A membership website is a website created to provide exclusive content to subscribed members. These websites are one of the best ways to start an online business. As of 2020, all new entrants and 80% of existing vendors use subscription models.
Membership websites offer different types of content, including Subscriptions, digital products, physical products, podcasts, eBooks, audio, video, courses, and much more. Subscribed members can log in anytime and access content that’s exclusive to them and not accessible to the general public.
In this article, you’ll learn more about membership sites— their benefits, how they work, how to create them, and the elements that make a good membership website. We’ll also review some popular examples of membership websites on the internet.
Here are the key takeaways from this article:
- Membership sites are among the most profitable websites on the internet. They offer exclusive content to subscribed members.
- You can use membership sites to offer targeted products and services to subscribed members. They can help build credibility and a loyal community and increase customer engagement.
- A good membership site should be easy to use, support different payment methods, offer different membership levels, and support automated emails.
- Examples of great membership sites include Teachable, Patreon, and MasterClass.
- Examples of best membership website platforms include MemberPress, CMS Hub Enterprise, and LearnWorlds.
How Do Membership Websites Work?
Membership websites provide different payment plans to subscribed members, with each plan offering a different level of access to content.
Users can register to such sites by paying for membership plans and receiving access rights to different features. Users often have unique login credentials, which they can use to log in anytime and view exclusive content that non-members can’t view.
Membership websites can be free, paid, or have tiered subscription levels.
Difference Between Membership and Subscription Websites
While memberships websites may look similar to subscription websites, there is a notable difference between the two:
A membership website allows users to become part of a community, while a subscription site allows customers to access an exclusive product or a service.
With a membership site, you have to pay upfront to access all the content available, while subscription sites will charge you according to the amount of content you consume over a certain period.
While both are similar, membership websites may or may not require a subscription.
If you want to decide which model is best for your business, consider the type of products or services you want to offer, how much control you want, and the pricing and payment options you want to offer.
Is a Membership Site Profitable for My Business?
Yes, membership sites can be profitable for your business. If you create high-quality content and offer something unique to your audience, they will sign up for your membership website.
The good thing about a membership website is that you can offer targeted products and services to the subscribed members and achieve maximum returns with less effort.
Common membership sites offer content like blogs, podcasts, news, listicles, tutorials, white papers, and other downloadable content.
Why Do I Need a Membership Site?
Before making a membership website, you need to know why you even need it. Hence, you’ll need to know your target audience, where you can find them, and have something valuable that will make them join the site.
If you have the answer to all the questions above and think you’ll still have a profitable business, you will only need a membership site.
Here are some of the reasons why you’d need a membership website for your business:
- To have a ready, targeted market for your products and services
- Membership websites can help you save on marketing costs
- It’s an opportunity to offer your potential customers exclusive content
- You can use them to engage and build lasting relationships with your loyal customers
- A membership website can open additional revenues streams for your business
Pros of Membership Sites
A membership site can be a precious tool for any business that runs on the internet. If you’re wondering whether creating a membership site will benefit your business, here are the pros of having a membership site:
1. Stable Income
Membership sites provide a stable source of income through membership subscriptions and products and services you sell through the site.
Once the membership site becomes profitable, not only does your overall income increase, but it gets a lot more steady. This allows business owners or entrepreneurs to scale to a new level.
2. Build a Loyal Community
You can quickly build a loyal community through a membership website. Once you have members coming in, you can build a loyal following by providing them with accurate, helpful, and unique content.
You can build a lasting relationship with the members and even become business partners with some of them.
3. Increase Your Brand’s Credibility
A membership site can effectively increase your brand’s visibility and credibility. Once you have many followers, your brand will be much more credible.
A site with many members can act as social proof to help build authority for your brand. This will help your brand in its marketing and other endeavors. A strong brand authority can also help your website go higher in the SERP rankings.
4. Help Your Community
Once you have an excellent B2C relationship with your audience, you can take active feedback from them and help your community in many ways.
You can offer them the products and services they request according to their deepest needs. You can also share problems and help each other with solutions to other unrelated matters.
5. Increased Customer Engagement
A membership site will provide a good opportunity for you to engage and interact with your existing customers.
