Hey there WishListers! Welcome back to another video. I'm John Morris with WishList Products and, today, I'm going to be showing you the top 8 must-have WordPress plugins for membership sites and online courses. And, specifically, this is my personal list of the plugins I always install on the hundreds of membership sites I've built over the years. I'll be running through what they are, what they do, and why I think every membership site and/or online course should have them. So, with that said… let's jump in…
1. WishList Member
#1, of course, is your membership platform. This is the plugin that's going to do all the membership grunt work for you. Things like protecting your posts and pages, connecting with your payment provider, adding members to your mailing list, adding, moving, and removing members to and from membership levels… all the stuff you need to actually HAVE a membership site. Of course, I'm biased and think WishList Member is far and away the best plugin to do this…But, let me run through a few criteria you should look at when picking a membership plugin:
- Stability. Your entire membership business will be based on this plugin, so you want to go with something that's been around, is stable and has a team of developers working on it — not just some guy or gal building it as a side project.
- Capable. In terms of your membership platform, more capability almost directly means more potential revenue… because you're able to actually implement all the marketing ideas you have without having to hire a team of your own developers to do it.
- Easy-To-Use. None of the rest matters if you can't actually use the software. So, you need something that's user-friendly and just works.
Of course, as I said, my biased self thinks WishList Member meets all those criteria the best, but that's up to you to decide. If you WOULD like to learn more about WishList Member, just go to wishlistmember.com. Okay… enough shameless plugging.
Next, you need a page builder. Technically, you don't NEED it, but it will make your life 1,000 times easier. Page-builders like Elementor, Divi, and Beaver Builder let you build your WordPress pages using a simple drag and drop interface — no coding required. WordPress' built-in page editor, Gutenberg, has gotten a lot more capable… but these builders still blow it out of the water. And they only keep getting better. Elementor is what I use. I just find it fits my style the best, but they're all very capable. If you do go the Elementor route, I strongly recommend investing in Elementor Pro, as well.
The Pro version adds a whole bunch of functionality that will make your site-building life much easier. And, I'll drop links for all these plugins in the description.
Next up is a Learning Management System or LMS. This is specifically for online courses. If you're running a regular monthly membership, you may not need these. But, these kinds of plugins let you quickly build modular courses without having to hack into WordPress or use pages in some complicated way. They do it all for you and many included progress tracking, quizzes, certificates, and all the bells and whistles you'd expect from an online course software.
The big mistake I see people make here, though, is they assume they only need an LMS when building an online course library. And, you can “get away” with that, but you're going to limit yourself. That's because LMS software focuses on the course-building part — as it should. And, it adds some functionality for accepting payments and protecting content, but nowhere near what a membership platform will give you.
If you want to build a fully-capable online course library, you'll want both an LMS and a membership platform — and, of course, one that integrates tightly with all the popular WordPress LMS plugins like TutorLMS, Sensei, LearnDash, and WP Courseware… like WishList Member does. As for which one, I use TutorLMS. Mainly because I like the course-building module. I find it's the easiest for me to use and fits my style the best.
Next up is WordFence… which is a security plugin for WordPress. As far as what it does… I think their website says it best: “Wordfence includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner that was built from the ground up to protect WordPress.
Our Threat Defense Feed arms Wordfence with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your website safe. It also ties directly into a cleanup service where their security expert will clean up your site if you do get hacked. WordFence also tends to be at the forefront of identifying and helping patch WordPress vulnerabilities. In fact, in many cases… if you have WordFence installed and a new vulnerability pops up, they'll add a fix to their plugin that protects even before the plugin author fixes it on their side. And, a lot of this comes in the free version of the plugin. So, it is, in my opinion, the perfect plugin to protect your site and give you peace of mind.
Now, let's talk speed. You probably know this by now… but page load speed has become critically important — for all websites. But, imagine you joined a membership site, you're paying a monthly fee to access the content and every time you go to log in, the pages load agonizingly slow.
People just won't put up with it for long. That said, the WordPress speed/caching segment doesn't exactly have a great track record. A bunch of confusing options that you have no idea how to set and may or may not work on your particular site. And, I'll be honest… in my nearly 17 years of building WordPress websites (yes, I'm that old), I've tried nearly all of them… with limited success.
Until I found NitroPack. Now, full disclosure, NitroPack is a service. You pay a monthly fee for it and then it has a connector plugin to connect your WordPress site to the service. But man… it just works. Every site I've installed it on, so far, it's pushed the Google PageSpeed Insights score for those websites to 90+ — which, if you don't know, is like trying to squeeze a whale through the eye of needle when it comes to WordPress websites… especially ones running LMS and membership software.And, of course, the pages themselves loading blazingly fast.
For me, this service has been worth every penny, so far.6. Custom CSS and JSNow, we get to get a little nerdy. This plugin is probably the red-headed stepchild on this list, but I swear by it.
And… and… if you change or update your theme, you don't lose your tracking code… because it's in this plugin… not in a theme file that just got overwritten. So yes… a small, not as popular plugin… but very handy and good at what it does. And one of the first three plugins I install on every website I build.
7. Yoast Duplicate Post
Another simple, but handy, plugin… it does exactly what it says. It lets you click a button and duplicate an existing post. That might sound trivial, but oftentimes in a membership site, you format your posts a particular way… with specific settings for certain types of content and so on. This plugin saves you a bunch of time… having to re-set all those settings. Instead, just duplicate a post and only change the things that need changed.
If you're offering multiple “silos” of content in your membership site, that alone will save you loads of time. Of course, there are lots of plugins that do this… but this one comes from Yoast which is a well-established company in the WordPress ecosystem. So, if I'm going to use a plugin to duplicate posts, I'm going to use theirs.
8. JetPack Stats
Last but not least is JetPack Stats. Of course, I know some people hate JetPack because it's a massive plugin with tons of different settings. But, they've done a good job of making all the settings optional.
So, you only have to turn on what you want to use. And, JetPack Stats is maybe the best feature. I prefer it to hooking my site up to Google Analytics, because frankly, Analytics is overkill and I don't understand half it anyway. In a membership site, what I really want is to know what courses/posts/content is getting visited and viewed the most. And, that's exactly what JetPack Stats gives me in a UI I can actually understand.
And, that's it. Those are the 8 plugins I install on every membership site I build. You might not need them all or may choose a different option, but you'll want to have something for each of these seven categories:
- Membership Platform
- Page Builder
- LMS (optional)
- Site Speed
- Visitor Stats
That'll cover your bases and ensure you have a stable platform to build and grow your online business.
That said… if you like the video, I'd appreciate it if you give it a thumbs up, be sure to subscribe if you haven't yet and if you'd like to learn more about OUR membership platform, WishList Member, you can visit wishlistmember.com.
Thanks for watching… and we'll talk to you next time.