Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any extra money, they will help us keep this site up and running AND keep it ad-free! Please check out our disclaimers for more details. Thank you for your support!
An Active Campaign account is required for this specific stack. You can sign up for a free trial for 14 days here.
Prequisites: What You Need To Get Started
Your domain is where your membership site will live. Hybrid sites are on the same site as your main site. Standalone sites are on a completely separate site from the main site.
I recommend always keeping a membership site separate from your main site. This way your site can stay fast for your members. Plus, it won’t be easily accessible to anyone who isn’t in the program.
The standalone site can have its own unique domain or use a subdomain like programs.yourdomain.com or members.yourdomain.com. It’s your choice.
I purchase my domains from Godaddy. Here’s a link to grab a domain for .99. *Be sure to add privacy for $7.99 or you will get lots of cold marketing calls.
You will need an SSL Certificate for your membership site to create a secure connection using HTTPS. An HTTP site is NOT secure.
As of October 2017, Google Chrome requires your site to have an SSL certificate or it will mark your site as unsafe. Some web hosting providers like Siteground and WPEngine both include an SSL Certificate with their hosting plans.
You’ll need a self-hosted WordPress site. This is confusing to a lot of people, but wordpress.org is self-hosted, not wordpress.com.
Most of the major hosting providers have a 1-Click WordPress Installer and that’s perfectly fine to run on a new WordPress site. But, if you’re creating a Hybrid site you will want to make sure you have a hosting plan that supports staging environments.
A staging environment is a copy of your main site which will allow you to make changes without them appearing LIVE. You’ll push the site to live when you’re ready.
Staging environments are also recommended if you have an existing membership site. This way you can avoid migrating members to a new host and test updates when available on the staging site so a bad update doesn’t disrupt your member’s experience.
We personally use and recommend using Siteground’s GoGeek plan because it comes with staging site capabilities. The GrowBig account will work too if you don’t want to use the staging site. Both plans include the Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate.
Most of the membership plugins on the market don’t come with a built-in theme. You’ll want to make sure your plugin is compatible with your theme or it will cause anything from minor malfunctions to full-blown tech nightmares.
We will be using the Divi Theme to build this membership site because it’s super flexible, user-friendly, and integrates very well with all the plugins we will be using on this site. Divi also has a drag and
In the next sections, we will go through a quick set up a membership site. There are some screenshots provided but for more information regarding your specific needs, consult with our team or reach out to the plugin developer.
Here’s the complete list of WordPress plugins we will use on this site. Install and activate each plugin. We will set each plugin up in the sections below.
Step 1: Set Up ActiveCampaign
T he email marketing service provider we are using is Active Campaign. I absolutely love using ActiveCampaign because of the advanced tagging and automation features. You can sign up for a free trial for 14 days here.
In your ActiveCampaign account, you’ll need to create a tag for the membership levels you plan to create. Ideally, you will need at least 3 tags per membership level for:
Active Members Ex. Active: [member level]
Failed Payment Ex. Acct Hold: [member level]
Inactive Members Ex. Canceled: [member level]
There’s a pretty awesome guy named Barry Moore who has this Ninja tagging system, which is amazing. I have customized my tags based on this system. I also took it a step further to create a master tag sheet I use for my products and memberships too.
Also, I create a list specifically for “Customers” that is separate from my main list. I like to see exactly who’s a customer on my list and what programs they have purchased or not purchased with segments.
The last thing you’ll want to set up is an automation in ActiveCampaign that will fire off when someone purchases the membership. This will deliver them their login information and any additional details you want them to know.
Note: ActiveCampaign creates a password for new contacts. If you import contacts from another Email Marketing Service, these contacts will not be able to access your WordPress site without a stored password. Here’s an article on using a code in the password field for imported contacts.
Step 2: Set Up ActiveMember360
Once you install and activate ActiveMember360, you will need to connect to your ActiveCampaign account. Be sure to do this before proceeding to the next steps.
For this quick set up we will only focus on setting up the following sections in ActiveMember360.
In the Login Settings Tab:
- Disable the “always require login setting”
- Enable the “allow login without a membership tag”
In the Special Pages Tab:
- Select your default login page
- Select your default registration page
In the Security Options Tab:
- Prevent concurrent logins
- Limit failed login attempts
In the Content Access Options Tab:
- Suppress user “wp tool bar”
In the Excerpts Tab:
- Write custom excerpts text.
In the Mail Options Tab:
- Set Default “Mail From” name to your company name
- Set Default “Mail From” address to your email registered as the WordPress admin. Your server must be set up and able to send emails using this email address.
Go to ActiveMember360 Extensions, and select the Woocommerce tab. Enable it here. Go to the Learndash tab and enable this extension as well.
Now, click on the Membership Levels options to create a membership level for your program using the tags you created in Active Campaign. You will also be able to select the page it will redirect to upon log in and log out here.
