Broken Link Checker – All Free Again

The “Pro” version of Broken Link Checker has been discontinued. All features that were previously paid-only have been merged into the free version. This includes (among others):

  • Internationalized domain name support.
  • The ability to check embedded videos from popular video hosting sites (e.g. YouTube).
  • The ability to check links to popular file hosting sites (e.g. RapidShare).
  • Plaintext URL support.
  • Custom post type support.
  • Search & replace for bulk URL editing.

In addition, the plugin now includes a call for donations and a single ad.

What does this mean for you?

Free users

If you already have the free version installed, you should receive an update notification within a few hours. After installing the update, you can enable the newly available features in Settings -> Link Checker. Some features – e.g. IDN support – are on by default and don’t need to be enabled explicitly.

Pro users

If you own the Pro version of the plugin, I recommend moving to the free version. Just deactivate Broken Link Checker Pro and install version 1.2.2 from Your settings and data will be retained, and you will not lose any features.

Caution: Do not click the “Uninstall” link to remove the Pro version unless you want to erase your current settings. Instead, delete the /wp-content/plugins/broken-link-checker-pro/ directory via FTP.

Also, check the status of your update subscription (if you have one). It should be cancelled automatically, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure. Just in case, here’s how you can cancel a PayPal subscription manually.


Ultimately, the reason why I decided to drop the Pro version was very simple: “If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.” The purpose of every commercial plugin is to make money for its developers. The way I tried to achieve this with Broken Link Checker Pro was to offer a bunch of extra features and priority support for those willing to pay a small fee. However, after tracking sales stats for a several months and reviewing the results of a recent user survey, it became eminently clear that this approach wasn’t working.

Full disclosure: just before the Pro version was discontinued, Broken Link Checker had

  • 60 000 free users (estimated).
  • 70 paid users.
  • 39 active subscriptions.

That’s a free-to-paid conversion rate of around 0.11%, which is downright horrible even for a freemium product.

There are many things that can kill your conversion rate, but I think in this particular case the cause was straightforward: nobody cared about the Pro features. For 99% of users, the free version would be perfect – or at least good enough. A user survey confirmed this suspicion. The same survey also revealed that there was no must-have feature that I could implement to dramatically increase the attractiveness of the Pro version.

I could’ve tried removing features from the free version, but that’s 1) nearly impossible for an open-source application and 2) Evil™.

After much thought, I decided to drop the Pro version entirely and try something completely different* – all features for free, a prominent call for donations, and an ad on the settings page. I don’t know what the results will be, but I’m sure they’ll be interesting.

*In case you’re wondering, this model was inspired by Google Analytics and All In One SEO Pack.

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18 Responses to “Broken Link Checker – All Free Again”

  1. MixMan says:

    Hell of a news! Thanks 🙂

  2. John says:


    Thanks for publishing your experience. As a fellow plugin author I’m curious: how did your new approach for donations work out? In my own experience something like 0.0001% of users donate but perhaps you fared better?

    And if not – why keep working on the free version? You must waste hundreds of hours answering questions and fixing bugs.

    I’ve also been wondering if anyone had success with placing ads in their software, such as in the ‘settings’ page, the dashboard, or elsewhere in the blog?

    It’s a shame that it’s so hard to make money as a plugin author. If it was more lucrative I’m sure the plugins would be better quality (and the paid ones would be cheaper – more like $2.99).

  3. White Shadow says:

    It might still be too early to tell – the new version was released only four days ago – but so far it’s looking fairly bleak. Zero new donations. As for the ad in the settings page: ~4000 impressions, 32 clicks, 0 sales.

    Sometimes I wonder myself why I keep working on it. Perhaps the plugin has become something of an “idée fixe” for me 🙂

    Also, looking at the number of active users growing by 200-300 every day (now at 63k), it’s hard not to think: “Surely there is some way to make a dollar or two on this. I just need to find it!”

  4. […] Broken Link Checker – All Free Again | […]

  5. Ray says:

    If you figure out the right model, let me know as well as my next few plugins might become premium.

