Visitor engagement is critical on your website. Bounce rate, time spent on site, comments, and shares are just a few metrics designed to measure how visitors engage with and value your content.
Another way you can tell that visitors love your brand is by offering memberships. By enabling visitors to become members, you increase the likelihood of them returning to your site, browsing longer, and purchasing more. Memberships can also add additional lines of revenue if you require subscription fees.
You can reap these benefits on your own site in a few ways. You can use a dedicated membership website builder. Or you can use a content management system that offers the built-in functionality for enabling visitors to become members, or has a plugin.
Before we explore some of these different tools, let’s take a closer look at what a membership website is and how it differs from a subscription website.
What is a membership website?
A membership site offers members exclusive access to gated content as well as other members-only perks on their site. This might include special reports, newsletters, webinars, online courses, special invitations to conferences and events, free shipping, and more. Many businesses, nonprofits, clubs, and associations have membership websites.
A membership website is often conflated with a subscription website but they offer different experiences. Let’s take a closer look at the key differences below.
A subscription website is defined by the financial contract it requires. A membership site, on the other hand, can require a subscription but it doesn’t have to.
You subscribe to Netflix, for example, paying a monthly fee in exchange for unlimited access to the TV and movies on their site.
You can become a member — or “Beauty Insider” — on Sephora.com or in one of their stores. As a member, you get access to beauty classes, exclusive trial-size products and sets, and special promotions (including a free birthday gift). Though you do get rewarded for spending more, you don’t need to pay a subscription fee or pay anything at all to become a member.
To put up a gate for members or subscribers on your site, you can use a dedicated membership website builder or a multi-purpose CMS with the required features or extensions. Many of these platforms can also automate or simplify other tasks, like registering new subscribers or members, processing recurring payments, updating member profiles in one place, and delivering newsletters and other communications.
Let’s explore some of these tools below.
Membership Website Builders
Below are a variety of different solutions for creating a membership site. There are CMS platforms with out-of-the-box features for creating member-only content. There are extensions for creating membership-based content that are compatible with different CMS platforms and website builders. And there are dedicated membership website builders.
We’ll cover all these solution types so you can pick the one that best meets your needs and goals.
CMS Hub is a proprietary content management system that’s fully integrated with HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and service tools and CRM. With CMS Hub, you can leverage HubSpot lists to allow only specific groups to access a section of your site.
Whether you’re giving product updates to your current customers, pricing offers to prospects, or web pages in different languages to a global audience, you can create all types of membership-based content with HubSpot. That way, you can provide every visitor a unique experience on your site — without installing a plugin or any additional software.
MemberPress is a premium WordPress plugin that makes it easy to create and manage membership subscriptions and sell digital download products. With MemberPress, you can grant (or revoke) access to your posts, pages, videos, categories, tags, feeds, communities, and digital files to members based on their membership status.
In addition to advanced user flow options, content dripping, and other out-of-the-box features, this plugin also supports integrations with Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, and marketing tools like MailChimp.
Wix is a hosted website builder that offers a limited free plan and several premium plans. On any of these plans, you can create a member’s area and let visitors register and get access to exclusive content. If you upgrade to one of the premium plans, you can also sell paid subscriptions without installing any third-party integrations.
Wix is limited in functionality, however. You can’t personalize a registration email or create a multilingual membership site, for example. You’ll also have to download several of Wix business and social solutions, like Wix Chat, to improve your members’ experience.
MemberSpace is a third-party tool for creating membership-protected content on Squarespace, Webnode, WordPress, and other sites. With MemberSpace, you can gate any of your pages and then decide what members have to do to ungate it. It can be as simple as signing up for your newsletter or paying a subscription fee, like on Follower to Fan Society’s website.
Wild Apricot is a website builder designed especially for membership sites. Using Wild Apricot, you can create multiple membership levels with benefits that scale up at each price point. In addition to member management, Wild Apricot offers features to help you manage your events, email marketing, and online payments.
YourMembership is a membership website builder that offers everything you need to create and run a site. In addition to being able to manage members and events in one dashboard, you can view analytics about your site’s growth, set up automated workflows, and publish blogs, polls, and surveys.
Building a site on this software can get pricey, however. While there’s no pricing information available on YourMembership’s site, its competitor Wild Apricot estimates that YourMembership charges $2500 in set-up fees and $6000 in total in the first year.
Pricing: Have to reach out to vendor for custom quote
Morweb is a CMS designed specifically for nonprofits and associations. Offering a drag-and-drop editor, responsive themes, and highly customizable modules, you can create and customize a basic membership site without coding. You can also accept donations online, password-protect your pages, and create events on your Morweb site.
You can set up a membership site out-of-the-box with Weebly. You can add a simple signup form to your homepage, offer one-click login to members, and create membership tiers. You can also add buttons or links to your login/register window in any of your pages, email newsletters, and social media posts to get more sign-ups.
SubHub is a simple solution for building and running a membership site. You can create multiple membership levels, accept credit card payments, set up recurring subscriptions, offer promo codes, and drip content on your Subhub site.
When designing your site, you can start with one of Subhub’s templates or you can hire SubHub’s customer success team to build a custom design for you. Below are some sites built using SubHub’s Speedy Set Up service.
MembershipWorks is a membership software that’s compatible with WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, and HTML static sites. You can either download it as an extension on your site or sign up for the hosted version.
With MembershipWorks, members can sign up and renew and update their profiles on your website. You can use labels and folders to organize them into groups and send an email at any time to all or a specific group of them.
What sets MembershipWorks apart from other dedicated membership solutions is its timeline feature. You can see a member's whole history — from notes to payment history to donations to the events they’ve attended — all in one place. Timeline is integrated with MembershipWork’s billing and event systems so payments, membership renewals, and event registration is automatically recorded.
WishList Member is a premium plugin for transforming your WordPress site into a fully functional membership site. Once the plugin is activated, you can protect your content with one click, integrate with any of the 20 supported payment providers, and view membership statistics and data in your dashboard.
Memberful is membership software designed to help you create a community while driving revenue. You can view your members’ activity, offer free trials, create coupons, and more.
You can easily integrate Memberful on a WordPress site using the Memberful WordPress plugin. You can also use Memberful with other website builders but, because they don’t support single-sign on, it’s not possible to create members-only web pages. That means, you’ll be able to sell memberships on your site but you’ll have to share members-only content through one of Memberful’s email newsletter or discussion forum integrations.
Bold Memberships is an app that you can purchase to add and sell memberships on your Shopify store. You can show or hide any content, products, page, prices, add-to-cart buttons, menu items, and more with this app. You can create an unlimited number of membership tiers, charge recurring fees, and view analytics right in your dashboard.
Pricing: $9.99 to $299.99 per month, depending on the number of members
Creating a Membership Website
There are several ways you can create a membership website. Using any of the dedicated membership website builders, CMS platforms with built-in functionality, or extensions above, you can increase engagement and add additional lines of revenue on your site.
Originally published May 4, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated October 15 2020