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Building a membership website with WordPress is a great way to establish a dedicated online community and offer exclusive content or services to your members. You can either create an educational platform, distribute digital products, or offer continuous services. Regardless of which you choose, a WordPress membership site can serve as a valuable resource for generating steady revenue and boosting user engagement. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about setting up your membership site to streamline your setup process. 

What is a membership site? 

A membership site is an online platform that allows users to gain access to exclusive content or services by becoming members. Usually, there’s a protected area that only paying members can access.  

Membership sites differ in their offerings—from educational courses and video tutorials to digital downloads and member-only forums. This membership model allows creators to monetize their expertise and content by offering special access to resources and experiences that are not available to non-members. By creating members-only content, these sites can foster a dedicated user base that is willing to pay a premium for unique, high-quality content. 

How does a membership site differ from a subscription site? 

While recurring payments are a common feature of both membership and subscription sites, the content offerings and user engagement strategies can vary. Subscription sites typically provide access to a broader library of content, such as streaming platforms like Netflix or digital news services, where users pay to access the content but don’t necessarily become part of a community.  

On the other hand, a membership site often focuses on creating a community or offering more personalized content, services, or support. For example, a membership website might offer courses with direct instructor interaction, community forums, or specialized resources tailored to a specific interest or professional field. This model builds a community around shared interests and goals, which adds a layer of interaction and exclusivity beyond what typical subscription sites offer. 

Types of membership websites 

Membership websites cater to specific audiences. Each type of membership site caters to specific needs, offering members-only content that significantly enhances the value for a specific group within an industry. Take a closer look at some common types of membership websites: 

  • Educational platforms. These sites focus on learning and development, where members can access online courses, webinars, or workshops. These are ideal for students or professionals who are looking to upgrade their skills. Platforms like Masterclass or Udemy use a membership model to provide structured, interactive learning experiences with expert instructors.  
  • Product communities. These membership sites offer continuous exclusive access to products or updates, such as software, apps, or digital downloads. For example, Adobe Creative Cloud uses a membership model where users pay to access a suite of design software that is continually updated with the latest tools and features. 
  • Content sites. These are all about giving access to exclusive articles, videos, podcasts, and other media. They have a gated community for those who crave more detailed coverage or specialized content that you can’t find just anywhere. A perfect example is The Athletic, which provides its members with thorough, ad-free sports news and analysis. 
  • Service-based models. These are membership sites that offer personalized services like consulting, coaching, or professional advice tailored to individual needs. For example, a business coach might use this model to provide monthly one-on-one sessions and customized business strategies to each member so they can receive focused and actionable guidance. 
  • Community forums. Built around shared interests or professions, these sites provide a platform for members to connect, share, and discuss specific topics. Members might pay to join a community like Stack Overflow’s Teams, which offers a private space for developers to solve problems and share coding knowledge. 
  • Health and wellness platforms. These membership sites offer fitness classes, diet plans, mental health support, or wellness coaching exclusively to their members. Platforms like Peloton or Headspace provide structured programs and community support to help members achieve their health goals. 
  • Arts and crafts hubs. This targets creatives who enjoy DIY projects by offering tutorials, patterns, and interactive workshops. Members can access a trove of resources for crafting, from knitting patterns on Ravelry to mixed media art classes on Patreon. 

Key elements of a successful membership site with WordPress 

Building a successful WordPress membership site involves several crucial features to ensure smooth operation and meet the different needs of your members. Consider these essential elements: 

