A membership site is a website that provides products, services, or both to members of the site in exchange for a fee. The fee is usually recurring, very often monthly or possibly charged quarterly or annually. It can also be a one-time fee.
Membership sites allow you to create a community around your products and services, deliver content on a regular basis and build a solid base of recurring income. As an example, a membership site called ViralURL (http://viralurl.com), which offers several services including link-cloaking, has over 70,000 members and has generated millions of dollars of income in only a few short years. Another example: A guy named Michael C. Podlesny, known as Mike the Gardener, has a
“Seeds of the Month Club” membership site
You may not want to get that big, but this report will show you how to plan, build and develop your own membership site using WordPress, popular content management software that also happens to be completely free. You’ll learn the top membership software packages that run on top of WordPress, and best practices to grow and monetize your site.
Let’s back up a step and examine why you would want a membership site anyway. Membership sites are a great way to push out content to members, maintain private forms, build a community of followers and fans, and contact them with a mailing list.
They offer a variety of services that are used in a wide range of activities. Some people have membership programs to provide digital downloads. Others offer training videos. Others use membership sites to handle their support tickets and customer service. There are membership sites for e-commerce, collaboration and more.
As you can see, there is a range of reasons to employ a membership site and many people use all of these functions. They might use the membership site to offer digital downloads, send members an e-mail regularly, and offer different levels of support and offer training. The mix and match of what you offer depends on your needs and your goals.
Here is what you’ll discover in this report. Section 1 covers membership site basics like how to choose your topic or niche. You’ll figure out what content to offer and how to deliver it to members. In addition, you will get an overview of different pricing models, and when you might want to use the different approaches.
Section 2 covers WordPress and why it is a great platform for your site. We’ll look at different ways to create a membership site using WordPress, from basic sites for simple use cases, to large sites using the most popular software plugins.
In Section 3, we review “best practices” for running and growing a membership site. You’ll get some of the latest trips, tricks and hints on how to find new members, bring them on board, and make them happy, repeat customers.
Section 4 warns you of mistakes to avoid. Like a Sherpa guiding mountain-climbers up Everest, I’ll alert you where the deep crevasses and deadly ice is located. Being aware of these pitfalls will put you ahead of the vast majority of your competition.
Before we jump in with both feet, consider what type of membership site you want? Many membership sites are content-based, but there are a number of different types of models including:
- Publisher – constantly produces a variety of content.
- Content Delivery – uses the site to deliver downloadable digital content.
- Training – teaches a course or structured learning module.
- Community – focus is on community interaction and support.
- Coaching – delivers one-on-one or group coaching.
- Project Management – several team members working on the same project.
- Fixed Term – site is open for a set length of time, even as short as a week.
- Free Membership – host does not charge for membership.
- Newsletter – site is mechanism to manage subscribers and newsletter delivery.
- ECourse – course content is sent via email.
- VIP Section – the main site may have regular commenters, but the membership site is for “superfans” who want a higher level of access.
- Support – the site is solely to handle support questions for a product or piece of software.
Many sites have a mix of these models. The critical point is that as a developer of a membership site you know the specific reason for the site. As you plan your membership site, first consider what benefits you are providing your members. How are you are going to create tons of value to bring them in as new members and keep them as recurring members?
What topic or niche should you choose? Keep in mind that your site should solve a problem. What problem do you solve? How do you help people? What value do you add to their lives? These questions help you narrow down the niche you want to serve.
Also consider your personal passions. No, I don’t mean your passion for pepperoni pizza, although I’d be impressed if you could build a membership site for pizza lovers. No, I mean what do you love to do? What are your hobbies and interests?
You don’t have to build a site around a personal passion but here’s the thing: Membership sites require constant updating and care every month. Over time, if you don’t have a personal interest in the topic, it can get to be a grind. On the other hand, if you get excited talking about the topic and sharing information in the niche, you will find more energy to keep it going.
One of the questions you’ll need to address is how often you will add content to the site. Some membership sites add content every day, others weekly or monthly. The important thing is to set the expectations of team members so that they understand and know what to expect from your site. You can alter the delivery schedule later, as long as you prepare them for the change, and communicate with them often.
It may seem overwhelming in the beginning to develop enough content for a membership site. For that reason, you may want to begin by waiting to start a membership site. Instead, sell individual products in your niche. You will start to develop regular customers who purchase all of your products. This core group of clients is the perfect group to approach with a membership site. They are already fans, and will look forward to buying your content at a lower rate.
