Adding Premium Upgrades to Your Multisite Network with Pro Sites

Our Pro Sites plugin is a popular choice for Multisite admins who want to offer premium upgrades to their users. After all, it is one of the most effective ways to make money with your network.

With Pro Sites, there’s no reason why you couldn’t set up your own profitable hosting network like Edublogs.org or WordPress.com and charge for services like:

  • Ad-free blogs
  • Bulk upgrades
  • BuddyPress features
  • Offer blogging as an upgrade
  • Set Post and/or Page quotas
  • Premium Plugins
  • Premium Themes
  • Premium Support
  • Set upload quotas
  • Offer free trials and coupons
  • Handles refunds and cancelations
  • Plus lots more

Pro Sites also integrates with many of our other great plugins, such as Domain Mapping, Ultimate Branding and Multisite Analytics, so you can extend your premium services even further.

Pro Sites
Add tiered memberships to your network with Pro Sites.

In today’s article I’m going to walk you through how to set up Pro Sites and add subscription plans to your site, allowing your visitors to sign up for free and access more features once they pay to upgrade their membership. We will also look at how to integrate Pro Sites with our Ultimate Branding plugin so you can white label your network.

Edublogs
Edublogs powers more than 3 million blogs.

What is Pro Sites?

Pro Sites was originally developed to manage one of the largest and most profitable Multisite networks in the world, our sister site Edublogs.org, which hosts more than 3 million blogs, including sites for leading universities.

It continues to make light work of management for thousands of small, exclusive hosts and networks with millions of WordPress blogs.

Whether you’re running your own blogging network or a social community, Pro Sites can help you offer paid membership upgrades by handling the payments, billing and access restrictions.

Before we get started, let’s take a closer look at what Pro Sites can do so you can understand its potential.

Grow Your Business

Pro Sites helps you grow your business with paid upgrades. These can include premium themes and plugins, extra storage, advertisement-free sites, as well as domain mapping.

Create tiered network membership levels is a straightforward process and lets you inform your users what they’ll be getting for their money.

Easy Payment Options

The plugin also includes a simple checkout process and four reliable options for accepting payments: PayPal Express, PayPal Pro, manual payments and Stripe.

BuddyPress Integration

Adding BuddyPress allows you to make things like group creation and messaging a paid upgrade while still allowing users to sign up, participate in groups and enjoy your site for free.

Getting Started

For this tutorial, I’m going to create a fictional online community called WordPress for Winner. I’m going to set up paid upgrades for plugins, themes, publishing and also messaging capabilities with BuddyPress. I’m also going to completely rebrand my network with my own logo, add front-end theme switching, and enable network-wide messages, posts and tips.

Install and Activate Plugins

You can download Pro Sites here or if you use the WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin simply search for Pro Sites.

We’ll also be rebranding our network, so download Ultimate Branding.

Setting Up Pro Sites

Let’s begin by setting up registrations. Go to your network admin’s dashboard and navigate to Settings > Network Settings. Under the Allow new registrations heading, select one of the options that best suits your needs.

The settings for allowing user registrations in a network.
By default, registrations are set to be disabled.

My site WordPress for Winners hosts sites so I’ll choose Both sites and user accounts can be registered. This option allows new users to create their own site without the super admin having to create one for them manually.

You also may want to take a look at the other settings as they are also important to maintain the user experience of your network as well as prevent spam blogs (splogs) from being created.

Creating Tiered Membership Levels

Next, we’ll create multiple memberships for the three levels on my network. Go to your network’s dashboard and select Pro Sites > Levels. You can create as many memberships as you would like along with setting the prices for each.

Sample memberships and their prices are listed on the Pro Sites > Levels page.
The features you set for each level will be available to that membership along with all the memberships above it (and with lower level numbers).

The checkboxes at the top of the page allow for membership payments to be set as month-to-month, quarterly or annually. You can also choose your pricing model for each one.

Once you’re content with the memberships you have added, click Save Levels at the bottom of the page.

Keep in mind that limiting BuddyPress features is only available for the top membership level, though, other modules can be limited to different membership levels.

Enabling Modules and Gateways

Next is one of the fun parts – choosing which add-ons you would like to have for your memberships.

Go to your network’s dashboard and select Pro Sites > Modules/Gateways. Select the checkboxes for the features you want to add to your memberships.

The full selection of modules for the Pro Sites plugin. The following features are checked: "Limit BuddyPress Features," "Post/Page Quotas." "Premium Plugins" and "Premium Themes."
You need only select the modules you wish to use. Once your choices have been saved, you can set them up on the Pro Sites > Settings page.

Below this section you can also choose the payment gateway you wish to use to accept membership payments. As I mentioned above, there are four payment options: PayPal Express, PayPal Pro, manual payments and Stripe.