This way, you can get genuine and continuous feedback about your products and services and make adjustments where necessary. Increasing customer engagement and feedback is one of the best ingredients for a successful business.
Cons of Membership Sites
Aside from its many benefits, membership sites also have some shortcomings. One limitation of building a membership website is that it takes time to grow.
If you don’t have a good product or incentive to market for your membership marketing plan, you will need to invest a reasonable amount of time in both the plan and the product or service.
You may also need to spend time and money marketing the site so that people can know about it and sign up for membership.
Membership Website Examples
Several membership websites are already earning a good amount of profit from memberships.
However, if you’ve never built a membership website before, you may not know what a good site should look like or the essential elements to include when building yours. Don’t worry; we got you!
Here are three popular, high-performing membership websites you can use as sources of inspiration when building yours:
Teachable is among the most popular membership sites that allow its members to create and market their online courses.
The user-friendly platform provides all the necessary tools to build and sell an online course to your target audience.
Pros of Teachable
- Simple and user-friendly interface
- Easy to upload and organize course material
- It has in-built analytics tools to help you track activity
- Allows you to import material from other platforms (e.g., YouTube and Google Docs)
- Supports various payment processors (e.g., PayPal and Stripe)
- No unlimited subscription plan
- Limited customization options
Patreon is another membership website perfect for those who want to offer exclusive content in exchange for monthly subscriptions.
Members can also use the platform to offer early access to new products or services. With Patreon, you can set different membership levels with different payment plans for each level.
Pros of Patreon
- Members can pay for the level that fits their budget
- Has analytics tools for tracking patrons’ engagement
- Supports both one-time and recurring payment
- No in-built marketing/promotional tools
- High platform user fees
Like Teachable, MasterClass is a membership site that allows members to create online courses in their areas of expertise, such as cooking and photography.
This allows members to access exclusive and high-authority content from professionals who rarely share content with the general public.
If you’re looking to create tutorials or short educational courses, MasterClass provides the best platform to do so.
Pros of MasterClass
- Relatively affordable compared to other course-building platforms
- It has a 30-day refund policy
- Supports engaging and bite-sized content
- Tutors can’t create certificates for users
- Limited to creative and business skills
Find more examples of great membership sites here: “Membership Site Examples.”
How to Build a Membership Site
Now that you’ve seen some examples of high-quality membership sites you can emulate, here is a step-by-step guide on how to build a membership website:
1. Choose a membership model
The first step is to decide which model of membership you’ll use. You can decide to offer one-time payments or recurring subscriptions.
With the subscription model, members pay a regular fee each month or year, while with the one-time payment option, members pay only once for access to the content on your site for an extended period of time.
You can also combine both models to give members more payment flexibility.
2. Create exclusive content
After choosing your model, start creating exclusive content for your members. This could include tutorials, videos, articles, webinars, eBooks, or any other digital content available only to those who have signed up as members.
Make sure the content adds real value that your audience can’t find elsewhere online— this will encourage them to join your membership program and stay as loyal members for the long term.
3. Choose a membership website platform
Once you have your exclusive content, choose the best platform for hosting it on your website.
Several platforms are available for setting up and managing a membership site (e.g., Teachable, MemberPress, and Wishlist Member. Do some research and choose the most suitable for you.
4. Create member-only pages
After selecting a platform and uploading all your content, you’ll need to create unique pages accessible only to logged-in members. Make sure these pages are secured so only authenticated members can view them.
5. Promote the site on social media and via email
Finally, once everything is set up and ready for launch, promote your new membership site across social media and email marketing campaigns, so people know about it! This way, you can start building awareness to make people sign up for membership.
Read more about creating a membership website here: “How to create a membership site.”
Elements of a Good Membership Website Platform: How To Choose the Best
Creating a membership site may be daunting if it’s your first time. For your site to successfully achieve its intended purpose, there are various elements you must include when building the site.
Additionally, you must choose the best platform that aligns with your business goals when building a membership site.
Here are the five basic features that must be present in a membership website platform to perform optimally.
1. Multiple payment gateways
A good membership website platform should offer multiple payment gateways.
