How to Create a Membership Website: 7 Steps to Success

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Creating a membership website is a great way to reward your loyal visitors and build a community – and even make some money!

A membership website lets you lock exclusive content behind a gate that only members can access. It’s up to you whether you charge for memberships, or offer it as a free incentive for people to engage with your site.

But how do you start a membership website, exactly? 

We’re here to walk you through the process step by step – no jargon, only helpful tips and expert advice. Here’s a quick overview to get you started:

How to Create a Membership Website: 7 Steps

  1. Think about your membership model
  2. Choose the best platform for your membership site
  3. Configure your membership settings
  4. Create members-only content
  5. Perfect and publish your membership website!
  6. Market your membership website
  7. Track your membership website’s performance

This guide walks you through every step of building a website – if you already have a website that you want to turn into a membership site, feel free to skip section three!

1 Think About Your Membership Model

In this section: 

  • Form a clear idea of your target audience
  • Decide on your membership model:
    • What will you offer members?
    • Will you charge for membership?
    • Do you want to create membership levels?
  • Think about what sort of content or perks you’ll offer your members

The first thing to do is to sit down and decide what sort of membership website you want to build. This involves planning what sort of content you want to create, how much you’ll charge, and so on.

As always, the very first place to start is with your target audience. Who are you hoping will use your website? This will determine everything from the type of content you produce, to the tone of voice of your copy, and the social channels you market your site across later.

Your target audience should be at the heart of every decision you make!

Once you’ve got an idea of who your audience is, you can get to the really fun part – forming a clear idea of your membership model. Ask questions such as:

  • Will you charge for your memberships? If so, how much? And how often?
  • What will you offer your members?
  • What benefits will your membership offer? Why should people sign up or pay?
  • Will you have membership levels? If so, what’s the differences between each level?
  • Who are your members? What are their goals, passions, and pain points?
Top Tip!

Don’t forget about your non-members or entry level members.

If you’re going to have membership levels, don’t forget about your lowest-tier members. If you have a free or cheap membership, make sure those members are still enjoying a great experience.

Often, people will sign up to the lowest tier first, and then work their way up, so it’s important to pay attention to the content you’re providing to your entry-level members – even if they’re not the most profitable.

Your Membership Content

Moving on from this, you should start thinking in greater detail about the types of content you want to offer your members. This is where your target audience and user personas really come in handy!

Examples of content or perks you can offer members include:

  • Articles
  • Events
  • Videos
  • Courses
  • Emails
  • Discounts
  • Sales
  • Products
  • Ebooks
  • Points and rewards
  • Facilities 

It really depends on your business, and the needs of your target audience. For example, if you’re an online store then free shipping, discounts, and early product releases are all great examples of membership content!

2 Choose the Best Platform for Your Membership Website

In this section: 

  • Pick which platform best suits your needs
  • We recommend checking out Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress
  • If you choose Wix or Squarespace, add their in-house membership feature
  • If using WordPress, choose and install your membership plugin

Now you know what type of membership website you want, you can move on to picking the best platform for your needs.

Here are some of the best choices for creating a membership website:

#1. Wix

Price range /month $0 - $59
Option to add ecommerce
Membership feature Members Area tool
Membership feature cost /month Free

Wix is an easy-to-use, extremely versatile website builder that’s ideal for creating a membership website. It has a free plan for getting started, plus seven paid plans – you can also create an online store, as long as you choose one of its ecommerce plans.

One of the reasons we like Wix is how easy it is to use. You don’t need coding skills – all you need to do is drag elements such as text boxes onto your page and hey presto, you’re building your website!

How to Set Up Your Membership Site With Wix

To create a membership website with Wix, you simply need to add the free Members Area tool to your site. This is a feature that allows visitors to create their own account for your website, and it works especially well with Wix’s other in-house apps:

  • Wix Stores
  • Wix Bookings
  • Wix Events
  • Wix Restaurants
  • Wix Forum
  • Wix Blog
  • Wix Chat

In fact, if you add certain Wix Apps – such as Wix Stores or a Wix Forum – the Members Area feature may also be automatically added to your site. That sure makes life easy!

Top Tip!

We recommend combining the Members Area feature with one of the apps listed above, because it creates a smoother user experience for your members, and makes life easier for you, too.