Once you’re done, click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

Pro Sites Settings

The first six default settings for the Pro Site's plugin.
The first six default settings for the Pro Site’s plugin.
In your network’s dashboard go to Pro Sites > Settings. Enter in your desired name for your pro upgrade, and also select where you would like an upgrade button to appear. Edit the other settings on this screen to suit your needs including the custom email notifications, trial membership option and payment settings.

For more detailed setup instructions, check out the Usage tab on the Pro Sites project page.

You’ll notice some additional module settings are displayed on their own page under the Pro Sites section of the network admin dashboard:

Pro Sites module settings
Don’t forget to check the menu under dashboard > Pro Sites to ensure you configure all the necessary modules you chose.

If you see the extra pages listed, you can click on them to access more options such as limiting modules to one level of your choosing.

A sample membership has been selected in the drop down box for the premium themes in the list.
Selecting None will let all members enjoy the selected theme even free members.

I selected the Premium Themes menu item and I can set the minimum membership that includes this feature by clicking the drop down box and selecting the Design Diva membership I created from the list.

If you do not see the themes listed that you would like to include in your premium membership, you need to disable them on the network dashboard, Plugins > Installed Plugins page.

Hover over the activated themes you would like to include and then select Network Disable.

Don’t forget to click Save Changes at the bottom of the page once you’re done configuring the settings in each section.

If you’ve been following along with this tutorial, you’re all done the basic set up for your tiered memberships. Next, we’ll look at rebranding your network.

Re-Branding Your Network

Now we’re going to replace the WordPress logos with our own, as well as add custom help content and network-wide messages using Ultimate Branding.

Many options are enabled in the list of available features. The "Enable" link beside "Admin Help Content" is highlighted.
You can enable as many of the modules as you want.

Go to your network’s dashboard and select Branding > Branding to access Ultimate Branding’s dashboard.

On the right, click the Enable link beside each of the features you would like to add to your site. You may only want to use one or even all of them.

Once you’ve made all of your selections, you’ll find the settings pages for each of the modules will appear in tabs at the top of the screen. Click on them to explore and configure the available options.

A selection of tabs displayed at the top of the Ultimate Branding dashboard page.
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Custom Admin Bar

I’ve selected the Custom Admin Bar modules, which lets you choose what is displayed in the admin bar for users. You can remove the WordPress logo and add your own along with other custom links and options.

Once enabled, select the Admin Bar tab in the Ultimate Branding dashboard. Beside Enable Custom Entry, select the Yes radio button, and beside the Hide WordPress Menu Items heading, select the checkbox for WordPress menu. Finally, click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

The "Yes" option beside "Enable Custom Entry" is selected and highlighted as is the "WordPress menu" checkbox for the option "Hide WordPress Menu Items"
You can make additional selections beside the Hide WordPress Menu Items if it suits your needs.

Now scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Add New Parent Menu button. A new section will appear on the page called New Bar. To add your logo, paste the full URL into the field marked Entry title.

An image link is entered to add a logo in the Ultimate Branding "Admin Bar" tab.
You can use this same portion of the settings to add additional links of either images or text to the admin bar.

Next, select whether your logo will be a static image or a link. You can also create a sub-menu with the available options as well, just like the original WordPress logo in the admin bar.

Click the Add button when you’re done to save your changes and place your new logo in the admin bar. From here, you can add additional links into the sub-menu if you want.

The new logo appears in place of the original WordPress logo.
You can also replace the WordPress logo on the login page for a completely branded experience.

The Ultimate Branding dashboard is also where you will find the options for Admin Help Content and Admin Messages once you enable them.

You’ll be able to create custom help content when a user clicks the Help tab at the top of the screen with Admin Help Content.

Admin Messages

Admin Messages posts your custom HTML messages that are visible in the dashboard across your whole network. You can use this feature to update all your users with important updates and link to posts from your blog or pages with more detailed information.

A sample admin message with a link on the dasboard that reads "This is a sample and important message to all network users. Here's a link to our blog post with more information: The Update of the Century."
If you really wanted to get ambitious, you could even embed a video into your admin message since HTML accepted.

If you’re more interested in posting updates from your blog to the sites across your entire network, our Update Services and Multisite Content Copier plugins can do that for you easily and with just a few clicks.

So that’s a brief overview of how to use Ultimate Branding. If you would like more detailed setup instructions and a full list of its capabilities, check out the Ultimate Branding project page.

Conclusion

In this tutorial we’ve looked at how Pro Sites can add premium features to your Multisite network that can take it from a basic freemium offering to a fully-featured hosting website. I’ve also walked you through how to set it up and take advantage of some of its capabilities.

Pro Sites offers more advanced features, which you can discover in your own time after testing the plugin on your own Multisite localhost site or other offline network.

If you run a Multisite network, Pro Sites is a must-have plugin for taking your website to the next level.

Have you used Pro Sites? What kind of network do you use it for? What kinds of membership levels have you added to your site? Tell us in the comments below.