Just now I have finished set up of my membership site with WordPress, I thought that definitely it would be useful to some of you who want to start a member’s only private area in your existing blog or to someone who want to launch a membership site.
Definitely it was not quick as I would expect
Where to host my membership site? Which membership site software should I use? Can I start a membership site using WordPress blog? How to convert WordPress into Membership site? Is there any WordPress plugins to set up membership site in blogs? How much does it cost to start a membership site? Which Forum software should I use for membership site? How to install membership website software in my server? What are the server specifications should I have before starting a membership website? How much server resources like storage, bandwidth, CPU, IP should I have for handling expected & unexpected traffic?
Oops. Definitely it takes a long time to decide the things and start a membership website. If you are planning to launch your membership website on October 1, then you should start the pre-works at least before 45 to 60 days, say in this case August 1.
Membership Site Models
Wishlist (a company that offers a WordPress membership site plugin) published a video that listed 10 types of membership site ideas.
I am not recommending you to watch this video for the sake of choosing one of the 10 membership website models. I know you have already planned how your membership website would look like. If you watch the video then you may able to add more features & functionalities with your existing requirement.
Right Time to Launch Membership Websites
If you have a targeted audience, then this is the right time to launch your membership website. There is no big number of audience requirements unless you have big target or expectation. As far as my concern, you can launch your membership website even if you don’t have big email list, well-known blog and great network with A-list bloggers. If you have belief on yourself, on your product and on your marketing capabilities then I call you, “Come on! Let us launch more membership/subscription websites”.
Is it hard to launch Membership Websites?
As I told you above, it takes more time. But definitely launching a membership website was NOT hard for me. If you have wisely chosen hosting server, membership site script or membership WP plugin, payment gateway and affiliate program setup, then launching a membership site won’t be hard & won’t take more time.
Difficulties in Launching a Membership Website
- Choosing the right technology say server, membership software, Forum, payment gateways, affiliate systems, email Auto responders etc.
- Picking the right combination of technology. For example, you will love a membership plugin for wordpress but it won’t integrate with your preferred payment gateway.
- Installing the softwares and integrating different things. You should check/consult about whether your all scripts can be installed in your server before buying them.
Technical Things you will need to start a Membership Website
- Membership Website Software (If you are going to start a member’s only area without CMS, then you can go for these softwares )
- Membership Website WordPress Plugin (Only if you are going to start your membership site through WordPress CMS. If you have already used WordPress and you didn’t know coding to build websites, then either case I recommend you to go for WordPress to setup your membership website)
- Forum Software (If you want to offer a Forum access to your members- Many Forum softwares are free and if you choose WordPress to launch your membership site, then I recommend you to go for Free plugin named “Simple-Press)
- Payment Gateway – To process all your member payments, you need a payment system setup like Clickbank, Paydotcom, 1shoppingCart.
- Email Autoresponder – To deliver all emails for newly registered members and to send members-only newsletters, you will need an email marketing autoresponder like Aweber, Mailchimp, Autoresponse plus, Getresponse.
- Hosting Server for Membership Website – A server that can capable of running your Membership Site software, WordPress, Forum scripts, etc and it should have server resources to the level of your traffic expectations. (I am using VPS.net’s Cloud Hosting)
Membership Site Software
In market, there are several Membership site scripts & subscription management softwares available. I bet you will struggle on what you should choose. It will be tough to decide one as you would be able to tell any one of the software is NOT FOR YOU only while you test it. Unfortunately some scripts don’t offer free trials. Even though some scripts offer free trials, you may take several days to install, setup, and test it in all aspects.
Membership Site in WordPress
I tested the plugins only which offers free trial and finally settled with Wishlist (WL) Plugin which doesn’t offer any free trial.
Wishlist seamlessly integrates with my WordPress, Clickbank, Aweber, Simple-Press Forum. Once I finished all integrations, now everything happens in autopilot.
Member goes to my sales page, pays via Clickbank, gets his login details automatically, then Aweber sends confirmation email and he subscribes to my members-only newsletter. I don’t need to do manually any work on the whole processes. Wishlist plugin takes care of my all needs.
Wishlist can be installed like any other plugins in your WordPress blog and Wishlist integrates with payment gateways Clickbank, Paypal, 1shoppingCart etc and it integrates with Email auto responders Aweber, Mailchimp etc.
Integrating all these things don’t need any work on coding level. Once you installed & activated the Wishlist plugin in your WordPress admin, you can access all settings & integration options of the plugin in the dashboard.
Membership Site Forum
Providing Forum is good for your membership website. The most common Forum software is Vbulletin which is paid software and other widely used FREE forum softwares are Phpbb3, SMF, and Simple-press etc.
Forum Plugin for WordPress Membership site
I have installed members-only accessible forum inside membership site. Simple-Press is the Free Forum software which is also a WordPress plugin that can be installed in less than a minute as you normally install & activate any plugin. While you install this plugin, it automatically creates a page named “Forum” and installs the Forum on that page.
Wishlist Plugin & Simple-Press integrates in FULL. Full integration means that when one member joins in your membership website and gets access to WordPress blog, the same login details apply to Forum also. Members don’t need to signup or login with separate login details. Once he logged in to members only area, he can access both WordPress blog and Forum. As Wishlist & Simple-Press integrates in Full, you and your members feel it easy.
Payment Gateway for Membership Site
Unless otherwise you will offer free membership, you will need a best payment gateway for your membership website. Clickbank.com, Paydotcom.com, 2Checkout.com, Paypal, 1shoppingcart.com and Quickpaypro.com are some of the commonly used best payment gateways.
While you choose membership site software or a membership WordPress plugin, you should look whether this software integrates in Full with your preferred payment gateway. You should confirm about whether your preferred payment gateway integrates in Full with your affiliate system (if you plan to offer an affiliate system).
Email Broadcasts & Auto responders for Membership Website
You may run a membership website without any payment gateway as free membership & you may run it without any affiliate system. But I won’t recommend to you if you want to go for membership website without any email marketing software.
A email broadcast service that you will be required to set auto responders for your newly registered members and to send newsletters or updates to all members. If you don’t mail your members regarding your new updates and notifications, then your membership site will be less active as your members occasionally remember and check your site.
I am using Aweber which just costs $1 for 1 month trial and I can recommend it to anyone as it integrates almost with ALL membership site softwares, plugins, payment gateways and affiliate systems.
I hope this first part gives an overview to launch your websites. In my second part of this membership site launch series, I show exactly how I set up my whole membership website with WordPress, Wishlist Plugin, Clickbank and Aweber.
Update: Published Membership Site with WordPress Part-2