What are the best ways to increase traffic to a plugin / theme business?

(Eric Daams) #1

Continuing the discussion from You’re starting a theme business. Should you sell on ThemeForest?:

@NateWr, I hope you don’t mind me spinning this off into a new discussion, but I feel like it’s a topic worth exploring. I really hear you about the A/B testing comment. I have never run a really high traffic site, so I always feel like that stuff is a little pointless for me.

So this is a new topic with a new question, both for you and others on here: What are the best ways to build traffic for your plugin/theme store’s website?

Tips to further increase the popularity of a plugin
(Nate Wright) #2

I don’t know if I’m really the best person to offer advice. I’m not sure if I’ve really been all that successful. But I have started from nothing – no sales on ThemeForest, no standing in the community, no following. I was a journalist not too long ago!

A lot of the theme shop advice out there comes from established brands which are in a totally different position. Their product announcements are getting retweeted by prominent members of the community and sometimes covered by big websites. They have loyal customer bases that help jump-start their product launches, provide good social proof and reviews, help beta test upcoming products, etc.

In contrast, social media has been my least productive advertising channel. That makes sense. It should take the most time to build, right? Since it presumes the establishment of a strong relationship with others that has to be cultivated. And because I work in a rather un-exciting niche (from a techy standpoint), there’s not a lot of “wow, this looks great” to catch the community’s attention. But in this context the whole pre-launch marketing ramp-up is kind of meaningless. Unless you have a product that will really impress a community and access to that community, social media is not the place to start (but still an important long game… I presume!).

So, I guess my point is, there are others who run more successful theme shops who can probably provide better advice. But what I can talk about is crawling up from literally nothing. Here’s what I’ve tried. I would love to get advice from others on strategies I should be trying:

  1. Interact with the WP community (hint: I’m doing it right now). I sometimes talk with leading members on Twitter, comment on blogs, etc. I’ve contributed a couple minor commits to Easy Digital Downloads. Added a couple Gists that others might find useful. I doubt this has really gotten me any sales, but it’s just me saying, “Hey, I exist, I’m out here.” It got me on Devin Price’s list of theme shops. It’s really just me trying to be a good member of the community, so that when I am in a position to try and launch something of wider interest people might recognize my name.

  2. Recruit affiliates. The first few months I spent making Google searches for relevant keywords, finding the highest ranking “best restaurant websites” and emailing them to ask them to put my site up. It was a real life-line early on. But many of them don’t update their sites very often, so expect to be waiting around a while after a product launch. In short, good source of targeted traffic and worth the loss of income.

  3. Free plugins. My main selling point is that my commercial products are built on a free suite of plugins for restaurants. This approach might not work for every theme shop, but it’s brought some decent traffic for me. Not a lot of the traffic converts, but having a premium version of one of my plugins helps. I don’t know if this is really ever going to be a strong source of traffic, but it has given me a public peg for my brand.

  4. Google Ads. Tried this right off the bat. Utter and complete waste of money. I’m going to give it a try again when I have more products and a redesigned shop. Loads of room to scale here if I can get them to convert once they arrive.

  5. Reviews. I put my first theme up for rating at ThemeFriendly, and Charlie at athemes.com wrote a review of it. Neither have driven much traffic to my site, but I suspect that being able to mention these in the demo has helped conversion rates. As I said in the other thread, it’s hard to judge changes in conversion rates at such a low scale.

  6. Search traffic and content marketing. To be honest, I think my SEO is a mess. But early on I wrote a short article explaining why my products don’t support online orders (yet) and gave some alternative options, because I was getting a lot of inquiries about this. That post kind of blew up (relatively speaking) on Google and now accounts for almost 10% of my traffic. It’s just a shame that none of my products can take advantage of that traffic. Still, I was hooked. So now I’m trying my hand at content marketing – writing helpful tips and tutorials, as well as SEO-engineered articles to attract relevant visitors. I can’t say it’s been super successful so far, but it’s a long-game and I’m not very far into it.

That’s what I’ve tried so far and the in-progress status of each. I hope some other shops will share what has worked and not worked for them.

(Leland Fiegel) #3

This is a GREAT discussion, thanks for continuing it.

