WP Trends

                   

 
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Rise and Fall.

Welcome back to WP Trends. 60% of the year done 😬

What's covered this month:

  • 📉  Dropping numbers
  • 💸  Recent acquisitions
  • 📈  Diving into plugin growth 
  • 💰  WordPress businesses for sale

What goes up...

The summer slump for ecommerce revenue is here and it's hitting WordPress plugin businesses. This year it seems to be worse in relation to the growth seen during last summer in the midst of the pandemic, where online saw an explosion.

This is something I've seen personally, so wanted to see how it was affecting others:

Tweet about ecommerce slump

From the responses it seems like the majority have felt the same. It's to be expected as Maarten Belmans points out, with "COVID lockdowns being lifted and summer holidays." 

The dip in revenue is also reflected in a decline in WordPress plugin installation numbers. David Bisset wrote a post about his observations of declining WordPress.org plugin installs during the first half of 2021, which I helped back up with a larger dataset of over 1000 plugins. Generally plugins are growing in 2021, but they saw a decline in March and April of this year compared to 2020. 

As Octets suggests in the comments in that post, this could be a wider issue with a decline of WordPress itself. Although there's an ever growing % of the web running on WordPress, Google search trends is showing a decline in interest for 2021 in comparison to 2020 (Jan - July):

Google Trends WordPress decline

It would be a valid assumption to think that 2021 is naturally lower than 2020, because 2020 was abnormally high due to the pandemic. However, looking at the same period of 2020 vs 2019 shows that the rise wasn't huge and shows the 2021 drop is still significant:

Google Trends WordPress 2020 vs 2019

I'm going to reserve judgement until I see what my revenue figures look like at the end of year. I suspect this year's summer slump might be worse than normal but will bounce back to usual levels in Q4.

Trends

Following on from David's post about differences in growth between 2020 and 2021, I thought it would be interesting to dive deeper and look at the plugins who grew the most in Q1 & Q2 of 2020, to see how they fared in 2021.

My dataset is limited (from when I was tracking daily plugin data for Plugin Rank) but I do have weekly plugin install growth numbers for all weeks between 1st Jan - 30th June 2020 and 1st Jan - 30th June 2021 for 1,098 plugins. This dataset was used for David's post and the below deep dive.

First, let's look at the top 5 plugins (in my dataset) with the most growth between 1st Jan and 30th June 2020.

Then, let's see how they fared in the same period of 2021:

(The growth figure is based on a sum of the weekly growth percentages from WordPress.org)

That's a massive difference. All the plugins saw significantly less growth in the first half of 2021, with some seeing no growth at all. Of course, this is a very small subset of plugins inside a limited dataset, but it's an interesting window into how plugin success can fluctuate year on year, especially when you throw something as disruptive as a global pandemic into the mix.

Acquisitions

In an effort to keep up with the number of acquisitions happening in the WordPress space, Post Status have put together a tracker to log all the acquisitions and investments that have happened since 2007. It's a comprehensive and helpful resource, and when all laid out like that, really underlines how mature the ecosystem has become.

For me, the acquisition of note from the last month was the sale of SearchWP to Awesome Motive. Not because of the buyer - Awesome Motive are prolific in the acquisition space (5 deals listed on the PS tracker), but because SearchWP was a product from a solo-developer, Jonathan Christopher.

It's always impressive to see someone build a product from scratch, develop and refine it, and turn it into a market leader. But as Jonathan points out "we can’t neglect the nebulous beast that is marketing", and there is only so much one person can achieve when a product has reached a certain scale.

For me, this mirrors the recent sale of Advanced Custom Fields by Elliot Condon, another solo-founder. Jonathan "realized that SearchWP may have in fact outgrown my Company of One" and that if he continued to run the product on his own, it would be to its detriment. He was "grateful that the responsibility that comes with that will be carried on by an entire team of people instead of sitting primarily on my shoulders alone."

Evidently, creating something on your own can be extremely successful. You can move fast, iterate and get traction with a lot of hard work, a pinch of luck, and right placement in the market. But there is a point where scaling doesn't suit the solo developer, and the product needs a team to flourish.

What is the best time to expand, to hire, and to grow the team around the product? Is it a revenue figure? Should you hire some freelancers at $X MRR, and more employees at $Y MRR? Do you speculate to accumulate and bootstrap yourself early by reinvesting the majority of profits back into the product?

Predictably there's no formula to this, and most experiences will vary person to person. But as someone who is trying to outsource their way through 2021 in an attempt to grow my plugin without greater input from myself, it's an interesting thought exercise.

Of course hiring and running a team isn't for everyone, not every developer's personality is well matched with the skillset required to grow a team of people rather than just grow a codebase.

Acquisition Opportunities

There are currently 17 listings on FlipWP.

All are plugins for sale, with a good range of 4 to high 7 figure asking prices. You can get a flavour of the listings on the homepage.

There are also 2 plugins for sale on MicroAquire:

  1. Google Analytics plugin - $16k ARR - possibly WP Google Analytics Events Pro
  2. WooCommerce checkout plugin - $8k TTM - possibly ExpressCheckout

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