With Wix, you can offer exclusive content to paying members, as well as limit pages on your site to a specific group of members – for example, create pages for teachers only on a student and teacher site.

Find Out More

  • Read our Wix Review for a more detailed look at its pros and cons
  • Curious about Wix’s price plans? Our Wix Pricing will help you choose the best plan for your needs
  • Check out our How to Use Wix guide for step-by-step instructions on using Wix

#2. Squarespace

Price range /month $16 - $49
Option to add ecommerce
Membership feature Member Areas subscription
Membership feature cost /month $9 - $35

Squarespace is a stylish website builder with the best designs on the market – if you’re a creative, or want a truly beautiful website, Squarespace is for you.

The downside is that Squarespace hands out less freebies than Wix – it has a 14-day free trial, but no free plan. It costs $16 to $49 per month, billed annually, and you have to pay extra for the Member Areas feature, which costs between $9 and $35 per month, billed annually.

How to Set Up Your Membership Site With Squarespace

To create a membership website with Squarespace, you need to install Member Areas. If you already have a Squarespace site, you can easily add this to your existing site. Simply go to your settings and switch the Member Areas toggle on!

If you’re creating a new site, you can choose a Membership template, as these designs automatically have Members Area installed. Alternatively, you can choose any template and install it manually.

Whichever method you choose, Squarespace’s Member Areas feature allows you to create gated content that your users have to log in and/or pay to access.

Good to Know… 

No matter which Squarespace plan you choose, the Member Areas subscription comes with some neat ecommerce features included:

  • Visitors can check out on your custom domain
  • Customer accounts allow visitors to log in and securely save payment methods, shipping addresses, shopping carts, and order information
  • Custom tax rules based on billing postal code
  • Promotional discounts

Find Out More

#3. WordPress

Price range /month Totally up to you – usually between $5 and $80/month
Option to add ecommerce
Membership feature Multiple plugins including:

WooCommerce Memberships
Restrict Content Pro
Membership feature cost /month Variable: $0 - $149

WordPress is a popular open-source platform that offers total customization, flexibility, and scalability. It takes longer to set up than Wix and Squarespace, because you need to find hosting and install WordPress before you can begin building.

Top Tip!

We recommend using Bluehost for WordPress hosting – it’s the best that we’ve tested, and even comes with an official recommendation from WordPress itself!

One of the great things about WordPress is that you have much more control than you do with a website builder – and that includes how much you spend on your membership website.

WordPress itself is free, but you need to pay for hosting. You may want to pay for a theme and for premium plugins too, although these are optional.

How to Set Up Your Membership Site With WordPress

To create your membership website on WordPress, you need to first build your WordPress site – find hosting, install WordPress and a theme – and then choose your membership plugin. Popular membership plugins include:

  • MemberPress: $179+ per year
  • WooCommerce Memberships: $199+ per year
  • Restrict Content Pro: $99+ per year
  • LearnDash: $159+ per year
  • S2Member: $0+ per year
Top Tip!

Different plugins come with different features and capabilities, so don’t go for the first one you see. When choosing plugins, we recommend that you:

  • Check which features are included on your plan
  • Look at pricing and pick your plan
  • Read reviews from other users
  • Pay attention to when the plugin was last updated. An out-of-date plugin can cause glitches – or even security issues – for your site

Once you’ve picked your plugin, install it, and then you can start configuring the settings for your membership site… which brings us to the next step!

Find Out More

3 Configure Your Membership Settings

In this section: 

  • Go to your settings
  • Set your member access rules
  • Create as many rules as you need depending on member groups, subscription plans, and how often you want to release content

No matter which platform you choose, the next step is to configure your membership website’s settings.

This is when you get into the nitty gritty workings of your website. If you want to have different membership levels, for example, you’ll need to dig into your site’s settings and get it all ready to use for your member once your site goes live.

Now, how you do this will depend totally on the platform you’ve chosen. Wix and Squarespace both have in-house guides to walk you through this setup process, which is super helpful when you’re getting started!

For WordPress, the exact settings will also depend on the plugin you’ve chosen. For the MemberPress plugin, for example, you need to head to the ‘Rules’ tab in your sidebar menu, and click ‘Add New’. Then you can set which content is available for which members, and whether they receive it all at once or are “drip-fed” the content gradually over time.