For example, if you are in the dog training niche, you may create an initial product about how to teach kids to train a new puppy. Later, publish a report on how to train a dog in preparation for a dog show. Then you might create another publication on how to train specific breeds, like pit bulls or German shepherds.
As you can see, you are beginning to develop a library of similar products in a tight niche. You will find that buyers of one product are also interested in your other products. Not every buyer will fit this profile, but you will see repeat buyers. These customers are prime prospects for a membership site. They will be interested because they will get more products at a lower rate, saving considerable money by joining. You are off and running.
Remember–it is critical to be consistent. Over time, it will become easier to market your site and get new prospects involved. The reason is that the market begins to trust you because they can see you have been in business a long time, providing value for many people.
They trust you and know that you will keep on delivering high-value products. The downside of this phenomenon is you may go a long time before getting many clients. You may start to think, “Hey, I’m not getting very much business for the amount of work I’m putting in.” Be patient and have faith in your mission. You will be rewarded when you’re business starts to grow.
Remember this mantra: “The price you charge is based on the PERCEIVED VALUE of your membership site.” That is why it is so important to offer great products and services. You want the perceived value of what they are getting to far outweigh the price.
That said, I would say most new membership site owners under-price their offer. Do this: Find out what similar sites are charging in your niche. Then charge a little more, and challenge yourself to provide a better product than your competitors. Keep in mind that to a large extent the price you charge is how a prospect measures its quality. If you price too low, you are telegraphing that the quality is not there, and you want the opposite reaction—you want them to feel they will receive massive value.
It will take some experimentation and testing to find the right balance of price, bonuses (if any), and the products and services you offer. It’s better to be a little aggressive, mostly because of the tendency of site owners to price too low as mentioned.
Here is a good tip: People want to know what they get right now, not later. In other words, what do I get TODAY if I sign up. Key in on providing quality content and bonuses right from the start. These products should be worth much more than the price of joining. This will get them in the door. Your ability to continue to add valuable products will keep them coming back.
To increase sign ups, you might also have a low-cost, or no-cost, trial period. Try $7 for 7 days, then full rate to continue. Experiment with a fee as low as $1, or maybe $5. Consider even offering a free trial. Some sites charge a higher initial fee with lower monthly fees. Test different approaches until you find the sweet spot that works for you.
Remember that people fear they will get ripped off—that someone will add forced continuity on their credit card, or they won’t be able to get out of the program. Address these fears and alleviate them. Make it clear how they can cancel.
As we mentioned, WordPress is your best solution for locking and releasing content on set schedules. There are several membership plugins that can handle this task including:
- WishList Member
- Member Mouse
- WP Member
- Magic Member
In addition to protected content, offer a selection of unprotected content that provides value to your website visitors. This allows you to show nonmembers what you have available and what value you offer.
It is also a good way to drive traffic because Google loves valuable content. People search Google for various topics related to your niche, and Google will drive them to your site. In other words, they are entering the very top of your marketing funnel.
Another idea to help promote membership is a free option. Some sites, for example, provide a 7-day, 14-day or 30-day free membership. The idea is to get them interested in and excited by content. They will be much more likely to join if they can experience the value you bring to them.
The downside of a free option is that some people equate free with lower value. Probably the best solution is to limit free access. That is why many ownership sites offer a free “tour” or samples limited to seven days.
- Take some time to consider the topic and model of site you want to offer.
- Consider a site centered around one of your interests and passions. It will be easier to stay motivated over time.
- Try selling individual products before staring a membership site. You’ll develop a loyal fan base.
- Consistency builds trust and brand recognition. Be patient, and the business will come.
- Offer tremendous value on day one. It gets people in the door.
- Don’t under price your offer. Charge a decent rate and deliver even more value.
- Remember to price based on perceived value.
- Experiment with pricing, trial periods and bonuses.
- Offer unprotected content to drive traffic and attract clients.
Based on what you’ve read so far, I’ll bet your wheels are turning–you are thinking of all the great membership sites you can create, or an existing site you can add membership to. But you don’t where to start, how to set it up, what software to use. Don’t worry. It’s simple and you’ll be up and running in no time.
I recommend you use WordPress to build your membership site. It is a free blogging tool and content management system (CMS). In the old days, you remember–the early 2000s, each web site owner had to manage hundreds or even thousands of individual pages of their site. As the Internet developed, enterprising individuals created content management systems to make it easier to add and delete blog posts and pages.