Diversity is important; the more payment gateways you provide, the more chances there are for a member to sign up.
Therefore, your platform should have several gateway options like payments with PayPal, Credit or Debit Mastercard, VISA Card, and more.
2. Ease of use
Membership website platforms should have a simple and user-friendly interface that does not require technical knowledge.
Ease of use comes in handy if you are not a tech-savvy person. To create your membership site, choose a platform that’s easy to use and maneuver.
3. Custom member pages
Custom member pages are another essential element. A personal brand member page will make your members feel more motivated and related.
When selecting, choose a membership site platform that allows you to create custom member pages for your brand.
4. Membership levels
Having different membership levels is an added advantage for membership sites.
Having tiers can help a lot in terms of revenue and making your membership model look like a game. It adds playfulness to the website and helps members subscribe according to their budget.
5. Automated email reminders
Automated emails are a must in this digital era. When shopping around, choose a membership platform that automatically sends users emails to inform them of the latest updates.
For instance, when someone signs up for the membership, the automated email system should send them the latest updates or welcome greetings via email.
Best Membership Website Platforms
There are several website platforms you can choose from when you want to create a membership site. As mentioned, choosing one that aligns with your business goals and offers all the features you need is important.
You can choose from three of the best membership website platforms: MemberPress, CMS Hub Enterprise, and LearnWorlds.
MemberPress is a popular WordPress plugin that enables users to create and manage membership sites fast.
With this plugin, you have all the tools you need to create subscription plans, set payment getaways, manage user accounts, and prevent unauthorized access to content. It also has several add-ons you can use to extend the functionality of your membership website.
Pricing: From $249/year
Pros of MemberPress
- Supports an unlimited number of memberships
- You can track member activity
- Supports secure payment via PayPal and Stripe
- Supports discounts and coupons
- Integrated with popular Email marketing services (e.g., Mailchimp)
- Requires some coding knowledge to use some features
- Some essential features are billed as add-ons
2. CMS Hub Enterprise
CMS Hub Enterprise is another powerful platform to create and manage your membership site.
Like MemberPress, it offers a wide range of features, including different payment processing methods, content protection, user management, and email marketing tools.
Pros of CMS Hub Enterprise
- Several customizable website templates
- Different content access levels
- Regular updates
- eCommerce capabilities
- Integrates with third-party apps like SalesForce and Google Analytics
- Relatively expensive for small businesses
If you want to create a learning management system (LMS) for your members, LearnWorlds is one of the best platforms.
In 2021 the global LMS market was valued at $14.43 billion and was expected to grow to $40.95 billion by 2029, with a CAGR of 14.2%.
LearnWorlds offers comprehensive tools for creating courses on any device or browser. With this platform, you can add text, audio, or video content to give members a better learning experience.
Pricing: From $29/month (Billed annually)
Pros of LearnWorlds
- Simple drag-and-drop builder interface
- Offers budges or points based on user interaction
- You can easily add polls or quizzes to your site
- Supports automated email campaigns
- It may be too expensive for a small business
What Makes a Membership Site Platform Successful?
In summary, here are the essential elements that make a membership site platform successful:
- A platform that allows you to make a beautiful membership website with many customization features.
- A website platform that offers different features to members to make connections. This includes polls, Q&A, connections features, activity feed, and more.
- A website platform that supports exclusive content can be delivered using articles, features, and emails.
Is a Membership Website Worth It?
Yes. A membership site is worth it since it can be a good source of income for your business. Once you have a good membership website builder and create high-quality content, you can offer your members; you’ll find a membership website worth every dime.
It all boils down to the time, effort, and resources you’re willing to put in and the value you want your customers to gain from the site.
Whether building a membership website or choosing a membership platform, you will need a solid hosting plan. Get a host from our list of the internet’s best web hosting services to give your site the best home and set it up for success.
Next Steps: What now?
Now that you know how to create the best membership site and are ready to create yours, here are some practical steps you can take from this article:
- Find the Best Web Hosting Services in 2023
- Choose a website builder from the best website builders of 2023
Further Reading – Useful Resources
Here are more valuable resources you can read to learn more about membership websites: