Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. In this episode we’re going to talk about a topic that I get really excited about and had to kind of had to figure out on my own. I’ve got a lot of guidance and glad to bring this guest here to talk about this topic today for you but we’re going to be talking about how to market your WordPress plugin. And joining us that conversation I’d like to welcome, Bridget Willard, Bridget, welcome to Press This.
Bridget Willard: Thanks for having me, David.
DV: So glad to have you here and Bridget is particularly well positioned to talk about this topic. She’s the author of a book titled How to Market your plugin very convenient for the title of this podcast Bridget. But what we’re is gonna walk us through is, you know about her thoughts on the most effective strategies for marketing WordPress plugins and I think if you’ve been in WordPress for a while and you’ve seen the success of commercial plugins or any kind of free plugins maybe the commercial angle you might think hey maybe that’s for me or if you’re in a freelancer agency business you’re thinking of ways to kind of augment the revenue of your business, but it becomes kind of this attractive path for developers in the WordPress sphere and so really wanted to dig in, in this episode and dive into the strategies, Bridget, I asked the same question of every guest on the ask of you as well. Briefly tell me your WordPress origin story when was the first time you used WordPress.
BW: So I signed up for wordpress.com in 2007, same time, I signed up for twitter.com from listening to Leo Laporte of MacBreak weekly. I went to my first word camp in 2013 and started marking WordPress plugins in June of 2015.
DV: Wow, so this would be a little over six years for WordPress plugins, but it sounds like your first foray into WordPress was back in 2007 Yes, would have been right around the time when widgets and shortcodes were introduced into WordPress, was that functionality in wordpress on your radar back then are you mainly using requests to publish content.
BW: I was mainly using it to publish content when I started marketing gift wp.com That’s when I knew about shortcodes. That would be 22 T.
DV: Oh wow, I didn’t realize you had the background give I know, I knew on Twitter for a while but I guess I never just connected those dots so Matt, you know, built an incredible business there and they recently sold gift to you.
BW: yeah, Devin Walker and Matt Cramwell came up with that. It was funded by the agency that Devin owned with another partner because at first they couldn’t afford to hire anybody else so I was only working on that for about 40% of my time. I worked for the advertising agency most plugins are funded by agency work, so I was with them for two years, and I was the marketing team lead for make WordPress for over two years, and I’ve been marketing wordpress plugin, ever since.
DV: Oh, you’re very well positioned, of course to talk about this not just an author but a Dewar which is fantastic and, you know, to have project you worked on like give and I know Matt very well and respect and I actually didn’t, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a debit. But that’s that’s a tremendous feather in your cap to participate in that, you know, in their journey, and to be a part of that and all the other things you referenced we really glad to have you here today. You wrote a book though, and you have a website called How to Market your plugin, calm, can you briefly tell me about all that like what are you doing these days,
BW: so I decided this is the piece de resistance of my WordPress career. I do a lot of consulting with WordPress plugin authors and I end up telling them the same thing over and over and over again. And so I thought why not write a book. So I bought, I went to godaddy about how to market your plugin calm build a landing page, or did it to widget willer.com I believe there should be one website to rule them all, which is one of my chapters and figure you know what put this, put this in a format that everybody can understand, and nobody’s written a book about it, so why not, why not be the first.
DV: I like it I like it I know quite a few people who’ve started very successful businesses with this nation of like nobody’s covering this thing I should talk about it, that’s that’s really interesting and I know that there’s, you know, certainly with WordPress kind of marching towards 50% of the web, you know there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity there I’m not sure, Bridget if you saw on Twitter earlier but we WP engine just released a study on the WordPress economy. I tweeted about it if you go check out my profile at the VP David B, find the link there, but it really breaks down the size of the economy, at least based on our research and what, you know, We kind of enlisted others in this effort. But I think the underlying theme of the whole thing for me is there’s a lot of money to be made in making WordPress software and companies and technologies, and I think like your book is really well timed, you know especially consider was in December of last year, represses the dominant form of website on Earth.
BW: I saw that actually on LinkedIn, I cannot myself to read it but yes. WordPress is the most well known. CMS, and even though it can be used with. Why do you think that, well when you, when you start thinking about Google ads, and that kind of search advertising and those kinds of things. You know I did Google ads for my book, and when you’re searching WordPress plugins you’re finding gift WP advertising, you’re finding WP Engine, you’re finding Elementor and Richard bullock.com That’s it, that’s all the people that are really participating in the advertising space, and even in the Twitter space which is where I specialized, it’s very, it’s kind of sad that people don’t use this part of their SEO, because Google indexes, individual tweets, and this is how I built gifts, and all the other products that I’ve worked on. And so I really appreciate the fact that this is a big workspace, but I think that companies could work better with one another, maybe even do a collective, I know Jason can have thought about that a long time ago. If we could somehow have a co op, where we are collectively buying ad space, then you know Webflow, and on the restaurant would just slowly die.