In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little created WordPress. Now normal, nontechie people could create a simple blog or website. Since its founding, there have been millions of downloads of WordPress. It is used by almost 20% of the top 10 million websites in the world, and 48 % of the top 100 blogs. It has become the most prominent blogging software on the Internet, utilized by more than 60 million sites around the world.
One of the benefits of WordPress is that it is open source. That means that the software is free and any programmer or developer can create add-ons to provide additional functionality to the core program.
These add-ons are known as plugins. Once you download the main program, you can also download plugins with a few clicks of your mouse. Within seconds, you can add features that the original program does not have.
This is the case with membership sites. There are a number of membership site plugins you can choose from. Most have a fee to use them. However, you’ll find that the value of the membership site plugins recommended in this report far exceed their investment. There are also some great free options which we will explore.
One of the things that are very important with any WordPress membership plugin is how easy it is to use day-to-day. The workflow–how easy the software is to manage all of the different functions–becomes very important when you use it a lot. Cumbersome or dysfunctional workflow becomes very frustrating because you end up taking more steps than you need to get things done.
If it becomes too difficult to perform simple functions like adding members or uploading content, you will quickly become frustrated. Another important factor for membership plugins is good support and documentation.
It’s also desirable that the software has a supportive community of users. This is where some established software programs have an advantage over newer programs. They have developed a community over time and have a robust support system. This is good because the members have already run into the challenges you may face, and add an extra helping hand. Their knowledgebase has built up over time, and often a simple search in Google or other search engine provides you with the answer you are looking for.
Good documentation also plays a big role in making software user-friendly. Some software has sketchy documentation because the developers don’t have time for it. Great software overcomes this challenge, and has thorough documentation available. Often it is located on their software group’s website, so they can easily update it with new information and details.
In that spirit, there are several membership programs that meet the criteria we just discussed. What you’ll find is that each of these packages has a different business model. Some have a low or no entry fee and yet charge for service, while others charge more upfront but offer free or low-cost service and support.
Which model works for you depends on your current cash flow, technical knowledge and whatever level of support you need and can afford. Some people want everything to be free, but consider that the support fees and software investments go to help the developers continue to add new enhancements and functionality to the software.
- Paid Membership Pro – This is a plugin from developer Jason Coleman.
Jason offers the software for free, and charges for support on the backend. This is a good option if you have technical skills in setting up and operating software. It also helps if money is tight. The support investment for a single license is $97 at this writing.
- Member Press – Another plugin with excellent workflow is Member Press. They offer plenty of useful options and have found a nice balance between ease of use and number of features. It is a little pricier that the others–the investment is $99 per year.
- Magic Members – this package charges up front to use—a single-site license is $97. However, it includes support right from the very beginning. Magic Members has very easy workflow and is a pleasure to use. It’s nice to have support from the start so that you don’t have to think about getting your questions answered, increasing your productivity.
Magic Members is interesting in that the user interface is part of
WordPress, but is separate. The menus are easy to use and the workflow is simple. They have an excellent content management system that makes it a breeze to provide new content to members on regular basis.
- WishList Member – WishList Member has been in business for more than four years. The current investment is $97 for a single site, which includes unlimited support and updates for one year. With more than 20,000 customers, it is a very popular package, especially among Internet marketers. It works well and offers lots of menu choices. The downside of its wide selection and variety of options is that a newbie can get overwhelmed.
WishList Member is extremely functional. It easily creates different levels or recurring periods of membership. You can quickly create a continuity membership–for example, maybe you want to offer training that is dripped out over 12 months. WishList Member does this like a snap.
The developers behind the program are constantly working on it and creating new features, functionality and innovation. There is a very strong community to offer support. Again, it cannot be stressed how important a good community and ecosystem is, because you will definitely be asking questions at one time or another, no matter how good the software is.
WishList Member has plenty of options and payment gateways. They have found a good balance between good design and solid functionality. For example, advanced users can set up individual Cron jobs.
The content distribution is a little bit odd in WishList Member. You create different levels of content dripping. WishList has a robust number of payment gateways including Google checkout, PayPal, Authorize.net, 2checkout and more.
- Premise – used to be called Studio Press which was mostly used for creating landing pages. They built the membership plugin Premise on top of that. Utilizes short codes extensively. Design is not as attractive as some of the other plugins on the market, and there are less payment gateways.