Back when I ran Theme Lab, I was getting a few thousand visitors per day from mostly search traffic. It was an older site though, one of the first theme-related sites out there, and probably seen as more “trusted” because of it, due to all those old links.

Traffic mostly came to free themes, and “cornerstone” tutorials (some that I even refer back to myself today). It was relevant traffic, but not necessarily traffic looking to whip out their credit cards.

They were seeking free stuff (information or themes) so the traffic didn’t directly contribute very much directly to the bottom line, but it really helps with the next thing I’m going to talk about…

@NateWr, you didn’t specifically mention this in your post, but branding is definitely a huge part of it.

Getting that logo in front of as many relevant eyeballs as possible is crucial. You’re doing it now with your logo as your avatar here.

Just with that, I’m able to mentally cross-reference your comments on other blogs and know it’s the themeofthecrop.com logo.

It’s definitely a long and arduous process to really stand out in the crowd, especially nowadays, but it can be done with enough dedication.

(Brian Ross) #4

The same type of question came up over at the AWP Facebook group, and the comments had some good tips.

Here is a quick summary:

  • Finish the site ( pricing, testimonials… )

  • An article about promoting a plugin: https://managewp.com/promoting-premium-plugin

  • Think about “non-WordPress” customers

  • Go to local meetups or WordCamps

  • WordPress news sites or podcast

(Thomas Hoefter) #5

The following two ways is what I have had the most success with. Note that I only have experience with selling plugins and not themes. I would guess selling themes is even harder since it is more difficult to define a clear niche for yourself and differentiate from all the theme shops out there.

  • Affiliate programs: If you manage to get one going they can be great and even lead to you not having to do any additional marketing. With my first premium plugin I achieved that and can still count on part of my affiliate network until today (for example when launching a new product). I have noticed that it has become harder and harder to recruit affiliates in recent years though - many blogs prefer fixed payments over uncertain affiliate revenue or only use the programs of bigger players (a la MaxCDN, hosting affiliate programs, etc).

  • Sponsored Posts: A lot of blogs offer sponsored posts, reviews or giveaways for a fixed price nowadays. Yes, you need to spend money but they can be great because since it is native advertising the conversion rates are much better than with traditional advertising methods. Plus the posts are permanent (and thus can continue to bring in search traffic even though you only pay once) and allow you to engage with the blogs audience through the comments.
    Please note that I am not necessarily in favor of this trend of having sponsored posts on a site - I am just saying they can work well for us as sellers.

Basically what I experienced (and part of the reason for why the two above work best) is this: No one will write about your product without an incentive. For a news site like WP Tavern that might be a good story, for pretty much everyone else it is money (either through a direct payment for a sponsored post or through monetization with affiliate links).

I have written a longer tutorial on how to promote WordPress plugins on my blog which contains many other ideas (several of which have already been mentioned above).

(Nate Wright) #6

Thought I’d revive this thread with a question about coupons, deals and giveaways. Anyone have any experience with them? Are they successful, what’s the best way to promote a deal, etc?

I’m currently doing a (small) giveaway for an upcoming theme release, but not having a lot of luck finding places to spread the word.

(Leland Fiegel) #7

There are sites like MightyDeals, although they tend to favor ridiculously discounted “bundles” as opposed to individual themes. I try to avoid these as I feel these cheapen the brand and condition potential customers to just wait for the next deal rather than pay full price. Although in some situations, it may be worth the quick cash infusion and influx of customers and exposure.

There is WP Beginners deals section and probably some other WordPress-related publications that would be willing to help publicize, especially if you came up with a “branded” coupon code for them. Many are members here.

I haven’t tested this, but Facebook allows you to post deals and use their ad platform to promote them. Could be worth spending a bit of cash as a test, if you don’t have much of a Facebook audience. I believe Twitter offers something similar too.

And you’re welcome to post it here. :smiley:

(Nate Wright) #8

Yeah, I have avoided big discounts for the same reasons. But I am beginning to wonder if they would be useful for generating more brand exposure in the early life of a shop. Can anyone who has used either branded coupon deals (ala WP Beginners, WPMayor, WPLift, WPKube, WPExplorer, WP*) or other giveaways share whether they’ve seen significant volume from such deals?