How to make your WordPress website Private? (Maintain Content Exclusivity)
A private WordPress blog allows you to restrict access to your website content. Content published on such a website can only be viewed and accessed by authorized users.
So how do we go about restricting access to our WordPress website? WordPress has inbuilt features that allow you to set individual posts and pages to private. In addition, you can also choose to password protect them. However, if you wish to enable this feature site-wide, you will need to use a plugin to ensure that only registered users can access your website.
Why should you restrict access to your website?
By setting your entire website to private, you can gain greater control over your content and curate posts for your subscribers. This can be a particularly useful feature for membership-based websites. Since restricted pages and their content are not indexed by search engines, they are a great way of keeping your content exclusive to your audience.
You can also use the private feature to build a personal blogging website to keep a journal of your ideas. Moreover, you can also set up a WordPress blog for your friends or family members to share images or life updates. This can also be an effective tool for team collaborations on projects that might need to remain outside the public purview.
In this article, we will look at some easy ways to set up a private WordPress site. We will first look at a step-by-step method to configure the WordPress settings to restrict access to individual posts and pages. This is followed by a detailed guide on the plugin-based method to make the entire WordPress website private.
Making individual posts private
Private posts or pages can only be accessed by users who have appropriate permissions. WordPress utilizes the concept of user roles to define what each user is permitted to do within the website. These sets of permissions associated with each user are called capabilities. A higher number of capabilities assigned to a role would give the associated user greater control over the website functionality. Predefined WordPress roles in decreasing order of capabilities are – Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber.
A private page or blog post can only be accessed by the Administrators and Editors of the WordPress website. Unauthorized users or the general public will not be able to view the private content even if they accidentally gain access to its URL.
The following steps will help you set the content visibility to private using WordPress’ inbuilt functionality:
1. In the WordPress dashboard, go to Posts. From here, you can either create a new post or open up an existing one.
2. In the subsequent editor screen, go to the post settings. Under the Status and Visibility settings on the left sidebar, you’ll notice the Visibility option. By default, it is set to Public.
3. Click on the Public option. In the drop-down that appears next, click on the radio button next to the Private option.
4. Save or Update the post to ensure that it is only visible to those with the user role of Editor or Administrator.
Alternatively, you can also consider using password protection to make your content available exclusively to select users. To do this, open up the post and go to the Status and Visibility settings as described above.
Then, from the Post Visibility drop-down, select the Password Protected option. Enter a secure password and save/update the post. Remember to take note of the password as users will have to use it to access the post.
Note: The above-mentioned steps can also be used to create private WordPress pages. You can also use the password protection feature if you don’t want to restrict content through user roles.
Setting the entire WordPress site to Private
The previous section elaborated on the process to restrict access to individual pages and posts. WordPress core currently does not support the functionality to hide or restrict your entire site for users. The WordPress website, however, does mention possible plans to introduce this functionality into a later version.
If you are planning on setting up a private WordPress blog, using a plugin is the only way out currently. In this section, I have used the My Private Site plugin to enable restricted access. This free plugin helps create a private site that can only be viewed after logging in. Users have to register and set up their WordPress login credentials to gain access. Public users and search engines will only have access to the WordPress login page, posts and pages set to private, and non-WordPress web page files (when accessed directly by their URL).
The plugin also comes with video instructions to help you get started. It also supports some premium extensions that enhance its functionality by allowing users to set specific pages or categories to private.
The following steps will help you setup and configure a private website using the My Private Site plugin:
a) Setting Privacy status to private
1. Install and activate the My Private Site plugin.
2. Once the plugin is activated, go to the My Private Site tab in the WordPress sidebar, and click on Site Privacy.
3. In the plugin settings window that appears next, tick the checkbox next to Enable login privacy. Here you can also adjust the Compatibility settings if the plugin doesn’t work correctly with your theme. The plugin description mentions setting this option to Theme Fix if privacy isn’t turned on for your theme. (This is generally applicable for Elementor, Oxygen, and Twenty Twenty-Two themes.)
4. Save the configuration by clicking on the Save Privacy Status button.
b) Setting up the landing page
1. Next, we need to decide where the users will be redirected once they log in to the website. To do this, click on the Landing Page tab.
2. You can set the redirect to the Home Page or enter a custom destination URL. You can also choose to disable the redirected URL from showing up in the address bar.
3. Once you’ve configured these settings, click the Save Landing Page button.
c) Configuring the Home Page
We can now choose to either set the Homepage of our website to the public or leave it as private. It might be a good idea to leave the home page of the website accessible to visitors and keep the rest of the content private.
To do this, click on the Home Page tab in the plugin settings window and tick the checkbox against Site Home. Save the changes by clicking on the Make Page Public button.
The plugin also offers paid extensions that can allow you to restrict access to individual posts and pages or their categories. For individual content elements, I recommend using the WordPress settings method described in the previous section. However, if you want specific categories or tags to be set to private, you can consider using the add-ons.
d) Allowing User Registration
Next, click on the Membership tab to allow new users to register to your website. To allow new registrations, you need to tick the checkboxes against the Membership and Reveal Registration Page options. Once done, save the configurations by clicking on the Update Options button.
The website will now be set to private and only registered users with correct WordPress login credentials will be able to access your content.
Using the cPanel
Another way to impose website privacy is via the cPanel. Through the cPanel, you can password protect specific directories in your hosting account. Once this setting is enabled, users accessing your website will be prompted to log in. A downside of this method is that even if you are logged into the cPanel, you will still be prompted to enter your credentials to view the website. For the purpose of this article, I would not recommend this method.
A private blog is an extremely useful tool to maintain exclusivity. It can be a great tool for paid membership-based websites that want to restrict their content to their specific audiences. It can serve as a platform to exchange and store sensitive information that needs to be protected from public dissemination like a company’s plans for an upcoming product launch.
In this article, we looked at the different ways to create a private website and keep the general public from accessing it. Posts and pages can be easily set to private using the available WordPress functionality.
The access to the entire website, however, cannot be restricted using the WordPress core and a plugin has to be used. I used a simple plugin called ‘My Private Site’ in the preceding section of this article to demonstrate the process. Even though using a plugin can potentially affect website performance, in the absence of an alternative, it is the best solution available.
I hope this article provided you with ample guidance and that you’ll now be able to set up your private WordPress site with effortless ease. Good luck!