Premise is a package designed by the people behind Copyblogger, an uber- successful copy and marketing blog. It is very business friendly and appeals to marketers. Premise allows you to quickly set up download sections, forums and other areas. It has several features the other packages don’t offer. It has an excellent landing page maker and allows you to build sophisticated funnels.
Premise uses short codes extensively, giving you plenty of flexibility in setting up your site. Short codes are text snippets you enter in a post or page which add different features to the page. One example is a list of posts from a designated category like “Recent Products” or perhaps “Most Popular Posts.”
At $165, it is not inexpensive. The good news is once you purchase the package, there are no further investments and you can use it on unlimited sites. However, the bad news is that at the time of this writing Premise is closed to new members. Check the site when you are ready to move forward with your membership site to see if it is open again.
Premise does not have as attractive a user interface as WishList member, but it offers very specific levels of membership. You can break it down by different levels for example new member, invents member, senior member, pro member. Or you could break it down by the type of content they get or the number of days they are a member.
Honorable Mention – the above packages stand out. Every package is powerful and feature rich. These stand out due to the natural workflow and ease of use.
Other membership plugins you might test include aMember, s2member, DAP (Digital Access Pass), MemberSpeed, MemberGate, Member Mouse, WP Member, and DL Guard.
As you can see, there are many plugins with different levels of initial investment and support offerings. Whether you pay up front for the full package, or pay for the backend service and support depends on your goals and level of technical knowledge.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many developers will consider contract work for a fee. That means if you have a specific requirement or custom design that you need set up, you can contact them directly. This option generally takes a bigger investment but there is a solid return on investment is there, it is something to consider carefully.
So which WordPress membership plugin is best for you? It depends on your goals. Do you intend to make money and deliver content? Will you charge every month or a single fee in the beginning? Do your members get access to all of your content at once, or will you release it over time? All of these questions factor into which plugin works best for you.
It cannot be stressed how important workflow is. You’ll be using it a lot–you become one with the program. That’s why it will benefit you to test different software programs to determine which one feels right. Every person is different and, like buying a car, if you don’t find one that feels good you will be uncomfortable every time you take it out for a spin.
All of the plugins we’ve looked at so far have built their software on WordPress—it is designed with many of membership functions “out of the box” including roles and permissions. That means that if you have programming ability, you can “roll your own” membership site. If you can code, all you need to do is familiarize yourself with the roles and permissions within WordPress to create your own system.
For the purposes of this report, we are not going to get into do-it-yourself options. But, if this describes you, be aware that WordPress has plenty of power by itself. The membership plugins we describe here are designed for normal people who want functionality and features without the need for programming skill or knowledge.
Another option is to create a basic membership site with simple password protection. You may not need a full-blown membership plugin with content dripping and various membership levels. Perhaps you just want to build a following by registering members on your site.
This can be accomplished with the password system that is already built into WordPress. Then you can decide what content members are allowed to see.
You can even use the built-in WordPress email system to start your mailing list.
Google XML Sitemaps
Creates a “map” of every post and page which helps search engines more efficiently index the site.
The new successor to the great and now discontinued Ultimate TinyMCE, WP Edit adds extensive functionality to the basic WordPress editor.
WP Biographia http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-biographia/ Lets you create a custom author “bio” box that can be added below posts and pages.
JetPack by WordPress.com
A plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites that adds many of the great features found on blogs hosted at WordPress.com. Includes stats, social networking comments, email subscriptions, easy embeds from Youtube and Vimeo, direct posting from email and much more.
Yet Another Relatated Posts Plugin
YARPP adds scours the database and presents related posts alongside or below each post displayed on your site. Simple and powerful, it is maintained by the same team behind “WordPress SEO by Yoast.”
- WordPress is the most successful website creation software in the world.
- Plugins extend the functionality of the core WordPress program.
- Look for plugins with easy workflow. You’ll be using the program every day.
- Good community support makes a big difference.
- Plugins vary in their initial investment costs and support options.
- Not ready to jump in the pool? Most membership plugins offer 30-day trial periods.
- Look for plugins that have features that match your membership goals.
- Technically proficient web users may want to build their own site. Most people should steer clear of this idea.
Membership sites can be challenging if you’ve never used them before. In this section, you’ll learn “best practices” experienced membership site owners have developed over time.
You also need to decide how you will communicate with your members. How will you send them e-mail updates and information? You can add their e-mail addresses automatically when they sign up. This becomes your email list to send updates and information.
