post about membership sites I have seen in my last three hours of research. How does Rainmaker handle HTTPS and the dedicated IP (costs) that hosting services like Bluehost require for SSL?
So far everyone has been cool with it – and even the bare bones bbpress was better than the free version of Vanilla I was using before.
Unlike a simple WordPress blog, where you can basically install and go, a membership site has MANY more components.
So if you’re ready for this, grab a beer, and get comfortable, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover! So before you should even do anything, you need to give some thought as to why you are creating a membership site.
Those are just a few of the benefits for using a membership site as your distribution model for your next product, but as you can see there is some pretty huge upside.
You will never regret spending the extra time to create a clear vision of what you want your site to be. Now that you know there is a market for your site, and you know exactly what its going to consist of, its time to start considering how the site is going to be built. If you go this route make it as easy to read as possible and actually make it useful to your potential customers. Generally in order to capture the email address you give something away for free that offers immense value – something you could probably sell if you wanted to. Here is a good example of a squeeze page, that also gives some great advice on, well, creating a squeeze page! For Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty I went with a simple sales page that I created the night before my launch. If you went with a simple sales page you can skip down, as now I want to talk about the logistics of setting up a squeeze page.
First things first, if you want to have a squeeze page, you need to have a professional email auto-responder such as Aweber or MailChimp. What this service will allow you to do is capture email addresses, send mass mailings to them, or a series of automatic mailings that may be integrated into your offer. Ok, so now you’ve got a way to capture email addresses, time to create your squeeze page. OptimizePress is my absolute #1 recommendation for a WordPress theme for your membership site. So that said if you’re going to setup a sales funnel, check out OptimizePress and spend a couple hours getting familiar with it. Let’s take a look at each of these one by one, because they are some of the most important aspects of your site. Full integration with your payment processor, digital delivery tool, and sometimes affiliate programs. This should give you an idea of why these plugins are so important – bottom line, without them, you have no membership site. Works well with E-Junkie, but does not have the built in affiliate features that Amember has. For Location Rebel it was a VERY tough decision, although in the end I decided to stick with Wishlist. Either way you really can’t go wrong, both of these are excellent plugins and will allow you to do just about whatever you want with your membership site. This is a very important question, because it is one of the key factors that will gauge how difficult the setup process will be. That said, if you want to integrate a forum, then you better be ready to add a layer of complexity to your site. Also if you want everything to work right out of the box, then I’d consider using Amember over Wishlist, as it generally is more compatible with most forum software.
NOTE: I should also clarify, when I say compatible what I mean is having one login for your membership site and your forum. Considering this got a whole section in the mindmapping process, and more importantly due to the fact that this is why people will pay you, putting a LOT of thought and effort into your content creation is extremely important. If your site is going to be video and audio heavy then I highly recommend using a service like Amazon S3 for your storage and downloads.
If you do choose to use Amazon S3 for your video, you will need to install a video player on your site. One of the cool things about either Wishlist or Amember is that they both allow you to create as many membership tiers as you want. Making sure you know how you are going to setup your membership tiers and distribute your content is extremely important, because if this isn’t thought through correctly you could be leaving a lot on the table, or making your users unnecessarily frustrated.
E-Junkie is the easiest way on the planet to distribute a product and create an affiliate program.
If you’ve already got a few products out there and have a large audience, then you might need something that gives you even more customization options than Clickbank. But what do you do when the site is done, and you want the search engines to find you – or at least part of you? Then, and this is important, you need to go to your Google XML sitemap, and get the page ids for each of these pages, and make sure the plugin does not index them. There are thousands of plugins out there, but which ones are the most beneficial to your membership site? Page Tree: This is a super simple yet really beneficial plugin that allows me to have a sidebar widget with expandable and collapsable menus. Well, over 6,100 words later (and nearly 2000 words longer than the previous longest post here at Location 180) you have it, that’s how you build a successful membership site.
That said if I did miss anything or you have questions, shoot me an email or leave comment. If you enjoyed this or got value out of it, I would REALLY appreciate it if you would share it on Facebook (by hitting like below) or sharing it on Twitter. I’ve used WishList for a couple of projects and like it, although I would like a better way to drip content (not just by doing it with multiple membership levels) but it does the job. ClickBank is best for me when handling affiliates because it means I don’t have to worry about paying them or dealing with their taxes. On a side note, I read one of your reviews of M6 and will love your opinion if you have actually purchased it? Granted, some of the tools mentioned here weren’t available when I created my membership site back in late 2009, but I still found it took 10 times the amount of work I anticipated when I first had the idea (and that goes for every part of the process, from choosing resources, to creating content and optimizing the sales page). What about helping one set up a Member Site from start to finish, with the client just putting together the content?
