Transparency Report #10 – DOCS, and Why They’re Important for Your Software Business

Welcome to the 10th edition of the transparency report! This series is all about the business goings-on here at CodeinWP. Month after month, I try to focus on everything that’s interesting and everything that I think might be useful to those of you who run similar businesses. (Previous reports? See them here.) In this edition, I talk about what happened at CodeinWP in November 2015:

Docs, and why they’re important for your software business

Although we tend to forget about this sometimes, WordPress plugins and WordPress themes are classic software-based businesses. At some basic ground level, the product is not much different than any other application a person might have installed on their computer.

And that’s especially from a user’s point of view. I mean, when someone buys your WordPress product (be it a theme or a plugin), they face the exact difficulties that someone who buys a new operating system. The thing needs to be installed, configured, and … well, made usable.

By me, you have three ways of tackling this issue:

  • either make your product uber-simple, so people can press a button and it just works, or
  • have an awesome support, or
  • give your customers good docs.

Actually, now when I’m thinking about it, I should probably specify that having awesome support is a must regardless.

Either way, the last method – docs – isn’t something that we implemented until around a month ago. “How’s that possible?” – you ask.

I don’t know, to be honest. For some reason, I just didn’t see the value in that. Maybe it was pure creator’s bias. I mean, “I know my product, I know it’s easy to use, so I’m sure that everyone else will find it equally easy to use as well, right?” Well, unfortunately things don’t work like that.

But I’m glad that I was proven wrong eventually, and that we gave our docs a green light.

docs home

In a sentence, the docs are where we add FAQs and tutorials about our products. Currently, this means our WordPress themes and everything related to them. Feel free to hop over there to get a better idea.

Now, it obviously took some time to create the docs, so the question is, “Was it worth it?”

I think you know the answer, but I’ll say it anyway. Yes, it was worth it a lot.

First of all, creating the docs is a one-time investment, kind of. I mean, yes, you do have to keep creating new entries with time, and also update / make the previous ones better. But on the flip side, you save a lot of time because you don’t have to deal with support tickets you would have otherwise gotten.

In that scenario, the docs simply become the first place where people can find answers before contacting support.

Not only that, but the docs have instantly turned into our 3rd-4th most popular piece of content.

Currently, they get around 2,400 visits / week and growing:

docs traffic

Comparing this with the stats for the blog, our 3rd or 4th most popular post gets around the same number of visits each week. And keep in mind that those posts have been building their popularity for months now. The docs … more or less an overnight success.

But that’s not all.

The docs are also a great source of ideas about what features people want from your products, and how you could improve them. For instance, here are the most popular pages in our docs:

docs popular pages

Just the sole fact that those are the most viewed pages, gives us ideas about the direction we can take into the future.

Okay, so how to create good docs? Here’s what I would advise:

  • Pick the absolute minimal set of things that you consider crucial for a new user to know about your products, and then present those things in the most friendly way possible. Again, you need just the minimal set of things to start with. And remember, the instructions need to be as clear as possible because the people who visit your docs often don’t feel too confident experimenting with software, so they need a good guidance.
  • Monitor your support tickets and look for common problems. Once you notice something popping up more than a handful of times, make it a new entry in the docs. Also, reuse good support responses and copy them to the docs where possible.
  • Make each entry visual. Use GIFs instead of videos.

docs gif

  • Don’t go into advanced topics just because you can. Good docs aren’t about quantity, but quality. Having 10 great entries will be waaaay better than having massive robot-written docs spanning across 1000s of pages.

Black Friday … just wow

Okay, so there was this event that’s not really that big of a thing in Europe, but is an absolute sensation in the US. Of course, Black Friday.

As you might know, we’ve had our own “Black Friday deals post.” Our aim this year was to gather the biggest list of interesting WordPress-related deals we could. We ended up at 54, although not every offer made the list, so it wasn’t a “take them all” kind of effort.

The results? During the two-week period between Nov 16th and Nov 30th, that post was our #2 most popular post overall:

black friday post results

And please remember, it still had to compete against our whole catalog of popular posts and all their SEO reputation.

I, for once, didn’t really expect the post to do that well. And it’s not only about traffic, but also about the revenue it has brought in.

For instance, our affiliate commissions from ElegantThemes clocked in at around $1200. This number could have been higher, had we not forgotten to include our affiliate link on day one. There’s also few hundred dollars from MyThemeShop, OptinMonster, TeslaThemes and etc.

The earnings are the main thing I didn’t expect. I mean, I knew that the post was useful, but I thought that people will be more in a browsing mood than a buying mood, so to speak.