How often will you send updates? Every week? Every day? Think of it this way: what you are trying to do is build a healthy relationship with your members. The rules of communication you use to maintain good relationships “in the real world” apply just as well online.
Remember that you may not be a known entity to them when they first come to your site. Try to encourage them right away in terms of getting involved in your site. For example, you may want to consider giving away your contact information. Or call them on the phone with a warm welcome. It helps them feel part of the group.
After you’ve nurtured relationships with members, you can begin to ask them questions about they want out of the site. Maybe no one has asked them before what their expectations or needs are. They might have requests you can address. However, you can only help them if you know what their needs are. It gives you the opportunity to create content and products that will help them.
One of your biggest challenges will be to get them to stay on as repeat members. It’s true that some may invest in the site at first and then never use it for a long time. Still, be sure you keep adding content and value to the site no matter if some members are using it or not.
The reason is they will eventually stop back in to see what the site has offered lately. If you slack in adding value or content, they will tend to leave if they feel they’re being neglected. You want to create content and value that exceeds expectations. You want them to say, “Wow, this is fantastic content! I’m glad I joined and I don’t even think about paying my monthly fee.”
Consider having content that is exclusive to your membership site they cannot get anywhere else. This might be in the form of interviews you conduct with industry leaders, private training on topics and subjects that are new or cutting-edge, and more. You might also provide a level of advice or support from you or your team that is not available to nonmembers.
Whatever you do, the perceived value has to be considerably more than the investment they make. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Continue to challenge your team and yourself to add massive value and top quality content to the site.
A very common error that new membership site owners make is they offer a series of membership levels. For example, they might have Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. Members might start at the Bronze level, while Silver offers more value, and Gold level provides complete access.
The problem with this approach in the beginning is it lowers conversions. People get intimidated and confused by many options. It’s much simpler to get someone to say “Yes!” to join your site if you only offer just one choice: either they join or they don’t.
You’ll gain more confidence in your operation and development if you see a steady stream of new members joining your site. It’s even a good idea to let new members stay on as long as they want at their initial rate, even if you increase the rate later for new members. You may think that you will lose money, but it will increase loyalty and the “lifetime customer value” of each member. In addition, they will spend additional money on specials and premiums you offer.
One way to drive considerable traffic to your site is to utilize affiliates. Affiliates are marketers that promote your site to their own “tribe” of fans and followers. For example, let’s say an affiliate is running banner ads for your membership site on their site. If a prospect clicks the ad, visits your site, and signs up as a member, the affiliate gets a commission for the sale. It’s not unusual to have commissions as high as 50%, 75% and even 100% of the sale.
Why would you give an affiliate 100% commission? Consider that the “Lifetime Customer Value” of each new member is much higher than the initial commission payout. Lifetime Customer Value is the average total amount of spending you can expect from a typical member.
For example, if you charge $50 a month for your membership site and the average length of time someone stays a member is six months, the Lifetime Customer Value of a member is $300. Of course, some will stay much longer and others will leave sooner. Lifetime Customer Value is an average.
Now you know that an average customer will spend $300 in your membership site. From here, it is easy to determine how much you want to spend to acquire that customer. Even after paying 100% commission rate, you are making a good profit. Don’t feel like you are locked in, because you can still customize the structure for an individual affiliate.
Closely monitor the margins in your affiliate commission structure. Affiliate sales will give you plenty of traffic and help build sales. Many of the membership site plugins have modules that can manage your affiliate sales and tracking.
Another idea is that you can run a separate affiliate sales model outside your membership site using third-party software and service. You might have several different affiliate structures going on at the same time. There is no single way to do it, and the right balance for you will come from testing and experimentation.
Consider giving “lifetime commissions” where an affiliate receives commission from all sales from their referral for the length of time the referral stays on as a member. It becomes a little challenging to track it–there are cookie-based tracking methods and other ways. If you get into heavy affiliate marketing, it may benefit you to consult with, or hire, an affiliate manager to advise the right setup for maximize profit.
Membership sites are exciting in the beginning. After four months, some website owners start to burn out from the demand for lots of high quality content to keep the site a worthwhile investment. Here are some great ways to avoid this trap:
- Outsourcing – It’s a whole new World Wide Web out there now. You can hire writers and content producers from all over the world to create new ebooks, videos and more for your site.