I even have the bug and am looking to launch a members only private tech support and instruction elements to IT Arsenal. All gyms, whether it is Anytime Fitness or another fitness center, have more than a few dumbbells lying around or stacked on racks. Dumbbells are easier and safer to use than kettle bells, plus they allow for more natural motion.
Hold the top of the dumbbell with both hands, and place one of the dumbbells in the middle of your chest. Take a dumbbell in each hand by your sides, and move your right foot so there’s a 90 degree angle when you bend it. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your arms so each dumbbell reaches up to your shoulders. This includes the likes of a home page, checkout page, account page, confirmation page and more. Your customers can manage their account by themselves meaning that you will spend less time offering support. So, like S2 member, it’s not the most easy-to-use membership plugin out there, but the main benefit is the core OptimizePress plugin does work great for building landing pages. Now he shares what he’s learned about growing blogs and businesses here on Blogging Wizard. Secondly I have this question: I m gonna build a casting agency site with WP, so film producers can search actors online. Not a full paywall, but a “support us — become a member” request on the nag screen that pops up as you visit our custom-themed WordPress site.
But I am intrigued by your thorough research and the suggestions you make–what would you recco for us?
Was hoping to use it to create landing pages at the time but I gave up on that pretty quick. Very true about the OptimizePress membership plugin, although it can be good if you don’t need much in the way of advanced features. I’ve never used it on a live site but I tested it pretty extensively and it would be my choice if I were starting a new membership site. Member resources (knowledge posts) which would be viewable only to the paid members of the site.
Membership is the core of online business but its not everyone’s cup of tea especially for me its like rocket science.

I know its very expensive to outsource it but I am fond of fiverr and have struggled to build a great team for my technical stuff. You get a membership plugin with OptimizePress so you may not need anything else – all depends what features you need. I am looking for a membership plugin that will control recurring payments but MUST control the number of downloads available to different subscriber levels per month. The add-ons cost around $197 unfortunately but there are a lot of other ones and I’m hearing some really good things about Exchange.
Because everything works together, rather than fights each other to allow you as the content creator to focus on doing what you do best: creating. I’m in the process of figuring out if I can migrate my entire Location Rebel community over to Rainmaker. But due to the sheer amount of options, you’re going to want to have a plan for how your site is going to be laid out and flow.
You edit via the menu on the left and see all changes in real time as you modify the theme. However, I’m looking forward to seeing the Pro Version come out over the next couple months with even more options.
But once you get it, it becomes extremely easy to navigate and quickly create good looking pages. Everything is documented in easy to understand language, and they even give you a full account to Copyblogger Authority for even more help with the marketing side of things. It allows you to focus on the things that matter, and not overthink your site or get bogged down in technical struggles. It’d be nice if I could dive a bit deeper within the system on all aspects of my business. The idea is that it will make your life much easier to have them do it all (and it is), but it does limit your options. Now there are quite a few plugins that do this, but to not have to mess with all of that and have it baked in is pretty cool.
It also lets you track detailed metrics including where in your podcast people stop listening.
I try and keep my lifestyle business as lean as possible, and thus I minimize my expenses wherever possible. Which on the surface can seem like a lot of money, and if your business is relatively new, it is. I’m already paying about $500 a year just to host Location Rebel, so I remove that expense, and get solid support and enhanced services in the process. It makes everything so easy, and allows you to really focus on doing your products and launches right, as opposed to feeling limited by what you’ve got. They have a free two week trial, so you should pretty quickly be able to tell if it’s right for you.
I’ve been contemplating Rainmaker but would like to see more community features, in addition to the ones you suggested, added first.
However, you have to factor in the managed hosting (which for me is about $600 a year for just that one site, and isnt managed). Really hoping they start taking some of the forum updates seriously, because some of the things I think frustrate me more than anyone else. I like the looks of Rainmaker very much as I will be using a lot of embedded videos for our members.
Once that decision is made there are SO many different factors that go into the actual creation of the site. Let’s face it, if you distribute your product as an ebook, it is less complicated, but it also makes it much more difficult to update. With a membership site its extremely easy to combine written content, pdf downloads, audio, and video into one product that will appeal to the largest variety of people possible depending on how they want to learn. One of the most important questions you’ll need to consider is whether or not your site will be a one time fee or a recurring monthly charge. The more you allow for user interaction, the more information that’s being created within the site.