DV: So it sounds like you, which are one of the points you’re making here is that there are a lot of providers, a lot of technology providers and WordPress space, not taking advantage of advertising mediums, is it do you see this as an opportunity though for those that you know maybe more bold and their advertising budget to, you know, start to build out their WordPress business is this an opportunity as well as, you know, maybe an opportunity for a collective or something similar,
BW: absolutely an opportunity, one of the strategies of why I did it this way, on when I hired more in late, Ida, came up with his opposition research. So people are finding me when they’re looking for an events, again, they’re finding me when they’re looking for subscription again. So, there isn’t a lot of search volume for how to market your plugin, but what I’m finding out is what people are searching for. And often when we’re marketing our thing especially in technology, we use our own jargon and not what people used to search with. This is one of the things I cover in my comprehensive marketing brief which basically is this book.
DV: Yeah, that’s a really good point, it’s a, there was an old marketing saying you can’t design a label from inside the bottle so if you’re not thinking about it from the customers view that makes a lot of sense and I, I really like how you emphasize like Well look, it may be the dominant form a site on earth but that doesn’t mean that you know opportunities to stand out are all gone, there’s still a ton of those. It reminds me, I guess this is a claim to save I can’t fully validate it, but I did have the only add on managed WordPress hosting back in 2011 I don’t know if that was first, but definitely one of the first and you know I remember thinking, you know, because I’ve been digital marketing since 1986 Essentially, you know that was a first in 2011 at least for me, and like, it kind of reminded me that like every day is the good old day for Sunday, there’s kind of an opportunity in this kind of green field at every point in time and so even though it’s 50% now or near it, doesn’t mean that you missed out but it was a great point, Bridget, I want to dive in a little more though into the monetization around plugins and how you, how folks approach it and how you think about that, we’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
DV: Hello everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcast on WMR. This is your host David Vogelpohl speaking with Bridget Willard about how to market your WordPress plugin, Bridget right before the break, you were talking a little bit about how there’s still plenty of opportunity out there for plugins to make their mark, stand out, gain an audience and grow so wanted to now talk to you about that growth part the money part, what are the different monetization models that you see people use for WordPress plugins that you think are helpful for folks to consider as they think about making their own plugins.
BW: The most popular models I see are free premium. Premium and support only. So premium would be, I buy this thing from the store, and I pay a license right there. There is also the integration with SAS which happens but is not usually the first thing you think of when you’re thinking of WordPress. Free is good for, I want to give this thing back, maybe I’ll monetize it later freemium is a good way to get traffic from wp.org, from the WordPress plugin directory, back to your site which is also a very good indicator of your domain ranking I know my domain ranking for bridgeable calm was way up. After releasing my own plugin launch with words and having that link back from wordpress.org. And then there is support only where the actual product is free but if you want support, you’re gonna pay an hour.
DV: Okay, so that makes sense, you know, I obviously have a lot of familiarity to myself, just to kind of break it down some people do free plugins essentially to kind of give back but also maybe get some exposure for the business or maybe leave a door open to charge in the future. Freemium and premium trying to get people into kind of pain, if you will for the software and have a question on that in a minute, support only, which, you know, is really interesting as well and it kind of leads to my next question in SAS, like, the next question I guess I have I was was get to it is GPL or requirement for all plugins, and then in this notion of a quote free or premium plugin plugin. If GPL is required and what makes it paid, like what are you buying when you buy a GPL plugin and I don’t know, Like, how far your expertise because they’re so if you just want to answer from the high level that’s cool too.
