WordPress Launches New Recurring Payments Feature, But Is It Right For Your Site?

Subscription-based websites are a big business today. Gone are the days of the world’s most successful websites relying on advertising revenue to sustain their business. Many people use ad blockers to avoid having to look at advertisements while reading their favorite websites: a trend that has caused sites like Medium to look towards a subscription-based model while offering an ad-free content experience with a clean aesthetic.

Recognizing this trend, WordPress has rolled out its recurring payments feature, allowing WordPress website owners to accept ongoing subscription-based payments to create a membership site. This new feature allows website owners to charge their fans on an ongoing basis for access to restricted content, whether that be news articles, book chapters, videos, podcasts, or even inclusion in a community.

Who Can Access WordPress Recurring Payments?

Any WordPress self-hosted site using Jetpack can turn on the recurring payments feature. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has said that its aim was to make the recurring payments feature simple to use and accessible to as many websites as possible. Interestingly, those who use a separate WordPress.com platform on a paid plan can also access the new recurring payments feature.

The Technical Details

Rather than relying on a payment gateway like WooCommerce, WordPress’s new recurring payments feature sees the publishing platform partnered with Stripe. Website owners will need to create a Stripe account and link it to their WordPress site in the dashboard. Once a Stripe account has been created, set up is as easy as following the prompts within the site’s dashboard to connect the two platforms.

From there, web developers have a number of options on how to set up their subscription system. Different subscription types can be created, giving subscribers who are willing to pay higher amounts of access to another level of gated content, for example. Since the new feature is powered by Stripe, subscribers can pay in their choice of currency and use their preferred payment method.

Subscriptions can be canceled at the subscriber’s request from their WordPress member account.

Could Recurring Payments Benefit Your Site?

Do You Offer Content That People Will Pay For Exclusive Access?

Content can refer to a wide range of media, from non-fiction articles and guides to works of fiction, like chapters of a new book or webcomics. Podcasts, webinars, videos, audio files like meditation and self-hypnosis tracks: all of these could potentially be protected and monetized by creating a membership site using WordPress’s new recurring payments feature.

If you are a known expert on a particular topic or have a selection of content that people pay for exclusive access to (and you intend to create further content regularly in the future), recurring payments could be an excellent addition to a website and the perfect way to monetize your content creation efforts.

Are You Offering A Sense Of Community?

The recurring payments feature could be used very effectively to create a type of gated community: one that can only be accessed by paid members. If your website is geared towards a niche group of people who will pay for access limited to paying members, creating this type of community could be highly beneficial. Common examples are networking groups, groups of experts in specific industries, and groups who may be discussing sensitive topics they may not be comfortable sharing with the entire Internet, such as topics relating to health, fertility, and medical issues.

Other Ideas For Recurring Payments

This feature can be used in a multitude of other ways, including collecting dues or membership fees for physical or virtual clubs and societies; for the provision of ongoing products (like a subscription box delivery service), services (including real-life services like weekly lawnmowing or office cleaning, or online services like copywriting or social media management).

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Enabling Recurring Payments On Your Site

Advantage – Protecting Your Content

If you’ve ever worried about your content being stolen or distributed without your permission, a subscription site can be an effective way of protecting your content. By restricting access to paid subscribers, you can drastically reduce the chance that your content will be ripped and stolen.

Disadvantage – Taking An SEO Hit

Creating a subscription site and withholding some or all of your content solely for paid members can inadvertently cause your site to take an SEO hit as that content effectively becomes invisible to search engine crawlers. If you previously enjoyed a high level of traffic from search engines, you may notice your site drop in ranking as your content effectively disappears from the open web.

Advantage – The Perception Of Value

People value that which they give value for, and your content will be seen as greater value by those who have subscribed to exclusively access the content than if they found the same content for free on the open web. The same can be said for a community-based membership site: members will be much more likely to actively participate and interact within the group if they have paid for the ability to do so.

Subscription-based membership sites have been increasing in popularity at a surprising rate in the last few years, as people routinely install adblockers to avoid looking at advertisements while on their favorite websites, causing sites to look for other ways to monetize their content. Previously, WordPress didn’t include a feature to accept subscription-based payments, which saw many people turn to other platforms like Patreon to create their membership base.

With WordPress now making it easy for new and existing WordPress website owners to set up a subscription plan and create a membership site, it is likely that the prevalence of this type of website will continue to grow. No longer will website owners have to look elsewhere to sites like Patreon to create their membership base. It will be interesting to follow the progress of WordPress’s recurring payments feature and to see the effect it has on the way people monetize their content in years to come.