How to set up a paywall on your WordPress website (step-by-step)(2023)

January 9, 2023

Are you looking for a way to set up a WordPress paywall to start charging for content? Keep reading to learn how (and why) setting up a paywall is an easy and quick solution for monetizing your content.

Subscription revenue is something that every online creator can benefit from, whether you're a blogger or a course creator. Paywalls are used to generate revenue by many large publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. And for a reason!

Paywalling is one of the quickest and easiest methods of monetizing a WordPress website. While online subscriptions and WordPress paywalls are not new to the publishing industry, they are becoming more widespread across the content creation industry.

In this post, we'll explain the concept of the WordPress paywall and discuss how you can quickly implement it on any WordPress or WooCommerce website.

The easy way to create subscriber-only areas on any WordPress website. Install it today!

What is a WordPress paywall, and why set one up?

A paywall, in essence, is a mechanism to limit who may access the information on your website. Depending on the use case, the company's branding, and other factors, you may see that this form of content limitation goes by several names. You could find this referred to as a content locker, gated content, or another name.

Newspapers often use paywalls to restrict access to premium-only content

All types of WordPress paywall work in a similar way. You install a plugin to prevent non-paying visitors from accessing the premium material. This kind of limitation frequently works well with educational content, like a course or tutorial-style blog.

Alternatively, you could create private communities for your readers by setting up a paywall in a matter of minutes. This enhances community feeling, offers premium content, and improves brand image.

While some websites only provide access for a short time, others require an upfront purchase. In other words, users must pay a fee in order to view the information for a specific period of time.

Why set up a WordPress paywall?

A straightforward yet efficient approach to monetizing your blog is with a content paywall. If your audience likes the content you create, they will gladly pay $5 a month (or more) to read your finest work.

1,000 subscribers to your premium material would provide you with a full-time monthly revenue. If you still doubt it, here is a quick comparison to other forms of blog monetization:

  • Ads often bother people and degrade their online experience.
  • A decent ad network requires that your blog has hundreds of thousands of visitors in order to accept it.
  • The process of creating, testing, and launching a product for other forms of revenue might take months.

In contrast, creating a WordPress paywall takes just a few minutes and doesn't require hiring a web developer. With a smart WordPress paywall plugin, you can accomplish this instantly (and we will show you how below).

A WordPress paywall is also a great solution if you offer a course or a membership. Contrary to online course platforms, such as Kajabi or Teachable, setting up a paywall on your course or online program will save you money. Platforms such as Kajabi or Teachable charge either a monthly fee or a fee from every student you add to the course. You can see how quickly it adds up. 

Will the WordPress paywall have a negative impact on my site?

The assumption that a paywall will drastically reduce visitors and revenue is false. A paywall may give you a stronger feeling of community and higher-quality traffic, which may seem counter-intuitive.

This is why:

  • Because your new users have paid to be there, they will really value your work.
  • Because your existing users are paying to stay, they will be more loyal to your brand and site.
  • You now have two groups of users who value your content so much that they are willing to pay for it. This increases the value of any hits you receive behind the paywall, and it can be seen in your comment sections, social media engagement and promotion, and much more.

Remember, you won't be putting all your content behind a paywall. You can still have plenty of search engine friendly content which everyone can read. This shows people the value you're offering, convincing them to sign up for the premium-only content.

As you can see, there are many benefits to creating a WordPress paywall. Moreover, making a paywall is easy. You can do it without having to deal with complicated content restriction plugins, merchant accounts, building payment gateway integrations, or managing 1,000's of member accounts.

Instead, you can simply utilize lightweight solutions to build content paywalls with WordPress. One tool that does this is the Password Protected Categories plugin.

The easy way to create hidden areas on any WordPress website. Install it today!

The perfect solution - Password Protected Categories

WordPress Password Protected Categories Plugin

The best way to create a WordPress paywall is to use a plugin that allows you to restrict entire sections of your website behind a paywall. Password Protected Categories is the perfect WordPress password protected page plugin.

Password Protected Categories lets you put WordPress pages, WooCommerce pages, or blog posts behind a paywall. It provides a simple method for password-protecting any custom post type on your WordPress site.

How the paywall works

People pay for premium access to your content and receive a login for your website. When they login, the unlock the paywall and can see links to the premium area in your website navigation menu. They can then navigate freely within the paywall.

You can use Password Protected Categories to hide any type of WordPress category or taxonomy. Only specific users, roles, or people with the password can get through the paywall.

No need to password-protect individual pages

The password-protected pages plugin is simple to use. Simply select which categories to hide behind the paywall, and the plugin will cleverly protect all pages/posts within that category. This is much faster than password protecting each individual page, and is an efficient way to add a paywall to your WordPress site.

Improved user experience

For those who have the password, the Password Protected Categories plugin also provides an easy login experience.

Most paywall owners will create a single paywall-protected area with all their restricted content instead of multiple categories with different passwords. To make it as fast and easy as possible for your users, you can create an entire section of paywall-restricted content consisting of as many categories as you like. Each category should be restricted to users with a specific role. That way, when people become premium members, they can be assigned to that role, and when they log into their account, they will instantly have access to the restricted content.

