Setting up a membership plugin for WordPress is a way to connect with your audience — and sell your content and expertise to them. There are quite a few options but they vary considerably in features and in ease of use. So picking the best membership plugin for WordPress is about weighing pros and cons and figuring out which one comes closest to doing what you want.
Each year I look at all of the membership plugins available and choose a few to look over in more detail to help you decide which of them might — or might not — be the best membership plugin for WordPress.
Let’s take a look…
When choosing a membership plugin there’s not one right answer for every blog — or every blogger. Some of us prefer to use an easy-to-manage membership plugin that’s simple and quick to run, while some of us want to use a more complicated membership plugin that takes more work but has more features.
I’m kind of in the middle, BTW. I really like simple tools but I also appreciate having more advanced features — and I don’t mind learning to use a plugin that’s more complicated.
Every Membership Plugin Should Do These Three Things
The membership plugins that I look at here can all do the following, at a minimum:
- Protect content so only members can access it
- Accept payments for people to buy memberships
- Accept one-time or recurring payments.
That’s a pretty simple starting place. And it’s enough for many bloggers to start selling their own memberships.
As more features are added on top of those three, the membership plugins start to become much more complicated. They start costing more, too.
So let’s look at a few options and see which one may be the best membership plugin for WordPress — for you!
A Closer Look At A Few Current Membership Plugins
Okay. The three membership plugins for WordPress that I’ve chosen to look at this year are Simple Membership Plugin, s2Member and Digital Access Pass.
Simple Membership Plugin
Simple Membership Plugin is a dream for running a membership. A simple membership, of course, but a membership that’s unbelievably easy to manage.
And Simple Membership Plugin is a free plugin.
It does all of the basics — content protection and payments for access — and lets you have a membership with different levels — like bronze, silver and gold — so your members can pay more to get even more content.
Simple Membership plugin works with PayPay and with Stripe (I’ve tested it using PayPal and it’s simple and easy). While it lets you offer a basic membership to sell posts/pages on your blog, it doesn’t allow you to sell standalone digital products.
Still, for the price of free it’s a great way to get started with selling memberships. Their website contains a lot of guides and documentation to help you get started.
If all you’ll need is a simple membership — including higher/lower levels — Simple Membership Plugin is the one to beat.
Simple Membership Plugin
Cheapest: Yes. It’s free.
Easiest: Absolutely the easiest to use.
Technical: Not technical to use, has fewer features than more technical membership plugins.
s2Member is a kind of special membership plugin. First, the main s2Member plugin is free and the free version is full featured (and properly GPL licensed). There’s also a Pro version with even more features and support.
s2Member allows you to sell a membership with multiple levels — again, like bronze, silver, gold. It protects content that’s only available to members, with more content given to higher level memberships.
s2Member lets you sell access to individual posts/pages, too, allowing you to create digital products on your own blog.
The free version supports PayPal for payments while the Pro version includes support for more payment processors including Authorize.Net and ClickBank, plus additional sales tools and a coupon code system. s2Member also has a large following of users and code contributors.
One of the best things about s2Member is when you purchase a support license it’s a one-time fee and you get updates forever. You don’t have to pay every year, you just pay once.
So what’s the catch? s2member has a much steeper learning curve than Simple Membership Plugin. You need to set up all of the pages and shortcodes yourself by going through the documentation and following the guides that are provided.
s2member has extensive documentation on their website, and an active forum for help and support.
For the price — a one time payment for the Pro version with support and updates forever — s2Member is really compelling. Just remember you’ll need to commit yourself to learning how to use it successfully. And if you’re into open source software s2Member may be the most appealing.
Cheapest: Pretty cheap. It’s free for a functional version and the Pro version is a single payment for support and updates forever. Great value.
Easiest: Not the easiest to set up and use, but once you learn how to run s2Member you’ll be able to run a powerful membership.
Technical: Quite technical to use, though it has a good range of features.
Digital Access Pass (DAP)
Digital Access Pass, known as “DAP”, is an advanced membership plugin that works with WordPress.
DAP has the most features of the three memberships plugins we’re looking at here. With DAP you may run multiple unrelated membership programs on the same site, you may sell access to specific posts/pages or groups of posts/pages all at once and you may accept one-time or subscription payments with PayPal or Stripe.
DAP also lets you create opt-ins for freebies and collect email addresses for your mailing list. You may use DAP itself to send emails to your subscribers or you can have DAP automatically add new members to an existing email list on MailChimp, AWeber, GetResponse, ActiveCampaign, Drip or ConvertKit.
If you’re building email list sales funnels then DAP is an awfully powerful platform. But, like s2Member, it’s fairly complicated to run. I don’t think it’s quite as technical to use as s2Member, but I’ve had a lot of bloggers give me feedback that they wish DAP had an easier interface.
So be prepared to spend some time learning and training yourself on how to use DAP if you choose it to sell memberships, sell digital products and manage email lists for sales funnels.
DAP has one of the most advanced feature sets of any membership plugin for WordPress. I’m currently using DAP to run my membership site and manage my email list.
DAP is the most expensive membership plugin that we’re looking at here. You may choose to pay $40 per month ongoing — or $300 plus $200/year ongoing — to keep getting support and new DAP updates.
Digital Access Pass has an extensive and growing documentation library on their website and DAP’s founder and lead developer runs a support group on Facebook that gets rave reviews. In fact that support group is essentially a must-have for you to use DAP effectively.
Digital Access Pass
Cheapest: It’s the most expensive, but DAP has the most features.
Easiest: Not the easiest to use, but if you like figuring out technical options in order to use more advanced features, you may want to look into DAP.
Technical: Moderately technical to use, has lots of features including email lists and selling digital products.
So What’s The Best Membership Plugin For WordPress?
As you’ve found by reading about these membership plugins — Simple Membership Plugin, s2Member and Digital Access Pass (DAP) — there’s no one answer to which membership plugin is best. Choosing a membership plugin depends on the goals you have for your online membership business and how much time and energy you want to spend setting things up and running the site.
For new bloggers getting started with selling memberships, Simple Membership Plugin is a dream of a membership plugin and it’s free.
s2Member isn’t for every blogger, but it has a lot of features and options to sell memberships and content — and you only pay once for lifetime updates.
For more experienced bloggers interested in Internet Marketing Digital Access Pass (DAP) has the most features. DAP costs the most but you get direct forum support from the developer.