BW: Well, I’m not an intellectual property lawyer yet so I can’t speak to that. Sure. Brian Kenny or something. But here’s the thing. If you want to be in WordPress, you have to have the GPL license that wordpress.org requires that if you want to be listed on their directory. So sometimes you’re paying for an actual thing, you know like with my plugin, I have two plugins that were built for me I worked with a developer media Ron, I have a proprietary plugin that works on my site, that creates a JSON file. That is something people can download to use with the free plugin that’s listed in the.org. So, it depends on what your solution is right, so I also have the first blogging prompt plugin on wordpress.org Nobody else has done it this way so was compatible with by 4.9 and down and 5.0 and above, because the blog prompts go directly into the editor doesn’t matter if it’s classic or Gutenberg. So, it just, like I said depends on your model, if you’re connecting into a SAS, that would be different. So it really, you know, you have to read the rules for the.org requirements. If you want to be listed that way if you don’t want to be listed that way. And I think the I think it’s up to you however you want to require that,
DV: yeah, there are some like caveats I think it certainly would encourage anyone thinking about their licensing to talk to a lawyer, but like from the WordPress perspective you know not having your, your plugins anyways GPL, can lead to things like not being able to participate in Word camps and other WordPress events. And to your point like is an absolute requirement for.org I really love how you can or commented that, you know, there, there are other rules and guidelines there because I certainly but on the cusp of a launch like oak crest. This thing doesn’t actually fit this particular role. We got to change that thing and that’s not a position you want to be in at launch. It’s really appreciate you mentioning that now speaking of.org though you feel like it’s like a must do for successful plugins I mean I certainly know plugins that have no.org version but like in your mind is like a must do for folks trying to build a plugin business for WordPress.
BW: I would say, why wouldn’t you want to be part of it. Now, don’t rely on it. For example, people have to get the JSON file from my website, because that’s how my plugin works. So, yes, they can download it from.org But I don’t have to worry about the data, that data and not knowing who my customers are I will have their email, because they’re downloading the JSON file for me. So if that’s something that bothers you, whatever, but if you don’t, I mean why wouldn’t you want to be there now the search is terrible, it’s not Google. It’s just WordPress it’s open sources run by volunteers, but also using a tool like plugin rake, calm, which is something I use and I really appreciate helps you see what your keywords are and how to organize your README file, and I talk about this also my book, How to have a header image, you know, get some branding going on right your copy for regular people, not for yourself. Videos screenshots, all of that, that’s really important. Do you need it. No, but that means you’re going to be working outside of that ability for people just search. So you can work on your own website if you want to, but why wouldn’t you.
DV: Yeah, it’s a new channel and what was the name of the plugin ranking solution you reference I didn’t quite catch it there I need this for like my personal needs related
BW: plugin, Frank, calm and Paulson, made it. Oh cool yeah check it out. I pay for it’s like, I don’t know, $10 a month or something ridiculously small. And it will give you your rankings and they worked with Freemius to give you a guide on how to optimize your.org listing,
DV: you know, I really love Freemius I’ve co sponsored many parties that work camps with Vova, I’m sure I’ve run across plugin rank and thanks for repeating and I’m sure the listeners would be thankful to hear that as well. Now, you kind of invoked Freemius I didn’t necessarily have this as a question but you want to tell us what Freemius is
BW: Freemius is a staff that helps you sell your plugins and get you insight. I think it’s an insight situation I’m not totally sure, but they do take a cut. So be aware of that. I would say the insights are probably worth the cut, especially if you’re not working with a marketer, like myself, who handles Twitter and knows what the people are thinking,
DV: yeah Freemius is actually really interesting they have a, like a payment and distribution system as well, and then to your point, they have the analytics kind of bundled with that as well as features that kind of tie to things with how your organs operated. I’m actually a big fan of open them up to. Now, you mentioned, like, it is your like well I don’t see why you wouldn’t have a listing on.org Right, you get exposure for your brand, and like the place that WordPress is you get a backlink to your own websites use some domain authority passed back. But like what are your observations on what authors should do to try to get the best search rankings on wordpress.org
BW: You need to have a copy needs to be written by a copywriter, especially if English isn’t your first language. It needs to tell what your plugin solves, not just what the features are, we don’t care about features. We think we care about features until we realize the plugin is actually doing, you know, and then use jargon that regular people are going to use like, it’s just a login prompt people don’t know what a blogging prompt is no, this isn’t a copywriting plugin, you know, the plugin rank recommends using WordPress copywriting plugin but WordPress does not allow you to use WordPress, in the name of your plugin. So, you can use it in the copy event, you can’t use it in your domain name, it’s a trademark. So, you need to call you need to also use what your plugin does the listing in the title of your plugin, as well as the name of the plugin. It’s really important to use semantic HTML in your README file or markdown, with the headings and what this does definitely include a video and how to do it definitely has screenshots, definitely include facts, why you wouldn’t want to, you know, maintain that maybe you don’t like, maybe you have a problem with wordpress.org But that’s really not a marketing problem that’s a personal problem.
