How To Create A Paywall Protected Membership Site With MemberPress

First of all, what is a Paywall?

If you like reading big magazines and newspapers online, you’ve probably come across a website that requires you to become a paid member to read its articles. There are many examples of this business model in place: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and even Medium.

Here's an example from The Wall Street Journal:

wall street journal paywall

This point in the content where the reader is required to make a purchase to continue reading is called a paywall. It locks the content until the user signs up.

There are different types of paywalls, and businesses adopt varying methods for allowing visitors access to protected site content. On some sites, an upfront payment is required, while others provide options for limited period access. After a certain duration, users must make a payment to access the content.

Using a paywall is an excellent idea when you want to monetize high-quality content and make money from your readers and viewers. 

Main Types Of Protected Content

There are two main types of paywalls used on the internet. These are:

Pay per view: With this model, you charge readers for accessing each article or blog on your site. It's an ideal choice when you don't want to follow the monthly subscription model and instead want to give visitors the option to buy what they want.

Subscription-based access: The majority of large magazines have this model in place. It allows the user to access any content they want as long as they pay a recurring subscription (usually monthly). Subscription-based access is basically an online version of the well-known physical newspaper subscriptions of yesteryear.

Subscription-based models often offer a free trial to the user. The trial usually allows access to a certain number of pieces of content or gives users access to everything on the website for a given number of days. After the trial expires, the user has to become a paid subscriber. 

Paywall-protected Content and Search Engines

Putting content behind a paywall does have its own set of problems. Since the content, or at least a part of it, isn't accessible to general users, you'll have to make sure that these pages aren't ignored by search engines and that all the content on the page can be indexed.

To fix this problem, Google introduced the First Click Free (FCF) policy years ago. To comply with this First Click Free (FCF) policy, you needed to make some parts of the content accessible to general users whereas the other sections could be kept hidden for premium users.

However, most publishers were against this policy and so, it was not a surprise that this practice was abandoned by Google in 2017. A new policy code named Flexible Sampling was introduced. As the name suggests, Flexible Sampling gives publishers fine-grained control over how much content they want to make accessible to general users.

About Flexible Sampling

There are 3 types of flexible sampling:


This is the most common type of Flexible Sample. Here, visitors are allowed to read a portion of the article while the rest is kept hidden. If a reader wants access to the entire article, they'll have to pay a subscription fee or sometimes provide an email address.

Top news websites like The Times and The Economist use lead-in Flexible Sampling.  It can be a great tactic to make money while blogging if you’ve  got a high conversion from viewer to subscriber, or if you find a way to convert visitors to purchase on the backend through email marketing.


Metered access is another popular model where users are allowed to read the entire piece of content but with a catch – they can access only a specific number of articles in a given month. Once that threshold is reached, the user will have to subscribe to gain access to new articles. New York Magazine and The New York Times use the metered model.

Hard Paywalls

Some sites have what are called “hard paywalls”, which means they offer no free samples whatsoever. Therefore, only paid members are allowed to access the content on these sites.

As mentioned, there is a major drawback to this type of paywall. The content on these sites isn't crawled or indexed by search engines, which means the content will remain largely invisible to search engines.

How To Set Up a Paywall on Your WordPress Site

MemberPress makes the process of setting up a paywall on your WordPress site about as simple as it gets.

First, you'll need to set up the MemberPress plug-in and activate it. Go to the Settings > License page, where you'll be prompted to enter the license key.

memberpress license setup

Once you've pasted in the license key, click the Activate license key button.

After activating, you'll want to set up your payment methods. The nice thing is MemberPress has built-in integrations with a number of popular payment gateways, such as Stripe and PayPal.

It's also possible to add multiple payment methods. Simply click the Payments tab under the Settings page and refer to the dropdown menu.

memberpress select payment gateways

Now, you'll be prompted to fill in the payment method details. For example, when you choose PayPal, you'll want to enter in the PayPal email address.

memberpress payment settings

Once you've wrapped up the payment settings, click on the Update Options button to save the settings.

Now, it is time to create a paywall and subscription plan. Go to the MemberPress > Memberships page. Then, select the Add New button located at the top.

memberpress add new memberships

Next, you'll want to name your membership plan and set a price for it.

new membership settings

You can also set free membership options. You can choose from One-time as well as Recurring subscription types. Under recurring payments, choose a custom interval or weekly, quarterly, monthly, or yearly options.

You may further customize your membership plan using the Membership Options box.

memberpress membership options box

In most cases, going with the default settings would be just fine. When you're sure everything is in place, click on the Publish button to complete creating the membership plan.

It is possible to set up multiple membership plans using varying subscription levels. You may, for example, create a VIP plan to cater to selected viewers and offer them more exclusive content.

Now that the membership plan is in place, you can add content. You'll need to pick the content that the paywall will cover. MemberPress offers you several rules, which you can use to restrict content to certain membership plans.

To set up content rules, visit MemberPress > Rules page. Then click on the button Add New button. 

memberpress add new rules

Now, you'll want to pick the type of content to be safeguarded by the Paywall. Use the first drop-down menu to choose the content type.

choosing rules

You can select content using tags, categories, individual posts, and more. Next, you'll choose the membership plan. Then, click on the Save Rule button to save your rule.

add a new rule in memberpress

Next, go to MemberPress > Settings > Pages and make sure the “Show a login form on pages containing unauthorized content” is selected under Unauthorized Access:

unauthorized access settings

Now, any person trying to view premium content without a subscription will see this message:

unauthorized content notification

You can customize the message while editing your rule. Just go to the Edit Post page, scroll down, and locate the Unauthorized Access section. Then pick Custom from the dropdown Unauthorized Message and enter your message.

customizing the unauthorized access message

You can also add images and links, and format text.

adding images to the unauthorized access message

Now, if you check the Posts > All Posts section in the dashboard, you'll find that posts matching the protection rule you've set up are marked as only accessible to a membership titled “Membership” in the Access column.

access rules

There are also ways to offer non-members limited content access. This can be good for your marketing strategy, as it allows you to give your users a preview of what your content is like.

You can set up limited access under MemberPress > Settings > General in the WordPress dashboard:

general tab in the wordpress dashboard

Once there, scroll down to the section SEO & PayWall. Now, select Enable PayWall. Here, you'll need to choose the number of free views per user.

choosing free views per user in memberpress

Configuring this option will also allow search engines to access and index your content. As mentioned, this can help bring more traffic to your website from search engines.

For this feature to work properly, be sure to disable any caching plug-in that could slow down your WordPress website.

And lastly, don't forget to save your changes by clicking on Update Options.


Setting up a Paywall for your WordPress site is simple if you use the right plugins, like MemberPress. And if you execute this strategy properly, it can be a great way to monetize your content and grow your business.

Do you have questions about creating a paywall protected membership site using MemberPress? Let us know in the comments!

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Categories: Content How To
About Blair Williams

Blair is the creator of MemberPress and Easy Affiliate. He is an experienced software developer who has invented large scale web apps for scores of businesses. Blair now focuses on WordPress and Ruby development. You can read his blog by visiting


1 Comment

    Mike Hussey

    June 30, 2021

    By going through this article I have successfully created paywall protected membership site with member press. Nicely explained.