  • User registration and management. Implement a robust system that allows users to easily sign up, manage their accounts, and access exclusive members-only content. This feature serves as the backbone of your site because it allows members to interact with your offerings and manage their subscription details effortlessly. With this, members can focus on enjoying the benefits of your site without any logistical distractions.  
  • Content restriction. By using tools that limit access to certain content based on membership levels or subscription status, you can create a variety of membership options. Each level can offer a different range of content or benefits, which will let you appeal to a broad audience while keeping some offerings exclusive.  
  • Payment gateways. Integrate reliable and secure payment solutions that handle membership fees and manage recurring payments efficiently, because these help build and maintain trust with your members. This helps reduce churn and keeps your members coming back. 
  • Engagement tools. By incorporating features such as forums, live chats, and community boards, you can foster a sense of community and encourage active participation from your members. The more your members interact and engage with each other and your content, the stronger and more dynamic your community becomes. 
  • Security measures. Implement strong security protocols to safeguard sensitive member data and prevent unauthorized access. This ensures that member information is always protected, maintains the trust of your users, and upholds the security and reliability of your platform.  
  • Automated renewals and notifications. A smooth, automated process keeps your members well-informed about their subscription details and helps maintain a steady revenue stream by reducing gaps in membership. It’s a win-win situation: your members appreciate the convenience and clarity, while you benefit from consistent engagement and renewal rates at the same time. 
  • Analytical tools. Analytical tools like Baremetrics or ChartMogul help you understand how your members interact with your platform. These tools help you track subscription metrics, including churn rates, monthly recurring revenue, lifetime value, and customer acquisition costs. These tools help you understand the financial health of your subscriptions and make informed decisions to enhance your business model. 

How to create a membership site using the AI Site Creator Tool 

Creating a dedicated membership site with WordPress allows you to engage a specific audience by offering exclusive, members-only content. Follow our step-by-step guide below on how to use the AI Site Creator Tool to set up and manage your own membership site: 

Step 1: Pick a hosting plan and register a domain name 

Choose a WordPress hosting plan that suits your business needs. For the basic plan, you won’t have the domain privacy inclusion because it’s only available in the higher tier plans. 
Type your preferred domain name in the space provided, but before this, you should check its availability first.   

If would also help if you read a separate article on how to choose a domain name to ensure your domain is memorable, on-brand, and that you aren’t infringing on trademarks. 
If your chosen domain is available, you’ll be asked to create an account, review your plan information, add additional services, and provide your payment information. Once you’ve accomplished this step, you’re ready to proceed to the next one.  

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Step 2: Select AI Website Creator from Bluehost  

Start by selecting the ‘AI Website Creator’ and then click Get Started to kick off your website making. After that, briefly describe the type of website you’re building. Whether it’s an online store or a personal blog, your description will help shape your website just the way you want it. 

If you’d like to incorporate details from your Facebook account, simply select the Connect Facebook button to link your account. This will allow the tool to gather more information about your website to ensure accuracy. 

However, if your website doesn’t have an official Facebook page yet, you can click Skip for Now and proceed to the next step. 

Step 4: Upload your website logo 

After you’ve described your site, the next step is to add your website logo. You can create one with Canva because they offer a variety of templates and designs, which allow you to craft any type of graphic in just a few minutes. 

When designing your logo, go for a look that’s unique, simple, and clear, so that it relates well to your brand. Using your business initials can be a smart way to make it memorable. Moreover, a straightforward yet catchy design will help people recognize your brand when they come back to make another purchase. 

To upload your logo, you can either drag and drop the file into the designated area or click on the browse button to pick an image from your local drive. 

Next, indicate your level of experience with WordPress. Choose the option that best describes your expertise, and then the AI creator will tailor the website creation process to suit your skills. 

Step 5: Select the AI-generated website version 

The AI website creator will create different versions of your website. Just hit the Preview button to check the full preview of each version. If you want to see more options, simply click the Regenerate button to explore additional designs. 

Step 6: Personalize your website 

Once you’ve opened the preview version of your website, click the Customize button in the top-right corner. This is where you can explore the look of your site. You can switch up the template colors using the available options or get creative by selecting Pick your own colors to mix and match as you like. 

You can also change the website fonts by selecting from the given selections or selecting your own fonts to find the perfect match for your style. Once you’re satisfied with the adjustments, hit the Save & Continue button to proceed. 

Step 7: Edit with Wonder Block 

To edit your site using WordPress, start by navigating to the Bluehost dashboard via the WordPress admin panel. 

Next, click Preview your site and then choose Edit page

Look for a green button labeled Wonder Blocks in the top-left corner of the page. Clicking this will show you a variety of custom blocks you can use, or you can choose a pre-designed page if that suits your needs better. 