ActiveMember360 does have a built-in payment integration but it doesn’t connect to WP Affiliate. We will be using WooCommerce & Woo Subscriptions as the shopping cart.
Step 3: Set Up LearnDash
We will be using the Learning Management System, LearnDash, for creating courses on this platform. It has a built-in integration withActiveMember360. This LMS plug is simple to set up and easy to create courses. Plus, you can have quizzes, assignments, award badges and certificates. You can sign up for LearnDash here.
Activate the plugin and enable the extension in ActiveMember360. While you’re over in LearnDash be sure to grab the Learndash WooCommerce Add-On so we can connect our products (in Step 4) directly to the courses.
Create a course in Learndash. In order to have ActiveMember360 control access to this course, you’ll need to be sure the Course Protection is set to the related Membership Level. Also, under Course settings make sure course price type is “CLOSED”.
Don’t forget to SAVE your course.
You can finish setting up your course lessons, topics, etc. using the Learndash LMS tab later. But for now, we are proceeding to Step 4.
Step 4: Set Up AffiliateWP
Our affiliate marketing plugin we use and recommend to our clients is AffiliateWP. This plugin directly integrates with WooCommerce and creates an affiliate area right on your site. A few of their basic features include affiliate tracking, unlimited affiliates, unlimited creatives, and referral link generators.
To use AffiliateWp with Woocommerce (in Step 5), you’ll need to have the plugin installed and activated. When prompted, enter your license key when prompted in the settings.
On the AffiliateWP Settings screen, fill in the information for your affiliate program. We won’t cover every option for this plugin but here are a few quick General settings:
- Set a default referral rate and type.
Set the Cookie Expiration (how many days the referral tracking cookie should be valid for).
On the Affiliate Area Forms, choose whether you want to display registration form and/or login. Also, be sure to check the fields for Required Registration Forms to require “Your Name, Website URL, Payment Email, and How will you promote us?”. Save changes.
Under Integrations tab, select the WooCommerce checkbox. Save.
Step 5: Set Up WooCommerce
WooCommerce also has a membership plugin bundle called WooMembers but doesn’t directly integrate with Active Campaign so you will need to use Zapier.
Begin by setting up your WooCommerce Store with your store details.
A note about Taxes: If your country or state requires the tax of digital goods, WooCommerce has the most flexible taxing options. You are able to place taxes on specific products either by billing or shipping address. Taxes can apply to subscriptions too.
The payment gateway we are using is Stripe. Sign up for Stripe here. You’ll need to configure these settings for testing and live mode.
Note: Stripe is the best payment platform for a membership site. If you already have existing subscriptions through PayPal you will not be able to transfer them to this site. You will need to cancel and recreate PayPal subscriptions.
Then, proceed to create your first product.
On the products screen, set the name of your membership level.
Scroll to the Product Data Settings create a “ Simple Subscription”, tick the “Virtual” option and fill in the price details of your membership level.
Also, under the General tab, selected the related course you created in Learndash.
Click on the ActiveMember360 tab. On this screen, use the tags you created, in the beginning, to fill in these boxes.
For this site, we are triggering the [MemberLevel Registration] automation to run, assign tag Active: [MemberLevel].
You should also set the reverse actions to take place when a refund takes place such as remove from automaton [MemberLevel Registration], Refund: [MemberLevel], remove tag Active: [MemberLevel].
Note: Because I have one list for all my membership programs filed under “Customer”, I don’t use the Subscribe or Unsubscribe setting to add to lists. If a member is on your customer list and has purchased other programs it will remove them from this list. This may interfere with their access to the other program depending on how you’ve set this up. Instead, I have ActiveCampaign put them on the right list.
Since this is a subscription product, we’ll also need to fill out the actions that take place when this subscription is activated,
Under the AffiliateWp tab, you can set a product specific affiliate rate or disable referrals for the product here.
Before you save your product, in the sidebar settings for ActiveMember360 [Product Protection] select who should see this product. If this is an openly accessible product, select any logged in user.
If it’s only available to a specific group like those who may have purchased another product, be sure to also use the Only/Not these Tags section to identify who this product is available for.
Now, save your product.
Step 6: Final Notes & Testing
A Few Notes About Testing Your Membership Site
Make sure your store is in Test Mode before attempting to test your site set up. You’ll need to have Stripe’s “test keys” set up in your Woocommerce (in Step 5).
Open your product in an incognito or private window, and go to the link for your membership level product. Use an email address that’s not an “admin” on your WordPress site. You’ll need access to this account for the password created.
Walk through the checkout process and make sure everything works properly before making your membership site live.
Note: Any contacts imported in ActiveCampaign must have the required tags to access the membership levels. And each contact must have a password stored in the Password field of ActiveCampaign in order to access your WordPress site. This is the only way to connect your members to your WordPress site properly.