Welcome to the 24th edition of our monthly transparency report (for January 2017). This is a series where I discuss everything that’s been going on at CodeinWP and ThemeIsle from a business point of view. Plans, strategies, revenues, and more. Click here to see the previous reports.
I have a feeling this might get lengthy, so I’ll start with a quick summary / TOC:
- How to increase your Google rankings overnight (#noclickbait)
- Update on our status with theme marketplaces
- Update on Zerif Lite (#itsback)
- Values and mission
- Revenue report
- Focus and #WCEU
1. How to increase your Google rankings overnight
A while ago, I started seeing an interesting pattern:
Basically, each time I adjusted/launched/played with our Facebook ads, I kept getting this impression that our organic Google rankings increased as well. Somewhat as a byproduct.
It was just a hunch – I had no data to back this up and I didn’t really give it much thought other than simply wondering if it can possibly be true or if it’s just a false impression.
Last month, I finally decided to do a bit more research to find out once and for all.
I fired up Google Search Console + the Facebook Ads panel and tried looking for possible correlations. And … I was impressed by what I saw. (Or to say it in a more click-baity way, “my mind was blown!!!11”)
Here’s an example of an ad campaign for one of our free themes collections on CodeinWP:
Here’s how we rank for the term:
Here is the same thing for one of JustFreeThemes’ ad campaigns:
Let’s have another look, this time at one more ranking increase for CodeinWP:
Interpret it as you will, but the facts are that the campaigns were launched on Nov 18th and Jan 24th, directly before the increases in rankings.
Interestingly, we managed to keep those ranking boosts for around one week after the campaigns were done.
Doing some research online, it seems I’m not the only person who saw this pattern (exhibit a). In short, it’s very possible that Google reacts almost instantly to big traffic increases coming to your pages.
Google’s reasoning might be quite simple, actually: more traffic = apparent higher quality of the page = should get rewarded with better search engine position.
What’s particularly interesting here is that due to Google reacting in such a way, you can potentially get more return in the form of new organic traffic than you do in the form of ad traffic (the thing you paid for).
One more cool thing is that the ranking boost appears to be happening worldwide, and that’s despite the fact that your Facebook ads might have been targeted only to low-CPC countries.
After digging into the numbers some more, I’ve come to a conclusion that the increased rankings gave us around 1000 new visitors a day. So having them for 10 days resulted in roughly 10,000 extra visits.
Looking though AdWords rates for similar terms ($0.08 CPC) I can draw a conclusion that those 10,000 visitors would cost us around $800 normally (again, worldwide audience). To say this another way, investing $800 in Facebook ads has given us an additional $800 worth of Google traffic.
I know that the data volume is not huge here, and it’s hard to say that things will always happen like I’m describing them here, but it’s surely a good starting point to do more research.
Going further, it makes more sense to experiment like this with more valuable keywords where you already rank high – since the benefits might be bigger. Of course, the ranking boost might be different as well based on keyword competition.
Nevertheless, this seems like potentially a really big deal and a cool way for most websites to boost their rankings temporarily (great for a seasonal promotion or whatnot).
And just to clarify, this is not as much about the influence of Facebook ads on Google rankings, but the influence of spikes in traffic in general on Google rankings. The spike can probably be coming from any source (as long as it’s genuine, not bot traffic, I assume).
Okay, but why am I sharing this? If you’ve been following these transparency reports, you might know that rankings and numbers in themselves don’t mean much to me. Same for playing the cat and mouse game with Google and trying to figure out how their algorithms work. I’m sharing because I enjoy learning stuff and experimenting with cool concepts, so I wanted to see where you can take this and what other pieces of this puzzle you can discover.
If you want to experiment like this on your own and try to replicate my approach, what I did was some retargeting campaigns (people who already visited the site – so highly qualified traffic) with the volume of more than 1000 clicks per day at around $0.08-0.10 CPC.
And please feel free to speak up in the comments if you have any experience with ranking boosts like that.
2. Update on our status with theme marketplaces
I’m happy to report that we managed to get both of our latest themes on ThemeForest (1, 2) and MOJO Marketplace (1, 2). And while things are slow to begin with, they aren’t insignificant, so here are some insights:
- We reached almost 100 sales on ThemeForest combined. This added up to almost $900 earned last month.
- We sold 15 copies of our themes on MOJO in the first month despite not advertising those listings at all (in comparison, we do send a bit of traffic to our ThemeForest listings).
- We’re seeing much less support requests coming through from our listings on MOJO and ThemeForest compared to other channels. It seems that the users are more experienced generally and that they’re more inclined to experiment with the themes before asking anything. Also, traditionally a big chunk of our requests have come from free themes, so since there’s none of those in the marketplaces, this means relatively less support overall.
Themes are starting to be more and more of a commodity, and we are at a point where lots of really good theme developers start opening 50% affiliate programs and are willing to sell their themes everywhere. It’s all just to get a bit more market share and some extra revenue and eyeballs. It’s going to be interesting to see where this is all heading.
By the way, I’ve been talking about this with James from Envato recently, and we’ve also gotten in touch about organizing an Envato meeting in Bucharest this year. Long story short, it’s happening! So if you’re up for a quick trip to Bucharest on May 19th here are all the details. I would love to have a talk about new business models for theme developers there.
