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Monetize Your WordPressMU Site

I’ve been looking for a way to monetize a WordPressMU site, and have come down to two options: make it a membership site and/or use applicable affiliate links.

Subscription sites are getting more and more common as time goes by. There are many sites making big bucks off of mass quantities of tiny subscriptions. However, there are also many sites that never make it off the ground because they can’t get users to pay for their content or service. The only way I’ve found of knowing what will work is by trying it.

I’ve done a lot of research and testing in the last couple of weeks, in search of a good membership management application or WordPress plugin. Most of the subscription plugins out there are intended to hide and show premium content, but I’d like to monetize a service not the content. I started with aMember, then tried several WordPress plugins, and have gone full circle, concluding that aMember is the best solution for my needs. If I weren’t using BuddyPress, Wishlist Member would have been my final selection. Although I was unable to thoroughly test all of the following options, they are all rumored to work with WPMU.

  • aMember. A full-featured, well-supported membership management application.
    Price: $179.95 for single license
    Payment gateways: You name it, they’ve most likely got it.

    Pros: Tons of payment gateway options that can be integrated siply and quickly by checking the boxes and inputting access keys. 30-day money back return policy. Supports custom plugins.
    Cons: Integrating into WPMU requires PHP knowledge and skinning can be a pain. Here is the way I got these two applications to play nicely together.

  • WishList Member. An easily integrated WordPress plugin.
    Price: $97 single/$297 multiple
    Payment gateways: PayPal (but not Sandbox), Click Bank, 1ShoppingCart, and Cydec

    Pros: It’s a WordPress plugin, so integration is fast and simple with very little extra styling. 30-day money back guarantee. It works in WPMU although the authors don’t officially support it.
    Cons: Doesn’t work with BuddyPress. Integration still required the creation of payment buttons with the payment processor. Code encryption makes any customizations impossible.

  • Your Members plugin. There is currently a beta version of Your Members available for WordPressMU. While in beta, $800 will allow each MU blog to hide specified content from any users who don’t have the specified membership. I haven’t testing this plugin out because of the price, which will only be increasing, but it looks like a great option for content-driven sites.
    Price: $800
    Payment gateways: PayPal, Click Bank

    Pros: Built specifically for WPMU.
    Cons: The price makes it difficult to try it out since I’m a tightwad, and the feature documentation is very limited at this point.

  • WP-Member. I have heard that WP-Member has out-of-the-box WPMU capabilities, but was unable to test it. After several hours of attempting to get IceCube encryption to work on my server, I was unable to even activate the plugin.
    Price: $44.99 single/$77.57 2 sites/up to $196.00 10 sites
    Payment gateways: PayPal

    Pros: It’s cheap. I used a promo code (save50) and got 50% off for a grand total of $22.50. No need to create buttons from PayPal. Frequent sale prices.
    Cons: IonCube Encryption. The plugin authors have very stiff and somewhat unfriendly-sounding terms: “We do not offer refunds as there are no reasons why any software we sell should not work.” The WP-Member website sound effects and animations are way overdone.

Affiliate sales are a relatively pain-free alternative to setting up a membership site or even a supplemental revenue source. To get started with affiliate sales, follow the steps below:

  1. Sign up with LinkShare for larger company listings, or ClickBank or ShareASale for smaller ones. I was surprised to see that companies like Nordstrom and iTunes have affiliate programs.
  2. Apply with any applicable affiliates. NetFlix has a sweet affiliate program. They offer $16 per free signup that comes through your affiliate link. Sadly, they review affiliate applications very carefully for site with applicable content. They rejected my application. 🙁
  3. Place links and banners on your site. The built-in text widget is great for affiliate banners. Or just replace/add links across your site.
  4. Organize and Disguise your links. Use the free Pretty Link plugin for WordPress to shorten, disguise, track, and organize your affiliate links. Replace any links in your banners with your new “pretty link”. If you’d like more time-saving automation like keyword/url replacement and auto tweets, Pretty Link Pro is well worth the $97. New features are also being continuously added to the premium version of this plugin.
  5. Watch the commissions roll in. Wahoo!