Feel free to tweak the existing text or images to personalize your page even more. 

When you’re all set, just click the Publish button in the top-right corner to make your changes live. 

Step 8: Promote your membership website 

Use various digital marketing strategies to attract members. Leverage SEO, social media marketing, email campaigns, and content marketing to drive traffic to your site. Consider offering introductory rates or free trials to entice users to sign up. 

If you need an SEO boost for your website, explore Bluehost’s Pro digital marketing solutions. You’ll get a dedicated team of SEO experts who will perform on-page and off-page SEO, populate business directories and referral links for authority, and more to give your website its well-deserved online visibility.  

Step 9: Maintain and update your membership website regularly 

Keep your membership site dynamic and engaging by regularly updating content and interacting with members. Use analytics tools to track user engagement and subscription rates and gather feedback to improve the site experience continuously. 

Examples of membership sites 

Take a look at some real-world examples that illustrate a membership site’s diversity and potential: 

  • Online learning platforms. Online learning platforms such as Coursera and MasterClass offer paid memberships that unlock a vast library of courses and instructional content. Members have the flexibility to learn at their own pace with topics such as photography, business management, and more. These platforms are perfect for anyone who is looking to engage in continuous education and personal development. 
  • Fitness communities. Fitness communities like Peloton and Daily Burn provide a full interactive fitness experience aside from workout routines. Members gain access to a variety of live and on-demand workout classes, from high-energy cardio sessions to calming yoga flows. More than just exercise, these platforms also foster a sense of community with features that encourage interaction and motivation among users. This makes it easier to stay committed to your fitness goals. 
  • News and journalism. In the world of news and journalism, many respected publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post have embraced membership models to deliver premium content. These membership websites provide subscribers with exclusive access to in-depth articles, thought-provoking editorials, and rich multimedia content that isn’t available to non-members. This shift allows dedicated readers to dive deeper into stories and analyses that matter most to them. 
  • Professional development networks. Professional development networks such as LinkedIn Learning offer membership plans for a wealth of resources that help enhance professional skills and advance careers. Members have access to a variety of tools, including video tutorials, extensive networking opportunities, and specialized courses that cater to a broad range of industries.  
  • Arts and crafts communities. Arts and crafts communities thrive on platforms like Patreon, where artists and creators can connect more intimately with their audience. Through membership, creators offer exclusive content, early previews of new work, and direct interaction opportunities. Fans, in return, provide financial support to gain access to unique benefits and experiences that are specially crafted to enhance their skills.  
  • Software as a Service (SaaS). Software as a Service (SaaS) is a popular model among tech companies that allows them to offer continuous access to software through a membership approach. A prime example is Adobe Creative Cloud, which provides memberships that grant users comprehensive access to a suite of professional design and editing tools. This includes regular updates and cloud storage to ensure that users always have the latest features and can work from anywhere.  
  • Special interest forums. Special interest forums like Stack Overflow or GardenWeb offer vibrant communities for enthusiasts to dive into specialized topics. These websites provide exclusive access to detailed forums, insightful articles, and expert advice that isn’t available to the general public. Membership to these sites often comes with perks such as ad-free browsing, enhanced search capabilities, and access to exclusive webinars. These make them a treasure trove for those deeply invested in specific hobbies or professional fields. 

Turn visitors into members today! 

Setting up a membership website with WordPress is an effective strategy to engage a committed audience and deliver exclusive content. With the Bluehost AI Site Creator Tool, you can streamline the process by ensuring your site meets your audience’s needs and stands out among the competitors.

Whether your focus is on educational materials, building a professional community, or sharing exclusive digital products, a well-designed WordPress membership website can greatly enhance user engagement and provide a reliable source of revenue. 

  • Devin Sears

    Devin is a Senior Event Marketing Manager for the Bluehost brand. He is our brand steward for all things Bluehost and WordPress. You'll always see him supporting Bluehost at WordCamps around the world!

    Brigham Young University
    Previous Experience
    Social Media, Customer Experience, Field Marketing, Sponsorships, Event Coordinator
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