For online publishers, setting up a paywall is a fantastic way to generate revenue. Of course, ads still have their place, but growing an audience of regular subscribers is both rewarding and lucrative.
While paywalls are great for the publisher, what about the visitor? Some people are turned off by what they feel are intrusive subscriber popups. Others avoid paid content altogether; if they encounter an article they’re interested in, yet have to pay for, they’ll likely click away.
How do you serve readers and generate revenue without annoying anyone in the process?
The answer is to set up what’s known as a soft, or leaky paywall. A leaky paywall allows visitors to sample your content before signing up for a subscription. The key to success is to build a relationship with your readers, rather than hit them up for cash right off the bat. Chances are if they like what they read and are given a great deal on a subscription they’ll sign up on the spot.
The other advantage of a leaky paywall is that it makes it easy for Google and other search engines to scan your content. That means you still rank high in relevant searches. But how do you go about creating an effective soft paywall on your WordPress site?
The solution is a WordPress plugin called Leaky Paywall. In this article, I’ll demonstrate what it can do for your publishing.
Leaky Paywall for WordPress
Leaky Paywall is made for WordPress. The plugin provides a flexible solution for your subscription model, allowing you to deliver a great experience for your readers.
With Leaky Paywall, you choose how access to your content is restricted. If you want to offer a pay-per-article option or paid newsletters, it’s up to you. You can sell memberships, collect donations, offer ad-free subscriptions, and more. If you’re just starting out and trying to grow an audience, you can collect free registrations and build from there.
Leaky Paywall has targeting tools that help you create upsells and dynamic messaging, so you reach the right people at the right time. It’s built with styling options and third-party integrations in mind, so you can truly make it your own. Some of the integrations include:
You can restrict access to articles, taxonomies, custom post types, PDFs, videos, and archived content. The plugin also allows you to block Incognito mode, which helps to boost conversions. You can even sell access to multiple websites.
The plugin is optimized for search and social sharing. With their Leaky Paywall meter, your articles rank higher in search.
Leaky Paywall is also free of any revenue sharing, so you keep 100% of the profits from your labor.
How to Set Up Leaky Paywall on Your WordPress Site
For this article, I’ll go over some key steps to get you started. I’ll give you an overview, and the Leaky Paywall website has complete documentation and more detailed setup instructions.
Install the Leaky Paywall Plugin
You can download Leaky Paywall directly from their website.
After you’ve downloaded the plugin zip file, navigate to the Admin Dashboard of your WordPress site. Select Plugins–>Add New. Click Upload Plugin and browse for the .zip file you saved. Click Install Now, then activate it.
You can also search for the core plugin right from your WordPress site. In the Admin Dashboard, select Plugins>Add New. In the search bar, look for “Leaky Paywall,” and you’ll see it appear as an option. Install and Activate.
In your WordPress admin dashboard’s left-side menu, you’ll see a new item called Leaky Paywall. Click that, and you’ll see all the menu choices for the plugin.
Step 1: Create Pages
The first thing you need to do is create the pages necessary for login, subscribe options, and registration forms. If you look at Leaky Paywall→Settings→Pages, you’ll see the full list of pages you need to create.
Next to each page on the list, you’ll also see shortcodes. As you create each page, make sure you insert the appropriate shortcode for the page. For example, on the login page, insert the shortcode
[leaky_paywall_login] and when published you’ll see this:
Leaky Paywall does the work for you on these pages. Continue to create the rest of the pages on the list. When you’re done, head back to the Leaky Paywall Pages menu and select your new pages from the dropdowns.
Step 2: Set Restrictions
You’ll need to choose what type(s) of content you want to restrict before creating Subscription Levels. For example, you might set up specific categories or tags so you can control which posts are behind the paywall. You can even set the number of posts visitors can read before being restricted. This is the perfect example of offering your sample content before asking for signups.
You’ll set this up under Leaky Paywall→Settings→Restrictions. In the Restrictions area of the menu, just select + Add Restricted Content and select the type of content you want to set up.
There’s a lot you can do in this menu, like creating your own CSS selectors for later styling, allowing certain types of users unrestricted access to content, and creating Restriction Exceptions. The tool offers plenty of flexibility.
Step 3: Create Subscription Levels
On the next tab, Subscriptions, you’ll see one level on the list. You can add more levels with the multiple subscription levels extension. For now, let’s edit this level.
Here you can set the price for your subscription(s) and how long it lasts. You also have an opportunity to set Access Options for different types of content.
Step 4: Set up Payment Gateways
If you want to get paid for your content, you’ll need to set up methods to receive the money. Out of the box, Leaky Paywall offers options for:
- Manual Payment
- PayPal Standard
- Stripe (Credit/Debit Card)
- Stripe Checkout
They also offer WooCommerce integration with an extension. This allows you to tap into your existing WooCommerce payment gateways, which keeps your income methods tidy. There are also integrations to accept payment through HubSpot, ZOHO, Pipedrive, and more.
Step 5: Change the Emails
You’ll want to check the Emails tab to make sure that the confirmation emails reflect your site/brand.
You should also edit the actual message, which has a Classic Editor-style interface that lets you add Media from your Media Library, HTML, and styling.
There’s also an option for sending a Renewal Reminder Email for non-recurring subscribers. This is a handy feature that takes that task off your plate.
Extending Leaky Paywall
There are several ways you can extend Leaky Paywall to integrate with third-party services and simply extend the functionality. I mentioned the Payment Gateway extensions, but there are some other useful ones worth mentioning.
Pay Per Post
Let’s say you have some content that you want to offer on a one-off basis, like a document or an audio file. You can use Pay Per Post to allow visitors to pay to download that single item — you don’t have to put it on Gumroad or another service, you can keep it on your site.
Conditional Display Notice
Wouldn’t it be great if you could reach out to specific subscriber levels with a message or an offer? This extension lets you add a promotion bar to your header that can help drive subscribers to your offer.
Some tricksy visitors will do anything to get around your paywall. You can prevent that by blocking content when visiting using an incognito browser. Don’t let them ride for free!
Get notified in Slack when new visitors subscribe, cancel (perish the thought), or their payment fails.
If you want to offer specific content to a large group, you can use this extension to create a group subscription level. This is a great idea when you want to create buzz around content like a presentation or tutorial, that you might offer in a limited-time event.
This is a great way to set up another — premium — level of access to your content. You can set this up so that after a certain amount of time, articles are archived and only available for those premium subscribers.
Have you ever thought about offering subscriptions to entire organizations en masse? For example, you could set up content specifically for a school or library. All they have to do is visit your site from a specific IP address and they can access your materials without subscribing or logging in. Brilliant!
There are many more extensions, the ones I mentioned here only scratch the surface.
You can install Leaky Paywall for free, and use it with the settings I’ve outlined above. If you want to get access to 40+ extensions, it’s a $249/mo. subscription. You also get personal setup and revenue-building sessions, plus priority support. There’s separate pricing for Enterprise solutions that includes advanced functions and more.
Increase Your Subscribers and Revenue with Leaky Paywall
Before you decide to wall off your content from everyone, consider the option of creating a soft, or leaky paywall. Giving your visitors something to chew on goes a long way toward building trust in your brand. Once readers have sampled your content, you can entice them to subscribe by offering higher tiers, such as archived articles or premium content.
Leaky Paywall helps you do all of this easily.