DV: I have so many thoughts on this, I want to get dive a little deeper here there because it’s really great topics and we’re gonna take one more break and we’ll be right back. Time to plug into a commercial break. Stay tuned for more Press This.
DV: everyone welcome back to Press This WordPress community podcast on WMR, we’re in the middle of our interview with Bridget Willard on how to market your WordPress plugin, Bridget, right before the break, you were talking about your tips for, you know, setting your plugin up for success and ranking on wordpress.org We talked about kind of habit writing copy by a copywriter, especially if English isn’t your first language you’re not comfortable per se in English and in terms of marketing copywriting to in your writing to kind of tell what your plugins doing and how it’s solving the problem. I think it is funny how you pointed out that plugin rank recommended use the keyword WordPress in your title. It really reminds me of use, like though like WordPress and dash SEO I’m guessing you can’t use that in your slug anymore WordPress dash whatever. Nope. Yeah, okay, that makes sense, I guess and you can’t change slug names. I know that for a fact. So I know that Yoast is kind of there to other people can’t replicate it though because now it’s not allowed, which I think is really interesting. Now you said like, well, there’s some reasons why people might not want to be done.org And you kind of commented like maybe they don’t like.org I feel like, you know, is I’ve looked at how plugins are ranked on wordpress.org and it also seems like your reviews, and your support tickets your plugin also seem to play a role. And I’m just wondering if, like, like for me I view an org listing it’s like having a puppy. It’s cute. It’s fun to play with but it’s a lot of work. And so like by not having an org listing, you kind of save yourself a little a little that work. I personally I think you forego more benefit than that’s where it’s but like I know that’s where a lot of people land on this.
BW: Sure, I mean, I don’t, I don’t see it as a lot of work but I’m not getting support requests there for my plugin. I feel like if you have a comprehensive marketing strategy. It’s one small part, where people seem to fail in my opinion, is putting something on.org and expecting that to function as if it were their own website. Also another huge mistake I see WordPress developers do is making a different website altogether for each one of their products. Now maybe they’re setting themselves up to sell that product, but I feel like they are diluting their marketing efforts by making another website you have to, you know, maintain and another website that you have to update and another Twitter account that you have to, instead, making one account where everything is coming from, and they’ll say to me book Bridget, this E commerce plug into that, anything to do with this other e commerce plugin they’re totally different, but they’re not and we don’t have a problem going to one stop place we do it all the [email protected]. You really don’t want to dilute, maybe you can maintain websites and Twitter accounts and you can set up robots and all that stuff. But what ends up happening is somebody will kind of make two years later and say, I did all of this, and it’s not working. What am I doing wrong, like, you are not following people back on Twitter, you’re not blogging consistently, you’re, you’re diluting all of your marketing efforts. Even before, you know, liquid web got a new investment right when they were getting kind of stellar WP to be their home call these plugins, I’m like, why are you maintaining seven accounts because I was consulted on what to do while they’re in between people and like I would tweet only from the liquid web account, I would only tweet from that account, you like. It’s really interesting. But you are diluting your efforts, and with the same amount of work, it’s not helping you.
DV: There’s a really interesting observations I know different people take different approaches right like you have sand hill with easy digital downloads and all their sub plugins kind of operating on these independent sites, and then you have something like MP WPM you dev where like everything’s all in one and you come into one place inside. It is really interesting. I do probably agree with you this notion that the ones with individual properties are maybe more likely positioning that maybe one day there might be sold off.
BW: David because they’ll look at, they’ll look at Pippin and say, well add to that guy and what year, and you’re not a market leader, you’re another SEO plugin you’re another image optimizer plugin. You’re just another plugin, with over, how many 60,000 plugins. You’re not Pippin you can’t monitor your business after somebody who was there in the beginning, even goes towards the past WordPress Facebook group in 2015 that he wished she’d monetize two years earlier. Right, we look at these people and we admire them. And we should, but their model isn’t the same as our model because their world was totally different. We’re going in, when it’s flooded.
DV: Well, Bridget, I think this has been amazing insights into how to market your plugin. I think he makes some really sound points there on keeping your focus in one area, as you go up against I guess it’s now 50 or 60,000 plugins in the repo alone right outside of that. I think that’s a very salient point to end on Bridget, thank you so much for joining us today.
BW: Thank you.
DV: Awesome. If you’d like to check out more about what Bridget is up to, please visit howtomarketyourplugin.com, thanks everyone for listening to press this WordPress community podcast on WMR. Again, this is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.