3. Update on Zerif Lite
Finally, Zerif Lite has been (almost) un-suspended on WordPress.org. At the time of writing this, I am only waiting for it to get a green light and go live.
It was a long wait to get it back up, and we lost a bit of traction there for sure. However, we’ve finally managed to find a middle ground, and I really can’t wait to see the theme live again.
During this whole time, a thing that caught me off guard were some of people’s comments wondering if it was even safe to use a theme that was removed from the repo in the first place. I mean, in the user’s mind, and understandably so, there must have been something wrong with the theme since it got removed, right?
This made me see things differently. Being listed in the official repository doesn’t only get you downloads and/or sales, but also trust and credibility in the eyes of your potential users. Unfortunately, most of the users who install themes directly via their WP dashboards are not very experienced, and they have no reason to research the web a bit more to find out what happened to the theme they heard about. In other words, if someone types “zerif” into the search field in their dashboard and they find nothing, they just move on.
I also want to share one interesting graph with you. These are Zerif Pro visitors coming from Zerif Lite customizer links (mostly the upgrade buttons):
Ignoring the big boost in September, what you can obviously see there is a decrease. The same has been happening with the sales as well. But I’m guessing this is no surprise, and it’s something I mentioned a number of times before.
Once the theme goes back live it will mean a lot of work for us in the near future to make sure that all updates are made successfully, both from design and coding perspective, and that none of the theme’s current users are affected.
To avoid any negative outcomes, we’re even considering rebranding the theme and releasing it under a completely different name. What do you think? Here’s a sneak-peek of what we have so far:
4. Values and mission
Putting your mission and/or vision into words is, surprisingly, a very tough task to do – at least for me.
For a couple of years now I’ve been thinking and trying to figure out why I do what I do exactly and what is it that keeps me up at night specifically. While I have found some nuggets of an answer here and there, I’m still not at the full thing.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but not being a believer (so to speak) makes things harder on a daily basis, especially since I see any obvious purpose/mission as too small.
I’ve kept bumping into this time and again, and I’ve delayed it enough times already, so I’ve finally decided that our mission statement needs to be re-written to reflect the business’ current state, our goals and projects.
This might sound like something really insignificant at first, but the lack of a current mission makes it tough to handle some of the tasks that are crucial for growth. Like, hiring new people, for example. Without mission, you don’t know what really matters the most, and what kind of a person you should look for.
To get this kickstarted, I researched different mission statements and core values lists of lots of other companies in the tech space, and by the example of others, trying to understand better what really matters to me.
After compiling a list of 20 core values that resonate with me, I’ve sent them to the team, so we can narrow the list down to maybe the top 5. This should help us communicate more coherently, both internally and externally, since we will all know what are the things that are the most important for the company as a whole, and we will be able to relate every decision back to those core values.
In case you’re trying to figure out your own mission and the core values for your business, here’s that shortlist of 20 (some of them might sound similar; that’s because they’ve been inspired by different sources), maybe they will come handy to you as well:
5. Revenue report (January 2017)
As I mentioned above, we generated more than $1,000 in sales via various theme marketplaces.
The sales through Revive.Social added up to $6,600.
At ThemeIsle, we hit $43,000 in total.
- In the last report, I mentioned the new version of Feedzy. I’m glad to report that it got $1,700 in sales last month. This is not a fortune, but it’s enough to keep focusing on it and make sure that we can maintain and develop both the free and premium versions.
- All the other pro plugins at ThemeIsle generated around $7,000.
Affiliate marketing and blogs continue to work nicely. We’ve published some really great pieces of content lately and we have already started a new monster survey (with a different approach than the last one). We’re trying to understand the NPS of hosting companies in the market. Here’s a peek:
We’re hoping to get a few thousands of answers in order to get a relevant representation/data for every big host. The method of getting the answers itself is also unlike with the previous survey where we simply emailed people and invited them to answer. This time, we’re using small in-line popups on our sites, so this way we can easily avoid people trying to game the system, and we will also get much more answers.
6. Focus and #WCEU
I didn’t have much success in the realm of focus, so to speak.
Even though I managed to be more organized and worked on one thing at a time after I came back from my vacation, I’ve still gotten overwhelmed after just a couple of weeks (again).
I mean, the problem isn’t as much that I get naturally drawn to do a lot of stuff at the same time, but more that I lock myself out working on just one small thing (like those Facebook ads experiments) and don’t spend enough time leading the team or working together.
I’m trying to be more realistic with this now and avoid those long periods of time when I’m working in my own world. You could say that I’m trying to focus on CEOing more.
Anyway, let’s end this on what every WordPress person loves – WordCamp!
So we’ve set all the technical details of our WCEU trip this year! Most of us are going to be arriving on June 14th and staying until June 18th. Almost the whole team is going to be attending again (just like last year) and most of us are going to be volunteering too (again, just like last year). I’ve also applied to speak … let’s see how this turns out. 🙂
If you’re coming to WCEU this year, first, don’t hesitate to come up to us and say hi(!), secondly, let’s get in touch and organize a themers meetup. I’m going to be in Paris a day before the rest of the team so I can look up a good place to meet.
As always, thanks for reading and for supporting CodeinWP! Stay updated and get new reports delivered to you by subscribing here:
All edits and witty rewrites by Karol K.
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