Warning: Don’t cheap out on content. It has to be high-quality. Take the time to find good writers and content producers that are not cheap, but don’t charge an arm and a leg. They are out there. Don’t be afraid to pay reasonable rates— good content will pay for itself many times over.
- Private Label Rights content – also known as PLR. Private Label Rights content was created to make it easier for marketers to get large volumes of quality informational, educational content at a good price. PLR content is written by professional writers, and made available for sale to multiple buyers.
The original writer is not attributed in any way. The buyers purchase the right to put their name on the content–they can alter it, add to it, and utilize it in different media—for example, recording an article as a podcast. As far as your members know, you wrote or produced the content. PLR content is very reasonably priced, and in the last few years several highquality PLR membership sites have opened on the Web.
Here some additional thoughts on best practices:
- Begin before you feel ready. I can’t tell you how many stories I read about marketers waiting until “everything is just right.” The funny thing is they keep saying this for months, and even years, on end. Everything will never be exactly right. Get it started with a simple set-up and tweak it from there.
- Welcome new members and guide them around the site. The first time a new member logs on to your membership site full of content, it can feel daunting. Make them feel at home, and make it easy to find things so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Add a welcome video.
- Grow and change. A membership site is not a static entity. Let it grow and change as member’s needs evolve. Let’s say no one uses the forum–get rid of it. Maybe no one is checking out the longer training material–break it up into smaller segments. Regularly poll your members and ask what they want out of the site, and adapt your approach and structure to meet their needs.
- Decide which membership site “model” fits your goals. Don’t be afraid to mix and match.
- Set a content delivery schedule and stick to it.
- Get to know your members. Create a bond and a relationship. Keep them informed.
- Keep the quality level high. Members may not check in every month, and when they do, you want them to be constantly impressed.
- Avoid multiple layers of membership in the beginning.
- Deliver tons of value right away.
- Consider adding an affiliate program to drive lots of traffic.
- Outsource or use PLR content to avoid content generation burnout.
- Be flexible in growing your site. Let it adapt to member needs.
As you develop your site, you are bound to make errors, blunders and gaffes. Several of these mistakes are so common, we know there is a good chance you will run into them. Save time and trouble by reviewing them below and learn how to tackle them.
Always get e-mail addresses. Marketers often say “The money is in the list.” That means you can profit handsomely by offering valuable products and solutions to your email list.
People still check their e-mail regularly. It’s a good way to communicate with your members, fans and followers. Gone are the days of doing it yourself. Use a service like Mail Chimp or AWeber. You can create a free account that allows you to send a limited number of e-mails every month. As your list grows, you can sign up for a premium account to handle larger email blasts.
A good way to get people to sign up for your e-mail list is to offer free reports or other valuable incentives. Basically you’re saying, “Give me your e-mail address so I can communicate with you, and you can get this valuable free content.”
Google Analytics is a free service that helps you analyze your site’s traffic. It provides many useful statistics including:
- Which content is most popular.
- Where your visitors come from.
- How they navigate your site.
- How long they stay on the site.
- The “bounce rate” which indicates how many people visit only one page and leave.
These analytics are important because they help you learn how to adapt your site for better conversions. Install Google Analytics as soon as possible after building your site. There are several Google Analytics plugins which make it easy to add the service.
Another alternative is to use Jetpack which is a plugin that accesses the power of
WordPress.com. You need to have a WordPress.com account and install the Jetpack plugin. It will give you basic stats, but Google Analytics is a recognized industry leader. Whichever you choose, make sure it is up and running, and each week check to make sure it is still installed and pulling data.
Most WordPress sites could use much better security. Experts call it “hardening the site,” in other words making it hard for hackers, crackers and crooks to get in your site.
Don’t take this lightly. Hackers know how to hide nasty viruses DEEP in your site where they are very hard to find. The evil code sits there and slowly steals your content, personal data and bandwidth. Worse, they are very hard to get rid of. The best way to prevent potential problems is to keep them out in the first place.
Here are several security plugins you should immediately put to use. You may know other plugins that perform similar functions. That’s fine—the important thing is to lock down your site as soon as possible:
- A newer security plugin on the WordPress scene, it has gained a lot of fans in a short time. One of its unique features is that it compares your site’s core, theme and plugins to the same packages on the WordPress download repository. If there is anything different, it may mean a hacker changed one of your important files, and Wordfence will send you an email alert.
