Most of my income comes from developing and selling commercial WordPress plugins. Up until recently, I sold many of those plugins through the WPPlugins.com plugin marketplace. Now, however, I’m planning to remove my wpplugins.com listings and build a separate site for each plugin. If you want to know why, read on.
It all started several months ago. Admin Menu Editor Pro (one of my plugins) wasn’t doing so great. Sales were low and not getting better. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I had noticed one common customer complaint that kept popping up again and again – “why do I have to create an account and pay a subscription fee just to buy your plugin?”
Context: To buy a plugin from the WP Plugins marketplace you must first create an account. You can’t buy anything without signing up. Also, each plugin comes with a subscription plan that provides access to updates and support. The default subscription fee is $3/month. More info here.
So I decided to run an experiment. Early in April, I built a quick stand-alone site for Admin Menu Editor Pro and pointed all my existing ads and links at this new site instead of my wpplugins.com listing. The result? See for yourself:
Yes. Oh yes. This is not a joke. What you’re looking at is a solid 407% increase in revenue achieved by moving away from WPPlugins.com and building a simple, 5-page site that doesn’t require potential customers to register or sign up for a subscription. The new site had the same product, same sales copy and the same price (sans subscription fee) as my plugin marketplace listing. I even used the same three product screenshots and a theme with a similar layout. And yet, the new site more than quadrupled my earnings.
The obvious conclusion would be that people really hate subscriptions. This is not necessarily true. More likely, what they hate is being asked to create an account and pay a subscription fee for what they think should be a one-time transaction. When you sign up for a service, subscription fees are normal and expected. When you buy a product, they are not. For better or worse, many WP users seem to perceive plugins as being in the second category, updates and support notwithstanding*.
* I suspect that the current WordPress ecosystem trains people to expect free updates forever. Also, some people claim that they don’t want those services. They just want the plugin itself.
In addition to avoiding subscription-related woes, selling your plugin(s) through your own site also has several other advantages:
- Statistics, delicious statistics. The WP Plugins marketplace doesn’t really give you any traffic stats or conversion data. Want to know which keywords brought the most SE traffic to your listing? Or what your conversion rate is? Or which ad creative generated the most sales? You’re out of luck. All you get is chronological list of new sales and subscriptions. That’s it. Meanwhile, if you host your own product site, answering all those questions is as easy as setting up Google Analytics.
- Adaptability and speed. If you’re selling your product through your own site and you notice a mistake in the description, you can fix it right away. Similarly, when you release an update, it goes live immediately. On the other hand, if you’re using the WP Plugins store, any change that you make has to be reviewed by their staff before it goes live. What’s more, during the review period your store listing is hidden, which can result in lost sales. For a time, I was actually scared too scared to of update my plugins because they would sometimes get stuck as “Pending review” for a week or more. (To be fair, these restrictions do not apply to well-established plugins.)
- Control. You can customize, tweak and A/B test your site to your heart’s content. You can do things that would simply be impossible in an app store. For example, late in May, I introduced separate “Personal” and “Developer” Admin Menu Editor Pro licenses, priced at $17 and $50 respectively. This almost doubled monthly revenue, resulting in the second large spike that you saw in the chart at the start of this post.
In conclusion, I will soon be moving the rest of my commercial plugins to their own sites as well.Related posts :