Lesson for the future? Publishing Black Friday offer roundups works! It’s just great for all three parties… you – the site owner, the visitors, and the businesses making the offers.

I’m sure we’re doing it again next year. But perhaps, with a slightly different approach. For instance, we might try to highlight around 10 best deals that people really want, and then put the other ones under a “see more” link. Otherwise the experience is a bit too overwhelming, I think. Choice paralysis.

The secret of getting your WordPress themes translated

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Around 2-3 months ago, the directory at WordPress.org somewhat allowed the local editors to choose translated themes to be listed as featured.

For example: de.wordpress.org/themes – the local page for Germany. Just to give you a general idea of the impact this had – themes like _tk started getting 4-5 times more downloads than usual, due to the fact that they were listed on the de. page.

theme -downloads

This has been since reverted (a couple of days ago, actually). However, it shows how important it is to have your free themes fully translated. This not only gives you an edge over the competition and generates more downloads, but is also of great service to your users.

We’ve already started investing in translating our most popular themes to other languages. I advise you do the same if you’re trying to market your products internationally – no matter what kind of products they might be.

Visual blog posts get more outbound clicks

Outbound clicks are something very important if part of your monetization strategy revolves around affiliate marketing. And for most bloggers these days, it does.

However, over the years, affiliate marketing has gotten somewhat of a bad rep. There’s more than a handful of con artists out there, which makes work for the rest of us much harder. Particularly, even talking about increasing your affiliate clicks has a strange negative vibe to it.

Nevertheless, when done right, affiliate marketing is a total win-win-win for all parties involved. Your visitors get access to great products, you can monetize your site even if you don’t have a product of your own, and the merchants … well, their win is obvious.

Of course, what you really want, as someone promoting affiliate offers, is educated clicks, not accidental clicks or trick clicks. At the end of the day, being of service to your audience is what matters.

So having that in mind, we’ve looked for a way to increase outbound clicks on pages/posts that feature various offers (our own + affiliate), while at the same time not looking like we’re trying to hard.

One thing that we did is changing the format of some of our list posts. Let me just show you:

This is what a standard list post might look like (click):

layout old

This is what our new list posts look like (click):

layout new

Let’s take that last post as an example – Best Drag-and-Drop WordPress Theme Builders in 2015.

Up until Aug 20th, it used the old, classic layout. During that time, it generated the following CTR:

ctr old

Now the results since Aug 20th:

ctr new

Quite a significant boost. Actually, it’s a 34% improvement. For the other posts that also made the switch, the results are anything between 30%-50%.

So what makes this new look perform better? Well, it’s just my personal conclusion, but I’d say:

  • no sidebar – less distraction,
  • less distraction overall – the purpose of the page is clearer,
  • the links are more visible – presented inside boxes,
  • the information is better structured – you have the screenshot on the left and the description on the right, and it’s easier to distinguish individual themes,
  • the screenshots actually present what the theme looks like on a live site.

In other stories

  • There’s a new member to the CodeinWP family. We recently acquired flyfreemedia.com along with their complete theme library (7 themes in total). The main domain already points to ThemeIsle.com and we’ve started rebranding some of the themes. We’ve decided to start with just the top 3 themes and see where it leads us (Oblique, Amadeus, FlyMag). Why did we make the move? I believe this acquisition will accelerate our growth and bring in new users. For instance, Oblique and Amadeus have already added 13,000 active users right out the gate. As the themes grow, more will come through the door. This also diversifies our theme library, and should help our efforts to migrate to a club pricing model.
  • I have some free time on my hands, so I’d like to test an idea. If there are any WordPress businesses with more than $10k in revenue looking for help (business growth / product advice / optimization), I’m happy to offer some paid consulting. Just ping me on Twitter.
  • Want to meet? Here’s where you can find me in the next couple of months:
  • And last but not least, a quick shout-out to two interesting companies from my home country, PixelGrade and Creative Tim. They’re building awesome products while also sharing a bunch of great info through transparency reports (PixelGrade’s), and otherwise just being honest about their journey (Creative Tim’s).

Revenue breakdown (Nov 1st – Dec 1st)

Here are the numbers for November, coming from an in-house tracking system we have:

revenue

Compared to last month, it’s a 7.9% increase.

And again, our bestseller list:

bestsellers

One major thing going on here:

It’s the first time that the Treasure Chest package has overtaken Zerif Pro. Why? I’ll talk about that next month when we have more data.

The reason is actually very very simple. Care to guess what that might be?

Okay, that’s it for now. As always, thanks for reading and for supporting CodeinWP! Stay updated and get new reports delivered to you:

All edits and witty rewrites by Karol K.