If you already have an idea of what the product is going to be about, then consider creating an offer. Regardless of what kind of page you want, sidebars, no sidebars, video, no video, nav bar, no nav bar etc.
This is a one time fee of only $97, and you can use it on as many of your sites as you want.
Let’s say you want to have 3 different pricing tiers, where each tier has access to different amounts of information.
Ie, if you want to have one login for both your site and your forum Wishlist Member does NOT do this for the most part.
If you’re doing your first site, and are erring on the side of less complex, then definitely get Wishlist Member. Episode #60 of the Lifestyle Business Podcast also talks in some detail about the benefits Amember.
This allows users to comment and discuss the material on each individual page of your site.
If member interaction is going to be play an important role in your site, a forum is essential. If you’re goal is to really provide a community atmosphere using these two features in tandem can be very beneficial.
Usually I’d say eliminating user interaction happens on the very low end of products or the very high end.
You should know what pages you want to have, how they will all go together, and how your members will be able to easily navigate around your site. There are always problems and questions that arise, no matter how well the process is mapped out. Any more posts you do on digital content, happy to look over and offer input – I see a lot of our customers sites and have noted many patterns since we started out. Awesome to see you pull in this wide range of knowledge, awesome real world breakdowns on all the tech out there to get membership done. I lean toward Mailchimp, Amember, and Vanilla, for integrations, but you hit the big names. You could easily chop up each section and push this out as a PDF, it’s a bit overwhelming, but easily bookmarked.
Create an ecommerce website, with a shopping cart, like Yahoo or whatever, which takes a rev share, create a membership site (amember plug-in or some other membership), use merchant services like Paypal for checkout, use a video host like…Wistia pehaps?
There’s a good reason for this since dumbbells are versatile enough to be used in different kinds of exercises and workouts. First off you need to hold the dumbbell properly, and it’s as simple as taking them off the rack and lift them in the manner you want, be it extension, press or curl. Next, squat until the dumbbell is between your legs and your back is about parallel to the floor.
Squat and get up, but as you rise press your dumbbells overhead and return to the squatting position, with your dumbbells going back to their original position. That said, there are plenty of other plugins & tools you can use for landing pages instead. So obviously actors should be basic member first to my site, then if they want to create their profiles (upload photos and info about them) they need to be paid member using paypal payment gateway. We don’t want to be members-only paywall restricted, but we do want to be able to invite people to support us.
I’d already got Optimisepress as my blog theme and sales page creator so I started with testing out their member plugin. I don’t recall now what the showstopper was that meant I had to get Membermouse but I think it was to do with multiple levels of membership. The key is we want it to also double as the member directory (member controls the content they have on their profile). For people migrating from an additional service, basic transfer of content is free through Fantasktic.
I can guarantee for most people that with the extra tools you’re provided, you will easily make more than the cost of the platform back on an annual basis. That and the fact that I know have access to beautiful landing page templates (goodbye Leadpages and Optmize Press). If there are similar sites out there, what will set mine apart and how can I improve on what others have already done?
Vanilla is still not working for unknown reasons (seems to be configured properly) and I just managed to get WP to work (had to activate some cookie-login setting that was not mentioned in the manual).
I second that my life has become ultimately easier with OptimizePress, I just worry that it will get overused on the front end (sales + squeeze) and become ineffective. With all the backends and entrepreneurs I’ve been working with, this is the hot new thing. While dumbbells are good for gaining muscle and getting rid of fat, many people don’t use them properly and thus don’t get the benefits they should. There are literally hundreds of different workouts that you can perform to gain muscle, lose fat, boost metabolism and burn calories. Your abs have to be tight and your back flat, and pull up the right dumbbell to your body’s right side, keeping your elbow at your side and tucked in. Cart66 includes traditional ecommerce functionality as well as membership, so it’s kind of a unique option. I have a membership program and also sell standalone products which people access through the membership as I usually bundle trial membership with the standalone products. But for members with the ultimate membership plan, it will show more details and a backlink to their website.
S2 Member does it but I also want it to link easily with something to give the site the store look. Does it have any membership features like a directory of members that all of the members can browse and even connect with?
How can I make people set their alarms for 3am just so they can be one of the first people to get access?
Thesis is great for sales pages, but setting up sales funnels with it is a little bit more difficult. Note that I’d consider myself tech-savy, I know my way around PHP-code and databases.
This is something you can do with a barbell but it’s more difficult, plus dumbbells are more convenient to use in the gym. After driving through your right heel take a big step forward so you just repeat the movement with your left leg. The best way to do this is to use a free service like Survey Monkey (recommended) or create your own form in Google Docs.

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