Users can then access all pages without having to re-enter any passwords. They can freely navigate the restricted content and jump through multiple pages without being distracted by a login form.

The easy way to add paywall-restricted areas to any WordPress website. Install it today!

Setting up a WordPress paywall on your website (step-by-step)

Here, we’ll show you how to set up a paywall on your WordPress pages easily in three simple steps. For this, you’ll need a WordPress site along with the plugins mentioned below:

  1. Install WooCommerce (free).
  2. Use WooCommerce Subscriptions to let people make regular payments to access the premium content. (Optional - skip this step if you only require one-time payments.)
  3. Use Password Protected Categories to lock parts of your website behind the paywall.

If you want to include pages within the paywall (rather than posts or a custom post type), then you'll also need to install a free plugin to categorize WordPress pages. To create page categories, we're using the free Add Category to Pages WordPress plugin.

Step 1: Install WooCommerce

Install the free WooCommerce plugin:

  1. Log into the WordPress admin for your site, and go to Plugins → Add New.
  2. Search for 'WooCommerce' and install it. Don't confuse it with other plugins with a similar name. The main WooCommerce plugin is easy to spot as it has millions of installs!
  3. Once installed, disable 'Guest Checkout' under WooCommerce Settings Accounts & Privacy. This way, WooCommerce will create an account for each person when they subscribe.
  4. Use the other settings to configure whatever you need, such as taxes and payment gateways for accepting payments to the paywall. For example, you can easily set up online payments via PayPal or credit card (via Stripe).
  5. Next, create a product which people will purchase in order to access the premium content. To do this, go to Products → Add New, and add information such as the product description and price. For example, the name of this product might be "Premium Access".
  6. Now go to Appearance → Menus and add the product you just created to your website navigation menu. People will go to this page in order to pay to access the paywall.

Step 2: Install WooCommerce Subscriptions (optional)

Install WooCommerce Subscriptions and use it to set up a Subscription product for the premium content. Or if you just want to charge once for access to the paywall area, then skip this step and create a standard WooCommerce product instead.

Step 3: Install Password Protected Categories

Now, use Password Protected Categories to restrict access to the categories that you want to hide behind the paywall to all users with the Customer role. That way, they will get access to the hidden content as soon as they log into their account. In order to do so, install the Password Protected Categories plugin on your WordPress website.

To activate the plugin, simply follow the instructions inside the setup wizard, which will open automatically. Once you've done that, you're ready to start adding pages to the paywall.

Set up WordPress paywall pages

Before you start putting content behind the paywall, it's worth thinking about what sort of content you'll be using. The options are:

  • Normal WordPress pages. This is a good option, but you'll need to use the free Add Category to Pages plugin to categorize your pages. 
  • WordPress posts. Do this if you're creating a paywall for blog or news posts. However, if you also have a public blog then I'd recommend using a custom post type instead.
  • A custom post type. If you want a dedicated area for the paywall-restricted content in the WordPress admin, then create a custom post type. You can easily do this with our free Easy Post Types and Fields plugin. For example, you might create a post type called 'Members Content'.

Once you've added some content and structured it into one or more categories, then you can start hiding it behind the paywall. To do this:

  1. Go to edit one of the categories that will go inside the paywall. For example, if you're putting blog posts behind a paywall then go to Posts → Categories.
  2. Find the visibility section, select 'Protected' and then select the user role(s) that will have access to the paywall. The easiest option is to use the subscriber or WooCommerce customer role, but you can also create your own using the free User Role Editor plugin. (Tip: I recommend selecting 'Administrator' too, so that you have access to the payroll for testing purposes.)
password protected categories - user roles & users option

Step 4: Create a login form (optional)

WordPress itself provides a basic login form, but it's not very professional and doesn't match your website. If your WordPress theme provides a nice front-end login form, then I recommend using that. Add a prominent 'Login' link to your header or menu.

Alternatively, you can use the free Theme My Login plugin to create a professional-looking login page.

Step 5: Add your paywall categories to the menu

Navigate to Appearance   Menus and add links to the paywall-restricted categories to the menu. These links will only appear to logged-in paying customers.

Step 6: Edit the 'Welcome' email to customers

In the previous steps, I showed you how to disable guest checkout in WooCommerce. This means that when someone pays for premium access, a user account will automatically be created for them. WooCommerce will send their login details by email.

You can edit this email in WooCommerce → Settings → Emails → New Account Email.

Create a WordPress paywall today!

As you can see, setting up a WordPress paywall is an easy and quick solution to start monetizing your WordPress site. Setting up a paywall or membership subscription is the ideal choice if you want to make money from your blog but don't want to spam your readers with ads and affiliate links.

.There are more benefits than drawbacks to locking away and charging for some of your content. While you could lose some visits and non-paying users, you will also gain more devoted customers and perhaps even build a strongly engaged community. Whether you offer online courses, membership or simply want to lock away your blog content, the best paywall plugin for WordPress is Password Protected Categories.

Try out the Password Protected Categories plugin today. Use it with the other plugins mentioned in this tutorial to take payment for accessing the paywall (either one-off or as a monthly subscription), and give paying customers access to the premium content. 

The easy way to create paywall-restricted on any WordPress website. Install it today!

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