About 2 months ago I released my first premium plugin for WordPress, my Video SEO plugin. A lot of people have asked me about the how and why of the selling and I thought it’d be a good idea to outline that in a post.

Why sell premium WordPress plugins?

Of course we got some backlash for making a plugin available to the world and daring to charge for it. Unfortunately there are still people in the WordPress community who think everything should be free. What they don’t understand is that not everything can be free.

I’m the author of several highly popular WordPress plugins. My Google Analytics plugin is nearing 4 million downloads and my WordPress SEO plugin has over 2.5 million downloads. They’re both free. I’m not saying making those free plugins hasn’t made me any money, of course it has. There are some (though few) donations, there are people ordering website reviews, hiring me as a consultant etc. But we’d make more money if we didn’t release those plugins. That’s the cold and harsh reality. I’m not willing to stop releasing those plugins though. I’ve always said they’ll be free and I want to keep those that I’ve released for free, free.

Other plugins though, like the Video SEO plugin, require a bit more support and continuous updating to work with video networks, new embed codes, changes from Google, etc. When I was looking at what needed to be done for that, I knew that releasing it for free was not going to be a viable option. Which is why we made it premium. Some people think its price tag $89 is too much. Well, in that case, you’re not seeing the value yet and I probably need to explain better. Anyone who knows what this kind of search traffic is worth to their site knows that $89 is dirt cheap.

Making money directly == more time to invest in development

Getting paid to develop a plugin means you can invest more time. I don’t have to make my money doing consulting on the side now, working on those plugins is paying for itself. This means development on these plugins accelerates quite a bit. I’ve been able to add support for a nice list of video embedding plugins to the Video SEO plugin because of that and the next version, due tomorrow, will add two new video hosting providers, Wistia and Vippy.

I can honestly say that this has done very well for us. The plugin has made us a nice amount so far and users seem to be very happy. Reviews like this one from Bas and this tweet from Bryan make me very happy and proud:

You now know the why, on to the how:

How we sell premium WordPress plugins

When I decided I wanted to go premium, I needed an infrastructure to sell those plugins. I looked at ThemeForest / CodeCanyon and several other marketplaces. All of them wanted an extraordinary percentage of sales, considering how much extra sales I estimated they would add. Of course I do have a head start, being in this industry for a while and having been blogging on this blog for at least 7 consecutive years.

So, I decided to go self hosted. I tried several ecommerce plugins and while each had their benefits, they all failed to do well what I needed them to do best: deliver digital goods. All of them failed, until I found Easy Digital Downloads.

This plugin was built with the exact purpose of what I needed to do in mind, and built by a coder who actually knows how to write decent code, Pippin Williamson. He has a good model around it too, the core plugin is free and can be found on WordPress.org, while he has a growing set of extensions of which some are premium.

The first ones you’ll want to grab are for payment gateways. I’m not in the US, so I can’t use Stripe, unfortunately, which left me with PayPal (which is built-in and free) and Moneybookers. It’s not ideal, so I’m trying to figure out a better solution, if you have ideas, do let me know in the comments.

I use another one of these premium extensions, the software licensing one, to generate my license keys and several others to perform various other tasks and tricks, like a MailChimp extension to sign people up to my mailing list when they buy, an AWS S3 extension to host my files on Amazon, etc. etc.

Google Analytics eCommerce tracking for Easy Digital DownloadsIn fact, I even wrote my own, an extension to track sales in Google Analytics ecommerce tracking, which is now for sale for $15 on the EDD site. It has allowed me to optimize my sales process already, and if you start selling, I hope it’ll help you too. The fact that it was relatively easy to write this extension is a testament to how well written Easy Digital Downloads is.

Conclusion: use Easy Digital Downloads & sell!

If you’ve ever considered selling plugins or ebooks or other digital goods, this is the plugin you need and it’s written by the kind of guy you want to rely on. Pippin has been tremendously good in support and has given some very smart advice.

Also, I can definitely recommend selling plugins. It’s funny and a bit sad at the same time, but I realized the other day that while I get abusive, support demanding emails for my free plugins on a daily basis, each and every paid user that needed support has been great to work with. It’s as though when people pay for stuff, they respect that you have a job to do, whereas some free plugin users seem to not think about you at all. Loads of people have been telling me I should charge for my WordPress SEO plugin. I won’t, but it’s good to know that there are a lot of people willing to pay for my work.

We’re very close to releasing our second premium plugin, one that is geared towards Local SEO, make sure you sign up for the newsletter on the right or below this post to get news about that and the other cool stuff we have planned.

I would love to hear what you think of all this, let me know in the comments!

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