What is a Membership Website?
What we mean by a “membership website”, or a “members only area”, is that you’re engaging your visitors in some kind of membership program that grants them exclusive access to your services, or to a restricted area of your website. A membership website takes care of managing their user accounts and delivering your premium services. There are many reasons why this is beneficial from monetizing your website to creating a more intimate setting for like-minded people to gather in. The defining factor is engaging your website visitors through the use of an advanced user profile system.
Monetizing Your Membership Website
A membership website allows you to expand the WordPress “Users” functionality, into a profitable enterprise. The means by which we’ve helped our clients go about this have included:
- Paid Subscriptions – with varied pricing structure and features
- Paying for access to pages / locked content
- Employing contextual / interest-based advertising (like Google Adsense)
- Selling advertisement space
- Making home rentals only available to paid members
- Creating profile pages for individuals to rent their services
Certainly, these are not the only ways to make a membership site profitable, but they give you a snapshot of the possibilities that exist.
Generate residual income now by harnessing the power of paid membership subscriptions! We use membership plugins that allow for tiered pricing between membership groups. This gives you fine grained control over what content, custom services, and user experience you allow each member group to participate in. This also grants your visitors the option of up/down grading between groups so they can feel that their needs are being more perfectly met. You get to determine how long to set the grace period before member accounts are downgraded, and what level to downgrade them to.
You can operate your business with ease of mind by using automated recurring payments. Not only does this make for less work for both you and your members, it gives you regularly occurring payments. Recurring subscriptions can be set for any time frame you want: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, by-monthly, quarterly, semi-quarterly, semi-yearly, yearly, or other.
In addition to paid subscriptions you can offer pages for sale easily, or links to downloadable content. These pages may include videos, forums, or other content that is otherwise inaccessible to your website visitors. Links can have an expiration time built into them too. This feature can also be implemented with an eCommerce solution.
Offer protected digital content that is released over a longer span of time according to your schedule. For example, maybe once a week, for 10 weeks, your members are granted access to a new page, downloadable video, or course materials for an online class. This has the added benefit of keeping members engaged with your website! This feature can also be implemented with an eCommerce solution.
With a membership website you can offer your members a place to display their information. This feature can be used to advertise something about your members to either the general public, or privately to each other. We have used this feature for showing member’s business listings, a page that lists their nanny/baby sitting services and skills for hire, and as a place to list member’s homes for rent. The possibilities are limitless.
Rental / Scheduling
Create areas where members only can sign up for services, or schedule events! Membership could still be free, could be a single payment, or could be set recurringly. Access to reservation and booking forms can be granted conditionally based on membership level, or more simply on a logged-in or out, basis.
Offer a public or private forum. Forums are a great way to create user engagement. Whereas other membership uses described above have been focused on providing access to profile pages or restricted areas (pages, posts, or digital content), forums are a membership tool used to encourage and facilitate conversation. WordPress has it’s own forum software, called bbPress and functions very similarly to other bulletin board forums. Users familiar with forums, will feel at home with bbPress!
BuddyPress is a free WordPress plugin that more closely mirrors social networking websites. Gain social networking features like user profiles, activity streams, user groups, and more. Members can enjoy sharing photo galleries, embedded video, instant chatting, video conferencing, and integration with major social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. BuddyPress Activity Graphs extends the power of BuddyPress much like Facebook’s Open Graph and Twitter’s Twitter Cards systems. For a social networking membership website, BuddyPress is the perfect fit for you!
Membership services can be integrated with many different payment gateways and merchant services accounts. PayPal is the default payment service, and can be used to process credit cards from your website. Members never have to leave your website to go to a payment gateway, rather they will have a seamless checkout experience! Additionally, you have your choice of offering memberships for free, based on a one-time payment, or dependent on receiving recurring payments.
Integrated with eCommerce
Many times an eCommerce solution can provide all the membership tools you need: a billing profile page and access to restricted content. When it comes to offering content on a tiered basis, then a membership plugin will be better suited for this. Sometimes a project requires integrating eCommerce and Membership plugins together. This can occur when you want to offer multiple membership levels different prices, for items in your eCommerce store, dependent on their specific membership levels. Perhaps you only want certain items in your eCommerce store available to a specific group of people and otherwise hidden. This would be another instance where membership and eCommerce plugins may need to be used in combination together. If your website project requires some extra coding to get your eCommerce and membership plugins working together, we are here and ready to program the solution for you.
Advertising is a great solution for membership websites. With hundred to thousands of members visiting your site on a regular basis, you can easily gain some residual income by thoughtfully placed advertisements. They can be well integrated, discreet, and appealing on your website. They don’t have to be garish, loud and unsightly so do not rule out advertisements altogether. We are committed to our websites looking aesthetically pleasing and will let you know if we think it is a bad fit for your website.
Advertisements come in many forms, shapes and sizes: via text, graphics/images, and videos. There are two broad classifications that we would suggest you look into:
This form of advertising requires partnering with a third party to deliver advertisements that your visitors are more likely to enjoy and engage in. These advertisements are generated based on your user’s web browsing behavior, or the content of your webpages. One can presume that visitors are enjoying the content on your webpages, so either way there is a good chance that advertisements will seem relevant to your users and not too invasive. Your profits are either generated by the overall number of page views, or the number of click throughs (your “CTR” – Click Through Rate). While Google Adsense is a popular and well-known service there are other alternatives in the same vein: Adversal, Chitika, Commission Junction, ClickBank, and ShareaSale are some prime examples. This is great if you have thousands of visitors and want a more hands-off approach.
This form of advertising is related to your direct advertising efforts and not reliant on a third party to provide automated advertisements. This might entail contacting your local businesses and offering to place a banner or other ad for them. This could also mean going after a “giant” (for example: Microsoft, Sony, Ford, etc.) to sponsor your website/business in which case they would pay you to display their ads. This form of advertising has three major benefits: 1) it can land you a big payoff, 2) if working with local businesses you and your company benefit from a sense of community engagement and social networking, and 3) if sponsored your business can gain credibility as a larger consumer trustworthy company, in a field related to your business’s, is putting itself behind you. The downside is that this approach takes much more effort, and at times ads might not seem as relevant to your visitors.
We have clients in both groups above, some that are even sponsored too, that benefit from unobtrusive advertisements. Ask us today, how we can assist you with implementing an advertising solution!