WP Trends

                   

 
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It starts now.

Welcome to the first WP Trends newsletter. Thanks for showing up - I appreciate it.

What's covered this month:

  • 💥  Elementor is making waves
  • 💸  Automattic acquisitions
  • 🔌  Plugin acquisitions are hot right now
  • 🎨  The future of WordPress themes
  • 📈  Popular plugins and popular plugin types last month
  • 💰  7 WordPress businesses currently for sale

It surprised me to hear Matt Mullenweg confirm (in Post Status slack) that Automattic have invested over 40 million in independent companies, presumably in the WordPress space, in the last year.

Matt Mullenweg on A8C acquisitions

Which made me think - who are these companies? What type of businesses are they?

Seeing the bets that Automattic are making gives us an insight into areas of the market that are growing, which could provide inspiration for our businesses. 

Automattic recently made a large investment in Titan, an email company based in India, that is already powering email from WordPress.com hosted sites. This follows the news last year that WooCommere had acquired the MailPoet plugin. Acquisitions and investments in services like email are one thing, but what about investments in other plugin or theme companies?

I know for a fact that Automattic is an investor in smaller plugin companies. This makes sense, but does go against the community opinion that Matt and Automattic don’t ‘value’ premium plugins, especially since the plugin juggernaut that is Jetpack has been recently taking on a multitude of plugin niches and sidelining competitors.

Investing in the plugin ecosystem is a way for Automattic to help the community, to help keep driving WordPress forward. But it just might be a reaction to the trend in the last few years of hosting companies acquiring plugins, block libraries, and other products. Automattic has to stay a big player amongst growing hosts.

Elementor

Speaking of big players - the growth and size of Elementor is extremely impressive. There’s been a spat recently around Elementor targeting ‘Full Site Editing’ (FSE) keywords in Adwords campaigns, which drew a public rebuke from Matt Mullenweg, again in Post Status slack - it all happens there!

Matt Mullenweg Elementor

With Elementor Cloud in beta, it promises to be a real competitor to WordPress.com and the block editor. And Matt knows it.

Automattic is betting that the block editor and FSE will be the future of WordPress. But Elementor disagrees. Their drag and drop page builder plugin is both extremely popular and easy to use. It’s got a big head start on the block editor in terms of user experience and polish, and there is a growing list of ready-made templates by both Elementor and third-party developers to make users’ lives even easier.

Who needs WordPress themes if you can build a site like that?

Themes

I’m serious - what about themes? I’ve been sharing a fair few acquisition opportunities on Twitter recently, they’ve mainly been plugin or app businesses, except one - a WordPress theme business doing ~$5k a month:

Iain's tweet about a theme shop for sale

John Speed replied “I found this one hard to get excited about. Themes have been almost entirely replaced by page builders”. 

I thought about this for a while, and although I initially agreed, I came to the conclusion that theme companies still have a place in 2021. But they need to go all in on page builders or the block editor.

Theme companies that make their themes compatible with the block editor are finding good success. Think of the growth of the Astra and Kadence themes. 

I think most people believe themes will become obsolete in the next few years as FSE becomes the norm. However, it would serve Automattic to keep the theme market growing and flourishing, but under the block editor banner. I wouldn’t be surprised if Automattic is investing more and more in theme companies to help promote building sites with blocks.

Plugins

WordPress plugin businesses are in demand right now. It’s a specific size of business that are getting listed and acquired at the moment (around $10k - $20k ARR). This makes them attractive to small to medium sized established businesses that have the skills, team and experience to buy and grow these plugins.

For example, I’ve tweeted about two plugins recently and both are either sold or under offer - things are moving fast:

Project Management WordPress Plugin - $2.8k MRR

Help Desk and Knowledge base WordPress Plugin - $3k ARR

I’ll be sending new opportunities to you as and when I come across them.

Trends

I’ve been digging around in the Plugin Rank database to see which plugins have been growing the most in the last month to try to gauge where the plugin market is right now.

Looking at data from 1st Feb to now, the following 5 plugins have seen the biggest increase in number of active installs:

  1. Elementor
  2. WPForms Lite
  3. WooCommerce
  4. Classic Editor
  5. All-in-One WP Migration

I'm not surprised to see those plugins in that list. They have massive user bases and are all growing well.

But let's look deeper at the plugins who haven't yet hit a million active installs:

  1. Creative Mail - Easier WordPress & WooCommerce Email Marketing
  2. Starter Templates - Elementor, Beaver Builder, Gutenberg & Brizy Templates
  3. Rank Math SEO
  4. Templately – Templates Cloud for Elementor & Gutenberg
  5. WPS Hide Login

Templates for the page builders and the block editor are popular! It's also interesting to see the rise of Creative Mail. It was at under 100k active installs in December, and now at 300k! As a comparison, MailPoet (as mentioned earlier - acquired by Automattic) has 200k active installs.

It's worth noting that both the Creative Mail and MailPoet plugins are fulfilling strategic needs for their owners - Constant Contact and Automattic respectively, rather than revenue being the plugins' main priority.

Let's zoom out a bit and take a look at the type of plugins that are growing. I've done some analysis based on the tags plugins use, to see which are the tags used by plugins with the most growth since 1st Feb:

  1. woocommerce
  2. elementor
  3. gutenberg
  4. block
  5. security

It's clear to see that building addons for WooCommerce is a good play. There are a number of established WooCommerce plugin shops doing good business. Building plugins on top of Elementor and the block editor is also a good idea, which ties in to what I was saying about the future of themes.

Acquisition Opportunities

Here are the WordPress businesses for sale at the moment :

  1. WordPress theme shop - $66k TTM
  2. Elementor addon - $52k TTM
  3. Dynamic content plugin - $21k TTM
  4. FESTPlugins - $28k TTM
  5. Multi Rating Pro plugin - $9.5k TTM
  6. Ultimate Addons for Divi - $7.9k TTM
  7. BruteBank security app and plugin - $200 TTM

(All figures are revenue based. TTM = Trailing 12 months)

That's all for now. Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback about the newsletter or want to chat about the WordPress ecosystem, I'd love to hear from you - just hit reply.

Till next time 👋

Cheers,

Iain Poulson avatar    Iain Poulson
Founder of WP Trends