4 Create Your Members-Only Content

In this section: 

  • Create members-only content before you publish
  • Decide which content you’ll promote first
  • Think about how to entice new members to sign up
  • If you have membership levels, decide which content will be shared with each member group

Once you’ve got your site set up and ready to go, you need some content to upload!

It’s important to create your content before you publish your website, so that you’ve got plenty of great stuff to share with members straight away.

You don’t want people to sign up – or worse, pay – for your membership and then be met with radio silence. People love instant gratification, so have content planned, prepped and poised to post well in advance. 

As we mentioned earlier, the content you choose to create will depend on your business – whether it’s physical or digital, for example – and your target audience. Do they want educational content, early access to new products, exclusive discounts… or all three?

Top Tip!

Your content isn’t there simply to keep members happy. It’s also there to entice other visitors to become members, so think about what your regular users want and use that to create a membership that’s impossible to resist.

For example, if you discovered that your favorite brand gave members 25% off all their purchases, would you sign up? We know we would!

Members-only content is the gated content that only your members can access. This is where your member roles come into play – you can set who can view your pages, such as:

  • Members (instead of non-members)
  • Select members with a specific ‘role’
  • Paying members

Different platforms have different settings and features, so the exact method of creating your members-only content will vary. That said, most membership-specific tools will make it easy, as this is an important feature!

5 Perfect and Publish Your Membership Website

In this section: 

  • Perfect your web design to provide a good user experience
  • Optimize your site for search engines to gain more traffic
  • Carry out final checks for any errors that need fixing
  • Publish your membership site!

When you’re building any website, there are a few important things to tick off before you hit ‘Publish’…

#1. Web Design

Your web design is important for building trust and giving your users a great experience on your site. Your platform does most of the work for you – simply choose a pre-built template or theme, and customize it to your liking.

When designing your membership website, think about factors such as:

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Images and illustrations
  • White space (the empty space between elements)
  • Mobile display
  • Headings and text size
  • Button size, color, and placement

Find Out More

#2. SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the art of making your site attractive to search engines and achieving higher rankings in search results. This helps you to increase the number of people visiting your site.

The top spot in a Google search result is the holy grail of SEO!

When optimizing your site for search engines, it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s just a few things you can do to kick off:

  • Use headings – This helps Google (and readers) navigate your page
  • Add alt text to images – A few words describing the image helps Google know what it’s about, and makes your content more accessible to individuals that are using a screen reader
  • Use keywords in your metadata – Metadata is the text you see when you load a search results page
  • Aim for fast loading speeds – Google favors fast loading websites, so avoid large files or too many plugins to keep things running smoothly
  • Create high quality content – Google’s main aim is to provide its users with useful websites, so always put your visitors’ needs front and center!

Find Out More

#3. Final Checks

You’re about to publish your site, which means now is the time to make sure everything is exactly as it should be. Check your site for:

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Broken links
  • Images that don’t load
  • Pages that load too slowly 
  • Poor mobile formatting
  • Color and font consistency
Top Tip! 

It’s a good idea to get someone else to look through your site, as they’re likely to spot any errors you’ve missed!

And now you can publish your membership website – nice work!

6 Market Your Membership Website

In this section: 

  • Announce your membership site across marketing channels
  • Use email marketing to engage your audience
  • Pick social channels to share content on

To gain more members, you need to gain more visitors and keep your current audience engaged. This is where the magic of marketing comes into play. Don’t sit back and wait for people to find your site, or decide to interact with your brand – take matters into your own hands!

Make sure to announce your new membership across multiple channels where your audience will see them – and don’t forget to focus on the benefits of why they should sign up.

Top Tip! 

When you first launch your site, consider offering a discount on your membership price to encourage people to sign up. If your membership is free, push your most enticing piece of gated content to entice people to sign up!

Here are a couple of marketing methods we recommend:

#1. Email Marketing

Email marketing is still one of the most popular – and effective – ways of engaging your audience.

You can take email marketing to a whole new level with a membership website by creating members-only emails. This way, you can share exclusive content – or access to it – directly to your members’ inboxes. Just some examples include:

  • Exclusive blog posts
  • Discount codes
  • Early access to sales or product releases
  • Members-only sales
  • Bonus online course sessions
  • Events
membership sale email marketing example
This email giving the recipient early access to a sale is a great example of members-only content!