    It bothers me that premium themes get more attention than plugins. People seem to care about the frontend more than functionality.

  6. White Shadow says:

    It might be a matter of perceived ROI. Your theme is seen by many (=high impact), but none of your visitors care what plugin you use to, say, generate your list of related posts (=low impact).

    Another data point – I have received two donations since my previous comment.

  7. Ray says:

    I’d say that it depends on the plugin, but most of all the high-impact ones are free.

    From my own data, last year I can count how many people sent me a donation on my hands.

  8. Nishadha says:

    Since you have 63k users that means you have a useful plug-in. If I were you here’s what I would do. Instead of a giving the download link in the blog I would ask the users e-mail address so I can send the download link. This way you can build a e-mail list. And importantly you are delivering something of value to the user in your e-mail. I would follow it up with an auto responder giving detailed instructions on how to best use the plug-in. More value addition and build user trust. Once you build a decent list you can promote some affiliate products to that list and make money that way.

  9. White Shadow says:

    That’s might be good idea for free software in general, but I don’t think it would work in this case. Here’s why: like most free plugins, BLC is also listed in the plugin directory. Most users will download it from there, not from my personal site. So they would never see this hypothetical sign-up form.

  10. Fips says:

    Have you considered giving something like a run? I think your predicament is one of the most typical for many coders who produce useful products that end-users have come to expect for free.

    I hope you find a model that works for you, and thank you for not being Evil™!

  11. White Shadow says:

    I’m aware of Flattr, but I haven’t used it much. I’ll probably give it a try.

  12. sidney_v says:

    Your plug-in is very useful, thanks to put it all free !

    I’d like to know under which licence do you publish Broken Link Checker ? Is this plugin released under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) ? Or under a proprietary license ?

    Thanks in advance, keep up the good work !

  13. White Shadow says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly specified what the licensing terms are, but yes – they’re GPL-compatible. In fact, this is a requirement for adding a plugin to the repository. You can pretty safely assume that all plugins hosted there are licensed under some version of GPL.

  14. Ivan says:

    If you would create a Multisite version of the plugin, and making it premium, I would consider buying it.

    I did ask around for a similar plugin over at WPMU, but they do not have any existing plugin. Perhaps you would consider collaborating with them to create a Multisite version, or if you prefer, sell your plugins at

    It’ll be REALLY great if I could just network activate your plugin and monitor the network from the network admin.

    My 2 cents,

  15. White Shadow says:

    I’ve thought about this, and it’s likely harder than it sounds. The way the plugin is written now just doesn’t scale that well; the current code would seriously bog down your server if you tried to use it on Multisite. That’s not to say that it would be impossible – just a lot of work.

    With that out of the way, could you perhaps describe your idea in a bit more detail? I.e. how would you expect the interface to look? Just a flat list of broken links, or categorized by site? Or perhaps a high-level overview for the entire network? What would you do with all that information – i.e. do you maintain the entire network by yourself and intend to personally fix each link?

  16. Ivan says:

    The guys at WPMUDEV just sent recommended another plugin that will properly network activate your plugin. Apparently the Proper Network Activation does the job. I have not tried it personally yet though.

    The use-cases for a network level link checker could be to monitor links on all the sub sites via the network admin and correcting the links from there. It makes the job easier for a web admin.

    It will also be useful as information in a report. E.g. A monthly report of links that were broken and fixed, which is generated so that the web admin can report to the respective owner of a sub-site in the network. As such, links grouped per site would be beneficial.

    As for the server load, I believe there are already mechanisms that limit and throttle the link checker? Maybe it can be programmed to scan the sites one at a time by order of site id, and not allowing more than 5 links to be scanned each minute? This would be much more efficient that 10 sites attempting to scan the links all at the same time, and sending 10 separate email notifications.

  17. White Shadow says:

    Hmm, I see. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll bookmark your comment so that I can refer to it if I ever get around to building a Multisite version.

  18. Marcos says:

    Jusy 70 paid users is sure very tough

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