- Login Lockdown. Lets you limit the number of login attempts. This is especially useful in defeating “brute force” login hackers, who use special software to try thousands of login names and passwords on your site, one right after another at high speed. After a set number of attempts, Login Lockdown shuts them out for good.
- TimThumb Vulnerability Scanner. TimThumb is PHP code that helps resize images. Hackers were able to get access sites through holes in this code. Now the problem is fixed in the code, but thousand of blogs were penetrated by hackers, and many people never knew. The TimThumb Vulnerability Scanner scans your site to make sure no baddies got in.
- Exploit Scanner. Similar to the TimThumb scanner, but it is not designed to handle one problem. Rather, Exploit Scanner checks for all kinds of potential hacks, viruses and trojans in your files and database.
A standard WordPress install has default settings you should change as soon as possible. In the Settings menu you should change site title, tagline and
- Site title – what is the title of your site? Change this to reflect the name of your site. Example: “Jim’s Super Internet Marketing Club.”
- Tagline – this expands on what your site is about. Do you have a slogan, saying or tagline? For the above example, the tagline might be “Internet marketing training for new marketers.”
- Permalinks – Also make sure you set the permalinks which is found under the settings. Use the “post name” selection, which turns the URL from gibberish into easy to read words–easier to find for both humans and search engines.
Google likes WordPress sites not just because they are WordPress, but because they make it easy to add content. Google LOVES fresh content. You need to tell search engines what each page is about. Designate keywords for each page so that Google knows the topic.
When you optimize each page with keywords, your site will rank higher in the search results. An easy way to do this is with the plugin “WordPress SEO by Yoast.” You can enter specifications so that each page and post it represented in a certain way. It will also check if the keywords you specify are represented properly. If not, it instructs you where to change the entries so that the keywords are entered correctly. It’s drop dead easy.
Always, always, always backup your site and database. Backups allow you to roll back your site in case some sort of virus or Trojan infiltrates your site. Also, WordPress is constantly updating new versions, and there might be a situation where it breaks your site. If you have a backup, it is easy to quickly go to the latest backup.
The easiest way to backup your site is with plugins. You can find some very good free and paid backup plugins: Backup Buddy is a popular paid version, and BackWPup, BackUpWordPress and Snapshot Backup are excellent free choices. There are many others.
Once you’ve scheduled the backup calendar in the plugin you choose, it is done and you don’t have to think about it too much. It will backup every week automatically, or whatever the backup schedule is. Many plugins are designed to save the scheduled backup file on a folder on your site. That means you need plenty of space to accommodate backups, so make sure you buy enough disk space on your hosting plan.
WordPress manages content with a database which makes it naturally dynamic. Data is going in and out all the time–long load times are common. To help speed things up, add a caching plugin. Caching stores the most frequently requested data so the database can retrieve it quickly.
To optimize each page and post, you can use pingdom.com
(https://www.pingdom.com/) and GTmetrix.com (http://gtmetrix.com/ )to see how fast your site is–both sites tell you if your site is loading slowly and where it can be optimized. Use a cache plugin like a W3 Total Cache or Lite Cache to speed things up.
People will share content if it is high quality and useful. You don’t want to put lousy content on your site. Focus on creating value that helps people find answers to problems or entertains them in some way.
After you’ve created great content, make it easy to share on social media. Creating great content and making it shareable will generate traffic to your site. A simple way to do this is to install a plugin called Sociable or to use the Jetpack plugin which also has sharing capabilities.
- Collect email addresses as soon as possible. “The money is in the list.”
- Sign up for Google Analytics, and install a related plugin on your site. Every week, review your site data to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
- Harden your site: Install the recommended security plugins, and keep them up to date. The best way to deal with hackers is to never let them in at all costs.
- Change the default settings. The suggested changes make your site easier to read and follow.
- Determine your target keywords. Keywords are important because they pull in relevant web searchers to your site every day.
- Backup, backup, backup. Did I say backup?
- Pick up the speed. WordPress sites are data intensive. Use caching plugins to speed things up.
- Share your content. Listen to what your mother said and share your things. Add Sociable or other social sharing plugins to help drive traffic and increase engagement.
Membership sites are a great way to build community, distribute content, present training material, manage support services, and build stable revenue. Your task now is to start a membership site as soon as possible. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Take this information and put it into action. Then adjust, tweak, modify and fine-tune your effort as you go. You’ll be surprised how fast you can build a powerful membership site that your members love and generates income you can count on.