Find Out More

#2. Social Media

Social media is a great place to engage your audience, and keep them up to date with your latest offers. The trick with social media is to stay consistent, share regularly, and only post content that you think is valuable for your readers – don’t share stuff just for the sake of it.

Top Tip!

Don’t just pick social platforms because they’re popular – pick them because they’ll work for you and your audience. 

Remember to always keep your target audience in mind when choosing which social platforms to use. For example, if you’re a tech company serving a business audience, then LinkedIn will likely produce better engagement than Instagram, unless you can find a more visual way to present your brand.

#3. Testimonials

Don’t expect people to just take your word on how good your membership is. Why not ask for reviews from existing members, and use them as social proof to encourage new sign-ups?

92% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase, so testimonials are especially important if you’re charging for your memberships!

By formatting user quotes in a visual way, you can even share testimonials across social media as an extra marketing tactic to encourage more memberships.

7 Track Your Membership Website’s Performance

In this section: 

  • Choose your analytics software
  • Analyze your site’s performance
  • Make changes based on your site data

Once you’ve published and started marketing your membership website, you can start to track performance and make changes based on what you find. The success of your site depends on you knowing what’s going well and what isn’t.

Analyzing your site’s performance shows you where you need to make changes, and where you’re already seeing great results. You can learn from both of these to keep improving your site!

Here are a few handy tools for keeping track of how your site is performing:

#1. In-House Analytics

Your platform will likely come with some kind of built-in analytics feature. Wix and Squarespace both provide you with tracking data, which you can view from your dashboard. This is a quick and convenient way of keeping an eye on your site’s performance.

You can also see how many people are signing up for your memberships, which is an important metric to keep tabs on!

#2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful analytics tool that gives you tons of great data on your website. It tells you how many visitors you’ve had, how long they stay on your site, which pages are most popular, and more. It also provides you with data on bounce rate, conversions, and where your visitors are coming from.

You can use the basic version for free, but you’ll need to pay to unlock its more advanced features. The premium version costs $150,000 per year, so we recommend sticking to the free version unless you can comfortably work that into your budget!

#3. CrazyEgg

If you thought website analytics and tracking couldn’t be fun, you need to check out CrazyEgg. It provides eye-tracking data such as heat maps and scroll maps, so you can see how people are interacting with your site.

This kind of data is super useful because it shows the places people are focusing on – and the parts that they’re ignoring. This allows you to place important content in more effective places, and understand what users want from your site.

membership site analytics crazyegg
CrazyEgg is a great resource for understanding how visitors are interacting with your website.

CrazyEgg has a 30-day free trial, with pricing starting at just $24 per month (billed annually) once this ends.

#4. HubSpot

If you want an all-in-one platform to manage marketing, sales, customer service, and more, then HubSpot is an affordable option. It has plenty of free tools and is super user-friendly – so we recommend it if you want to manage everything from one place.

How to Create A Membership Website: Summary

Now you know how to create a membership – and not only create one, but market and analyze its performance too!

Whether you have an existing site that you want to add memberships to, or you’re starting from scratch, this guide has armed you with the knowledge you need to succeed. Let’s have a quick recap of the steps we’ve taken to get here:

How to Create a Membership Website: 7 Step Recap

  1. Think about your membership model
  2. Choose the best platform for your membership site
  3. Set your membership access rules
  4. Create members-only content
  5. Perfect and publish your membership website!
  6. Market your membership website
  7. Track your membership website’s performance

You’ve got the idea, you’ve got the know-how – now all you need to do is put it all into action and create your very own membership website. Your soon-to-be members are waiting, so don’t delay.

We’re here if you have any questions – just drop us a comment below!

Written by:

I’m the Content Manager here at Website Builder Expert, which means I read and edit nearly all the content we publish, and work with our wonderful writers and researchers to bring you the best possible advice for achieving your online goals. Over the past five years I’ve built demo websites using all the website builders we review, so I have the experience and expertise to help you out. You’ve got the experts on your side – I’m here to help you reach your online goals, and enjoy the process too!

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