There are a lot of different plugins available to convert a WordPress blog into a full-fledged membership site. Some are free, some you have to pay for; and they all offer different functions and features. It can be quite difficult trying to choose the right one, but this article will help you sort it out.
There are two ways you can go when you are first starting a membership site, and the path you follow may depend on your budget. Free WP plugins for WordPress do not have all the bells and whistles the paid plugins do, but they can serve you well as you first set up shop.
Free WP Plugins
There are a number of these plugins on the Internet, and you can sort through them to find the best one with the kind of features you want. Many come with basic features and offer an upgrade for a price.
Paid WP Plugins
Paid membership plugins give you a lot more features, and you may need some of these right away; or you may be able to use a free edition first while you gather up some funds to pay for an upgrade. It all depends on what you need this membership site to do right at the beginning.
If you cannot afford to pay for a plugin, you should take a look at the various free ones available, and see which one you can use temporarily. They all offer different free features; and once again, your choice will be based on your needs.
There can also be different upgrade levels, with specific functions on each. Some will give a license to operate one membership site only, and require you to pay extra for any extra sites, while others will give a license to use it on unlimited sites with a basic paid upgrade. It is wise to take the time and shop around for a good plugin, because you may need to use it for years.
There are some features you should definitely look for when you are first getting a membership plugin. Most will come equipped with these functions, but it is a good idea to check first to make sure.
o SEO optimization
o Ability to convert an existing blog to a membership site
o Capacity to support any theme
o Secured content area
These are some of the features that may be offered with paid upgrades.
o Gradual content delivery
o Automated paid membership access
o Automated subscription cancellations
o Automated for PayPal, and/or Paydotcom, E-junkie.com or another payment processor
o Support for Trialpay
o Automated email with an autoresponder like aweber
Membership Site Success Tips
Both the paid and the free plugins should also be easy to install and use. You definitely don’t want to waste any time trying to figure out how to use the software while you are working on a membership site. Your focus should be on content and membership, not on any technical issues.
You can best decide on which plugin you like the best by trying a free version and then build up to a paid one. Odds are that if you find the free edition easy to use and can become comfortable with it, that the paid one will be the same. If there is anything you feel you don’t like, then you can look for another plugin that does something differently.
Any WordPress membership plugin should have a support system to back it up. Look for this before you purchase a plugin; and if you have any questions before making the initial purchase, contact them. This is a good test to make sure that they answer their emails, and how fast they respond.
You can also opt for another solution to setting up a WordPress membership site. There are companies that offer the ability to set up external databases that can be integrated with WordPress. These are offered as an all-in-one solution that some would find valuable.
These are a bit pricier, but they have great features and can get you off to a fast start with your membership site if cost is not too much of an issue. Some people like to build up a business slowly, one step at a time, while others prefer to start off with a bang and get things rolling right at the start.
You can start your site using any of these methods, and some plugins for WordPress may give you a trial version that you can try out first. One thing you should find out before deciding on a plugin and making a purchase is whether it is a one-time payment for the software. Most are, but one or two will make you pay monthly. This can really add up if you plan on making your site a long-term viable website for members.
When you are looking at the various plugins and features available, you might want to take out a pen and paper and quickly jot down the features each offers so that you don’t get too confused with the comparison. There are quite a few you can choose from, and you want to make sure that you get your money’s worth.
It really is worth all of the time and trouble you spend setting up a membership site the right way, and if you do as much research on your site software as you did with your keyword research, you will not be disappointed. A well-running functioning site should be your goal.